Diversification is a path to reduce risk. This applies not only to our investments, but also our income. As doctors, we are sort of like one-trick ponies. I pretty much only do a handful of procedures and clinic-related activities. Most doctors are paid based on their clinical productivity.
If you are injured and cannot perform your typical duties, you are screwed. Sure, there’s disability insurance, but the cost of coverage does balloon up for most doctors in mid-career. Many of us pay almost a full month’s salary towards disability premiums in order to cover one year! This is not insignificant especially if you are trying to repay loans or build up a nest egg.
What can doctors do to diversify their income?
Keep your primary profession
Okay, so this isn’t diversification, but it does boost your income stream, allowing you to have more to invest. The easy option is to do what you are already doing. You can rarely find something outside of your medical profession that can offer you a similarly high hourly rate. And it won’t be anything new that you’d be doing compared to your primary job. Add some shifts if you are a shiftworker. You can opt for locums opportunities or moonlighting (working a second part-time job) if your primary employer allows for it.
Some radiologists that I know actually do locums opportunities when they’re on vacation! There are many primary radiology jobs that offer significant amounts of time off. Sometimes family schedules prevent you from taking off for vacation (spouse’s job or kids’ school schedule)
One of my friend’s spouse is an ER physician. He lives in the Bay Area, but actually has several part-time options in the midwest, where reimbursements are higher!
Do things that are peripherally related to your career
I frequently receive surveys conducted by medical consulting firms with monetary compensation. Sure, the surveys will never replace your day job, but it can bring in another $50, $100, or even more depending on how involved the questionnaires are, and how well research in your profession is funded. I have noticed that professions that utilize medications more frequently will have more options for medical research related survey work.
Speaker fees: Let’s say that you are an expert in G6PD deficiency. There is a new medication on the market to treat it, and the company needs experts to vouch for their product. Yes, you will become a shill for a faceless corporation, but you can get paid for giving a talk. You won’t get rich off of these events, but it does add ancillary income.
Consulting: Likewise, you can either be an expert in the science or an expert in the process of certain treatments or specialties. You can start your own company and offer your technical knowledge of a particular subject. I have seen full-time clinicians start side consulting businesses, only to transition to them full-time when they become busier!
Find occupations outside of your primary career
I once met a doctor who ‘retired’ from clinical care at age 42 to start his financial corporation. I’m not sure what he actually does, but perhaps he sells insurance vehicles or offers wealth management services. That’s a significant 180 degree change, but I guess he likes what he is doing and is probably good at it.
From seeing what other money bloggers out there are doing for ‘side hustles’ or ancillary income, there is a wide range:
Food delivery / messenger: Delivery services like Postmates, UberEats, and other startups need drivers and messengers for the lazy! I’m not sure what the going rates are for messengers, but based on the pricing for customers, I’m assuming that one could command anywhere from $10-$15/hr depending on your region. @financialpanthe has reported doing this on his free time, and also the consequences of looking like a lawyer in the process! Kudos to him. I would assume not to risk running into my patients while I was making a delivery.
Uber/Lyft driver: This is the foundation of food delivery. I suppose that this is a fun way to meet interesting people while making some money. Sam @FinancialSamurai appears to have an interesting arrangement to activate his Uber activity whenever he wishes to drive across town to run an errand anyway. Nice. It is also less stressful since he already has multiple income streams that don’t require a set time commitment. Would I want to pick up an Uber passenger on my way to work? Uh, probably not.
Real Estate: This is a big one. If buying your shares of VNQ (substitute your favorite REIT) isn’t active enough for you, you can invest in the real estate market. Plenty of money bloggers deal with real estate, like @FinancialSamurai @RetireByForty and others. There is definitely more involvement (or headaches) in real estate, but you can leverage your investments and generate significant cash flow while having a physical piece of investment property. I certainly have not had the energy to dive into the real estate market, although I would be willing to venture into this source of income if the right opportunity comes around.
Online sales: eBay, Amazon, and Etsy will have you covered. If you have a source of items that other people might want (like your handmade Russian-style finger puppets), you can have a wide audience with limited initial investment. There is still a cost of time involved in the sales process that can be time consuming. Remember, as a doctor you are trading your time and skills at a relatively high hourly rate for your services. If you are making online sales, you are doing the same thing at a lower rate. But hey, diversification is diversification.
What other means have you discovered to generate ancillary income?
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)