Why Talking about Money is Taboo among Physicians

in Finance/Personal/Physician by

[dropcap1]D[/dropcap1]octors talk about medical stuff many ordinary people will cringe and consider foul. Stuff like STD’s or bloody eviscerations get discussed lengthily without them missing a bite of their breakfast. When discussion shifts to money matters however,  you’d hardly get discussions beyond few sentences. Here are the top  reasons why:[check_list]

  • Doctors don’t want to be heard as “bragging” their ‘high” income. Physicians generally earn more than the average worker. When doctors discuss money, it is often seen as “bragging” about their income. “Why would physicians talk about money when they’re earning more than anyone else?That’s just bragging!”
  • Doctors are rich people and rich people don’t talk about money.  While doctors earn higher than most workers, it’s nonsense to automatically consider doctors as rich people. Despite that flawed conclusion, even the truly wealthy people discuss financial matters carefully.
  • Doctors find it hard to accept they have money issues. Not a very nice thing to say about people with big suffixes after their names. The long years in med school and training gave us a sense of entitlement to spend our income wantonly. Coupled with higher than most income, this sense of entitlement often bar us from facing head on, money issues.
  • Doctors feel that money issues only affects them, alone. “The other doctors, they probably don’t have any money issues at all.” But there are telltale signs that doctors have money issues even if they don’t discuss it in public.  Complains of not enough compensation,  HMOs and claims underpayments, etc,  are all telltale signs that money for us too are issues that needed to be sorted out.  Since doctors rarely discuss money issues with their colleagues, that feeling of money issues isolation is propagated unknowingly.
  • Doctors don’t like to ask “stupid” questions.  “Who would, when I belong to an intelligent profession?” Intelligent and paid well, why would I ask such questions, hah?  When you ask someone, even colleagues for example, about money matters, the throwback question would most likely be ” Didn’t they teach you that in med school?“. There’s practically zero money learning in med school. Our professors would tell us “Ah, you’ll learn those when you go into practice. Learn from who? From experience? Thus we take this stance of “yeah I know it” when we actually do know nothing. I don’t know, but I’d look very stupid pretending to know something about money matters when in fact I don’t know anything.
  • “It’s taboo discussing financial lifestyles, it’s not us, doctors.” The dilemma most doctors have today is that as role models, we’re just here to deal with the health of our patients and communities. Nothing else. We’re not supposed to deal with finances as it confabulates our practice of the profession. Most people think we’re super humans,  that all we do for eternity is heal, care and work without having to feed our family. It’s really a good thing to render  charity service but it’s not immoral and illegal to earn from services you rendered. How can you possibly continue to care for patients when you’re wallowing in debt or without housing?  Please tell me.
  • “I’m busy saving lives, I have other more important task to finish than talking about money.” Correct. But until when? Should you wait being thrown of your mortgage house or default in your new car because you were busy and didn’t care to check on your financing? How can you save lives then when you can’t even save a part of you thats sustaining your service or profession? Again,  lets not succumbed to the idea that we’re super humans and that financial woes exempt physicians. I’m sure nobody thinks he or she can still go on hospital duty 24 hours when they’re already 60 simply because he/she didn’t plan out a retirement for him/herself. Busy you said?
  • We really have not learn money sense from our parents. Again, the more we should strive to have some sort of financial literacy or we’ll just pass that legacy to our children. For many Filipinos, financial maturity is being equated to frugality or thriftiness on everything. “It is the only trait I wanted to learn“. Well, being frugal and thrifty will surely save you money and expense but how will you plan out your retirement, your children’s education etc etc?
  • We’re afraid the internal revenue agency is eavesdropping and will hunt us down and tax us to the max. I’m not sure whether eavesdropping or maxing out on taxes is the mantra of that agency, but there’s only one reason I can think of if you’re afraid of that agency- You don’t pay the right taxes. It doesn’t matter if your excuse is ignorance about taxation laws and hence you  don’t have any idea how much you should pay. It is still not paying the right taxes and in the legal parlance, that’s still cheating. Again, If you’re at least financially literate, you would know the right taxes you should pay and which one will legally exempt you.


Why am I enumerating these? These are the same stumbling blocks I encountered when I started learning personal finance as a physician. The taboo like treatment of money issues inside the conservative hippocratic institution is painfully hindering me from gaining financial freedom.  It is only by learning personal finance that I finally come to terms with these undeniable facts:  Even doctors aren’t exempted from financial woes and that financial freedom is not the same as getting rich. So, for as long as I needed to learn something for me to achieve that goal of having financial freedom as a physician, I’d willingly talk, discuss and listen to money issues within my profession. Taboo or no taboo for others.

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).