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Financial planning for GPs working flexibly or taking career breaks

12 January 2024

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Financial adviser Wendy Baillies points out the areas of personal finance to review for GPs juggling their career with other priorities

I often hear from my clients that the flexibility of working as a GP has a positive impact in enabling them to manage these demands with other responsibilities.

But some haven’t considered the long-term implications that things like flexible working, or extended career breaks, can have on their finances.

Typically, I find it’s women GPs who take or plan to take career breaks for caring duties, retire earlier or reduce their working hours sooner in their career.

For those struggling to find the time, here are some key tips for managing your finances.

Put time in for planning

The medical profession is busier than ever. Those who are using flexible working hours to juggle family responsibilities and work – or those anticipating career breaks to begin a family – have barely a moment to get to grips with the short and long-term financial impact this type of decision could have.

All of this means many GPs may not be making the most of their hard-earned money and are at risk of missing on out on opportunities to maximise returns on things like savings, investments and pensions.

It’s therefore important to be proactive about setting time aside to financially plan.

Bear in mind that focusing on financial wellbeing and resilience is particularly important in the current economic landscape, where the cost of living has become so challenging.

While some economic indicators are now starting to turn more positive, there is the risk that challenging economic conditions will one day return.

Two important areas to help insulate families against future economic headwinds are savings and investments and retirement planning.

Savings and investments

If you’ve been able to put some money aside, it’s worth reviewing your arrangements to check they still fit with your short and long-term financial objectives.

If you don’t need quick access to the cash you’ve saved, thinking about investing for the future. You don’t have to invest large amounts to grow your money, though it’s recommended to invest for at least five years.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to investing, which will depend on your financial goals and the length of time you can realistically invest for.

Investments can go down as well as up, but you can mitigate the risk involved by investing regularly across different assets.

Managed funds or with profits stocks and shares ISAs – which smooth the ups and downs of the market over time while being led by an experienced fund manager – can be a good option. Of course, It is always advisable to seek professional financial advice first.

Retirement planning

It’s never too early to start planning for your life after work, and it’s also important to monitor your current pension position and how you’re progressing towards retirement.

There are particular issues to be aware of for locum doctors.

While being a locum can bring lots of benefits, including a more flexible work life balance, working as a locum affects your eligibility and status in the NHS pension scheme.

As a locum only 90% of your salary is pensionable, as opposed to 100% for a salaried GP, for example.

What’s more, options to stay in the pension scheme when taking a career break are more limited for locums than they are for a salaried GP.

The rules vary depending on whether you are working directly for a practice or through an agency, and there may be some extra admin, so do your research to make sure you’re not missing out.

While you’re looking into this, it’s would be useful to also check what other benefits may be affected too as things like death-in-service for a locum can be different to those of a partner or salaried GP.

If you find other benefits aren’t what you expected, you may want to consider alternative cover.

Finally, do seek out a financial adviser who is familiar with the issues you face. Ultimately, accessing this kind of critical support may help you enjoy the peace of mind that comes when you have confidence in your financial plan.

Wendy Baillie, is a regional manager and financial adviser at Wesleyan Financial Services, the specialist financial services provider for doctors