Happiness is Working Toward a Dream

Physician's Money Digest, December31 2003, Volume 10, Issue 24

I'm not much for annual NewYear's resolutions. If I really decideto do something—or not dosomething—I make the determinationto act, regardless of what thecalendar reads. Like most human beings,I've had varying degrees of success.Besides, my late mom once toldme that the best resolution you canever make is "to be a good person."Thanks to her love and support, Ibelieve I am.

With that said, I firmly believe thatbeing "a good person" requires you tofirst feel good about yourself. Thatbegins with being generally happy withyour life. While some of today's physiciansmay find that challenging, I'velearned that most happy people havegoals and dreams—attainable or not.Achieving your aspirations is all welland good, but identifying and workingtoward them is what makes for ameaningful life.

Resolve to be Happy

I also realize that you can't reachany of your goals, if you don't bringpersonal and economic order to yourlife. Many of our readers appreciatethis fact. Therefore, I've broken habitand come up with a few "happinessresolutions" for our readers:

• Resolve to invest/save at least15% of your annual income. If thereis one golden rule to financial securityand satisfaction, it's to be sure to payyourself first. For most of our physician-readers, that means saving morethan $20,000 per year.

• Resolve to draft/update a will.Almost 2 of 3 doctors don't have theprotection of a basic will. For those whodo, most are outdated. When it comes toyour family and finances, never let anyoneelse have the last word. Act now,there might not be a tomorrow.

• Resolve to develop a personallysuitable financial strategy. You willnever reach your destination if you don'tknow where you're going. More than 8of 10 doctors don't even have a fundamentalwealth-building plan. Sit downwith a pen and paper and make a beginning.No one knows your wants andneeds better than you do.

• Resolve to discuss personalfinance issues with your spouse atleast once a month. My mom, whoraised 8 children, also used to say,"silence is golden." In this case, however,it's destructive. When addressingmoney issues with a spouse, I havelearned that getting started is the hardestpart. If you're like most couples,you each bring strengths and weaknessesto the process. You sink or swimtogether, though.

• Resolve to pay off all creditcard debt. The average American hasnearly $10,000 in credit card debt.Since doctors mirror society, it's reasonableto assume that they're in the sameboat—and perhaps worse off due totheir profession-specific financial pressuresand challenges. No investmentcan top the return equaled by eliminating20% plus interest rate charges.

• Resolve to instruct your childrenon meaningful personal moneymatters. This is a subject not taughtin school. There are far too many oftoday's children—and adults— who areclose to being financially illiterate.Thoughtful parents have the power toalter that condition. The endeavorreally isn't that intimidating. Likealways, the fundamentals should rule.

• Resolve to say "no" the nexttime someone contacts you with a"great investment idea." A financialadvisor I respect once told me thatmany doctors he knows try to get ridof stock tipsters by sending them acheck. Send them packing instead.For those who are compliant onmost of these matters, you're enrouteto happiness. For those who are lacking,get busy being happy.Have a great new year, doctors.