A brief educational intervention in personal finance for medical residents

J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Mar;22(3):374-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-006-0078-z.


Introduction: Although medical educational debt continues to escalate, residents receive little guidance in financial planning.

Aim: To educate interns about long-term investment strategies.

Setting: University-based medicine internship program.

Program description: An unselected cohort of interns (n = 52; 84% of all interns) underwent a 90-minute interactive seminar on personal finance, focusing on retirement savings. Participants completed a preseminar investor literacy test to assess baseline financial knowledge. Afterward, interns rated the seminar and expressed their intention to make changes to their long-term retirement accounts. After 37 interns had attended the seminar, a survey was administered to all interns to compare actual changes to these accounts between seminar attendees and non-attendees.

Measurements and main results: Interns' average score on the investor literacy test was 40%, equal to the general population. Interns strongly agreed that the seminar was valuable (average 5.0 on 5-point Likert scale). Of the 46 respondents to the account allocation survey, interns who had already attended the seminar (n = 25) were more likely than interns who had not yet attended (n = 21) to have switched their investments from low to high-yield accounts at the university hospital (64 vs 19%, P = 0.003) and to enroll in the county hospital retirement plan (64 vs 33%, P = 0.07).

Conclusions: One 90-minute seminar on personal finances leads to significant changes in allocation of tax-deferred retirement savings. We calculate that these changes can lead to substantial long-term financial benefits and suggest that programs consider automatically enrolling trainees into higher yield retirement plans.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / economics*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / economics*