Book Review: Pay Yourself First & Changing Outcomes

I recently started a 30-day Kindle Unlimited free trial, which gave me a chance to pick up a bunch of Kindle titles (to read on my phone).1 I used the opportunity to take a look at a large fraction of the (mostly self-published) books on medical school advice and physician finance.

My first review is a combo of two sibling books written by financial planners of “TGS Financial Advisors.” These folks specialize in “servicing” physicians; they’re CFPs and not MDs.

The first, Pay Yourself First, is geared toward doctors just out residency/fellowship (potential clients for their $5000/year fee-based advisor service). The second, Changing Outcomes, is directed toward mid-career physicians (who presumably could fork over even more money). This is amusingly reflected in the price, as Changing Outcomes costs a bit more.

Both books are short and share large portions verbatim. Pay Yourself First focuses on convincing you to save more and not spend too much of your new-found income. Changing Outcomes begs you to save more and stop spending so much. The actual financial advice is physician-directed though almost entirely not physician-specific.

The covers are nice, and they paid Kirkus a few hundred bucks for a blurb, so they’re taking the “book as native advertising” concept seriously. There are a few typos and whatnot, perhaps less than average for self-published. I think most recent medical school grads with their massive student loan burdens are more in tune/fearful of their financial future than older docs of the more lucrative medical past, but the discussion of why a high savings rate is the foundation of building wealth and retirement security is nicely written.

A few of my favorite passages.

Here at the beginning of your career your assets are probably smaller than those owned by the average public school teacher. Asset poor and cash flow rich; in your first years of practice, everyone will want a piece of that cash flow.

This is a hidden cost of medical training that most non-physicians simply cannot understand. Not only have you studied longer than any other professional, incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in education loans, and deferred a serious payday until your mid-30s, you have also lost precious years of potential compounding on your savings.

When you finally start making money, you’re already way behind. You have tons of debt and haven’t saved nearly enough, and those valuable years of compounding interest are gone forever.

Unfortunately, the relationship of wealth to happiness is asymmetric. Moving up is often only temporarily rewarding. But losing ground—suffering even a limited reduction in socio-economic status—is durably painful.

Lifestyle inflation is much easier to avoid than reverse.

Spending on possessions has the most transient effect on happiness, while spending on relationships and experiences has more durable emotional benefits. Unlike status based on earning or spending, research suggests that attaining $1 million of net worth is associated with a permanent increase in confidence and self-esteem.

Having enough money to tell the hospital admin to do something profane to themselves: Priceless.

Outside of these general themes, there is almost zero detail. This is not a DIY book, so other than the inspiration, the books are pretty much useless. Hint: They think you should get a financial advisor.

Overall, the you-need-an-advisor sell isn’t particularly egregious, but it is a bit amusing as it comes after discussion of how low-cost low-fee index fund investing is the right choice (something you definitely don’t need an advisor to set up). Fee-based financial advisors are essentially life coaches who focus on your money. You really only need one if you can’t be trusted to not sabotage yourself.

Verdict: If you need convincing to save more and spend less, either one is a pretty well-written plea and is a fine free read if you have KU. Otherwise, save your money and look elsewhere, like WCI or Bogleheads’.


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