Book Review: "Why Doctors Don't Get Rich"

Dr. Tom Burns's Why Doctors Don't Get Rich--a review.

"I fully believe that, when relieved of financial stress, many [doctors] will use their time and passion to drive innovation and relieve suffering. That can change the world."

That's the central premise of a book published in 2020 by Tom Burns, MD called "Why Doctors Don't Get Rich: How YOU Can Create Freedom With Passive Income Investing." The book is meant to be read while consulting a companion website, It features a forward by Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad and friend to Dr. Burns.  

The book opens with a fun story linking the two men, a little purple book, and a car wash. We won't spoil it! Be sure to read the Foreword then the first chapter at least.

Dr. Burns talks a lot about the experience of doctors as they make their way through their careers and financial lives. He describes the tendency for doctors to make a high living and jack up their spending to match. He tells the familiar story of doctors having jobs with long hours, big houses, fast cars, and stressful lives--never feeling like they are getting ahead. He recounts the tale of doctors living essentially paycheck-to-paycheck even into their 80s in one case.

The story, of course, is intended to encourage doctors to take another path. Like his mentor Mr. Kiyosaki, Dr. Burns counsels pivoting toward passive income. The idea is to earn more than you need as you go along, invest the excess in assets that generate a passive income, and eventually have more coming from the passive income than your expenses require. At that stage, financial independence kicks in. In Dr. Burns' case, that results in doing a better job as an orthopedic surgeon--with less stress, caring more effectively for patients, overall doing a better job. For others, that may mean retiring from medical practice or taking another pathway in a career other than medicine. The point is the optionality that ensues as a result of the passive income.

Dr. Burns directs the reader mostly toward real estate syndications but does make the point that there are other approaches that can work. This book is not so much about the nuts and bolts of syndication investment but more about the "why" of passive income and the mindset shift that often leads investors to seek out the world of private real estate syndications.

While the book is plainly about doctors and their finances, Dr. Burns is at pains to clarify that the book is intended for anyone who is considering a path to financial independence other than through a W2 job. "Wherever you see the word 'doctor' in this book, insert your job or profession and continue down the road to financial freedom." The book certainly would work for any lawyer, engineer, consultant, or other high wage earner who invests a lot in their education up into their 20s or 30s, graduates with debt, then starts making a high salary. For that matter, this book probably holds good lessons for anyone with a high salary who wants to make the switch to reliance on passive income.

As non-doctors, we think he did a good job of that: highly recommended for anyone wishing to swap out W2 or 1099 income for passive income over time, whether through investments in syndications or otherwise.