Financial literacy. Quite a buzzword these days.
Doctors are largely shedding the label of “bad with money” thanks to people like The White Coat Investor, Financial Residency, and other physician finance creators. You can find plenty of resources out there that will teach you how to invest, navigate loan repayment programs, and build wealth. You’re encouraged to get your financial plan written out and polished so you can hit the ground running.
If you’ve done this, you know exactly how you’re going to invest that first thicc attending paycheck. You just sit there, dreaming about the millions you’re going to have one day.
Then the surgeon you’re retracting for bursts that giant diverticular abscess. You are violently pulled back to your putrescent reality by the nostrils. You don’t have millions. They are a long way off. Even with that perfect financial plan.
You currently find yourself skipping meals and avoiding human feces on public transportation. Or perhaps you’re flipping your “future self” the bird as you down yet another pumpkin spice latte with a side of 7% interest.
Learn all you want about REITs, low-cost index funds, triple tax advantaged HSAs, and when and how to execute the flawless backdoor Roth conversion. The day will come when it serves you well, but it is not this day.
Today, you keep a budget tighter than a frog’s b-hole and still can’t swing an extra $150 a month to rent an apartment where your next-door neighbor isn’t doing a line of cocaine and busting out the iron butterfly drum solo on your shared wall in the middle of the night.
But what if you could change that?
Make more money.
You are not the impotent loser that your resident salary suggests. And are you even in medical school if you don’t at some point google “jobs you can do with half a medical degree”? There’s nothing to be found on that results page other than regret and sadness my friends.
Luckily, there are a plethora of ways you can make it rain along the way. Well, make it drizzle…let’s not get carried away. I’m not saying you’re going to get rich as a medical student or resident. But the beauty of being poor is that it doesn’t take much to move the needle.
I’ve been keeping a running list of all the interesting side-hustles I’ve seen from enterprising medical students and residents. I’d like to share some of my favorites. Just in case you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck after…oh I dunno…maybe incurring the cost of a cross country move to yet another low paying position?
- Door dash: I’ve heard of both medical students and residents who do this on the weekends or a couple evenings a week because they find driving to be relaxing. They listen to EMCrit podcasts and feel like they are getting paid to study. A leisurely approach makes around $1000 a month.
- Wrapify advertising: Can you pass a background check? Drive a car made in 2010 or newer? Then you can earn between $196 – $452 a month just by driving to work and back. Maybe you are advertising for Cialis on the side of your car, but you and I both know that’s not the most embarrassing thing you did today.
- Sell eggs: Not your own eggs. Chicken eggs. I know a resident with quite an impressive little hobby chicken farm. He sells organic chicken eggs that pay for all his chickens, upkeep, and a little extra on the side. Plus, there are zero bugs in his yard/house now. Did you know cockroaches fly? And the wellness benefit from owning chickens is a 10/10.
- Subletting space in your house: This falls on the spectrum of AirBNB but there’s quite a market for rotating medical students and other traveling professionals. If you own a house or have a big apartment, you can make some extra cash by housing people completing away rotations. Rotating room is the website I’ve heard about most frequently if you want to stick to medical students. This is generally a great demographic to target because they are almost always at the hospital and have passed background checks, etc.
- Babysitting/newborn care: Babysitting is not exclusively a pre-teen/teen market. Particularly during the hours that you might have availability. I know a resident who is tearing it up in the newborn and cat markets. She posts in Facebook groups and advertises that she’s a licensed physician and mom and is willing to do odd hour/overnight shifts. She gets every job she wants and charges a premium because of her skill set. She says she sleeps in rich people’s homes, eats their food, and feeds a cute baby a bottle once or twice a night. And she’s doubling her salary. Obviously, she is hustling and this is not for everyone (or every specialty).
Medical (aka the boring stuff)
- Internal moonlighting: The obvious choice if it’s available to you. Often it’s simple and well established, and can be highly lucrative. Opportunities vary by specialty and program. Unfortunately these opportunities often have strings attached in some form or another. Hours worked here also count towards your duty hours (max of 80 hours per week). But if I’m anywhere near that 80 hour cap I can tell you for sure that I’m not looking to work any more for my residency. (Not available for PGY-1’s)
- External moonlighting: Also potentially lucrative, but only if you’ve got a full medical license and if you have the liability coverage required (don’t forget about tail coverage). Some institutions also have policies against external moonlighting, so, head on a swivel folks. (Not available for PGY-1’s)
- Medical transcriptionist: This is dumb. Don’t do this. I’ve heard of it, but it sounds miserable to me. You have to take a course and pass a test to get certified for what? So you can write more notes for like $20 an hour? Booo. I’m including it here only because I know some of you are deranged and masochistic. Because you’re in medicine.
- Surveys: As a resident, you can try and fill out medical surveys for a few bucks. The problem I have is that I get “screened out” of the majority of them. Apparently nobody cares what we lowly radiology residents think. “Do you regularly prescribe insulins in your practice?” – only in my fever dreams. “How many hours a day do you spend talking with patients” – ….LOL, I’ll see myself out. If you want to get started, I’d check this page out.
- Tutoring/advising: As a medical trainee you are learning to navigate some incredibly competitive waters. Your experience is worth its weight in gold to those who are following in your footsteps. Strike out on your own if you have the entrepreneurial spirit! Alternatively, there are a bunch of medical education companies around who are looking for effective tutors and who will handle the details so you can focus on teaching. This is objectively the best side hustle out there. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve been tutoring in one capacity or another for the last 3+ years.
- Medical writing/editing: A lot of these same tutoring companies run blogs and are always looking for fresh content and contributors. Writing about your own experiences is another way to spread the wealth of knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years and get paid for it. There are also plenty of companies who are looking for spotlight writers to talk about medical topics that would love your input. Check out FlipMD for these types of jobs. You have to have graduated medical school to create an account, but it’s a great online marketplace to connect with companies and individuals looking for residents and attendings of a variety of specialties to consult and offer their expertise.
- Content creation: We can’t all be Ali Abdaal or Doctor Mike, but content creation is a legitimate avenue to make extra money. People are curious about what medical school and residency are like. If you are consistent and creative, then you might build a following and be able to monetize it.
- Content creation part 2: You could also create medical education content. Companies like Lecturio, UWorld, USMLE-Rx, and others are trying to stay relevant and compete with each other. They like to recruit successful medical students and residents to help them develop resources that will appeal to the upcoming generation of physicians. Just reach out and ask to get involved. I got a job working as a freelance question writer for Lecturio doing this during intern year. It was actually a lot of fun and super easy money. If you have editing chops, they may even hire you to make educational tutorials. Those short USMLE-Rx videos made by MS4s and residents were my favorite study materials.
Increase your earning potential
We do so many things that help us to become “well-rounded” and “competitive” when it comes to medical school and residency applications. We don’t often think about the things we could do that would make us more valuable. What if you also focused on doing things that augmented your ability to make money? Or if you found a way to make money from the things you were already doing?
Multi-millionaire entrepreneur and business philosopher Alex Hormozi says:
“You will get a significantly higher return investing in your own ability to make money than you will in any market.” (from Deep Dive with Ali Abdaal)
He calls it investing in the S&”ME” 500 (rather than the S&P500). And it’s a really powerful way to view yourself and your skillset.
It’s so easy to become one-dimensional during medical training. You start to feel guilty whenever you neglect your Anki cards for your hobbies or interests. Not only is this unhealthy, but it may be preventing you from being an interesting person. Enter all the memes about every medical student being really into hiking, travel, music, food, and reading good books.
Ali Abdaal started making YouTube videos in 2017 during his final year of medical school. He was designing websites long before that. These skills opened doors financially and professionally. His familiarity with web design led to him helping a plastic surgery group give their online presence a facelift. And don’t let that juicy pun distract you from the fact that if you invested a little time into your interests, or learned a new skill that complements your medical knowledge, you might just stumble upon a lucrative combination yourself.
Yes, you should make learning medicine the priority. And yes, you should learn what a 401K is and how to intelligently handle your student loans before you graduate. But don’t miss out on opportunities to improve your quality of life along the way. Knowing that you could make some extra money if you needed to gives you a sense of control over your life. Especially if it’s doing something you enjoy.
For me, knowing that I could quit my residency tomorrow, cut my workweek down by 30 hours, and still make $20K more than my resident salary helps me feel less overwhelmed by my day-to-day stressors. I don’t feel like I’m stuck here because I have no other options. I’m still here because I choose to be here. At least that’s what I tell myself.