Discusses the challenges of managing personal finances as a doctor and helpful tips for your financial health.
Published April 27, 2022
Listen to social media star Sanjay Juneja, MD, talk about what led him to a career in medicine, the financial challenges he’s faced as a doctor, and the pain points members of the healthcare community face when it comes to preparing and managing personal finances.
Hosts: Laurel Road Head of Design, Eric Sutton and Laurel Road Senior Digital Product Manager, Jessika Banks
Guest: Dr. Sanjay Juneja
Eric Sutton [00:00:08] Hi, everyone, this is Eric.
Jessika Banks [00:00:10] And I’m Jessika. And you’re listening to Financing Ambition, a Laurel Road podcast.
Eric Sutton [00:00:18] Today, we’re excited to welcome Dr. Sanjay Juneja, who practices hematology and medical oncology in southern Louisiana and as a founding medical partner of Doctorpedia.com, a startup focused on providing quality health care information for all patients. And for those listeners who are tuned in to social media influencers in the health care space. Dr. Juneja was also featured recently on Dr. Mike’s 100 Medical Social Influencers project, which also included Dr. Fauci.
Jessika Banks [00:00:51] Dr. Juneja is here to talk to us today about his financial journey, including some of the mistakes he’s made, as well as some of the lessons he’s learned along the way. For those listening, we’ll hear some helpful tips on how best to approach organizing their finances and working towards achieving their financial goals as a doctor.
Eric Sutton [00:01:11] So welcome, Dr. Juneja. Thanks for being with us today.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:01:15] Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I hope I wish I would listen to these things when I was younger, so I hope these things can kind of really help people as they move forward in their careers.
Eric Sutton [00:01:23] Hear here. All right, so maybe let’s kick off if if you wouldn’t mind maybe telling our listeners a little bit about your background?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:01:31] Yeah. So as you said, I’m a blood and cancer specialist, my wife and I both are actually, down in southern Louisiana and been practicing for two years. But you know, it requires an internal medicine residency and then two specializations in hematology and oncology. So we’re both really passionate about cancer and kind of really helping people through a scary process, be, I guess, a little less scary. And we think you can do that with education and, you know, just really a collaborative approach on health rather than, you know, you do this now and this is what we’re doing next. And so that’s where that’s kind of what drove us to do what we do here. And we have three kids six, four and almost one. And and I do, as you said, a lot of social media education as as the Onc Doc where, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that circulates out there really with finances is no different. But as well as with oncology where you don’t know what’s fact and fiction, and some things seem more captivating than others. So with social media as well as Doctorpedia, I’m hoping to kind of help people navigate that process and maybe debunk some things that may be, you know, dangerous roads to go down.
Jessika Banks [00:02:45] We love that. I’m definitely hearing some power couple vibes with a mission so loving what you both are doing. Can we start to talk a little bit about your journey into medicine? Could you tell us a little bit more about what led you to be a doctor and how you chose your specialty?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:03:00] Yeah. So I actually always wanted to be a middle school teacher until early high school. I love to kind of being able to appreciate the world around you, like when you understand its constituents, either with chemistry or physics or biology, you get so much more value when you see a tree or an insect or, you know, even friction pushing something. Why is it harder to start pushing rather than when it’s in motion? It’s easier. So I thought it was really cool. And then and then I got into a pretty bad car accident in high school, where I lost my eyesight for a couple of weeks and when people would ask, like, Weren’t you really afraid that you wouldn’t get it back? And I was like, Man, something wrong with you? I really wasn’t that worried. And when I thought about it, it was because my doctor, my optimal just Dr Grenier really broke down every single step of the way and I was, you know, non-medical. But he made it just goal focused. And what I understood it, it was able to make me really see what I was dealing with and also be confident moving forward. And so it was that process that that made me decide to go into medicine because doctor means teacher right in Latin. So it is a big component of teaching, ideally. And I think that’s why maybe some issues of mistrust are kind of like not knowing if they’re comfortable with their physicians is because not by any means, just the doctor’s fault, just the health care system and how it’s evolved. That teaching has been lost. So we’re hoping to reincorporate that with the things I mentioned before. And and when it comes to cancer, especially, you know, some would argue that as little as scary or as intimidating as that. And then again, if we can just make it a little less intimidating and less scary based on my experiences that I had with my eyesight, I’m hoping to help patients and their families, you know, go through that kind of tough time. And of course, we cure cancers, you know, regularly as well. I know for some reason people do believe that it’s just you cannot be cured, but but it’s the ones that are dealing with it with a battle that goes over years now because of the therapies we have that that my wife and I both are in this field.
Eric Sutton [00:04:59] Wow. Yeah, I mean, the challenges you must face in the fields of hematology and oncology, I can imagine or I can only imagine, actually, you know, they must be pretty incredible. Even though, like you mentioned, there are there are some positive stories. I’m sure there are also a handful of stories that are a little a lot more difficult to navigate. And we all face challenges in our careers, I think, but at Laurel Road, where we are specifically interested in the financial challenges obviously that doctors face. So I’m wondering if you can share some of the financial challenges that you have faced as a doctor or are currently facing?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:05:42] Yeah. So the same way we talk about education and being more comfortable when you know about something, even though it doesn’t change, you know what it is. It’s the same thing applies to finances, I think, and I know for a fact that a lot of us in medical school and residency where so, you know, monopolized and really driven to understand what we’re having to learn that you almost neglect the financial aspect of things and it starts to kind of creep on you in the back of your mind. But it’s really hard to visit. Right? Same with the cancer diagnosis or anything else. And you’re just kind of it’s very intimidating to just break the ice and go and go into it. But I can tell you for sure that when you do break that seal and start to learn more about the financial situation and kind of address it, you can drip it in and it makes things a lot easier. So I would say the first thing was was really not addressing it for some med school and residency. I had my we both had our loans, you know, on hold while we were doing a six year residency and fellowship. So that was a long time. We had kids and fellowship, so we weren’t able to afford to start paying the interest. If if that’s possible, I would highly and I do highly recommend that to people because it just makes such a big difference over the six years, the whole concept of, you know, compounding interest and all that. But of course, you know, being a physician, especially specialist, it pays well. The bigger challenge is you want to start having a certain quality of life. My wife, she had a master’s and she’s, you know, turning 40 soon. You want to start living. And then the problem is when you have all these high loans and your debt to income ratio, even if your income is good, you still kind of hard to sometimes get loans for certain things. Certain house is a big down payment. And it’s frustrating because your income may say one thing, but then this other aspect of it that’s just, you know, basically baggage can still prohibit you and preclude you, even after all those specialties and being in practice. And that’s stressful. And I think that’s unfair because we already always talk about the loan burden as it is. I think doctors should be very humbled and we’re fortunate that we at least we get compensated well while we’re out. But you still have those challenges.
Eric Sutton [00:07:42] Sure. Yeah. I was going to mention that, you know, it’s clear that one of the things that you’ve done is educate yourself. I mean, I’ve heard you talk about compounding interest. I’ve heard you talk about debt to income ratio, and a lot of people don’t even know what those are. So, you know, it does really hold true that knowing is half the battle, you know, particularly in this financial space. So besides education, if there’s any other tidbit that we can glean from you. Is it purely education or are there action steps you might recommend?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:08:10] Yeah, for sure. So, you know, one is the is the concept of compounded interest. So if you can start to chip away at it, even if it’s not all of it, especially if you have long training like neurosurgery or you’re a medical specialist, I would definitely recommend trying to at least have that bit taken care of. So that’s one and then two. And it sounds, you know, I can say it sounds silly, which I’m sure other people like. How can you even say that? But it’s like when you talk about a budget, you know, it’s like, Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean, I have an idea. I’m good at math, you know, and but it really does make a difference. I did it the past year or two, you know, with kids and all. And when you look at it, again, it sounds silly because of all the education, all the stuff you do and all the stuff you have to think about throughout a day. Budgeting is it’s a great indicator of in total what you’re doing. So it’s not that you’re not budgeting to say, like, what can I afford next month? What you’re doing is you’re saying if this is what I’m spending in a month and I continue to do this, what kind of impact will that have at the end of the year? And then that’s where you start realizing and kind of being disillusioned. Wow. Like, that’s a big number right there and one year. And if I multiply that by five, that’s a huge number. And if I were to put it into any kind of stream of income where I was even getting, you know, if I was conservative, whatever three percent or seven percent, I lost a lot of money by doing that extra couple hundred and whatever that was, the clothes, the Nike shoes. I have a problem with high tops. So like, you know, at least be cognizant and treat yourself, you know, in oncology, very humbled on knowing you know how delicate life is. But at the same time, when you just have those numbers in front of you, it can really help facilitate you make actions that otherwise you could put off.
Jessika Banks [00:09:50] I think that one thing you’re mentioning is a very foundational conceptual understanding of finances. Many people, including doctors, though, can find it difficult to navigate that financial world, especially our own finances. And sometimes those numbers and percentages can become confusing and intimidating. You spoke a little bit about your financial journey, but you also mentioned these very conceptual nature of finances. So how did you really get a good grasp of these financial subjects?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:10:19] Yeah. So, you know, to date myself a little bit when when I was getting out of college and early med school, like we didn’t really have a big, you know, online community. I mean, Facebook was there. But but short of that, there just wasn’t all the kind of avenues and big presence of of both institutions and community groups online. So a lot of it was from just people ahead of me. So whatever you’re in, whatever situation you’re in profession, if you can find people that are just five years ahead, then they can really give you some guidance, which is exactly, I think the purpose of what we’re trying to do is say, like, Hey, this is, you know, a physician that went through all this training. This is what you would do differently. So that helps for sure. But you have to seek it out, right? It doesn’t fall in your lap. And then the second piece is, as those things did develop online, you know, there’s on Facebook, there’s like a white coat investor group and there’s these different groups specifically for physicians or professionals. You can find those groups. You have to be careful there too, though, because people are very radical in their opinions. So that’s all, you know, second hand. And yet it still relies on your own personal filter to be able to know what’s right and wrong, which again, is the same thing with cancer education. You can hear things from family and friends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct. So with all that said, you know, you asked earlier, like, how did you feel about it going into your financial situation as things evolved? I can tell you, and I’ve seen this time and time again, when you’re finishing up med school and residency and fellowship, you’re going to have people come that are different groups and companies and investment companies, and they’re going to really kind of flex on you. So much education and all these things that you should be doing that you truly get overwhelmed and you feel like I could either have to figure out all of this stuff that I have no idea what it means or I could just trust them and kind of come in and they’re going to take care of it all for me. And that is a very vulnerable position to be. And so you do not want to be in that position. You want to have at least a fundamental understanding of things one and you get that by these communities. And that’s, you know, this is obviously unscripted, but that is one thing that I was really excited about with the Laurel Road and and where their goal is, at least as it pertains to the professional and especially doctor focused side Laurel Road. There you can have, you know, filtered information that’s accurate and not, you know, exposing vulnerabilities and just building blocks on how to be able to navigate these things. And I think it’s super resourceful and something that really honestly, if you’re listening to this like you really just need to break that ice and start doing that.
Eric Sutton [00:12:46] Hmm. Yeah, that vulnerability, I imagine, is a pain point for for a lot of doctors like you’re like you’re mentioning. And it’s interesting to hear that these companies sort of descend upon you when you leave your residence, your med school or these transition points, these milestones, all of a sudden, you’re just being preyed upon likely. And I could imagine that must make it hard. Besides that, that vulnerability, which is a huge pain point. What other big pain points would you say that you’ve had to face when it comes to your personal finances? I’m asking because likely some of our listeners are also having those pain points.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:13:25] Yeah, the big one for me when I was getting out of schools is when at school, the training is a little transition period where, OK, you’ve gotten those, you know, 15 years under your belt and got your specialties, but you’re not practicing the next day. So you have this like three or four month gap before you start practicing, so you don’t have income, but you have a ton of debt and that right off the bat is is is a little scary because now you’re trying to get a home, you’re trying to be able to, you know, basically set up to finally do what you’ve done, been pursuing this whole time. And that for us was very stressful with getting a house. I mean, we had a ton of debt between the two of us. We’re both triple specialized and and no income. So that part was the biggest challenge. And then. Budgeting, like I said, it wasn’t so much a challenge as in. You can’t afford something next month, but when you take a step back and say, am I quote unquote? And it sounds, you know, whatever, but am I investing in my future? And that sense, that means if your dollars just ran out, God forbid, like if you weren’t able to practice or whatever, what kind of position will you be in? And that really happens when you have kids and when you realize that, like if something happened, whether it’s an injury and I’m a surgeon, I can’t. Am I prepared? And that’s where you realized you have got to have some background things going that are, of course, an emergency fund. I mean, that’s number one tool that everyone should have and work towards. But do you have some things that are making money on itself in some kind of interest or pocketed away somewhere that in five or 10 years should circumstances change, that will be able to carry you on to the next step or help your family and not long term? We’re not talking like trust funds. We’re talking just if something were to happen in 10 years, is there is there a pool there for you to retreat from? And there’s plenty of literature that shows doctors don’t have that.
Jessika Banks [00:15:11] I’m listening, and I’m definitely feeling like you’re talking like a vet in the game of financial management and personal finances. But when you have felt stumped by a certain financial question, you mentioned maybe going to colleagues, friends or family members wanting to learn a little bit more about your reliance or trust on going to financial professionals in those moments.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:15:33] So when someone’s very ignorant like me, you know, going into it, I don’t even hearing the term financial professional, I’m not even sure what that entails, right? Because we all have. And that’s where, again, the education part starts. There were people that I thought as financial professionals that that may have just been an individual that was trying to do one thing or an institution another. So that part is an intimidating one, but two also necessary. You want to be the be with someone that’s established that has a good reputation in the financial world. If I’m alluding to something that said there was this group that ended up becoming defunct because of some, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s sketchiness outright or if it was just negligence. But but it was defunct and I came very close to kind of having a committed relationship as far as putting, you know, like a $2500 fee down to get this like total book where from top to bottom, they kind of design everything with your, you know, estimated salary and all that. So that that’s what I’m alluding to and I came so close to doing it. And it was my dad who knows a lot more about it and and I don’t take for granted that some people don’t have a father that can do that or a father that is educated to do it or around it all. You know, he was like, these concepts are actually very basic to this and that I’m like, Yeah, but that I don’t know any of these things, and they’re going to do all for me. And and like I said, sure enough, he messaged me a month ago because, you know, that group’s not around anymore, because of so and so. And that was very sobering. And I think this is why this is a very opportune time. So that’s what I meant by a financial professional. Even that can be to someone who doesn’t know anything about anything can mean different things. So that’s where my dad’s like and he actually brought me to Laurel Road, you know, a year or two back to just look at the refinancing there them. And you know, a couple of the competitors are the ones that are just well respected and well reviewed. And so that’s a good place to start. If you don’t know anything, you need to go somewhere where at least across the board, there is a respect for them in that sector, right? Then you can start taking, you know, more kind of aggressive, finer, detailed kind of resources because you know what you’re getting into and you’re kind of aware of the waters, but by far you want to go to somewhere if you don’t know anything less is reputed because it’s a dangerous world out there.
Eric Sutton [00:17:42] You’ve given us a lot of advice, you given our listeners a lot of advice already. So I don’t want to put you on the spot. However, I will ask you, you’re your biggest piece of advice for your peers, really? What would that be? What one big thing do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:17:59] Oh, I think the best answer to that is it’s OK to not be perfect up front. You also have to be aware of what you don’t know. I know I can do better and no, I can budget harder. I know where kind of my weaknesses are as far as you know, a responsible, you know, balanced portfolio. But again, I’m two years out so I have these high top nike’s behind me. So like, I know these things that I need to be doing, but you have to at least be aware, if you can’t even acknowledge where you try to, where you’re going to need to do better on and kind of investigating the future. That’s very dangerous. That’s my advice. At least figure out where you’re either lacking doesn’t even have to be action, but figure out where you’re lacking, what you need to fix. And if you are listening and you’re like, Well, what is he even alluding to? Like, what does he mean? Like, he’s going to be doing better and putting something here or there. You need to. You need to start. You need to start learning. You need to go to resources like this that are focused in your profession. And it’s not it is not intimidating if it’s not all thrown at you. Like, just start with the basics, start with the what’s the importance of budgeting? What is interest? How does it work? And what should I be doing now? Ideally, but what’s OK in a couple of years? Once you have that, you’re going to feel more comfortable, you’re going to learn more. You’re going to have an idea of what you need to work on, but that’s the safest position to be in.
Jessika Banks [00:19:18] In the midst of busy schedules, and we know that doctors are always strapped for time, right, managing with their patients and caring for others, what kind of help do you or other doctors need? What’s that number one need as far as maybe advice or information goes to help reach your financial goals?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:19:36] I have no idea what you mean of as far as time I can make anything. If anyone’s listening, that’s because I was just shamefully late, because of the same thing that happens, you know, a lot in practice. And I was doing an interview the other day and they’re saying, if you knew one thing going into medicine that you know, now that someone told you, what would it be? And my one thing was, you will not be the first doctor they’ll never be late. And that’s because I’ve always prided myself on being very, you know, regimented and like with finances, like with life, like with children. And in the medical profession, you have to be OK with being, you know, imperfect. But. But to answer your question, I think one of the best things or the easiest ways to do it to justify because you always have more reading you could do for that one patient, you’ll always have, you know, more detail in the note you could provide to make sure patients treated properly. And all these different things is to find a time when you’re not having to cut it out from, like patient care or family time. And for me, it’s driving and my commutes aren’t even that long. It’s like ten minutes. But I cannot not get to work without driving right and I definitely shouldn’t be texting or reading or charging while I’m driving. Neither should you. So in that time that just start there, just just open a podcast or open a primer on YouTube or whatever, and just start getting introduced and your feet wet into the basic, basic, basic 101 concepts of stuff
Eric Sutton [00:21:04] that is really, really interesting for me to hear because it gives me a ton of really great ideas for future content. So I really appreciate the insight around where do you find time? Your car makes a whole lot of sense, and I think car friendly content might be on the horizon for Laurel Road. Thank you very much. And hey, I’m going to take this opportunity to, you know, plug alert here because we just launched Laurel Road for Doctors, which is a new suite of financial and banking products and content financial insights that have been designed specifically with the needs of doctors in mind and for the purpose of helping doctors reach their financial goals. So as a Laurel Road member, we’d like to hear from you about your thoughts on Laurel Road for Doctors. Anything in particular that that’s been very well received. Anything you think we could stand to work on besides your awesome idea for car friendly content. Anything else you’d like to see us launch next?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:22:13] Maybe when we go back to the vulnerability aspect, you know it may be hard for you all to appreciate it. But but I know people are listening to this and saying that’s exactly how I feel. I feel vulnerable. I don’t even know what door to walk in, and it’s a little overwhelming when that happens. It’s nice to have a respectable like, you know, proven like, it’s not just like hype, it’s something that’s actually been objectively measured to be a proven, respected and reliable, you know, institution or profession or whatever it may be when you have that resource giving you support that really helps bring that intimidation and vulnerability down. And so, you know, there are all these with with Laurel Road doctors is four or five concepts of of places as far as like what is, you know, somebody doesn’t know what is a high yield savings account with everyone you know has a savings account, but that means you may be getting more for putting the same amount there than somewhere else. So they help you, they teach you. But they also help you set up these things in a very simple way because I think as a profession, we, you know, our comfort to comes from knowing and learning things. You get very nervous when you get out there and practice people that are listening. Like even though you know the stuff you got very, you know, good board scores and everything is just that is just the concept of do I know it well enough when you have those first few patient visits? So it sounds trite, but it’s really to remove the the burden and stress of finances to just help you not do it for you. It’s not like we’re just going to do everything, just give us your money. A lot of places will come at you and say that instead, it’s like, Let me provide all the resources that you need upfront to lay a good groundwork or foundation for, you know, moving forward in your professional career and finally finances. It’s not overwhelming. It’s not getting overly crafty. And like, you know what, you’ll hear a lot about when it’s directed at, you know, higher end salary professionals, it’s laying the groundwork. And then when they break you into that, then you can get creative if you like. It’s an interest to you, then you know, one you have, you know, a bank where you can have the support and everything, you need to go on those endeavors if that interest you. But if not, at least you can rest assured at night that you have a good foundation in different aspects because they literally introduced you to it and helped you obtain those usually in a more competitive way and priced and you get, you know, just anywhere. But yes, I do think the podcast thing will be great.
Eric Sutton [00:24:36] My wheels are turning.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:24:38] Can’t wait to get my royalties.
Jessika Banks [00:24:42] Awesome. Well, at Laurel Road, we love to take advantage of every opportunity to thank our health care heroes from our recent thank a health care worker campaign. Not sure if you saw that to saying it in person. I just want to take an opportunity. We Laurel Road our team wants to take an opportunity to say thank you so much for sharing your personal story today and some of your experiences with us. You’ve given everyone some great insights and ideas on how to tackle their own financial challenges.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:25:11] Oh, thank you for saying that. And and I want to say to everybody in health care as well as kind of shaking in my voice. But, you know, for a lot of reasons, COVID was very bad and hurtful economically and, you know, with health and stuff. But in others, when it showed kind of maybe some holes in the health care system as a as a whole, you also got to see what the character of the people that make up that health care system are. And they’re for anyone that thinks it’s one and the same. It’s not. You have people that are good people, you have a system that’s trying to be optimized. And I’ve just been so humble and my wife and I both on seeing what we’ve seen on social media and with health care workers across the country. It’s so inspiring. Again, I get emotional, so thank. I want to thank everybody, anyone that’s in medicine, in any capacity, listening to this to for just being a part of something so important for all of us.
Eric Sutton [00:26:05] Absolutely. And. Before we go, why don’t you tell our listeners, if you don’t mind where we can find you on social media?
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:26:13] Yeah, so my handle is the Onc Doc. It’s the O N C doc and it’s mostly blood and cancer content with some little comedic anecdotes of, you know, health care stuff that I think if you’re in medicine, you’d be able to appreciate. And that would be found on Instagram, on Tik Tok, on YouTube and on my Facebook page on Sanjay Juneja MD. And and then Doctorpedia.com, where we’re rapidly assembling just just this free content. We just want you to feel comfortable about whatever procedure you’re having or whatever. You know, you’re being told you don’t get enough time to be educated, respond, educate you there. And then you can find my profile when it relates to all the building blocks on cancer.
Jessika Banks [00:26:57] I can tell you already gained one extra follower today from me, so definitely enjoying your content so far. Thank you, Dr. Jinja, and thanks for listening, everybody.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja [00:27:06] Thank you.
Eric Sutton [00:27:07] Thank you so much.
Greg Fullum [00:27:10] Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this podcast are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of Laurel Road. In providing this information, neither Laurel Road, nor KeyBank, nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, financial, accounting, or legal advice. Our guest, Dr. Sanjay Juneja, has promoted Laurel Road and received compensation for his time. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank, NA. Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. NMLS Number 399797