Complex environment requires GPs to stay mindful of money matters

GPs need to be a lot savvier with their finances, with some GPs concerned they are notable to retire when they want to because of a lack of funds,chartered accountant Leicester Gouwland says.

Also, from a small survey the Auckland accountant organised at last month’s GP CME in Rotorua, half of 18 GP respondents did not have income protection insurance and a third did not have medical insurance.

About a third did not have a trust that can protect their assets, Mr Gouwland says.

Although the survey has a small sample size, he considers it is somewhat reflective of how GPs manage their finances in general.

Mr Gouwland, of Auckland accounting firm William Buck, says GPs are too time-poor to learn how to manage their own finances.

Even those who do own their business rely on their practice manager to sort out the practice’s money matters.

GPs should push for their medical associations or organisations to host training sessions about personal and business finance, he says.

Although younger GPs are more comfortable earning a salary, introducing financial concepts during their GP registrar years could entice them into considering the option of business ownership.

But there should also be personal responsibility in finding financial resources already available.

“Associations can only do so much…you don’t have to be an expert in finance, but you should be able to understand what’s going on and be able to ask questions.”

Mr Gouwland has also observed there’s an increasing trend for practices being owned by corporate entities.

This could mean that there will be fewer GPs exposed to financial concepts, he says.

From the same GP CME survey, Mr Gouwland found it “interesting” six out of 18 GP respondents expect the practice they work at will be sold to a corporate practice network in future. Some 10 GP respondents expect their practice will be sold to a fellow GP.

“The business environment we have today is more complicated than several years ago… the increase in corporations is not just in health but across a lot of industries.”

On a positive note, of the more financially savvy GPs who own practices, Mr Gouwland says they are expanding their horizons in seeking other portfolios to invest in.

“The value of general practice is not some great superannuation nest egg and they [some practice owners] are looking for other investment options,” he says.

These GPs seek advice on how to withdraw money from their business to invest on other portfolios like property. Some ask for guidance on how much borrowed money should be used when investing.

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