Medicos needn’t be in the firing line of financial and debt stress

During his 25-year career, VISIS founding partner and financial adviser Chris Smith has identified a pattern of work pressures and external stressors in many of his clients working in medical professions.

This knowledge enabled him to develop an innate understanding of how to assist medical professionals manage their finances and maximise wealth creation outside of going to work.

“What I started to recognise is that medicos were tired of being so busy they had to put their financial affairs on the backburner,” he explained.

“From a financial advice perspective their needs were similar to many other clients, but they often didn’t have the time or energy to manage their affairs themselves.

“We saw a place to deliver to those medical professionals seeking proactive, enthusiastic advice designed to help keep pace with their busy lives rather than worry about their finances.”

It’s no secret that medical professionals are impacted by financial and debt stress, which has intensified over the past 18 months by the challenges of COVID-19.

Many professionals in the medical field don’t have time to think about their own financial affairs.

Beyond Blue’s National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students, which captured more than 14,000 responses, identified finances and debt was a source of stress to almost 14 per cent of doctors.

Updated in June 2019, the report found clinicians practicing anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology and oncology were among the highest stressed by debt.

Mr Smith’s full-service support to clients working in medical fields has been refined to a reliable script – laying out sound plans, strategies and fixing structures so when decisions are made, they optimise wealth creation.

“We help our clients create a self-fulfilling prophecy compounded by good decisions,” he said.

“And these range through the life cycle of professional practice – from fresh graduates right through to those looking towards retirement.”

These days about 15 per cent of Mr Smith’s 200-strong client base are medical professionals located all over the eastern states.

One of those is Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Emergency Department and Trauma Centre Director Dr Sean Rothwell, who heads up the adult ED and provides leadership to almost 500 staff.

A snap decision three years ago to appoint a Mr Smith as his personal financial adviser meant he could focus his team on administering care at one of Australia’s busiest public emergency departments, without added stress of managing his personal financial affairs.

Meeting Mr Smith through their kids’ junior cricket club and learning about his experience offering financial and investment advice to medical professionals, a conversation quickly developed into professional engagement.

“There’s been a real focus on the wellbeing of doctors and medical professionals over the last five years and one of the pillars of that is financial wellbeing,” Dr Rothwell explained.

“We work in high stress environments and the last thing we want is financial stresses adding to all those we get in the workplace.

“So as full-time doctors we often neglect our financial management and assume it will take care of itself.”

“My personal experience with Chris and VISIS is that they’ve understood the financial situations peculiar to medical specialists and can tailor a plan that worked for me and provides longer-term security.

“As a result, we are absolutely in a better position, both financially and with a long-term plan, making sure we have an improved view of where we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

It’s a sentiment shared by practicing clinician and director of a busy Brisbane gastroenterology and hepatology department Professor Tony Rahman, who arrived in Brisbane from London with his wife and four children in 2012.

His regular long days including out-patient clinics, ward rounds, procedural work and responding to gastroenterological emergencies doesn’t leave him much time to consider his family’s financial affairs.

Early engagements with Mr Smith focused on navigating the complexities of taxation, particularly differences between the UK and Australia.

But as the relationship developed, so too did Prof Rahman’s reliance on Mr Smith to provide advice and guidance on a range of financial matters.

“I have little time to think about my financial affairs, which is why Chris has offered such incredible value through his knowledge, experience and understanding,” Prof Rahman said.

“He helped us re-organise our priorities, helped us buy a house and restructure finances to accommodate the complexities of my employment scenarios, practices and work between public, private and government systems.

“We also have assets in the UK and a range of other complex superannuation issues that Chris is navigating us through.”

Since engaging Chris five years ago, Prof Rahman’s superannuation profile has improved 100 per cent.

He has also sought and acted on advice to invest in a portfolio of stocks that have performed strongly, delivering solid returns.

Mr Smith said his team was committed to tailoring programs for medical professionals regardless of where they were in their financial journey.

“Ultimately we want to build a balance sheet that longer-term outweighs earnings they make from work.

“Off the back of that, they have the capacity to be comfortable and their balance sheet does more of the heavy lifting than human capital – that gives them comfort they can eventually retire in a strong financial position.”

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