Nurses work hard for the money. But they need to be saving more of it. Unquestionably, this is the best financial advice for nurses today.
During my first few tumultuous weeks as a new grad nurse, a mentor with over 20 years of nursing experience gave me some invaluable advice, “Save your money now,” she said. “Pay off your school loans and automate your savings so you don’t even see it. “As a second career nurse I already had a decent 401k from a prior career selling medical equipment, but it was great advice that I needed to be reminded of now that I was beginning my new career as an RN.
Over the years I have found that nurses are very good at worrying about the health and well-being of others, before their own. Our financial health needs to be given as much attention as we devote to our patients.
Everything in nursing is evidence-based. Are nurses ignoring the evidence that compounding interest is the secret to growing wealth slowly and ensuring their financial health into their golden years?
Many nurses choose the profession because they are passionate about patient care and they want to make a positive impact in the world – not because they are trying to become millionaires. But nurses still deserve to make a decent living and have the ability to afford a decent retirement savings by the time 70 rolls around. Unfortunately, many nurses are deferring retirement because they simply cannot afford it.
Recently, someone said to me that they thought nurses made too much money. My jaw practically hit the floor. “Too much?” I must have heard that wrong. Is it possible that what he actually meant was “too little?” Nope. I heard it right the first time.
So I asked “how much is your life worth?” As an emergency room nurse I work with the most kick-ass, life-saving nurses out there. In fact, all the nurses at my hospital are breaking their backs to help people. Yet despite our sacrifices we are increasingly underappreciated for the hard work we do. (By the way, he never told me how much he thought his life was worth. He just kept insisting that we are so overpaid for the work we do).
I live in California where we still are fortunate enough to have this thing called “safe patient ratios.” And we still have a nursing union, so I consider myself luckier than many nurses. I hear the nursing conditions in some states are deplorable. (Although due to a recent vote in the Supreme Court, both our union and safe patient ratios may be in jeopardy of going away here some day as well).
In light of this and other new developments, I foresee a few changes within my workplace and the nursing field that may negatively effect my working conditions. Healthcare is a business in the United States. Nurses are in the business of saving human lives while our hospitals are in the business of saving money. What profession do you think will be the first to take a pay cut?
Not to keep harping on the bad, but while I’m at it there’s this: I worry about how long I can physically be a hospital nurse before I hurt myself. I have been a nurse for 7 years and I am already experiencing chronic back pain.
Many hospitals are failing to protect nursing staff from becoming patients. And studies are showing that proper technique when moving patients still exposes nurses spines to dangerous forces. In light of these concerns, I am exploring other ways I can continue to practice nursing outside of the hospital setting.
I am saving and investing as much money as I can with each paycheck. It is the wise thing to do and, frankly, who knows how long I will be able to work. Besides, there will always be employers out there who want to pay nurses less than we deserve. We cant just keep taking care of everybody else’s needs at the detriment of our own financial well-being.
If you are not already, save as much as you can now and make your savings automatic. This is singularly the best financial advice for nurses. Your future self will thank you for it.
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Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.