Money matters: Educational intervention boosts rad residents’ financial literacy

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By the end of 2016, Americans had accrued a total of $1.31 trillion in student loan debt—and med school grads have done their share with a median debt of $180,000. Considering such an industry-wide burden, researchers from the department of radiology at the University of Colorado in Aurora examined how educational interventions could improve financial literacy among radiology residents.

The team, led by Mitchell Boehnke, MD, published its findings online Aug. 12 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“Increasing financial literacy is a desirable goal in that it may posivitely affect residents’ well-being, reduce financial stress and thus potentially reduce future burnout,” wrote Boehnke et al.

Previous research has linked financial stress with burnout in medical trainees. One cohort study found those with more than $100,000 in debt were 50 percent more susceptible to suicidal ideation. The research group held a financial education lecture for 23 residents and fellows. They tested attendees before the presentation, immediate after and again six months later.

The education program covered topics such as mortgages, investment, student loan forgiveness programs, life insurance and the time value of money.

Both pre- and post-tests had eight knowledge-based questions. Before the class, respondents answered 60 percent of the questions correctly. Immediately after the course, 84.8 percent of responses were correct. Only seven participants responded to the six-month follow-up test, with 76.8 percent success rate.

“A single intervention cannot address the systemic lack of financial literacy in the general population, including radiology trainees,” wrote Boehnke and colleagues. “Future studies using larger sample sizes may better elucidate the effects that resident -specific financial education has on financial literacy, and follow-up testing at intervals greater than six months would be useful to demonstrate long-term knowledge retention and concrete effects on personal finance behaviors.”