What we've learned from the commonalities of financial aspirations, fears

May 28, 2020
John J. Grande, CFP

,
Traudy F. Grande, CFP

,
John S. Grande, CFP

Would you ever consider entering into a complex surgery procedure with a patient without first doing every test and possible scenario before entering the operating room? Why should one approach finances any differently?

There are three senior partners in our practice, and we have all been working with ophthalmologists for more than 25 years. I don’t dare do those years in the aggregate!

Plus, we’ve attended well over 100 ophthalmology conferences around the country and on the islands and have sat down with many hundreds of ophthalmologists to listen to their concerns and questions.

We have eye-doctor clients across the country and have worked with some of them throughout the entire 25 plus-years.

This article is an attempt to share with you the insights we have gained about their personal and financial lives. Their financial aspirations, failures, and fears.

First, it has been beyond a privilege to have spent most of our profession in the most intimate relationships with this group of men and women, who are the crème de la crème of the medical profession. What an honor and a challenge it is to deal daily with what must be the kindest and most intelligent of any group in medicine.

For us, it started with having as clients some of the brightest and most shining stars in ophthalmology.
A. Edward Maumenee, MD, Ron Michaels, MD and Ron Smith, MD, to name just a few. Talk about gentlemen and intellects. The medical profession lost these doctors far too early. The one word that comes up for these three incredible men is kindness. Besides their scientific brilliance and love of ophthalmology they were giants when it came to being human beings. They were our close and cherished friends and we learned so much from them about life. So many stories we could share. Such selflessness always emanating from them. We were then, and still are, in awe of these gentlemen.

And as it started, so it continues, working closely with the upper echelon of humanity. Working closely with so many men and women who are seemingly all blessed with multiple talents in life. No doubt, being so humbled by these professionals has been a gift in many ways. We always knew we were going to be asked sophisticated questions. Still, underneath this intellect and goodness lie the normal emotions of any human being.

No two doctors are alike, but there are definitely commonalities to be found among them and their immediate families. Families we are so proud to call our friends.

We have observed, through the questions put to us, that most ophthalmologists think that their peers have more money than they do. It’s almost never true. Many have been great savers, good investors and prudent spenders, and it is rather remarkable, taking away the outliers in either direction, the similarity of accumulated wealth between them.

Those outliers usually come about from one or more of these factors:

  • the negative financial impact of divorce(s);

  • when both spouses are physicians, obviously income is augmented;

  • inheritances;

  • how many children have to be educated since most doctors don’t qualify for any assistance;

  • overspending versus undersaving;

  • forced early retirement due to illness;

  • attempting to invest in a “sure thing” that promises astronomical returns with little risk and then losing a large portion of their investments (high intelligence doesn’t override efficient markets);

  • panic selling in a bear market;

  • having no sense of financial reality;

  • not having developed a plan; and

  • greed/fear, both equally having no place in investing.

The above items contribute the most for the discrepancy in rare cases between a doctor’s net worth when compared with his or her peer group.

Aspirations

As for aspirations, almost everyone wants financial security for the future. Educate their children. A nice home. A second home. Vacations, a secure retirement, etc.

Given the high income for most ophthalmologists, there is a choice one is faced with after having handled income taxes and living expenses; what to do with discretionary income? Most doctors are maxing out their 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing plans, etc., and this is paramount, but what do they do with what is left over?

Some people are just born savers and others are born spenders. Herein lies the biggest factor between doctors’ net-worth statements.

Fears

As for fears. That’s an easy one. It’s always the same question. Will I run out of money in retirement? After receiving a pay-check for 30 plus years and suddenly this dependable income stops, this question would surely arise.

Along with this question come so many others. How long must I work? How much will I need to spend in retirement? Should I (we) take social security right away or wait? How much should I keep in the stock market? Are annuities a good or a bad idea to use? What if the market collapses right before or after I retire? What if one of us goes to a nursing home, how will that impact us?

We hear these concerns every time we listen to a doctor who is meeting with us for the first time or sitting down with them at a conference.

So, here we have it. A group of extraordinary professionals and humans, with the same hopes, emotions, and fears as everyone else.

Unfortunately, what we generally observe are people with some level of anxiety over the unknown. That’s normal. This is human nature. But it is a form of suffering, and probably not great for one’s health. We have spent our careers attempting to show people how to reduce these fears and it’s basically pretty simple.

Construct a realistic investment/financial plan, showing short, intermediate, and long-term goals. Invest a little of your time with the guidance of a professional developing a plan that leaves you strongly grounded in financial reality.

Not hoping, fearing, guessing, reacting, but having a thoroughly thought-out plan of action that you follow. Monitor, adjust, and review as circumstances change both in your life, and in the world.

With this in place, you can get on with life knowing that at least your finances are in order.

Would you ever consider entering into a complex surgery procedure with a patient without first doing every test and possible scenario before entering the operating room? We don’t think so. Why should you approach your finances any differently?

You spend your professional lives dedicated to caring for others, making a positive difference in society. You are all a credit to the medical profession. We wish you the happy, healthy lives you so deserve.

Is there a correlation between happiness and wealth? Our experience from observation is “no,” a topic for another day. But, is it not easier to be light and happy when you aren’t stressed out about money?

So, our advice is to have a plan in place that gives you freedom from anxiety.

“Let the good times roll.” Stay safe and remember this, too, shall pass.

Disclosures:

John J. Grande, CFP, Traudy F. Grande, CFP, and John S. Grande, CFP, are co-editors of the Money Matters column in Ophthalmology Times®. They are owners and principals of Grande Financial Services Inc., Oakhurst, NJ, (www.grandefs.com). The Grandes advise doctors across the country on a diverse range of investment and financial matters. Readers may submit their financial questions to them at john.s.grande@grandefs.com or call 800/722-1258.

The views depicted in this material are for information purposes only and should not be considered specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk, including the potential for loss. Past performance is not indicative of future results. No investment strategy can ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

John J. Grande, John S. Grande and Traudy Grande are Registered Representatives offering securities through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Summit Financial Group, Inc., a registered investment adviser. Summit and Cetera are related and are under separate ownership from any other named entity. Registered Branch: 257 Monmouth Rd, Oakhurst, NJ 07755. Phone: 732/531-4111; toll-free: 800/722-1258. Website: www.grandefs.com