Editor’s Pick, Physicians, Debt & Making A Plan with Andrew Friedman

by Coach Gabriella Dennery MD and Jen Barna MD | FIORE and FIRE, Money and Finance, Podcast

Our producer, Amanda Taran, is away this week and we’ve chosen to share some of our favorite episodes that you may not have heard.

“Whether you’re a young physician or a gardener, the issues are very similar. You have goals, you have values, and many of you have large amounts of debt from student loans. Coming up with a plan representing you, that’s where you have to start. -Andrew Friedman, AJF Financial                                                                                                     

In this episode, Gabriella and Jen sit down with Andrew Friedman of AJF Financial to discuss investing with a purpose, paying off debt and strategizing for the future. According to Andrew, the most important thing is to start today. Whether that involves saving or paying down debt or both, it’s important that you start now. Tune in now to find out how and why.

Andrew Friedman is one of our Trusted Resources and is a Certified Sustainable Investment Professional, Certified Financial Planner, a member of the Financial Planning Association and a Registered Investment Advisor.

To find out more about AJF Financial visit, call (212)779-0789 or email Andrew at [email protected].

If you enjoyed this podcast episode, you may also enjoy:

Your Money & Your Values with Andrew Friedman

A Primer on IRAs with Justin Shaw

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Please enjoy the full transcript below:

Andrew: Whether you’re a young physician or a gardener, the issues are very similar. You have goals, you have values, and many of you have large amounts of debt from student loans. Coming up with a plan representing you, that’s where you have to start.


[DocWorking theme]


Gabriella: Hi, everyone, welcome back to the DocWorking podcast. We are going to jump right in and talk to our invited guests today about a topic that is really high up on the minds of most doctors, and that has to do with finances. I’m so excited to have here today. My good friend, Andrew Friedman of AJF Financials. Let’s say, as a young physician starting out who just completed med school, completed residency, is now thrown out into the world. I remember that moment when I was being onboarded for my first job, and then you get into that room where they talk to you about the benefits packages and sign on the dotted line, and you have to pick and choose, I’ll do this, do that, it was some plan that they had a contract with. I had no clue what the heck I was doing. There is no question about that. Why would a young physician go to a financial advisor, when they’re getting ready to fill out that package?


Andrew: Whether you’re a young physician or a gardener, the issues are very similar. You have goals, you have values, and many, many of you have large amounts of debt from student loans. Coming up with a plan representing you, that’s where you have to start. Even if it means writing down your goals, even if it means setting aside a small amount of what you make on a regular basis. It all will work out if you plan. But if you fail to plan, then you end up getting the results you get. It’s really just a matter of getting started, getting planning and getting something in motion, you could develop plans over time. Don’t expect that everything is going to get resolved, or it’s all going to happen immediately. 


I have clients that made very little their whole lives, and they set aside a little bit at a time and they had more money when they eventually retired, more money than they ever could have imagined. It’s unbelievable. But if you do start and do create a plan, you have a better chance of making something happen. It’s like commitment or anything else. The saying, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,” but one makes that commitment, all forms of material assistance, and these things happen. So, you put yourself in a position where you can have these things happen. 


When you make commitments to things, you also find things happen that were unforeseen, and you may not reach the stars, but maybe you hit the moon, so just getting started on making a commitment to yourself to having your finance work, I think is a big step.


Gabriella: And a big importance because that is so prominent, especially with the debt load of student debt from undergrad, grad medical school, and then many physicians are married, have children, during all that process, and then you’re dealing with aging parents, and there’s all sorts of other things that come into play.


Andrew: It took me 13 years to pay off my student loans. It’s what it is. You know what? If you have a plan to paying it off, and you work it out, even if you’re just making minimums at this point, it happens. It does happen over time.


Gabriella: Exactly. What I’m hearing is that, be committed, have a plan and be patient, and it will work out.


Andrew: Be the patient.




Gabriella: Indeed, that’s probably one of the biggest messages we have, is like be your own be your first patient here, take care of yourself. 


Andrew: Yeah, take care of yourself. Financial wellbeing. A lot of people have limiting self-beliefs about money, and it could just be where they came from and how family dynamics around money. It not just set up a plan, but it’s also looking at what’s the healthy way of having money in your life, and that’s part of it also.


Gabriella: Yeah, definitely. It’s a mindset thing, having a healthy relationship with money.


Andrew: Yes.


Gabriella: A good friend of mine used to say that if you take care of money, money will take care of you. But you have to make that part of an ongoing, consistent commitment. And just like you would anything else really. 


Andrew: Yeah, that’s right. 


Gabriella: Absolutely. Would the same advice apply, let’s say mid-career physician, who didn’t get their finances in order is just trying to just get through the day because there’s thousand things on their plate? Let’s say somebody in their mid-40s to early 50s, is the advice a little different, how would you– [crosstalk] 


Andrew: It’s probably even more so because at that point, they now have already made certain mistakes up until then. It doesn’t mean it’s too late. It just means that you’ve got more work to do, and you’ve got to get started, but you’ve got to get started, and you’ve got to make the decisions. And you have to have the information to make the decisions, too. Organizing yourself and getting started is probably a key thing for someone who’s already been practicing and already is all over the place and doesn’t know what they have or don’t know where they’re going. Get all the information that you need to together, so that you can make better decisions. Knowledge is power, and that will help a lot. But also having a good plan will really serve you, it’ll change your life.


Gabriella: Doctors tend to be, not everybody, I’m not going to say a general statement, but many are do it yourselfers, I’ll fix it myself, I’ll figure it out myself. We were talking about having to make decisions, having gathering information, that seems like a lot. Again, it goes back to utilizing people who really know what they’re doing and how important that is, as opposed to trying to figure it all out.


Andrew: We’re professionals, that’s what we do. I’m not going to self-diagnose something in my body, I’m going to go to a doctor. You’re going to read all you want to read, but you still have a job, and you still need implementation, you still need to oversight and make sure that things are being done the right way. I have people that came to me in the past that, “Oh, I just want you to tell me which investments to go into it and I’ll manage it?” Well, we did that. They never came back. They never rebalanced their portfolios, my guess is, they consistently looked at the risks that they were taking. As far as other financial planning, they never recalled to review their plan. I have no idea. We reach out, we will communicate, but I do recommend that whatever you do that you follow up. It’s not the end, when you start. It’s the beginning. You’re looking at a process. It’s a process that happens over time. There are things that come up that do change. Whether it’s tax issues, you need someone to let you know that some tax law has changed, or just review of your overall risk tolerance on a regular basis. It’s a process that you do, it’s ongoing.


Clients will say to me, “Well, I need to get to a certain point, and then I’m going to change my risk.” Well, the point is that your money has to last you your lifetime. It’s not that you’re working to get to 65. It still has to last you as long as you live. The question is, what is it going to take for your money to last your lifetime, based on the way that you’re accustomed to living. We’ll run plans and look with people and see what they need to do and what they have and how long their money will last them, and then they can make decisions if they need to make decisions. But it’s something that we will review on a regular basis.


Gabriella: Definitely because life expectancy goes up. 


Andrew: It has. All our plans now, we’re looking at 90 and up for how long they’re going to last. So, yes, absolutely.


Gabriella: Jen, do you have any additional question for Andrew, at this point?


Jen: If I’m a new client coming in, what are the steps that a person would take to try to put a number on their goal? How do you step someone through that?


Andrew: Well, that’s an interesting question. The first thing is for a new client, there’s all sorts of fact finding and understanding what the goal really is. If you’re trying to understand how much money you really need in your lifetime, for instance, that’s a big goal. The best that you can do is what you have to do is understand, well, what are your expenses? What do you need to live on now, in today’s dollars? And then what we would do is look to, we would inflate that and assign a certain return based on your risk tolerance. And that would get us an idea of how long your money would last year, or how much money you would need over a certain amount of time. We’ll work backwards. We’ll work back from after including inflation, including rates of return and any other factors that are involved in your life. Whether you have a pension, you have IRAs, you have whatever savings you have, whatever the amount that you’re saving on a regular basis now, and we’ll do a complete analysis to figure that out. It’s complex, but it’s doable. Well, it’s all math.


Jen: Do you have advice for a physician who comes to you and begins that process and then is feeling overwhelmed by the number that comes after that calculation?


Andrew: Yeah. The thing is that knowledge is power as I said before. It may be that you need to make some decisions in your life, maybe about spending, maybe about your job, or maybe about reducing your expectations. The idea is, we’re not here to tell you what to do, we’re here to give you the information, so you can make better decisions. As far as overwhelmed, again, that’s something that if you have certain expectations, you want to do certain things. Well, if that’s what drives you, but we’ll give you the information. And if there are recommendations that we can make, whether it’s how you can make maybe a little bit more return, maybe you’re taking a little more risk, or maybe how you can reduce the risk that you have, then we’ll make recommendations if it’s maybe doing something that is hurting you tax wise, or some other planning function that we could maybe help you with, then we’ll do that. But ultimately, risk, we’re not going to tell you how to feel, but it’s how you feel. But if you have more information, and you have it in a way that’s useful, then you’ll be able to make better decisions, and I think that’s the important thing.


Jen: One thing that I find a really interesting concept, and I’m curious, what you would think about this, is the idea of taking that in stages. So that initially, instead of you still may go through the fact-finding process to kind of pick a number initially that gives you the whole overview, and then possibly back up and say, okay, now if you then take a second look and say like, Okay, this was what you think you would need to live on to continue to live your current lifestyle. But if you scaled that back, then the cost of living would be [crosstalk] and the first goal is to get into a safety zone of you’ve invested enough that you could live in a more frugal way on what you have if you needed to. And now if you choose to continue to work and build that, then you can get to this other number. But you’re now in a safety zone. I’m curious if that’s something that you think– [crosstalk]


Andrew: Like I explained to you about that client who made very little, but she saved a little bit all the time. My wife used to do something, she still does it. She’ll take money and she’ll put it in pockets here and there, all over the place. I take her jackets and I’m pulling out 20s and 50s, and fives or whatever. So, I’d call it the pockets theory of saving. There’s no one place where you’re going to accomplish everything that you want to do. 


Even if you just took an envelope and say, “Okay, I’ve got this goal, I want to buy a car,” start putting money in that envelope for the car. It doesn’t mean that that’s going to accomplish everything you want to accomplish. But you have to have some sort of organization around all of the things that you want to accomplish in your life in order to keep– first of all, keep it conscious for you that it is something that you’re working on, in an organized way so you don’t necessarily try to do it all the time. But if you take a one or two actions a day on different goals that you have, over time, it’s going to make a huge difference. It’s breaking it down to day-to-day actions that you take can make a huge difference itself. I hope that answers your question, but it’s how I look at it is, we have the opportunity on a day-to-day basis to change our futures.


Jen: Wonderful.


Gabriella: So, that brings up another topic, it’s related and you alluded to that earlier, and that’s dealing with debt. And as you mentioned, it can take a little while to get out of debt. What is your approach to debt reduction, particularly for people who have high debt load?


Andrew: Debt is a very difficult thing for anyone to deal with. It weighs on your shoulders, it just brings you down. So, I’m a strong advocate of getting out of debt, above anything else. The way I recommend going to taking care of debt is to make a list of all the debts that you have, and I would look to see how you can eliminate items off that list. First of all, it’s important to look at the higher rates on debts that you have, and it’s also important to try to get eliminate any of the items. So, if you have some items on there that for instance, smaller items, and you could pay those off, great, pay it off. Giving yourself a sense of accomplishment that that’s what you’re up to is probably as important as anything else. But those debts that have higher interest rates, reducing those interest rates, maybe finding something that you can refinance at a lower rate is important. 


The idea though, is keep that list and you should make it a mission to complete and end that list that cycle of debt in your life. And student loans is a big part of it. I don’t know what rates are on student loans these days. Set up a plan where you’re going to pay it off, that’s my approach to it.


Gabriella: Thank you so much. So, that nearly should be in your eyes, like, priority one as far as financial health–[crosstalk]  


Andrew: By the way, just because you’re doing that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing other goals too. If you have $100 and you have $50 to go towards paying off debt of the excess cash flow, for instance, then you have $50 that could go towards other goals. Work out a plan that works for you, where you feel you’re accomplishing all the things you want to accomplish. And even if you’re taking $10 or $5 and putting it into that envelope for some other goal that you have, so what? You’re working towards it, and you know you’re working towards it.


Gabriella: As you said, knowledge is power. Knowing that you have a plan, and it can be one action every day or a couple of actions every day, and you’re consistent with it moving forward. That that is it sounds to me, and that’s actually a pretty powerful place to be. And it’s elegant, it’s simple and it’s actionable. 


Andrew: Yes.


Gabriella: Definitely. Well, Andrew, thank you so much. This was a powerful and amazing conversation and very enlightening. I appreciate your time, we both appreciate the time. And I think that our listeners will get a lot out of this. How do people find out more about you? Where would they go?


Andrew: Well, first of all, we have a website, You can call us, our number is 212-779-0789. We have a staff here, everyone on staff is very capable of answering questions. You could call me, that’s fine. I’m extension one. You can email us. My email is [email protected]. And you can follow us, we have presence on social media. We are constantly putting pieces out on there, whether it’s on financial planning, or it’s on sustainability and ESG Investing. There’s important material that comes out all the time.


Gabriella: Excellent. Thank you.


Jen: Thank you very much. 


Andrew: Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. And I appreciate the opportunity to talk to your group. I really appreciate it. I especially appreciate those investors and clients that are for positive impact and positive change. We couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for you and expressing what’s important to you.


Gabriella: All right, excellent. Thank you. That’s a great point. 


Andrew: Thank you.


Jen: Thanks so much. We look forward to talking with you again.


Andrew: Me too.




Amanda: Hello, and thank you for listening. This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of the DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. If you enjoyed our podcast, please like and subscribe. We would also love it if you check out our website which is And you can also find us on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Our Instagram is @docworking1, and that is what’s the number one. When you check us out on social, please let us know what you would like to hear on the podcast. Your feedback really means a lot to us. And if you’re a physician with a story to tell, please reach out to Jen at [email protected]. Thank you again and we’ll see you next time.

Life Coach Gabriella Dennery, MD OMD is passionate about helping busy physicians rediscover the joy of their calling. She draws on her training as a physician, a musician, and an ordained non-denominational minister in addition to health & wellness and life coaching to offer professionals from all walks of life the benefit of her broad experience and deep insights.

You can find Gabriella as one of the co-creators of STAT: Quick Wins To Get Your Life Back.

The daughter of a psychiatrist mother and a neurosurgeon father, both from Haiti, Gabriella and her five siblings were expected to choose from five noble callings: Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, or Agronomy (caring for the delicate soil of Haiti).

Gabriella, an innately gifted healer and teacher, chose Medicine and graduated with honors from Howard University College of Medicine, “The Mecca.” Following her residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Gabriella moved to New York City to serve as an attending physician and clinical instructor in Harlem and later as medical director and attending physician at SUNY Downstate Bedford-Stuyvesant satellite clinic in Brooklyn.

Her greatest joy as a primary care physician was supporting her patients, shepherding them to Aha moments, and nurturing positive shifts in perspective that measurably improved their health and wellbeing–a strength that makes Gabriella so effective as a coach.

After more than ten years of practicing internal medicine, Gabriella chose to explore the integration of medicine, music, and ministry to promote better health of her fellow physicians by becoming a physician coach. She successfully coaches physicians to prevent and/or navigate through physician burnout, reach career and personal goals, clarify and take actionable steps to achieve their own personal vision, and is well known for helping doctors at all stages of their careers, from students to residents/fellows to practicing physicians. She maintains her work-life balance by playing percussion and violin, composing music, and enjoying a very fun and fulfilling marriage.

Board-certified practicing radiologist, founder and CEO of DocWorking, and host of top ranked DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast

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