Nurses are just people—and like many others, a lot of us struggle with our finances at some point. Like everybody else, we have lots of financial commitments, like paying back student loans from nursing school, on top of paying for the necessities of daily life. Unfortunately, financial literacy isn’t usually taught in school. But there are still great resources out there to help you understand personal finance for nurses.
IntelyCare sat down with Savannah Arroyo, MSN, RN who is the CEO and co-founder of Networth Nurse, a company focused on empowering nurses to take control of their own net worth in order to achieve financial freedom, to ask her how nurses can start their personal finance journey.
Why Do So Many Nurses Struggle with Managing Money?
Savannah: It really just comes down to a lack of education. You know, some people get a credit card and start spending money without realizing you actually have to pay that back! That’s so common—there are so many different financial practices and tools that people are just misinformed or uneducated about. Everything seems to trickle down from that.
What Common Obstacles or Mistakes to Growing Wealth Do You See in Nurses?
Savannah: It really starts right out of the gate—negotiating for your pay with your employer is very important, but most new nurses don’t feel comfortable doing so. Or, you may work for a union facility where you don’t have that flexibility (which obviously isn’t something you can easily change).
Also, many nurses don’t know the retirement options they have through their employer. You might have health saving accounts (HSAs), 401(k)s, and other retirement options you should explore during your onboarding process.
Obviously, many nurses are also trying to navigate paying back student loans. You need to know how to pay off the loan and invest at the same time, and that comes down to assessment. Everyone’s situation is different, and you need to really understand where you’re starting and where you want to wind up. Your own financial assessment is key, but many nurses don’t do this.
What are Some Tips for Increasing Wealth?
Savannah: To start, you should think about your motivation for managing your money. Why do you want to save more? Why do you want to grow your wealth? What are you working toward? Once you’ve answered those questions, creating and sticking to a budget is the first, most important step toward building wealth.
A lot of people have no idea where their money goes, but you have to know. People are afraid to look, they don’t want to look—they don’t want to have to see where their money is going every month. I was like that, and it’s an incredibly common issue I come across when I work with nurses.
But that’s where the assessment of your finances comes in. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, and it may not be pretty when you first dig into your finances. But having that assessment and being aware of where your money is going gives you better insight into your spending and saving habits. Once you identify that, you get more control over what you do with your money in the future.
Self-learning is also really important. I mean, you’ve already made it through nursing school—you can teach yourself better financial practices! Besides Networth Nurse’s Personal Finance Right Now course, there are some really great resources out there that can help you learn more, like Nerd Wallet and Investopedia. There are also tons of podcasts and YouTube videos that talk about making money and paying off debt, and those can be great places to start too.
Should Nurses Pay Off Debt First or Save for Retirement First?
Savannah: It really depends on the debt. What kind is it? What does the interest rate look like? On our website we have a Wealth Building Toolkit, and there are other resources out there too.
Most of the time, it usually makes sense to pay off some debt first. Say, for example, that you have credit card debt at a 20% interest rate. You’re not going to be able to invest that money to grow your wealth because you’re spending it paying credit card interest every month. Even if you don’t use our product, you should find a worksheet or other way to get all your debts on paper so you can see all your financial obligations in one place. Then, you can understand how paying off high interest rate debt can help you invest and achieve your financial goals.
Should Nurses Plan for Unexpected Financial Emergencies?
Savannah: Yes! Your budget gives you a plan for the unexpected, even before a crisis happens. Ideally, you should aim to save an emergency fund of between 3 and 6 months of your typically monthly expenses. It’s not always possible, but even saving a little money for emergencies is better than nothing!
Where Can Nurses Learn More?
Savannah: When it comes to personal finance for nurses, there are lots of ways to connect with other people who are working toward their financial goals. You can talk to people who already invest, or you could join a networking or other social media group to learn more. Just pay attention to your sources—you can weed out bad financial advice and scams by really digging into who is saying what. What is the source’s reputation? What advice has the source already given, and does it make sense? Thanks to social media, you can track records, referrals, references, and more. Take some time to make sure that whatever information you’re looking at is legit!
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.