This post appeared originally on the Chiropractic Economics magazine website. It has been reprinted with permission from the author.
Business finances and surviving the expense of a chiropractic degree
As a fifth-grade student, I learned from my teacher about investing, business finances and financial freedom. He showed us the power of compound interest and how saving just a little bit of money can make a big difference over time. I started investing that year and developed a keen interest in financial planning.
I’ve always felt driven to support people in achieving their goals. I studied to be a financial planner and earned a degree in business. I was offered an incredible job, but after less than a year I realized that I needed to be a chiropractor. Without health, money doesn’t matter at all. Chiropractic has become my calling, but personal finance and business still remain passions of mine.
I want people to understand that less financial stress allows for more freedom, creativity and the ability to pursue your dreams and empower others. Anyone can achieve this — it just takes time and repetition to get on the right track. I promise it is not rocket science.
But when I was a student at Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, Calif., it became clear that other students did not understand this. There was an overwhelming need for some kind of financial seminar for business finances. In many conversations with friends, I heard people talking about balancing student loans, credit cards, car payments, complicated insurance policies and trying to thrive during the rigor of the chiropractic program.
I was motivated to take action when a friend who was a senior went to his final student loan talk and realized he had dug himself into a hole larger and scarier than he thought. I was seriously taken aback by seeing how stressed out, scared and uninformed he was.
Mindset for business finances
Many people feel disempowered, shameful or scared to talk about money. So they don’t, and it begins to grow into a dark hole in their lives. Over and over again, I saw signs of fellow students being out of control with spending, not understanding student loans or making decisions that they later came to regret. Many students have credit card debt on top of crushing student loans — not the ideal way to transition into practice.
A small tweak in mindset, and equipping someone with two or three priorities or tools, can make a world of difference once that small change is compounded over time. The goal is to invite in a healthy perspective about money, provide the “bigger picture” vision and share an understanding that a healthy financial life is a requirement to live and serve at our highest potential as humans and as chiropractors.
Start your journey with an assessment
When starting on this journey, I always encourage people to sort their current situation, as well as any current and future decisions, through their own value system — that is the best way to make decisions for each individual. For example, I love being outside — camping, hiking, etc. So when I make plans for my breaks, I often plan road trips that involve camping instead of hotel stays. It feels good knowing I created a great break on a small amount of money.
Another example I use in seminars is a trip to Las Vegas where I had a chance to meet a friend for four days. I ran a quick budget and figured this weekend would cost us around $1,200 each. Vegas could be fun, but $1,200 goes a long way for backpacking and road trips. Here’s another way to look at it: If my student loans are at 6.25 percent, and I spend seven years paying them back (plus remaining time in school), this trip to Vegas would actually cost more than $2,000 by the time I paid it off. I skipped the trip and invested my money in ways that were more meaningful to me.
Tips for students
We should all be intentional about our resources, both time and money. How we invest our time and money as students will seriously affect the foundation of our practice, and may be the difference between failing as a chiropractor and inspiring the next generation of great doctors. The payoff, financially and otherwise, is certainly there for those who know themselves well enough and have the heart and mind to serve in a way that is congruent with who they are. If you are going to do this, set yourself up for success by doing the following:
- Engage in the process: Understand how student loans work, and what the interest means to you while in school and after — it is the furthest thing from free money.
- Explore, play and work hard: We need and deserve fun and effective breaks during this program. Recharge, recuperate and invest in yourself, but do it wisely, and make trade-offs where you can.
- Commit to excellence as a chiropractor and you will make quick work of your loans once you graduate.
- Be patient and kind with yourself. Mastering both chiropractic and personal business finances is a huge journey, not a destination. You’ll get there if you are committed to it and moving in the right direction, even if it is slowly.
Advice for the new DC
The details certainly evolve and change a little bit, and so might the language, but like chiropractic, the underpinning principles never change for financial management. Keeping fixed costs low and maximizing the impact of every dollar you earn will make a huge difference in what you can achieve in your early career.
Our time in school as students and early in practice is critical for shaping the chiropractor we become, as well as our ability to engage in and serve our communities. Making financial choices that are aligned with your values and the reality of your situation during school and in practice during the first 3-5 years will drastically impact your financial health 10 years after graduation, and will trickle down to impact your relationships, ability to serve your communities, and ability to contribute to the profession.
Ask yourself the following questions to gain some insight into your business finances and financial stability:
- Is your spending supportive of your mission in life?
- Is your spending aligned with the things you most value?
- Are your finances healthy and aligned or are you subluxated?
- Is there any waste you can cut? For example, are you wasting money paying interest on a credit card; or do you overpay for a huge phone plan you aren’t using?
I am absolutely certain that a chiropractic education is one of the most incredible investments you could possibly make — with your money, time and life. Just make it wisely.
Daryn Ranier, DC, graduated with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in December 2018. He is passionate about sustainable empowerment — both health and financial. He has a growing love for salutogenic pediatric, prenatal and family chiropractic. He is completing his CACCP certification through the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association.