A Leading Gut Doctor Says This Is The Best Money He's Ever Spent On His Health
Marvin Singh, M.D. is a California-based gastroenterologist and expert on all things integrative health. We recently hopped on the phone with the mbg collective member to talk about all things money: How he earns it, how he spends it, and how he recommends that people use it to maximize their health. Here's what he had to say.
What does financial well-being mean to you?
Financial well-being means that you have enough money to live comfortably within your means, and you’re not overly materialistic. It means having enough to do what you want to do, to provide for your family, and to take care of yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the richest man or woman on the planet.
What has your financial journey looked like?
I was privileged in that my parents took care of my medical school tuition. I didn’t have any medical school loans like a lot of doctors do, but I still went through a somewhat similar journey outside of that because as a resident, they’re paying you $30,000 a year to live, which isn’t really a whole lot.
I went through some tough times where I didn't really have that much money and slowly, over the course of my career, I started working on different kinds of things and diversifying my background so things started to balance out. It takes time. For a doctor, it’s not like you graduate, get your first job, and climb the ranks and get raises every year. That’s just not how it works in medicine.
Was money ever something you stressed about? How did you work through that?
I think money is something everyone stresses about, whether they’re making a lot or a little. So yes. For me, it was about keeping my eye on the ball. I didn’t lose track of my objectives and my goals.
My advice to anyone stressing would be to just remember that whatever is going on right now is a phase, it will pass, and you will soon be in another phase. You have to keep the forward thinking because if you get tied up in the minutiae of what’s going on, it’ll hold you back from progressing forward.
Has the way you set financial goals changed over the years?
Over the last few years, I’ve started to think more about diversifying my background, doing different kinds of things, learning about different topics to become involved in—so that I can try to generate revenue from many different angles, basically.
What do you think about before you spend money, especially when it’s a larger purchase?
Before I make a larger purchase, like a house or a car, I ask myself a couple of things: “Is this something that I really need? Is it going to benefit my family? Does it make financial sense in the long run?” Sometimes we make these impulsive purchases, like “Oh, I’m going to go by a Ferrari,” and maybe you have the money to buy a Ferrari today. So you buy a Ferrari and it makes sense today, but in the long run, it’s kind of like, “Oh, why did I buy this several-hundred-thousand-dollar car? I only drive it once a year.”
What’s one money habit that you’ve developed over the years that you’re really proud of?
I try to sit down and look at all the extraneous purchases that are really not necessary. It’s helpful to look at your buying patterns and then look and see what you’re doing a lot of. You don’t really realize some things until you see them on paper or someone points them out to you, like, “You know, I spent $200 a month on Starbucks. I could just buy a coffee grinder and a good quality machine.”
What does reviewing your finances look like for you? Do you print out statements? How often do you look things over?
These days, I don’t really look at line-by-line details anymore. I globally keep an eye on the ins and outs and talk with a financial advisor periodically. That’s another important point: Sometimes it’s good to have a reliable financial advisor who knows your financial situation. They’re a third-party, unbiased person. They’ll tell it to you like it is. They don’t charge too much money either. If you establish a relationship with them and they manage your 401k or something, then they can give you a little bit of advice on the side as well.
If you could go back in time and give a tip to your less money-savvy self, what would you tell him?
I would go back 10 years and tell myself not to be afraid to invest and to spend money to make money. If I invested 10 years ago, I would probably have a lot of money on some of the things that I probably was thinking about investing in but never really bit the bullet on. That’s part of diversifying your portfolio. Don’t make any impulsive decisions without researching and investigating, of course, because there are a lot of bogus deals out there you could lose money on. Do your due diligence, but don’t be afraid to spend money to make money, because in the long run, it’ll benefit you.
What health-related purchases do you think are worth the money and which ones aren’t?
I’d tell anyone to try and give themselves the opportunity to go on a really cool vacation once or twice a year. One of the elements of health and wellness that is often overlooked is mental health and stress management. Sometimes going on that trip that you’ve always wanted to go on, that you never felt like you had time to, is the best medicine you could give yourself. Explore, see what the world is like, and reconnect with yourself in different ways. That’s an important part of wellness that is definitely worth it in the long run.
What was the best money you ever spent?
Some of the best money I ever spent was doing some cutting edge, unique, highly individualized tests on myself to help me understand what my body is made up of, what my genetics are saying, what my microbiome is saying, what my sensitivities are so I can create my own personalized path to wellness. These tests are not cheap, and often insurance doesn’t cover them at all, but I think it’s a short-term expense that has infinite value for your health in the long run.
What kind of insights do these types of tests give you?
Some of these tests will help you understand if you need to focus on your gut microbiome, avoid dairy or gluten, eat more or fewer fats to lose weight, calorie restrict, exercise in particular ways, et cetera. These are often things that we as physicians and health coaches may tell people to do, but we don’t really ever actually know what the right answer is for each individual person unless they take these tests. Taking this approach really redefines what personalized medicine means to me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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