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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have a very special guest, Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, who has encompassed all of these types of freedoms. So we're going to get into a great conversation, and I'm going to bring up her bio. So Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar is a double board certified physician in Internal Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine. She graduated from medical school in India and moved to the US after she got married more than 30 years ago. She then completed her residency at Texas Tech University and subsequently worked as a hospitalist for 16 years in the Pacific Northwest.
She then moved to Hawai'i with her husband in 2018, taking up a job at a skilled nursing facility and then retired one year later and traveled through India for three months. So time, location, and financial freedom. On her return. The COVID 19 pandemic broke out and she decided to go back to work to serve patients as a telehealth physician.
She is currently doing a lot of great work. She's an ICF Certified Life Transformational Coach and certified Money Mindset Coach. She helps women medical professionals who have unique struggles in medicine around burnout, sexism and discrimination through her powerful coaching methods. Her philosophy is that financial freedom is key to developing control of one's professional and personal life, giving physicians choice to create a work life balance that works. The tools she employs as a money coach bring clarity to the taboo conversation around money and take her clients from financially innocent to financially savvy so that they can feel free to design a life of their own choosing.
She also happens to be a certified Vipassana Meditation teacher. In her meager spare time, she loves to read by the beach, go for long walks and listen to motivating and empowering podcasts and audiobooks. She also enjoys yoga and zumba. So without much ado, Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar Welcome to the show.
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Thank you, Dr. Loo. Thank you so much for inviting me and having me on your show. It's a pleasure to be here.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It's really wonderful. I know you had me on your podcast and I see you retired early, you got financial independence, and now you're spreading the word in impacting people in different ways. So, tell us all about how you got started your journey and how you decided to branch out into doing the awesome work that you're doing today?
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Oh, wonderful. Yeah. So I'm a little bit more in that what's not in my bio is that, like I said, I went to medical school in India and I was very fortunate and lucky. I guess I didn't realize then how lucky I was that I got a full ride scholarship. So I literally paid nothing for my medical education. My parents had to pay for room and board in the dorm that I live in, but there was no, there was no tuition.
And, looking back now I'm just like, wow, like, what a gift, right, to come out of that, especially when you hear about my clients and the amount of student loans that they have. And that's such a big burden to even just get started, you know? And so, yeah, so that was a big part of my education, I didn't really learn about money, kind of the same thing. I think most of us are really not taught much about money.
And, it's kind of blissful, came here, there's lots of moving parts. And when I was actually working as a hospitalist I was the primary breadwinner, my husband actually stayed at home for a few years to take care of our children. And circumstances dictated that, and then he went back to work as an adjunct professor, so he wasn't really making a lot of money.
And the one point of contention in our marriage was always around money. Like I was a spender, he was the saver, right. And it felt like, to me, sometimes it felt like it was too controlling, and now I realize it's because he was just trying to make sure I wasn't being wasteful. But the typical gal, I love new, I love fun stuff, like purses and clothes and jewelry and, and I just felt like every time I would make a purchase and bring it home, there would be sort of this raised eyebrows, like you already have so many clothes, you already have so many shoes, right.
And I realized what happened over time is I just got tired of that nitpicking, and I sort of blocked it out, and I blocked money out of my subconscious. And it's not that he was controlling me, it just like felt unpleasant, so I kind of cut down my spending, and go to work come home, and get my massages, and my pedicures was because those were things that I enjoy doing, I go to the gym, so nothing unreasonable or anything like that, and we used to take some amazing vacations, lots of road trips with the kids. So I don't feel like we really missed out much. But what that actually ended up happening is we ended up saving a ton.
Because if you don't spend and you make good money, and as a hospitalist I was I was one of those people was very happy with how much money that was making, maxed out on 401Ks and IRAs and all of that, and we didn't know too much about investing in the beginning, but over time, and we have a friend who's a who's a chartered accountant, and she would like help us, invest and stuff like that.
So anyway, what happened was, I started going through burnout at work, but I had no idea about how much money you need to walk away from a job, not necessarily retire. But buy that freedom, right? I had no clue. I have absolutely no clue. It sounds crazy saying that now, but that really was me. And I was just like, shut off from the whole money conversation, if you will. And I just kept working, feeling trapped, just feeling like there's no way out. And then we actually went to a financial advisor in Seattle.
And I remember Chris, this so clearly, it was through my husband's work and how they're like, Oh, well, you get a complimentary session. So I went there. It’s a fancy office, right? Like, it's beautiful. It's very nice. And he talks to us, and he looks at all our money, all our information. And he looked at us and I said, So what do you want, what do you want? Like, what is your retirement plan? And I said, I sort of half-jokingly said, I will retire today if I could write and he literally looked at me and said, you can’t. And I burst out laughing because I thought he was joking, right? Like I must have been like maybe 48, 49 something like that?
Nobody has money to retire and he's like No, you guys have done really well. You've been smart. We weren't really smart. We are just saving a ton of money, you know? And yes, you can. I couldn't I couldn't believe him. I walked out of there shocked like, how can I be such a smart human being and not know anything about money and the financial advisors telling me but I couldn't believe, like in my soul, I couldn't believe it.
So it took me three or four years to start. I was determined to learn about this money stuff. This is crazy. So I started reading about financial independence, Mister Money Mustache, you name it, right. I just gorged on all those podcasts, and then my husband was ready and willing to turn over, like managing the finances to me, like I've been asking you for years, right.
At some level, we started having those conversations around money, I started paying off the credit card bills and started helping him out. And finally I realized this is true, I really, we don't have millions and millions of dollars. But looking at how much we spend and looking at how much we've saved and how we'd invested, I was able to plot it out and realize that yes, yes, we are, we were at the point that we couldn’t retire.
So that's what we did, right? At the end of the day, then I was like, I'm done. I can practice medicine the way it does anymore, all the administrative hassles. And yeah, and then the rest of the story, as you said, we moved to Hawai’i. And here we are. So sorry, that was a little long-winded, but I kind of wanted to give your audience some context of how I arrived at this situation.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That's a wonderful story. And so you're 49, you're able to gain your freedom and your independence. So what are some of the top things that people do right now, thinking about financial independence or early retirement? What can they start to do? You mentioned the savings rate and, or any books or podcasts to, that they can start learning from?
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Yeah, absolutely. So, Chris, one of the things for me is to keep it simple. Even though I went into internal medicine, which I think is just the universe's way of laughing at me. I tend to keep things very simple. Even when I would explain things to my patients, I would be very careful to use layman terms and not use big medical terms. And I know that there's a lot of interest in side gigs and passive income through real estate and all of this stuff going on, right?
So what are some of the things I would say is, first and foremost, even the day you take out your first student loan, let's say to go to medical school, right? Be very mindful of how much - I'm not against taking out loans, like a lot of people couldn't get to where they are, where they are today, if they didn't, they weren't in debt, I think it's absolutely essential. And I'm glad they have that opportunity to do that. Right. But you have to be really mindful because when you're going into medical school, the banks are more than happy to just give you as much money as you want, right, you're a good risk to them.
So it's I think it behooves you to really start being careful about how much you’re borrowing right that even though the interest rates might seem low, and this, student loan forgiveness and all of this, at the end of the day, you're borrowing money. You're borrowing money, in order for you to do something in order for you to make more money, right. So the less you borrow, the sooner you can pay it off, the faster you're going to be financially independent from that. So that would be step number one.
Step number two is really start becoming aware of money, tracking your expenses and doesn't have to be fancy. Honestly, the way I do it is literally every night if we've gone to Costco, for example, I mean, now, your credit card will give you the right breakdown of your expenses. But I just like to keep a little log, and to just jot down there we spent $150. at Costco yesterday, I just write it down. So all your expenses, maybe not daily, maybe once a week, whatever works for you, or there's tons of apps, you and I know that right? YNAB and Mint and whatever. But I think tracking expenses is important, because how else will you know where you're at? Right? It's like keeping a food journal. And then learn about Smart Investing, learn about 401K's IRAs, it can seem somewhat complicated, but we're smart, we're doctors, it just requires us to sit down and really, figure things out, right?
And then yeah, if you're really interested in how to be financially dependent, again, I want to be very clear, it doesn't mean you have to retire early, right? Some people have this, well, I don't really want to retire, which is fine. But if you gain financial independence, it just gives you more freedom and flexibility and sovereignty. And it's one less thing that your employer can hold over your head, right? Like it's, it's powerful. And so and then your podcast, I really liked Mister Money Mustache, I think it's very sort of like, here it is cut and dried. Bam, bam, bam.
The book that I bought a copy for each of my sons was The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. Yes, it is boring. It is about investing in low cost index funds. That's where all my money is. My money is with Vanguard. It doesn't sound sexy at all. The thing is, we didn't pull out in 2008 Right.
I wasn't even watching my money to be honest with you, which turned out to be a good thing in the long run, right? Because we just left the money there. But even today, like, all my and then oh, and then making sure that you have, an emergency fund, right, three to six months, it was recommended, I think that's if you're working, because we are not working, we actually have cash reserve for like, two years, because I know how much expense I need. And if the stock market crashes, I don't want to be selling my shares, so my comfort level is two years. I'm happy because I know, like, a house is paid off, a car's paid off, I've no debt.
And enjoy your life. The thing is, people think you have to be frugal and crazy and make all these horrible sacrifices. And we start in a very good place being physicians, right, we make way more than average, what the average American makes. And so we really have more ability to enjoy our life, but also be smart about it. Yeah, so I could say a lot more, but I'll stop there.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: You mentioned so many great pearls, so many great resources. So I'll be sure to include those in the show notes. And I really liked the idea of tracking, daily tracking. So, I have tracked every day, income and expenses, and make sure it's within line. So if you can't measure it, you can't track it.
So what made you you were, you're pretty much set for the, your entire family and your husband, for your financially in what made you decide to, launch a podcast and go into coaching and get certification and, help others. And I think the audience sees, it's not just, it's not a retirement, it's not an end thing, it's always constantly evolving, and you have to have your passions to keep you going.
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: So yeah, well, my family calls me crazy. My family definitely thinks I'm crazy.
Chris, I've actually given a lot of thought to this, right. And the reality of it is, I don't know, which came first, it's just, service is in my DNA, or it was instilled in me as a child growing up and say, you're going to be adopted, you're going to help people. But the thought of sitting around doing nothing, and not in some way, being productive and helping others drives me crazy. I wouldn't even know what to do.
And what I realized is, especially with the money coaching, is that, especially women, a lot of us turn, turn our power over. What I call the Prince Charming syndrome, right? Like, I even as growing up, I mean, I've learned these things, like I've had friends who said, Oh, my parents say, just find a rich guy and get married, right? Like, don't worry about going to college or going to school, or whatever. Or even in my case, I was more than happy to turn it over. I'm like, Oh, my husband's taking care of everything. I shouldn't even think about it. And thank God, I could trust the man.
We've heard of horrible stories where divorces happen or somebody's bank account gets emptied by their spouse, and they didn't even know it, or office managers ripping off physicians. I think, as physicians, we tend to be fairly trusting, right? Because we hope we have that integrity, we have that moral compass that we hold ourselves to. So in a way, we believe that the rest of the world is like us. So we can be victims of fraud and stuff. I've definitely heard a lot of stories like that from some of my clients.
So the reason I really stepped back is because I really, really, really believe that, especially as a woman. It's like cooking, this is what I tell people, right? My sons know how to cook. Now, are they great cooks? No. But in India, they would have been like, kick them out of the kitchen. Right? The kitchen is the domain of the women. I really believe everybody should have basic skills, basic cooking skills, basic money management skills, right, basic skills of how much sleep do we need? What is healthy eating? I call financial wellness the seventh pillar of lifestyle medicine, and we don't talk about it. So, and money, money touches every aspect of our life, right? I think I've mentioned this before, but Maslow's hierarchy of needs, food, clothing, shelter. Well, for all the three things you need money, right?
And we worked so hard for it, but why would we give it away and squander it away? I have clients who are like 68 years old, and they're like, I don't even know if I can retire. And they want to retire. They're like, I never thought I'd be working till the day I die. But I wasn't thinking about it, or I wasn't paying attention to it.
Right. So that's where my need to serve and come and just really create that awareness among people and say, Please, you work so hard for your money, take care of it, take care of it, because it's going to help you in the long run, when you really need it.
So, I don't know if that answered your question. But yeah, I can't sit around doing nothing.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, you touched on a point where you're serving in a different way, and you're serving in a greater capacity. So and you're using your education and your brand and your trusting authority as a doctor to help other people so beautifully said.
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Thank you. You said it better than me, Chris. Thank you. I should just hire you to be my spokesperson. [laughs]
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well, this was a wonderful conversation about financial freedom. And you live in Hawai’i, and you're able to do what you want to do. You have so much positive emotional energy. So I know clients will want to reach out to you, how will they be able to contact you? And reach out to you?
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Yeah, so they can go to my website. It's just my name, yashoda bhaskar md.com. I might change it down the road. Because it's a mouthful. But that's how they can reach me, you can book a call. I do free discovery calls.
I do offer a number of different services, I offer the money coaching itself, which is a 12 week program, where we really look at money, behaviors, money mindset, how did people come in, I'm the whole diagnostic and then treat, right? So we first make the diagnosis of how and why people got to where they are around money. And then we create a treatment plan on how to improve it, if you will. So do that one on one. And I also do them as group coaching, I call them money healing circles, because really, there has to be a lot of healing. There's a lot of trauma sometimes in people around that. And the other groups, I think I'm going to be only offering like three times a year. So there's actually a waitlist that people can join.
I also offer general life coaching around burnout, work life balance, career, transition, retirement, all of that, because I am an ICF certified coach, and I have more than 170 hours of coaching. So I've just applied for my ACC certification as well. So I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram, I'm on LinkedIn all under Yashoda Bhaskar. So I'm easy to find.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That's, that's so that's so awesome. So we'll be able to for the listeners, we'll put all the resources and show notes in the links. So Yashoda, Dr. Bhaskar. Any parting final words for the audience before we call it a day?
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Yeah, there is a freebie on my website that I encourage people to take. It's kind of like a diagnostic tool. It's called the money archetype quiz. It's a free quiz, and they get the results and it will actually tell them, give them the results of what it means. And then they can book a call.
But in terms of really, the nitty gritty is, start early. you don't want to get to your late 50s or 60s and realize that you haven't paid attention to money because of the power of compounding, right and the power of letting money grow for you, rather than you working for money. You want your money to work for you. So the sooner you get started, the better. And there's lots of resources like you, Dr. Chris, and me. And we're more than happy to help and thank you so much for having me on your show. I really enjoyed it.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It was a great conversation, and we'll be sure to have you back for future episodes.
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: I would love that. Thank you.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Take care.
Dr. Yashoda Bhaskar, MD: Take care. Bye.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.