As a dentist, you have a lot on your plate. Managing your dental practice. Treating your patients. Overseeing your staff. The list goes on. But you’re also responsible for your own personal finances – separate from your practice. At times, you may wonder how you stack up financially to your peers and friends. I’ve been a practicing CPA and business advisor for almost 20 years and the phrase, “I have friends who …” has been the starting point of many of my most interesting and revealing conversations. Below are several variations of the phrase in action, followed by my responses. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- “I have friends who pay little or no income taxes.”First, do you know if that is really true? Have you seen their income tax return? If it is true, it’s probably the result of either:
- No income.
- Losses from a business that offset other income.
- Large deductions that took cash spent to generate them.
- “I have friends who take tax deductions for (insert whatever silly “expense” you can think of here).”Again, have you seen their income tax return? I’ve seen situations where someone thinks they are getting a tax deduction for something but in reality they are not. It’s because either they don’t understand how to interpret the complex forms and calculations within the return or they don’t look at the completed tax return to know if their tax preparer was able to use the information … of which, the preparer probably looked at it and promptly set it aside because the “deduction” wasn’t allowable. Or, as stated above, they filed a tax return that was wrong, fraudulent, and/or unethical.
- “I have friends who have two vacation homes and drive new cars every year. How are they making so much more money than me?”We all hear this and many buy into it. In reality though, your friends’ financial superiority is probably due to one of two things. (In my experience, it is most likely the second scenario.)
- Scenario One: The obvious reason could be that your friends work harder, or are smarter, than you. If that’s not the case, maybe they are more willing to take on more risk or are quick to jump on opportunities and capitalize on them. Or maybe they were just plain lucky.
- Scenario Two: The second, and more common, answer is that these friends are living beyond their means. They are spending more than they make and are heavily in debt. They spend every penny and risk financial disaster if a hiccup ever occurs in their income stream. And they are not properly saving for retirement.
- “I have friends who only pay their accountant X amount per year or X amount for their income tax return preparation.”My response depends on specific circumstances. If this statement was made in the business context, I question if they really know how much they pay their CPA. I have found that it’s common for many individuals to say they don’t know. Perhaps the reason they don’t know is because no matter how much they are paying, they are not able to see the value, therefore they cannot justify their cost. The bottom line is, and has always been: “You get what you pay for.” Are there CPAs who do a bad job and charge very little for their services? Absolutely. But you can avoid these risks by searching for a qualified, experienced financial advisor in the first place.
Here are three suggestions for combating the “I have friends who …” argument:
- Make judgments and decisions based on facts. I am not suggesting that everything you hear is a lie, but understand that sometimes people will say things with such conviction that you think they must be right and that they know more than you. Also keep in mind that, sometimes, facts can turn into embellishments and half-truths. If you find yourself questioning a statement you heard, make an effort to find some facts about the topic using credible sources.
- Have independent thoughts and opinions. It’s OK to be “different” or have views that are not “mainstream.” And it’s OK to disagree with your friends. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend that you read the book, “The Millionaire Next Door,” which will help shine a little more light on the topic.
- Find an advisor who can help you sort fact from fiction, someone who is independent and who has original thoughts.
Your advisor should be willing to blow the whistle when they hear something that is simply not true. More than that however, they must be willing and able to explain why the claim is false.
Personal Finance Help
If you’re a dentist who needs help making sense of your personal financial situation, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of bright dental CPAs can meet with you to examine your financial situation and help you gain a realistic view of your personal finances. Author: Ryan Dumermuth, CPA, CFP (Mentor office)
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