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.

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