But You Don’t Look Like A Millionaire

bank-tellerI recently met with a new bank manager at one of my local banks to fix a screw-up in one of the bank charges on my checking account.  In a nutshell, they had previously convinced me to change to a different type of checking account with no fees, free checks, and other benefits that would be fitting given the size of my account, business holdings and other assets of mine.

Lo and behold, a $50 per month fee starts showing up in my checking account statements!  As this young lady was calling up my information on her computer, she quickly found the error and corrected it.

She said the usual bank mantra of “let me take a look at your financial info and see if we can save you any more money.”  No, I didn’t need or want a car loan.  No, I didn’t want or need a home equity loan or a bank credit card.

Then, after a lot of screens and looking back and forth, she assured me that the problem was corrected and that I was well cared for with my current banking relationship.  Her last comment as I got up to leave and shook her hand was, “But you don’t look like a millionaire.”

millionaireI almost stopped to ask what a millionaire is supposed to look like, but I realized that she, at her age, was probably envisioning lots of sparkling jewelry, flashy clothes, and perhaps at least one fancy car.  I smiled as I got into my (fully paid for) 2014 Chevy Equinox and drove off.

In my studies, most of the individual doctors I know who are millionaires don’t live like millionaires.  They don’t spend their money the way most people think millionaires do.

bankruptThey are generally fiscally conservative except for an occasional splurge.  They don’t have the fanciest house on the block.  In fact, many of the doctors I have known who did have the fanciest houses on the block with the over-the-top renovations ended up losing money when they went to sell, or even eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Most physician millionaires know the true value of their money.  They tend to save and, most importantly, invest their money.  The docs in private practice who are in this fiscal category can usually tell you how much their equipment cost and how quickly the money spent returned its investment or ROI.

So, rather than be offended, I was proud to not look like a millionaire to this branch manager.  If I ever splurge on a car in the future, I will pay in cash and not need a loan any way.  That Tesla Model X SUV is a long way off.

Follow The Plan

meetingI was at the movies the other day and saw a doctor who I had not seen in a number of years.  We talked briefly before and after the movie and agreed to catch up at length later for coffee.

But the one question he asked me before we went our own ways was interesting.  He asked me, “How did you do it, man?”

I must have looked puzzled by the question because he followed that previous question up with, “You know, how did you get to stop practicing so early?”

I could have said many things that are commonly said in polite conversation such as “Just lucky I guess”.  Instead, I told him “I just followed The Plan”.

We exchanged cell phone numbers and as he peeled away, he said, “I need to hear about this plan.”

planWhat is The Plan?

I think that the first step for doctors in particular is to realize that they have to have a plan for their financial future.  Many are lulled into a state of denial due to their above-average incomes.

They frequently justify purchases of luxuries by saying, “I’m making good money.  I work hard. I deserve it.”  Unfortunately, I know many doctors who, as a result, live paycheck to paycheck.

checklistThe first part of The Plan is to make one.  No one is going to come and bail out old Doc So-And-So when he falls on hard financial times due to old age, illness and poor planning.

The modern doctor needs to think long-term about his or her finances.  Building wealth is a long process that requires vision of the future, discipline, and sacrifice.

We are not talking about stupid people here.  Doctors all go through a gauntlet of rigorous testing and courses that was intent on weeding out the weakest academically in math and the sciences.

The doctors who have what it takes to formulate The Plan must be willing to change themselves and their lifestyle to alter the course of where they are going.

finance_clipartYou need to know where every dollar goes. As some financial gurus say, every dollar has to have a name and a place.

You need to know what all of your assets are doing and how to manage them.  You can certainly get professional help from lawyers and accountants, but you should not just give your money away to them to manage.

the-martian-posterBy the way, the movie I saw this weekend was The Martian*, which is the story of an astronaut (played by Matt Damon) who is left stranded on Mars.  Several lines from the movie returned to me as I was writing about financial plans in this blog.

When talking to himself about one of the technical problems he faced in his survival, Matt Damon’s character said to himself, “It’s just a math problem. Figure it out.”  In reality, that is all that long range financial planning is. It is math, and it isn’t even that complicated.

Like NASA and astronauts, we have to plan for every known eventuality.  We also have to leave enough redundancy to be able to “science the s*** out of it,” as Matt Damon in The Martian would say.

*I highly recommend this movie.  It was awesome especially for an admitted science nerd, but funny and exciting at the same time.