By Dr. Colleen Olitsky
I love money. More specifically, I love how money can make me feel. I have always been a saver; I like the security that comes with having money put away. However, I’m only 39 years old and haven’t amassed my fortune (yet), so you may be wondering who am I to be giving advice on financial issues and how to become wealthy? For starters, I have read over twenty books about money and happiness. What I have learned is that you cannot act rich and truly become wealthy at the same time. At least it proves to be very difficult unless you make an obscene amount of money.
As dentists we have the ability to earn a great deal, and it upsets me to see so many of my dental friends living lavishly, buying with no hesitation or after asking themselves, does this purchase genuinely make me happy? This troubles me because it is not going to be every day that a full mouth rehabilitation case walks in, so that unnecessary spending leaves those friends stressed, unhappy, and losing sleep during the lean production months. Such feelings ultimately affect their overall well-being. That being said, my biggest tip for both the younger dentists starting out as well as the older ones ready to downsize is this, spend less on your house and cars. It’s been proven that these things don’t do much to increase your happiness and in doing so you are creating more cash for the things that do make you happy. If you overspend on houses and cars then you may struggle to afford the other pleasures life has to offer. Few things will make you more miserable than living under a constant cloud of financial strain; this anxiety carries over to your job, home life, and relationships, and will make you feel like you’re suffocating.
You will achieve serenity if you can create and follow a plan to keep debt down and save a portion of what you earn. Remember, wealth is what you accumulate not what you earn. In other words, wealth is not the same as income. Do not allow your income to define your personal expenses at home. I learned to create an artificial environment of economic scarcity. You have to believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status. You need to be content with who you are, not what you own. Wouldn’t you love to have fewer worries about your income not meeting your family’s spending habits? You need to treat savings like an expense and pay yourself first. Of course I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy life, but spend money on what is meaningful to you. Spend less on ‘stuff’ and more on life. More often than not, when we meet dentists that are too financially stretched to take a great dental continuing education course, it is the same folks who have the luxury car payment and large mortgage. Those over the top material expenses then take away from an opportunity to improve their dental skills and create a greater joy and passion in their practice. You can enjoy good health, a loving family, caring friends, and a job you love, while being happy even without the luxury items. Aren’t your family, your health, and your friends more important than stuff anyway? You can act rich or actually become rich, the choice is yours!
Dr. Colleen Olitsky graduated from Temple University School of Dentistry in 2001. She went on to study cosmetic dentistry and used her extensive knowledge to write The Naked Tooth, a book on how to choose the right cosmetic dentist. As Faculty with Clinical Mastery Series, Colleen supports the curriculum with her practical hands on experience in practice management, team and personal development. Dr. Jason Olitsky, her husband and partner is a Clinical Mastery Series Director of Aesthetics and Photography, teaching three dental continuing education courses: Anterior Aesthetics Live, The Art of Photography, and a Treatment Planning Workshop.