Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD
How to Successfully Manage Family, Career, and Finances
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD (Prudent Plastic Surgeon)
Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a company that develops speech-to-text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have a very special guest, Dr. Jordan Frey. And he is a practicing Plastic Surgeon. He's also a father and he's also a blogger. And he has his own online course. He's very involved in real estate investing, very involved in the financial literacy, education, community, and he's also the owner of the Prudent Plastic Surgeon. So without much ado, we'll welcome Dr. Jordan Frey on the show. Welcome.
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, thanks for having me, Chris. I'm excited to be here. I've been following you from the beginning of when you started this. So it's really cool to be here.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, thanks so much. And it's really good to be able to connect with a lot of the influencers and a lot of people that are up and coming, and also to connect with some of the big names in the field. So I'm always interested in how each brand got started. So tell us a little bit more about yourself, your journey, your path to financial freedom. And all about the Prudent Plastic Surgeon, and your vision for it.
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, it started by, so we're recording this at the end of June. 2021 And basically it's almost a one year anniversary blog. Because I'm just finishing up my first year as an attending plastic surgeon. I’m in Buffalo, New York. Before this I was in New York City and spent the past seven years training. And I just always say, I cannot emphasize enough how totally financially clueless I was. I can't even begin to say or emphasize, but I was totally financially close, I had no idea about anything. And it really, really stressed me out a lot. And so at a certain point, I'd love to stay with me, but I, my wife really gets the credit. She was like, let's get a book, let's learn about this, let's finally tackle this and get out in front of it and face our mistakes and take control of our finances. And so we did that. And the first book we read, within a week, we both read it in tandem, sort of.
And immediately after that, we started working on a financial plan, and within a month I found that just by having a plan I hadn't made a cent more, I was still a fellow at that point, we didn't make any more money, we were still super poor living in New York City with two kids and just struggling to pay rent, I still had $450,000 of loans, none of that changed. But just having a plan made me feel so much better. And I found immediately in that period that I was able to focus so much more on just my job as a doctor.
And I felt like a better doctor because I wasn't so stressed about the money, which it's not like I was sitting every day going, oh my god, I'm so much in debt or whatever. But something that's in the back of your mind, I think a lot of us tend to feel that. So I experienced that. And then I found this hidden passion for personal finance, and just kept reading more and learning more. And I had the idea to start a blog, because a lot of the awesome people out there, I still read their stuff and follow them a lot today, have reached financial freedom. Not at the endpoint, because none of us ever reached an endpoint. But I am further along. And we didn't see that many people that were right at the beginning. And I thought, Well, I'll try to be that person right at the beginning. And I'm just going to be super honest about where I am and just document as I go along. The other aspect I figured was there's probably not a lot of people out there financially that we're worse off than when I started. Because I said, I just made every mistake, I had zero savings. I was in credit card debt, a huge amount of student loans, and no investments. And I was like, People think that they're really in the hole. But I'll show them that I'm even worse than the hole, and that I can dig myself out of it. And that they can too. So that's how I started. And then I just kept writing. I found I really liked writing. I liked interacting with the people I got to interact with. Doing stuff like this is a lot of fun. And it's just grown from there, which has been pretty cool and unexpected.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's awesome. For the listeners, what was the book that you read, to help you solidify your plan to get you to where you want to go?
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, so I read the first book I read was White Coat Investor, which is probably one that a lot of people have. It's a great book. And the funny story is, I had it, we had owned it for a year, it just collected dust before I opened it because I just kept procrastinating and procrastinating. I’d look at it and feel like I'm so intimidated by this topic. But so we read that one. And then after that we read Millionaire Next Door, which is another classic one. And that's The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing, we read those three together, we've since read a bunch more together, which I think is a really cool thing and it's helped us be on the same page. But those were the first three all great ones that I can recommend.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: For the listeners, I'll put all of Dr. Frey’s notes into the show notes and recommendations. So yeah, so you've actually come a long way. I've seen recently you posted you bought a multifamily. And then you also wrote about a very high savings rate thing, 43%. Which is fantastic. I'm always advocating, first high savings rate and then and then putting it into low cost index funds just starting out and then becoming a real estate investor. So what are some of the challenges that you encountered along the way? And feel free to share how you overcame those.
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, the biggest challenge is and I mean, I think this is similar for everyone is ourselves the, the formula is easy. It's, it's what you said, and you can complexify it. I've complexified it with real estate investing and stuff. But for an average doctor, if you save 20% of your income, invest that as you said, and passively with low cost index funds, where you only need to pay attention to them once a year, if you find a job that you and you're able to work long term at that, and you find fulfillment there that you work, 25-30 years, whatever the average career is, you'll be fine, you're gonna retire extremely well. So it sounds super simple. And it is a super simple formula. But there's so many mental roadblocks that come up in the way so definitely, I experienced them and continue to.
It's all these limiting beliefs, right? These are the stories you tell yourself that aren't necessarily true. But things just Oh, I'm no good at money, which is always the funniest one. To me, that's the rationalization people use not to get started, even when I tell them, look, it's so simple. I knew nothing. And you can really turn it around. It's oh, it's just too hard. And you're, Well, you somehow willed yourself through medicine no matter what specialty you chose, or what you did that was. I mean, there are times where you're just, I don't even know, we look back now, it does get better, if you're training listening to this, it's so much better as an attending. How did I even do that? And how did I get through that situation? But then we tell ourselves that something is money, we can't figure it out and that's, that's another reason why I started blogging was because it helped me so much seeing people. I mean, I saw one of your talks very early on Peter Kim's Leveraging Growth Summit. And just seeing people that I was, these are people like me, if they can do it, I can do it. That was so helpful. So that's obviously a huge one.
There's also just the consumerism, one of my first blog post was about this, just how I felt a poor plastic surgeon, because I felt I had this, even as a resident in New York City, this image to live up to of what a plastic surgeon was, and I just that and, it's stressing me out, even though that wasn't necessarily what I want it to be. But we all see that as being a doctor. So, the example I always give is when my wife and we knew what my salary was gonna be, what her salary is gonna be, we're planning our budget and creating our financial plan. And I had put in, I forget exactly how much, but enough to lease a car, a very expensive luxury car. Because that's just what I thought you did, which sounds so stupid to say, what I thought you did. And the thing is, I'm not a car person, I don't necessarily have anything against doing that if you get an equal amount of satisfaction from that car. But I'm not a car person, I just need a point A to point B. And I just wrote that without even thinking. And now I ended up just buying a used car, which suits me perfectly, and it's very functional. And that money goes towards our savings and has definitely, if you consider how much it was each month, helped us as investors, buy rental properties and things like that. Yeah, it's definitely the person in the mirror his worst enemy?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well, you brought up a lot of good points, including having a plan. And that gives you some solid stability and footing and then just taking action in that's what you're doing right now. One thing I've always wondered, this is my number one question, is, what are your thoughts on why doctors struggle so much financially?I was reading or I was talking with one of my colleagues. And they were saying if a doctor retires with 1-2 million in assets they did not do well, because their earned income is very high. So they should be returning with a lot more. So why do physicians struggle so much in this area?
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, I think there's a few reasons and it's so disheartening, and that's why I what you do with this podcast is so important to get the message out there because I think we've all seen, and I've certainly seen, mentors or just other physicians, especially in the surgeons lounge or something, and they are working. And you can tell they're just, they may be older they're, they're at a point where you can tell they don't really want to be doing this anymore. And it's really tough and they're burned out, but they have to because of their financial situation. And that's such a tough thing to see, especially after everything that we've all gone through. And obviously, we all get into this to help other people and stuff.
I think there's a bunch of reasons. I mean, I think a big one for sure, is just, it's something that we never learned about, unless you get out I never learned anything about finance, certainly not personal finance, I took an intro to business course, learned about supply and demand and stuff in college, but nothing usable. And off of that we're so focused on medicine. And I tell residents, I've started, which I really enjoyed giving talks to different Resident programs and stuff, how to get their finances in order.
They say your focus should be during residency and just training to become the best doctor, you can, 100%. I'm not saying anything other than that, but it's okay to take a sliver of your attention and make your finances at least stable, if not thriving. And that's, in turn, going to make you a better doctor. But we have this perception that we just need to, that's all we can focus on, definitely in training that that was me, I totally burned out by that in my training. And because I was all in, at the detriment of my own health.
And I think, also dovetailing off of that, there's a perception that we didn't get into this for money. To pay attention to money is somewhat dirty, or taboo, or it makes you less of a doctor. And to that, I just say my experiences have been totally opposite. As I mentioned before, I think, by paying attention, I become a better doctor. So that's about the only response I can offer to that. And then I just tell people, why don't you see what happens to you, because I think you'll have the same experience. And we're just also incredibly stubborn and proud, and competitive people that are so scared to ask for help, or admit that we don't know anything, or something like that.
I even remember in residence, having some other resident ask me oh, how do you invest or something? And I was just oh, well I, I have my own way or something, when in reality, I didn't invest at all, I was just so stubborn to admit that I knew nothing. And so much freedom in just finally admitting I knew nothing. But I think all those are reasons, I don't know, what do you think?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: A lot of those reasons you mentioned as well, I also think of the culture because we're culturally conditioned, where we have to fit this image. And we have to live in a certain neighborhood and have a certain house and car, and we had to fit this image. And it's true, a lot of the ideas are based in the past. And so now we have a lot of different options and different sources of generating income as well. So I think the things we learn from this, especially in terms of investing and entrepreneurship, actually make doctors better doctors, because it gives them better footing. The other thing is the profession has actually changed.
So healthcare is run by businessmen and bureaucrats. And it's not really run by doctors, so, doctors really don't have any say in the decisions of hospitals. So now doctors are relegated to being employees. So that's also a big shift. So now, doctors don't enjoy it. They still have high status, but they don't enjoy a lot of the freedom and benefits that they once had. As a result, their incomes are expendable, their livelihoods are expendable. And the thing is a lot of physicians, they're better savers. So you always hear how the star athlete goes into bankruptcy. We didn't we don't really hear about physicians, because they have a little bit better financial habits, but because the way the financial system is working now, it's a lot easier for everybody to get into financial trouble. So that's why you have to understand finances and so I'm happy to share all of these so
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. Yeah,
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: We'll transition to your course now. So you have some financial stability, you have a plan, you're working on it, and then You create a course where you're teaching physicians about how to be the happiest attending in the hospital. So tell us more about it.
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, I basically created this course. And it really is for anyone at any point in your career, and it covers a lot of things. But I know when I was transitioning from being a resident to an attending, it's life is very much, you follow this, this path we all know you go to college, medical school, it's as ridiculous as for residency, you just open an envelope, it tells you where to go you to show up there, you don't ask any questions, you just do it. So we're so used to being told where to go and you get it to the end. And then for the first time, you're a free agent. And, I was almost agoraphobic, if that makes sense. It was almost Whoa, there's way too many options here. And I don't even know how to begin to figure this out.
And sure, we have mentors, and there's people who can guide us and obviously, you seek that out. But all of them have some bias, and there's only one you that really knows what's going to make you happy. And I saw myself as I was going through this process, making these choices or heading down paths that I almost knew would make me unhappy. But I just didn't know an alternative. And I just had the wrong mindset, I was trying to fit my life into what I thought it should be, rather than just creating the life that I wanted. And I mean that in terms of finding the job that I wanted, figuring out where to live, getting my finances in order, that I could have the life I wanted. So I created this course to help people with that transition. And it goes from finding the right job to basic and advanced financial techniques. And then it gets into stuff like real estate investing. But it's one package of everything I wish I knew when I was making that transition.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's awesome. So you're doing a lot of great work. And if people wanted to get a hold of you, or get in touch with you, what is the best way to contact you?
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: Yeah, you can either go to my site, which is prudentplasticsurgeon.com and there's box that you can leave a message and that just goes directly to me, you can also just email me directly at prudentplasticsurgeon[at]gmail.com Yeah, definitely reach out anytime I love talking to people and going over this stuff and hearing other stories and sharing mine. So feel free to reach out.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, you've dropped a lot of wonderful gems and you've given a really fantastic story. I see your brand growing and making a huge impact on physicians, and especially in the field of personal finance. So Thanks for much for being on the show. Any last parting words for our guests and our visitors?
Dr. Jordan Frey, MD: The last parting words would just be that financial well being is a very important but totally overlooked aspect of our overall well being. And first try not to neglect it. I guess that's my message. Thanks for having me. And thanks for all you do. Honestly, you were someone that influenced me as I was getting started and continue to so I appreciate it.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.