Where are all the nurses who are talking about financial independence? This question has been on the back of my mind since I first got interested in financial independence and the financial independence retire early (FIRE) movement several years ago. In the last year as I am transitioning in my nursing career, it has been a question at the forefront of my mind and a huge reason I launch this blog. I enjoy the excitement and energy of the FIRE movement, yet despite being a huge part of the labor force, I rarely hear about nurses pursuing financial independence. I found a couple of nurses blogging about financial independence, but they are not active blogs.
1. Nurses are not major financial targets
The average nurse made $68,450 while the average physician made $196,380 in 2016 according to US News Money. The financial industry is well aware of this difference and targets professions that have a higher salary. The median income for a full-time worker was $49,791 in 2016 according to the Census Bureau. Nurses do well financially for themselves but would not be considered a high-income earner like a doctor. With the rise of nurse practitioners, the financial industry will probably have a greater interest in the nursing profession. For the most part, financial sharks have ignored us. This is both a benefit and a negative.
As a benefit, the financial industry has not sold us tons of financial products. The financial industry is huge, and they live off of selling financial products. They may genuinely want to help you succeed with your finances, but at the end of the day, they exist to make money. This is how business works. This has primarily been target towards high-income earners like doctors and lawyers. Nurses do not generally have financial planners and accountants in their lives because we are generally not too profitable to them. Also nurses usually don’t have the extra money laying around to hire an accountant or financial planner. Of course, there are exceptions and plenty of nurses have financial professionals in their lives. Having a financial professional is not bad. As a disclaimer, I am not a financial professional nor am I connected to the financial industry. I am a nurse who thinks every nurse should have trusted financial professionals in their lives, but they must be the right kind of financial professional.
As a negative, not being a major financial target means nurses aren’t forced to think much about money and personal finance. Many nurses are great with their money. I know a nurse in her twenties who has zero student loans, has paid off her car, and has invested tens of thousands of dollars already. She is hacking the nurse pay scale by travel nursing and working per diem. But she is the exception. Most of us get caught in the consumer culture that we’re immersed in by living paycheck to paycheck and buying the latest stuff with the extra money. Credit card debit looms over us, a car payment bogs us down, and those student loans seem impossibly large. We can’t ever seem to get ahead with our money. Because we’re not high income earners and not targets of the financial industry, we’re never forced to think about the possibility of financial independence and retiring early. Instead we accept a pay scale that sucks and slog through 35+ years of nursing work. No wonder nurses move around so much and often burn out. They haven’t been forced to consider how they might become financially independent and retire early.
2. The Financial World is Male-Dominated
Women primarily make up the nursing profession. Men primarily make up the financial industry. I don’t have hard numbers, but as of 2018 this male/female difference is pretty obvious. The trickle down effect has been that money and finances especially investing seems more male topic of conversation. This is a gross generalization with countless exceptions. Money and investing is obviously NOT a male-only topic nor should it ever be. But there is something wrong when the top 15 wealthiest people in the world are all men, and the average male to female billionaire ratio is 10 male billionaires to 1 female billionaire. I think nurses not talking about financial independence and personal finance could partially result from gender discrimination in the financial industry. The FIRE movement has several women who are leading the way, and this is exciting! In fact, Vicki Robin is a founder and leader in the FIRE movement with her classic book Your Money or Your Life. Change in the financial world is happening from the ground up starting with innovative, average income earners like nurses!
3. Nurses don’t have a great financial community
Doctors have a plethora of high quality, well-written blogs about financial independence and personal finance for doctors. Nurses have only a handful of articles about personal finance for nurses and a few blogs that discuss personal finance for nurses as a side topic. Why is this? This is partially because the FIRE movement is so young. 10-15 years ago few people dreamed of retiring early. If you made an average salary, you definitely didn’t dream of financial independence or early retirement because we were always under the impression that it was impossible. Budgeting and paying off debt have always been around for nurses but learning that it is possible to become financially independent on a nurses salary and embracing that exciting lifestyle has yet to take off among the vast majority of nurses. We lack a vibrant community of nurse passionate about financial independence. Let’s change this!