Susan J. Penner, RN, MN, MPA, DrPH, CNL, author of Economics and Financial Management for Nurses and Nurse Leaders, Second Edition, 2013, and adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions, discusses tips for women in healthcare to achieve financial independence.

A 2014 survey by Fidelity Investments found that over half of the nurses who responded (56%) lack confidence in making personal financial decisions.  The same survey found that most female health professionals (80%) report “they work harder for their money than their money works for them.”  Female physicians are included among these women in healthcare who worry about saving and investing for retirement.

Americans are champions for political independence, but need support in planning for financial independence.  Women in healthcare juggle roles of clinician and family caregiver, and often lack the time to devote to enhancing their financial well-being.  Employers may not offer financial advisers or monetary incentives to encourage retirement planning and savings.  As more and more women in healthcare approach retirement age, the lack of long-term savings is a growing concern.

A Few Financial Pointers

Women in healthcare might benefit from a few pointers for improving personal financial management.  Although my textbook focuses on finance concepts for healthcare settings, I can offer some tips for women (and men) who want to meet the challenges of saving and investing.

  • Get good advice: many employers provide financial advising services.  Ask your Human Resources staff if this help is available.  If your employer can’t help, seek financial advice through your bank or credit union.  Qualified financial advisers can help you develop a savings and retirement plan tailored to your needs and preferences.
  • Minimize and simplify: make an effort to live beneath your means, rather than beyond your means.  A more frugal lifestyle not only helps in saving for retirement, but will also extend your savings once you retire.
  • Pay yourself first: you are your most important investment!  Utilize payroll deduction plans to the greatest extent possible.  If your employer does not offer payroll savings, develop a workable financial plan and exert the will to set aside money every pay period.
  • Clean up bad credit: we all make financial mistakes.  As with any mistake in life, the goal is to learn and move on.  Develop a financial plan to pay off debt and move on to a financially healthier lifestyle.
  • Treat credit cards as cash: in other words, make sure you plan your spending.  Create a budget and track your expenses.  Knowing what you spend helps control what you spend.
  • Reward yourself: yes, a café latte every afternoon may add up to hundreds of dollars a year.  On the other hand, if that’s one of your few indulgences, that jolt of caffeine may be worth every penny.  You may need to limit expenses, but there is probably something you can afford that you can use to reward yourself for all the financial discipline you show in other areas.

It took hard work to gain political independence, and it will take work to change financial habits and to save for retirement.  However, women in healthcare are used to hard work and are expert planners.  You can improve your financial health by getting good information and applying a little effort.