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What’s Keeping You from Financial Freedom?

Havana Club Mojito

Dr. Peter Kim poses a simple question in today’s Saturday Selection. It’s a great question to ask, and an important question to ponder. If you’re not making good progress towards financial independence or financial freedom, what’s holding you back?

Most people reading this website have the income to make it happen in a couple of decades or less. Live on half your takehome pay, use the rest to retire debts and invest, and you’ll be FI about 15 years after you were flat broke.

Why then, is financial freedom such a foreign and seemingly unattainable concept for so many?

Let’s see what the good doctor says and I’ll be interested to hear your views in the comments. This post was originally published on Passive Income MD.


What’s Keeping You from Financial Freedom?


Financial freedom means different things to different people, but to me, it’s when you can quit your day job and be able to cover your expenses with other sources of income. The dollar amount depends on your unique situation, where you live, and the lifestyle you lead.

I believe all physicians can attain financial freedom, but some encounter obstacles that delay them from reaching that point and sometimes keep them from ever getting there.

Here are some examples.



I believe mindset is the most important aspect of trying to reach financial freedom. It all starts here and helps keep you on the right path throughout your journey.

However, having the wrong mindset can easily keep you from achieving your goals. Self-limiting beliefs such as “I could never do it” or “I don’t” or “I can’t” become self-fulfilling prophecies. I teach my daughter not to say those phrases and it’s always a good reminder for myself as well.

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” ―Les Brown

“If we can see past preconceived limitations, then the possibilities are endless.” ―Amy Purdy

Also, having a scarcity mindset may be limiting you.

What is the scarcity mindset? It’s all about serving one’s own interest through competition vs. collaboration.

It limits you from learning from others and working with others to achieve your goals.

Goals are more easily achieved when you learn from others—from people who are on the same level as you as well as from those who have already achieved what you want to achieve.

Always be open to learning more. Sometimes we feel we know everything, but there is always so much more to learn, especially when it comes to finances.


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Bad Debt


Now, I don’t believe that all debt is bad. Debt that helps you create more income or wealth is good debt, but bad debt is the kind that continually eats away at your net worth and ability to create wealth.

Student loan debt is unavoidable for most people who decide to become a physician. However, what you do with it once you start making a good attending salary is the key.

Most of the time, given today’s interest rates and lending environment, it makes sense to get rid of your debt quickly. Refinancing your student loans can make a huge difference, and if you’re not pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), I highly recommend looking into it.

Credit card and auto loan debt are net worth killers and will suck you dry. Do your best to minimize these.

I carried so much credit card debt all throughout college and medical school. With interest rates in the high teens and sometimes over 20 percent.

Interest payments were killing me.

It wasn’t until I met my wife and she told me that wasn’t okay and it was important to pay off the balance each month.

Get rid of bad debt and use good debt to help you on the path to financial freedom.


[PoF: If you can’t pay your credit card on time, pleast don’t even think about using one. If you can easily pay in full monthly, you can use credit cards to your advantage to earn free travel and/or money.]

Lifestyle Inflation


We’ve given up most, if not all, of our 20s in the pursuit of our careers. While some of our college classmates and friends were making nice salaries in their early 20s, putting away money for retirement and buying cars and homes, we were eating ramen noodles and tuna straight out of cans. Well, I know I was.

So it’s natural to want to come out of our training and try to “catch up” after experiencing that sudden jump in income. The whole concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” comes into play.

Unfortunately, we’re notorious for this. We’re used to the idea that physicians live the country club lifestyle, and while we know it’s not the reality today, it’s hard to stay disciplined.


Havana Club Mojito
mojitos at the country club will cost you


I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with wanting nice things and living “the good life.” I think that if you can delay gratification for a bit, you can sustain that lifestyle with your investments and passive income ventures.

My wife and I love to travel and enjoy great food experiences. These things have always been a priority for us, but we kept it a little more in check in the early earning years and now our side hustles and passive income ventures support whatever we feel like splurging on.

Unfortunately, you could end up living paycheck to paycheck if you’re not careful, digging a deeper and deeper hole as the expenses pile up.




The last obstacle is fear.

Fear of failure. Physicians aren’t really known as risk-takers. We’re used to taking all the evidence and data available to us and making the decision that we think will provide the best outcome. We don’t shoot from the hip.

The unknown is a scary place, and doing something outside of our comfort zone is difficult, so we tend to go with what’s familiar and safe.

We know that if we work and put the time in, we’ll make money. The problem is you’re still trading your time for money. And with expenses racking up, you end up having to put in increasingly more time. That is the opposite of financial freedom.

Make It Happen


No one will hand you financial freedom.

In fact, it’s been said that you can’t earn your way there. You have to invest wisely. You have to learn to unlink your time from money to make it happen. You have to figure out what you want out of life and decide you want it badly enough. And you have to make sure none of these obstacles are holding you back.



Where are you on the road to financial freedom? Is there something that’s holding you back? 

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4 thoughts on “What’s Keeping You from Financial Freedom?”

  1. Yes, that fear of failure can be a real limiter. It’s easier to just keeping doing what you’re good at rather than taking the risks that could potentially lead to more. This can cap your income earning potential, and I think you captured well how it can also keep you earning income for longer.

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  3. This is great advice. The other piece worth at least mentioning is overall compensation. I have a friend who just bought into private practice and has made the investment back in year 1 on his % ownership alone (not including production). Next year his earnings will go up substantially. I am not a doctor but have worked with many over an entrepreneurial career in healthcare. A good physician in the right role getting paid what is fair based on the revenue she produces can achieve financial independence sometimes even in spite of poor financial management. Being financially savvy and following the suggestions in this post seems even more powerful. Thanks for sharing and best wishes and discipline to those on the path 🙂

  4. I can’t resist Dave Ramsey’s quote, live like no one else so later, you can live like no one else. Delayed gratification is the name of the game. That is hard when make a good salary after years of self denial. Reminds me of the Bible verse Hebrews 12:11.

  5. When it comes to my own fears, it’s actually the opposite—fear of success—that holds me back the most. To anyone who has read The Alchemist, I used to liken myself to the glassmaker. He knows that if he has success his life will change (even if for the better) and he’s already comfortable in his routines. He also doesn’t strive for his lifelong goal of a pilgrimage to Mecca because he’s afraid he won’t have anything to pursue afterward. I don’t struggle with those feelings quite like that character did but anytime I become apprehensive it’s usually related to these qualities.


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