By David Black
Having the best of everything has a real attraction to many of us dentists. Unfortunately, you may have to pay a high price for today’s luxuries.
You are working hard, making a great living. Just moved into the country club in a big, new house. Mercedes sitting in the driveway and momma needs a SUV to haul the kids. A week at the beach to keep the family happy. Skiing in Colorado at Christmas.
It does to ME! This isn’t exactly my story, but it is close enough to make me squirm. The problem for most of us is that it eats up ALL of our income, leaving none for Saving and Retirement. Most of us make enough money to have nice cars and homes, but if you are like me, you may have gotten caught up in this new-found affluence at the cost of taking the long view of what you will need later.
Sadly, later Comes Quickly.
Most of us need to look at what we need to live comfortably, not extravagantly. I am talking to the 75% or more of us who do not live and work in a world where money is no object. What this means to you is so personal, I dare not judge how much you need to spend vs. save. I just know from experience that if you are not saving for retirement NOW, that one day you will look back on the THINGS you spent your money on, and wish you had planned better.
Depreciating assets are the worst. Cars and boats and other toys become out of date and need replacement quickly. We all need these things, but what kind and at what expense is the question.
Vacation and second homes are great; I have had some of each. As long as the cash flow is adequate from your day job, enjoy the luxury. In my hands these purchases followed the “buy at the peak of the market, sell at the bottom” rule. Be cautious when buying these assets to make sure the cash flow will be something that can be handled if the market does not allow you to sell at the exact time you would like to change your circumstances.
Our second home is beautiful, on a lakeside golf community, and now that I have retired I would like to have only one home to make my cash flow better. I bought in 2008, at the peak of the real estate market. There is NO market for my home unless I want to give it to someone.
We can make it, but life would be easier if we had one home. What seemed so easy and natural before I retired is one of those small gnawing pains in my stomach each month when I pay mortgage, community fees, and maintenance of a second home.
Most of us can think of other “Assets”, that are really a Liability. Think before you put your Wants ahead of your Needs.
Can you retire at 62- 65-70 ?
Unless you are skilled in Accounting and Investing, you should get some professional advice on when you actually have the money to stop doing what you are making a good living doing.
I had a Retirement specialist and a good stockbroker help me make some good decisions along with all my bad spending habits, to finally get together a plan to assure my ability to retire. It takes YEARS, to accumulate enough to retire.
My investment broker and I sat down last year and looked at what I had saved. Do you know that the suggested withdrawal rate on an account is no more that 4% of what you have in the account? That means if you have $1,000,000 in savings, to make that last for 25 years you should not withdraw more than $40,000/year from that account. At this rate of return, you need some other sources of income to make it in the world we live in. I had to promise my broker I would not live past 93 years before he would give me his blessing to start taking out money from my account.
You may think you can retire next year, but since most of us do not know how long we will live, you may need to work a few more years, save some extra money, or convince your kids they would really like to take care of you the last ten years of your life.
THE WAY YOU PRACTICE
You may not be running your business in a way that lets you save enough. When all else fails, Make More Money.
There are all types of people and practices. You may be running your practice exactly like you want to. That is fine if you make enough money to live like you want to and save like you should.
I enjoyed restorative dentistry as a majority of what I did. Some people like surgery, some like doing dentures, some like to work on children. If you are not doing what you like and not doing it efficiently, you have the opportunity to change. There are consultants and coaches that can help you identify what you do well and efficiently.
If your practice is not productive, you will not be able to save enough to retire and you will have a harder time finding a buyer when that time comes.
Change is hard for some of us, but I found that the prospect of working to age 81 like a great-uncle did, and dying as a form of retirement, was not appealing to me.
I decided to identify what I was doing inefficiently in my practice and correct it. I was then able to save enough money to retire at 68. To me that was the right time, both physically and professionally. You have to decide when the right time is for you.
The trick is to be ABLE to make the choice when you want to retire, not be forced by circumstances to work for years after you are physically and emotionally unable to do the tough job we all have done for so many years.
Originally published in Dental Products Report, August 14, 2015
Dr. Black’s 43+years of clinical experience, mentors such as Drs. Pankey and Dawson, and integration of information from four major consulting firms give Dr. Black expertise in a wide range of topics. He is certified in Waterlase and CEREC technology, along with the classic occlusal theory of the masters.