Jordan Frey is a plastic surgeon specializing in microsurgery and breast reconstruction in Buffalo, NY. He is also the founder of The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, one of the fastest-growing personal finance blogs in the world. His blog intimately shares his journey from financial cluelessness and a net worth of -$500,000 despite his high income to financial well-being.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Buffalo, NY with my parents and two siblings. We had an upper-middle-class upbringing but were taught a hard work ethic. When I was young, my parents divorced and for a variety of reasons, money became tight. In my child’s mind, all of a sudden, money had evaporated and made things very challenging. In turn, I developed a very unhealthy scarcity relationship and mindset with money. Fast forward, 20 years, and I had completed college, medical school, and one of the most competitive residencies in plastic surgery. However, I still actively avoided the topic of money and personal finance. But I was burned out as a physician. After deep reflection, I realized that a big part of this was my lack of financial well-being. Despite becoming a plastic surgeon with a high income, I had >$500,000 in student debt, credit card debt, no savings, no investments, and no knowledge with a wife and 2 children to support. I was really stressed out by this! So, my wife and I dedicated ourselves to improving our financial well-being. I educated myself and became to enact simple habits to improve my financial well-being with the goal of achieving financial freedom. I also started to share my journey by starting my blog, The Prudent Plastic Surgeon. I recognized that there was no one in the physician space sharing such a journey despite the ubiquitous lack of financial education and poor financial habits of doctors. I am not ~2 years after this financial comeback and have found that as my financial well-being improved, I also recognized that my burnout improved and I became a better doctor!
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I never imagined becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, one of the advantages of pursuing medicine as a career for me was how scripted the path as – you go to college, go to medical school, go to residency, etc. Being an entrepreneur seems risky and aimless. It wasn’t until I started my financial education, which led me to learn about business and entrepreneurial skills, that I found a real passion for this and began my own business. I started my blog as a passion project, which it still is. But it has also become a business with sponsorships to help my audience, a course that I have created teaching doctors (or anyone else) the basics of achieving financial freedom, as well as contributing with speaking engagements. My wife and I also started a local real estate investing business and now own and operate >10 units helping out the community with affordable housing. All of these things fit within our mission of helping others which makes them even more meaningful. Currently, we are also developing an app to help real estate investors analyze opportunities and are forming our own property management business.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
The business lesson (sorry I can’t settle on just one!) that I would tell a startup founder is to find what you are passionate about and just get started! After that, be patient and persistent, then success will come. When you are passionate about the mission and ultimate goal of your startup, it takes on so much greater meaning than just a means to an end. This passion and “why” will propel you through all of the difficult times that inevitably will come. Once you have this purpose and passion identified, just go for it. There will always be a million reasons why you are not quite ready to start. The secret is that no one is ever ready to start. Jump in. You will learn as you go. Prepare yourself as much as you can and then when you hit the plateau that only experience can overcome, just go for it. This is a lot like medicine. We learn in medical school but at a certain point, we need to start caring for patients. We have no choice but to make the scary leap! Lastly, there is a quote I love from Angela Duckworth, author of the great book, Grit, saying, “Enthusiasm is common, endurance is rare.” Having success as a founder is slow work. We all see success but that is just the tip of the iceberg. And the difference between success and failure is often persistence and time. So stick with it!