This episode is all about finances, physicians and burnout with Danielle Wrenne. Enjoy!
“I guess the average person doesn’t have a plan. So that’s a good first start, like have a plan. Everybody should have a plan. That’s good. But like a lot of people that do planning, they skip the most important part. What is your purpose in life? Why are you here? What’s most important to you? What are your values like? Where do you want to go? What does your ideal future look like? I think it’s hard to do that exercise in training because you’re like, super, go, go, go.”
– Daniel Wrenne
Daniel Wrenne loves helping people use their finances to live better lives. During the work day, he is busy running Wrenne Financial Planning, a planning firm dedicated to helping physicians use money to live better lives and hosting the Finance for Physicians Podcast. Ultimately, he wants to live a life worth imitating and help others do the same. Above all, he values his faith in Christ and his family. Most of his spare time involves wrestling his boys Noah, Henry and Andrew, coaching soccer, and spending time with his wife Alison.
Many people, especially physicians, can be intimidated to come forward with their problems around burnout and money. Burnout can be a hidden problem, even from ourselves. We are so accustomed to not being able to make ourselves vulnerable in our culture that we tend to deny it and tend to look for ways to solve it on our own. Often as physicians, we feel that we should be able to heal ourselves. We look for solutions without telling other people, which leads to higher suicide rate and contributes to the epidemic of burnout that we’re facing right now.
One thing that we see over and over again in our physician community at DocWorking is people who feel there’s a big connection between being trapped by our finances and feeling burned out. The concept of having options of financial independence is so important, and Daniel explains how planning ahead and having your financial ducks in a row makes all the difference. Our mindset around money can greatly impact our financial path and keeping your values in mind when setting goals helps you stay on track. Daniel talks about how to sail your financial ship with direction, finding the right motivation for change, and how working with a coach, therapist, or financial planner is important for finding financial success and sustainability.
- The link between burnout and finances and the impact of lifestyle creep
- The importance of a healthy money mindset and knowing your personal values
- How working with a coach, therapist, or financial planner can help you achieve your goals
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Please enjoy the full transcript below:
Finances, Physicians, and Burnout with Daniel Wrenne
Hosted by: Dr. Jen Barna
Guest: Daniel Wrenne
Daniel: I guess the average person doesn’t have a plan. So that’s a good first start, have a plan. Everybody should have a plan. That’s good. But a lot of people that do planning, they skip what is the most important part. What is your purpose in life? Why are you here? What’s most important to you? What are your values? Where do you want to go? What is your ideal future look like? I think it’s hard to do that exercise in training. Because you’re like, super go, go, go.
Jen: Thanks for joining us today for DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Dr. Jen Barna and I’m thrilled to have with me here today Daniel Wrenne of Wrenne Financial Planning. And we’re going to jump right into the episode because Daniel and I are both excited to talk about physicians, burnout and how finances can impact our ability to prevent burnout, to address burnout, and hopefully to turn ourselves around if that’s what we need to do. And Daniel, welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.
Daniel: Thanks for having me and look forward to the conversation.
Jen: Let’s start just by talking a little bit about the kind of work that you see in your financial planning business with working exclusively with physicians.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s really it’s rewarding work. We get to kind of walk with families through their life transition and watch them use money to improve lives. And so that part of it is really rewarding. But we also it’s kind of like going to the doctor. You got to get naked with your money. And so we also see the true story of what’s going on with money. And it’s like you would think a lot of times it’s messy. We’re not ever judgmental. A lot of people, though, are worried about being judged and they’re anxious about talking about money. There’s that taboo and there’s just a lot of challenges and it’s the cause of a lot of problems. But it’s also can be like the solution to a lot of problems. So that’s kind of the unique thing about money is it can kind of work both ways. And our job really is to help people use it the right way. But it’s a challenging process. It’s kind of a lifelong thing.
Jen: Yeah, I love what you say there, because I do think people, especially physicians, are sometimes intimidated to come forward with their problems, whether it relates to burnout or money or both. And they can be intermingled. And one thing that I talk about often is physicians and burnout can be a hidden problem and you can even hide it from ourselves. And we are so accustomed to not being able to make ourselves vulnerable in our culture that we tend to deny burnout. And we also tend to look for ways to solve it on our own. We don’t want to come forward with it. And I think often as physicians, we feel that we should be able to heal ourselves. We look for solutions without telling other people. And of course, this leads to higher suicide rate. It leads to the epidemic of burnout that we’re facing right now, as we’re seeing in our news, constantly bombarded by news about burnout. One thing that we see over and over again in our physician community at DocWorking is people who are saying there’s a big connection between being trapped by our finances and feeling burned out. And one thing that I often like to talk about is the concept of having options of financial independence. With the option to retire early, for example, is something I like to call for FIORE pay, which is a variation on the fire movement, because the option to retire early can mean everything in terms of preventing burnout. It doesn’t mean that you will retire early, but it means really that you have the ability to make changes in your schedule, make changes in your work, set boundaries, and you’re not afraid. You’re not trapped by your finances and your obligations. So when you’re working with physicians, let’s talk about maybe three scenarios. For example, a young physician who’s coming out of residency or maybe even still is in residency, maybe you can give us an example, just kind of a fictional person, but representative of what you see and then what you would recommend that that person some steps that that person could take to put themselves in a good position going forward. And then I’d love to also do the same for someone who is mid-career.
Daniel: We can talk through some scenarios, you’ll have to remind me to make sure I hit all the points. But money is a fantastic tool that can give you options. That’s the best part about it is you get these options. And so by having your ducks in a row financially, if something like burnout starts to get to a level, if you have your finances in order, you can afford to take a break or say no to more work or quit your job and start your own business, or just completely retire or whatever. And you’ve got lots of options. But what I would add to that is I think it’s more important to understand your relationship with money, because in some cases we see people really on that journey to financial independence, but they kind of have gotten to where this relationship with money is unhealthy in that they’re seeing money as the end goal. That’s just one example of it. So they’ve kind of got this attachment to the money or there’s this fear around not working or whatever. So we regularly encounter people that have plenty of money and all kinds of options, and yet they’re still like locked into their job and they feel like they don’t have any options and they’re unwilling to, like, take a vacation so they can, like, recharge the batteries, which is so important in burnout. Money can be the solution, but you have to look at your relationship with money and mindset is important too. Like you got to understand like where you’re at with it. So going back to the scenarios, I think understanding your relationship is key and all of these, understanding your mindset is hugely important. I think the most common scenario we see early in practice is this spending aggression is what I always call pent up spending. You know, it’s like you’ve been in training forever and it’s like I’ve been living on ramen noodles. It’s time to take a little care of myself. So that can kind of spiral to where lifestyle creeps up. Everybody has lifestyle creep, but like, when you go into practice, it’s pretty big lifestyle creep. If you’ve ever bought anything big, you know, it’s always more expensive than you think and there’s always other things you don’t think about. And so without really good planning, the lifestyle typically inflates much more than expected. So early career physician starts, starts in practice, lifestyle inflates. They get kind of locked into this high lifestyle because nobody likes to lower lifestyle. They got the new job, the salary’s guaranteed for the first few years, but then the RVU bonuses start to, like usually people transition to the RVU bonus set up. The RVU bonus set up kicks in and then the hospital’s like, hey, you need to up your production to kind of keep this guaranteed salary going. So then there’s this pressure, Oh, I’ve gotten used to my lifestyle. I got to keep this thing going. I got to see more patients. And then that’s kind of the beginning of this spiral of like, I am kind of like locked in by my finances. And so when burnout creeps up in that scenario, it’s a really bad situation because you can’t afford to admit it. Essentially, you can’t afford to really take a break.
Jen: You bring up a couple of really great points I’d love to take a moment to address. First of all, one thing I hear our coaches talk about frequently at DocWorking is how important it is to define our values and then make decisions based around those with intentions and thinking about when I take this action and what is my intention with this action so that it shapes our choices? And I think that’s something that we’re not trained to do as physicians. It’s a skill that you can learn, and it’s something that coaching can really help people to reframe and put their own values in line with their goals and in line with their intentions. So I hear what you’re saying that that also is critical for someone making their own financial plan, because when somebody has more money, they really haven’t stopped to determine how much is enough and then what is most important to them in their lives. Maybe it’s not the money, but they have kind of gotten fixed on that in their own minds, the stability factor, but they haven’t paused to realize that they’ve reached a point where they’re in a stable zone.
Daniel: Right. That happens a lot. We see that a lot, but a lot of people do it yourself well with financial planning, like we’ve seen a lot of people with rock solid finances, but I guess the average person doesn’t have a plan. So that’s a good first start, have a plan. Everybody should have a plan. That’s good. But a lot of people that do planning, they skip what you’re talking about, which is the most important part, what is your purpose in life? Why are you here? What’s most important to you? What are your values like? Where do you want to go? What is your ideal future look like? And that’s, I think it’s hard to do that exercise in training. Because you’re like, super go, go, go. And I don’t think there’s a lot of that sort of thing going on as it is in the training itself. But like, you have to have the capacity and space and that’s what coaching is fantastic for is that like gives you that experience and accountability with someone to help walk you through those things, which I would consider far more important, because if you don’t have those ironed out, you’re kind of just like sailing your ship without really direction and who knows how that shakes out.
Jen: That is actually a great point in terms of sailing your ship without direction, because that’s what so many of us are doing, because we don’t necessarily just stop to think about the intention behind what we’re doing. And I think also when we talk about physician burnout and finances, and you also mentioned that people are working such crazy hours, especially during training, but that can extend into our work as attending physicians. The problem with that is we need some downtime to be able to make our work sustainable and we need healthy ways to spend that downtime that are meaningful to each of us. And again, that comes back to intention. And one thing I hear physicians say all the time is, you know, everything about coaching, everything about planning for finances sounds great, but I don’t have time for that. I’ve also heard our coaches talk people through that because there’s only 24 hours in a day. So if you feel like you don’t have time for it, it’s a question of how you allocate your time.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s a priorities thing. It’s also a mindset thing. You have to have the mindset that you’re in control of your time and not that you don’t have control of your time. So by saying that, that kind of tells me that your mindset is that you are not like the boss of your time, which is not true. And I think you kind of really have to get there first. It’s like also your money, your time and your money. They’re both good, important resources. So you have to realize you’re in control of both of those things and you’re the captain of the ship. And then so ultimately, if you’re there, then it’s like, okay, what’s most important? And if you’re saying I can’t do coaching and I don’t have a plan and I’m not looking at my values and what’s most important, and you’re not doing any of those things because you don’t have time, well there’s some problems there that really you got to probably just take a minute. And logical thought process will kind of get you to a point of being like, Oh, well, maybe I should like, maybe I should consider those things. Nobody wants to end up in a place where they regret things. Nobody wants to get to the end of their life and be like, Man, I wish I had done so much more and planned ahead and I wish I wouldn’t have worked so much. A lot of regrets. So nobody wants to get there. And everybody tends to realize that planning is the best way to avoid that. But somewhere in that process, there’s a disconnect to where most people aren’t planning.
Jen: Yeah, and I would say if you’re in the boat where you feel like you don’t have time for these things, pat yourself on the back for listening to this podcast.
Daniel: Yeah, that’s time.
Jen: It’s a place to start. If you can start with very small actions, those will start to build on each other. So just take action, just take some form of action. And so for someone who is feeling trapped, perhaps they have made some wrong steps or maybe they just didn’t have a plan at all. And they find themselves in a position where they’ve had lifestyle creep and now suddenly they have their huge student loan debt, they have a mortgage and car payments and maybe kids tuition payments, all of these things that essentially can make us feel trapped and contribute to burnout. What is the first step that you would recommend for someone in that position who might be listening? How do they begin to unravel that?
Daniel: I think we got to go back to what we’re already talking about. We got to find some motivation for change because change is very difficult. You also have to realize with change, all of us, I lean perfectionist, I know physicians lean perfectionist. And the perfectionist type is that like, I need to do it right all the first time. But with finances, it just needs to be a little step in the right direction. And then that compounded over time is what good finances look like. So you got to have a little bit of motivation to kind of make a change. So in that situation, you’re going to make changes, so it’s harder to make changes. So you got to find that motivation. And the motivation is going to come from, ideally it’s coming from like, what’s your purpose? What’s most important to you? Like, that’s the best motivation. If you can wake up to what’s most important to you, what are your values, what’s your vision for your future? And realize that you’re not doing much to get you there. That’s a big motivator and I think can turn the corner. And, you know, we’ll motivate you to do whatever. As far as habit formation, there’s all kinds of stuff around habit formation. It’s really just about like identifying what needs to change and working through the process of habit formation. You know, whether it’s the process of budgeting and cutting expenses or, you know, working less or you’re freeing up time or whatever it is.
Jen: So perhaps the first step would simply be writing all of that down.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, or hiring a coach or hiring a financial planner, like we all kind of have overlap in what we do. Like a financial planner is going to work through a lot of these values exercises and goals exercises. We’re not going to dig as deep. We have a little bit different flavor of what we do than what a coach does. But a coach is going to do a similar thing and probably go deeper on that and really look at like, what’s your purpose? What do you want to accomplish? And so either one of those, depending on circumstances, is a very good investment in yourself. Everybody should be thinking about that at least, and especially if you’re not seeing good results. Sometimes it’s therapy too. Everybody I think needs therapists. Honestly, I am one of them. And so sometimes there’s some illogical things that are causing you to not. So for example, if you do this whole exercise where you define what’s most important and the end result is you got to cut your lifestyle or else you’re headed for like burnout problems and you see that and then you decide, here’s the habits and then you’re trying to find the actions and then you’re having trouble executing and you’re just spinning your wheels. You never make progress on the execution part. Usually there’s some underlying issues. So that’s kind of where I think therapy, counseling kind of stuff. You know, all this stuff comes from our childhood, usually. I mean, it’s like peeling back the layers on that. Sometimes you can make a lot of big progress on finances, but just by working through some of those issues.
Jen: Absolutely. One thing I see that coaches work with people on in a huge way is that knowing-doing gap. So as you say, like I’m sure a lot of people who feel that they don’t have time, for example, they recognize that they need this support and they recognize that they’re headed in a direction that is not sustainable, but they just don’t know what to do about it. And I definitely can say from experience personally and experience watching people through the DocWorking THRIVE community turn that around quickly actually, but then having that continued care support and that coaching support to help people find a sustainable path and it’s always changing. So I agree with you completely that everyone could benefit from coaching. Everyone could benefit from counseling. Coaching I see as a preventive, you know, really professional development. It should just be a normal part of our professional development. It shouldn’t be something that we wait until we have a problem to seek coaching. But this is the culture we’re in. So as we’re trying to shift that earlier and earlier to become part of professional development, I would say if you’re looking for coaching, you know, find a program that’s on going, find a program that gives you CME credit so your CME budget can pay for you to have this professional development and then make sure that it has, in addition to coaching, it has digital training that will help you maintain and strengthen your resilience and also a peer support component. And then if there are resources attached to that, that build your ability to get yourself in a safe financial place, that is a huge part of this, and that’s why I really love having these conversations. So thank you. I know we’ve only just barely scratched the surface, but there’s so much to talk about. I would love to have another conversation with you to delve in maybe specifically on any one of these topics so that we could do a little bit deeper dive. How do people find you if they’re interested in talking with you directly?
Daniel: So we have a podcast, Finance for Physicians, where we talk about using money to live better specific to physician’s worlds. So that’s one place, we got the website and there’s videos and podcasts and all that kind of thing. So if you’re looking for more educational content, that’s the place to go. If you’re looking for more help with planning, our business is www.wrennefinancial.com. And then I have a LinkedIn profile. I guess I’m not like super into social media, but I do get on LinkedIn the most of all the profiles so you can search my last name. That’s the nice thing about having a uniquely spelled last name. There’s not too many of us.
Jen: Your podcast is a tremendous resource and your website has some terrific resources as well. So I highly recommend if you’re listening and this is a topic that you’re interested in that you check that out. And I really appreciate you taking the time to come and talk with me. This is Daniel Wrenne, Wrenne Financial Services and thanks again.
Daniel: Yeah, thanks, Jen. Good talking with you.
Jen: And thank you for joining us today on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.