Every PTFO journey begins with a first step, and mine happened during residency. Specifically, it happened during the last year of my training. I was a few short months away from graduating when a thought entered my head. I thought, “I guess I should take a look at my loans since I’m gonna have to start paying them back when I graduate.” You see, during residency you can choose to apply for deferment or forbearance. This postpones your payments until the deferment or forbearance period ends. I applied for forbearance throughout all of residency (four years for me), which meant interest was continuing to accrue on my loans during this time period. When it was all said and done, my total amount owed was over $300,000!
This financial epiphany did two things to me. One, it made me feel light-headed, nauseous, and scared. And two, it gave me a swift kick in the teeth and the motivation to meet this challenge head on. As they say, fear is a great motivator.
I will confess, at that point in time I was rather financially illiterate. I took no financially related courses in college and they do not teach anything remotely close to this in medical school and residency. But what this epiphany did do was give me the motivation to teach myself about personal finance, which I think is the most important first step in anyone’s journey towards PTFO-ing.
My first finance-related book was Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson. Yup, my introduction to personal finance was a Dummies book. That being said, I do think that it was the perfect introduction for someone who was as financially illiterate as me – high-yield topics, clear explanations, and overall an easy read. It piqued my interest on the subject, which in turn led me to read more and more. Not only did I look into more books on the subject, such as A Random Walk Down Wall Street and The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, but I also discovered a vast number of free online resources just a click away. The ones that got me started were The White Coat Investor, Oblivious Investor, The Finance Buff, and even Investopedia. Once I learned some things about personal finance, I was able to come up with a plan of attack, which I’ll talk about more in my next post.
I think that taking the first step in any journey can be the most difficult. When it comes to money and finances, it can feel next to impossible. But once you do, you can take comfort in knowledge that, at least in my opinion, the hardest part is over.
Thanks for reading!