Other People’s Money

As a personal finance nerd enthusiast, I spend a lot of time thinking about money.  How to earn it.  How to save it.  How to invest it.  How to spend it.  Although my favorite kind of money is my money, I also spend a lot of time thinking about other people’s money.

I’m not as attached to other people’s money as my own, although I’m always looking for new ways to attach myself to it.  Here are 5 things I do with other people’s money.

Spend It

Spending my own money is difficult because I know how hard I worked to earn it.  Even worse, wasting my own money brings me physical and emotional pain.  Other people’s money on the other hand – I’ll spend it like the world is ending tomorrow.

Every time I see a patient in the emergency department I may order thousands of dollars worth of necessary tests.  CAT scan of the abdomen and pelvis?  $800.  MRI of the brain?  $1750.  Hospital admission for telemetry, serial troponins, echocardiogram and a nuclear stress test?  You don’t even want to know.  If you thought you were having chest pains before, just wait until you get the bill.

money on MRI
This thing will tear through cash like a wood chipper.

As an emergency physician I don’t have any skin in the game.  I get paid the same whether I order those tests or not.  I find it interesting that I can be so frugal with my own cash while throwing caution to the wind with someone else’s.

Earn It

Through a lot of sacrifice and hard work early in life, I now get to earn a lot of other people’s money.  Whether it’s working hard in the ED, working a locums shift, doing chart reviews from home, or twiddling my thumbs in a cardiac rehab I can easily make $1000-$2500 in a single day.

Some of these jobs are easier than others, but they all end up filling my bank account. Being a high earner is about more than physical possessions. It’s about the security that  the income provides. I love being able to provide for my family. That sense of pride is one of the reasons many physicians are defined by their job.

Create It

Part of the reason I don’t feel guilty about making a good living is that a lot of that money goes right back out the door to create income for other people.  Between feeding and clothing a family of 5, maintaining my big dumb house, extracurricular activities for my kids, going out to eat more than we should and traveling, this family ends up spending a lot of money in ways that support jobs and businesses.

Benefit From It

My favorite thing to do with other people’s money is turn it into my money.  My second favorite thing is to benefit from it indirectly.  There are plenty of ways I benefit from other people’s money without ever getting my hands on it.

One of the ways I indirectly benefit from other people’s money is when they pay taxes.  I’m not even talking about the fact that 2/3 of my patients have Medicare or Medicaid.  I have three kids that will each go to twelve years of public school.  That’s 36 years of education in exchange for the measely $1500 in property taxes I pay a year.  How much would 36 years of tuition at private schools cost me?  Thanks taxpayers!

back bus education school
Your tax dollars at work.

I live in a beach resort town that sees a influx of tourist dollars every summer. The population in our county doubles for twelve weeks of the year. The tourists may leave town in August, but their dollars get left behind. All that money funds the restaurants, parks, bike trails and quaint shops that cause our property values to climb faster than any other zip code in the state.  Thanks tourists!  See you next summer!

My emergency medicine group staffs a nonprofit hospital that routinely collects donations from wealthy donors. Every time some multimillionaire cuts a big check to get something named after them, I benefit. When donors doubled the size of our ED, our visits went up and our left without being seen (and billed) rate went down. Now some wealthy donors have coughed up the money to build a second freestanding ED for us to staff. It will cost the group nothing to build but will likely generate millions in new revenue for the group every year. Thanks donors!  Your gift is more generous than you realize!

Envy It

The definition of “rich” is a moving target. When I was a broke med student, making $40,000 a year as an intern sounded like winning the lottery.  When I was a resident I was jealous of my older friends making an attending’s salary.  When I was a new attending I was jealous of the partners who were debt free and could afford to work less.

Everything is relative

At this point in my career I think I have maxed out my income as an emergency physician.  My side hustles allow me to juice my income further, but I’m still limited by the amount of hours I’m willing to work.  These days my jealousy has shifted to business owners and people with multiple streams of passive income that make money in the owner’s sleep.  The reason I want to Get P.A.I.D. is to extend my earning potential beyond what a person can make from employment.

What do you do with other people’s money?

We live in a complex economy. Whether it’s spending, earning, creating, benefiting from or envying other people’s money, it surrounds you everyday.

What do you do with other people’s money? Share your thoughts and comments below.


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7 thoughts on “Other People’s Money

  1. For me I almost treat my passive income streams like you do with other people’s money. Passive income feels like other people’s money to me because I really don’t have to work for it. It is much easier to spend in my mind because this “mailbox money” feels like a gift. By the way thanks for supporting radiology with those tests you mentioned. Part of the issue with medicine is that it feels like expensive items are because we practice defensive medicine in a litigious society. In your head you can be confident that a patient has a certain diagnosis but feel obligated to rule out other rarer or more devastating etiologies just to CYA just in case this is the zebra and not the horse.


    1. I would think the first time you start seriously dipping into retirement savings it stings a little. Paychecks feel like a bottomless well, but digging into the principal of your savings is the exact opposite of what you spend a career doing. RMDs are like desensitization therapy for super savers.


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