By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
Last night you were singing . . .
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?
. . . and now it's that time of year again, when we set our goals for the new year. I hope you set some financial goals this year. In fact, I'd try to accomplish them in the first 90 days of 2022 if I were you. Studies show 90-day goals are a lot more likely to be accomplished than 365-day goals, but it's tradition.
Accountability Report for Our 2021 Goals
Before we get into some suggested goals for 2022, I should first report on how Katie and I did on our 2021 financial goals. We had two goals, and then I added a third one during the year.
#1 Do Our Estate Planning
Our biggest goal for 2021 was to update our estate plan. It was getting to be a little embarrassing to have a will so old that it was created before more than one of our children was born. More importantly, it was time for us to get a trust in place and do some more advanced estate planning and asset protection. We put it off for months and months, but seeing Congress monkeying around with the estate tax exemption amounts provided the motivation to finally get it done in November and December.
#2 Hit a Giving Milestone
We smashed this one out of the park. We pretty much hit our goal with cash alone but giving away more than 24,000 copies ($715,000+ in value) of The White Coat Investor's Guide for Students certainly put us way over the top. Thanks to all the white coat investors out there who helped with this one by applying for the WCI Scholarship, nominating someone for the WCI Financial Educator Award, serving as a WCI Champion for their first-year medical school class, and voting in our charity contest.
#3 Live the FI Life
Given that we hit Financial Independence (FI) several years ago, I am often asked why I am still working for pay. Part of the reason is that work is (mostly) not keeping me from doing anything I would do if I were not working. The rest of the reason is that I don't feel like having money should dictate how I should spend my life. If I felt passionately about something when I didn't have money, why would I drop it just because I got some money? At any rate, I resolved to not miss any of my kids' games, neighborhood get-togethers, workouts, trips, vacations, or adventures just to do more work. While that goal is not exactly a SMART goal, I think I managed to do well enough to count it for 2021. The evidence: 126 days away from home this year, the majority of which were spent under the stars. I don't think I'd want to spend any more time away from home even if I had no paid work at all. We floated multiple rivers (including almost a month in the Grand Canyon), took multiple week-long canyoneering trips, paddled the Boundary Waters, did multiple trips with the kids, and visited four foreign countries. Hard to complain too much.
What's in store for 2022? Keep reading and find out.
Top 10 Financial Recommendations for 2022
If you're like most doctors, you should probably be working on more than one of these goals, but today, I just want you to focus on your biggest priority and commit to accomplishing it this year.
#1 Buy That Insurance Policy You Need
A huge percentage of doctors don't have all the insurance they need. If you need but don't yet have one of the following types of insurance, commit now to get it done in 2022:
When you need these insurance policies, nothing else will take their place. GoFundMe is not a life insurance company. Be sure to use a recommended, experienced independent agent to get your disability and life insurance.
#2 Buy a House
Lots of people think I'm against owning your home just because I think most residents ought to rent. Not true. In fact, about 80% of the net worth of the median American is home equity. I hope that's not the case with you. But there is little doubt that most of the time, in most areas of the country, if you are going to live somewhere longer than five years, you are highly likely to come out ahead financially if you own your home. This is a big step for most of us in our financial lives, and if this is one of your goals for 2021, I hope you accomplish it. If a conventional mortgage doesn't make sense in your situation, at least save PMI and use a physician mortgage.
#3 Refinance Your Student Loans
Knocking 2%-5% off the interest rate for your student loans is a worthwhile accomplishment. Interest rates have dropped dramatically over the last year, but there are reports that the Federal Reserve plans to raise rates three times in 2022. If you are not going for PSLF and not getting a REPAYE subsidy, refinancing your student loans should be on your list for 2021. Private loans should be refinanced as soon as possible, but you probably ought to wait to refinance your federal student loans until the special 0% interest rate period ends (currently scheduled for May 1). Be sure to use the WCI refinancing links when you do so. You get the best deal on the internet, you get hundreds in cash back, and you help support our mission to promote financial literacy among docs. Just because you refinanced a year or two ago doesn't mean you can't do it again!
#4 Pay Off Your Student Loans
Refinancing the loans is only the first step. Then, you have to pay them. Over the last year, we have been highlighting the excellent work as many of you crush your loans. We will continue to do so. This is no small feat—you should be proud of it! Please share with us when you do it.
#5 Pay Off Your Mortgage
You know what else frees up a lot of cash flow in your life? Getting rid of other debts, especially a big mortgage payment. “Normal” people don't even pay off their mortgage in 30 years. Why be normal? Just switching to a 15-year mortgage cuts the time in half, but why stop there? If you're getting close, put this one on your list of financial goals for 2022.
#6 Max Out Your Available Retirement Accounts
Most of the financially successful doctors I know take maximum advantage of their tax-advantaged accounts, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457(b)s, cash balance plans, HSAs, Backdoor Roth IRAs (if still allowed), and even 529s. Maybe it's time for this financial goal in your life.
#7 Start That Side Gig
Many of us realized our income wasn't as guaranteed as we thought it was in 2020 and 2021. If you've ever wanted to start a side gig, 2022 is the year. It'll take a lot more work than maxing out that 401(k), but, hopefully, it will also provide a lot more reward. Curious what some of your fellow docs are doing? Check out this list.
#8 Get a Written Financial Plan in Place
#9 Update Your Estate Plan
If we can do it, you can do it. It's not easy or cheap, and it requires you to face your own mortality. But it's important. If your estate plan is now grossly inadequate for your needs, it's time to get off your duff. Maybe you need a will, maybe you need a trust, maybe you need to look over your beneficiaries, or maybe you just need to move your assets into your trust. Get it done this year.
#10 Hit Financial Milestones
Still haven't found a financial goal for 2022? OK, we'll find one for you in this section. Here's a list of popular ones. Feel free to steal whichever one you like.
- Get back to broke (i.e. hit a net worth of $0, a big accomplishment when you start your career at a net worth of -$300,000)
- Become a millionaire
- Save a certain amount ($25,000, $50,000, $100,000, $200,000, or hit a certain savings rate)
- Get a million dollars into your investment accounts
- Become a penta-millionaire
- Become a deca-millionaire
- Hit your financial independence number
- Earn a certain amount of money (This is one of our 2022 goals)
- Purchase something
- Spend a certain amount
- Pay a certain amount in taxes ($100,000, $200,000, $1 million. Hard to get excited about this one until you realize it's really a reflection of income)
- Give away a certain amount of money (This is our other 2022 goal)
I'm sure there is a goal on that list for you in 2022. Write it down. Talk about it with your friends and family. Post it as a comment below so we can help keep you accountable. You can do it, and we can help!
What do you think? What are your financial goals for 2022? Comment below!