Marjorie Dixon, a doctor of reproductive medicine, went from being an in-debt resident to founding a successful full-service fertility clinic in Toronto.
PHOTO: THOMAS BOLLMANN
ONE DOCTORʼS PRESCRIPTION FOR FINANCIAL HEALTH
Start early, get out of debt, spend carefully, pull your finances together and access the experts
While doctors can make excellent salaries, for many, it’s an ongoing challenge to manage finances. Between student debt, navigating self-employment and being responsible for their own pensions, they can face many money obstacles.
Marjorie Dixon, a doctor of reproductive medicine and chief executive officer, medical director and founder of full-service fertility clinic Anova Fertility & Reproductive Health in Toronto, got solid financial advice from her parents, financial-planning experts and her peers. She went from an in-debt resident doctor to a wise investor, with real estate investments and a healthy nest egg.
Here, she talks about how she got her finances in order.
When did you first experience financial challenges?
I got a scholarship for medical school and had support from my parents. “As long as you excel in school, we will help you,” they said. I didn’t have to work and I was living in Montreal, so my rent was very affordable. I graduated in 1997 with minimal student debt.
That all changed with my residency. First, I had to pay for flights around the country for interviews, plus I needed nice clothes and a haircut. Luckily, I was able to get a credit card and a line of credit to finance my job search. I got a residency in Toronto and I was blown away by the cost of living. I was paying $1,900 a month for my apartment near the hospital.
But my personal expenses were also climbing. While I was doing a fellowship in Vermont, my partner and I decided it was time to start a family. I paid $17,000 US to have in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for my eldest son. It was worth it, but by the time I was recruited back to Canada, I was $125,000 in debt.
PHOTO: THOMAS BOLLMANN
How did you tackle your debt?
I took a two-month maternity leave and then I hit the ground running. I knew I had to start making money to deal with the debt and support my family. We lived frugally: I had my aunt’s car, a Toyota Corolla that didn’t even have power windows. I see social media pictures now of people who take a babymoon — that’s not how we lived to make it work and build our family of three kids.
I always tried to have a plan for my money. We worked hard and I had registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), and in 2006 we used that money to help buy our first house. I was able to replace that money in my RRSP soon after.
When did you set up your RRSP?
When I first went to medical school, we got a welcome package from a bank that invited us to an event focused on personal finances. They talked about financial planning and how you should set up an RRSP. So I opened an RRSP at age 19. I’m actually a pretty risk-adverse person, so it all made sense to me. It made me focus early on saving and, later, helped me qualify to get credit.
When did you realize you were going to be an entrepreneur?
When I was in high school, I was part of a program called Junior Achievement Canada. We started a small business selling T-shirts and I caught the entrepreneurial bug. I also had a passion for science and medicine, so I turned down a summer job offer in business, as I was focused on getting into medical school and had taken a position in a clinical research department.
But after graduating med school and doing the fellowship in the U.S., when I returned to Canada I grew frustrated with a system where everybody was fine with the status quo. I wanted to create a healthcare environment that was world class. I have an entrepreneurial mindset, so it was just natural for me to find a way to create that environment myself.
PHOTO: THOMAS BOLLMANN
How do you balance your personal and work finances?
I was blessed to get good advice early in life, and I started early with saving and being strategic with my own money. When I started my first business in 2008, I got great help with that, and financial advisors told me things I’d never thought about.
But when I launched Anova and started getting advice from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Healthcare team, I realized my personal finances were all over the place, at different financial institutions. When I brought everything over to RBC, and critically appraised it, I started to see the big picture. I was always organized and driven, and I had a rough plan, but then I started to really embrace being strategic with money, and balancing that with where I was at with my business.
What’s next for you and your family?
We have plans, big plans. We bought a preconstruction condo that’s now more than doubled in value. And we bought the worst house on a great street in 2009 and recently tore it down and are rebuilding it. I get regular advice from professionals and we keep an eye on my investments. I make sure to diversify my portfolio and have a plan for retirement, but it’s not a traditional plan. I don’t want to retire any time soon, but if I need to retire sooner than anticipated, I can adjust accordingly.
What’s your best advice for today’s med students?
My parents told me that nothing happens accidentally. You have to have a plan. You can’t achieve anything without setting a goal first. That means looking forward and putting yourself into uncomfortable places sometimes in order for good things to happen later.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser.
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