Whenever I'm overwhelmedwith financialproblems,I consult my favoriteadvisor, a formerprofessor of economics at MoscowUniversity, who moved toChicago and now drives a taxi. With aname like Pikoop Andropov (sound itout), becoming a taxi driver wasinevitable. The easiest way to get hisfinancial advice is to hire him for atrip. The more advice I need, the longerthe journey. This time he was ferryingme to a nearby mall for some shopping.For a $105 fare, Pikoop was stillcheaper than my other advisors.
Dr. Constan: It's nice to see youagain Pikoop. How have you been?
Mr. Andropov: Traffic bad, butbusiness good, and I make killing ontips—3 times as much as professor'spay in Russia. Don't tell IRS, please.How is life for you, Big Lou?
Dr. Constan: Not so good, oldfriend. My business is getting killed bydeclining reimbursements and escalatingexpenses. My retirement plans arein disarray. I don't know if I'll ever beable to retire in comfort.
Mr. Andropov: Here's what you do,Dr. Lou: Think of medical practice astrip, like this trip. Listen to me. Tripsare what I know. I myself have muchexpenses. Fees, bribes to city regulators,high gas costs. How you think Imake successful business driving guyslike you around town?
Dr. Constan: I don't know, how?
Mr. Andropov: You watch every littlething. For instance, how much iscost for me for each mile I travel? Youneed to think about your cost of investing.How much you spend on mutualfund fees? You must cut investmentcosts. Not give all your money to filthycapitalist pigs that run Wall Street.
Dr. Constan: Sounds good. Whatelse can you tell me?
Mr. Andropov: Did you look at mycab before you got in? It's beautifulcab, no?
Dr. Constan: Nyet. It's rusted andneeds a paint job, but I don't care, Iknow you maintain the engine, andI'm confident your cab will get mewhere I want to go.
Mr. Andropov: Right! So how comeyou spend ton of money on stuff? Youknow it's not important. You wastetoo much money.
Dr. Constan: But how can I expectmy family to scrimp and save?
Mr. Andropov: That, my friend isanother thing. You look on family asfinancial drain on resources, not ashelpers. They're on journey with you.What would trip be without passengers?Include them in financial planning.They can help out.
Dr. Constan: Point taken. Anythingelse you'd like to share?
Mr. Andropov: You see how I drive?I always look ahead at road, anticipateproblems. Are there flashing lights orobstacles ahead? Fog, slippery ice,crazy reckless drivers? You should dothat, too. Think what is ahead in nextyear, 5 years, and 10 years. Will financialplan be positioned for success?Road always changes, are you ready?
Dr. Constan: You mean changes likethe Internet information revolutionand pay-for-performance programs?
Mr. Andropov: Da. See that reststop up ahead? Remember it's for restingonly, not stopping. Goal is not tosit down in flashy retirement complexand do nothing. You are vital, smart,giving person. Don't ever sit and reston laurels, or lawn chair.
Dr. Constan: But some day I mayget sick and have to retire.
Mr. Andropov: True, Dr. Lou. It'simportant to delay that day. You see, Istopped smoking, I work out at gymafter shift, and I give up eating borscht.What would happen to my passengersif I have heart attack while drivingtaxi? Not good. I live to 100, and youcome back and get more good advice.It's good, no?
Dr. Constan: Ah, so you're sayingthat if I keep myself healthy longer, I'llkeep my financial life healthier longer?You're brilliant Pikoop.
Mr. Andropov: Well, here we are atthe end of trip. I give you good tips, no?Now you give me good tip, yes?
Louis L. Constan, a family practice physician
in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the
Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin
and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes
questions or comments at 3350 Shattuck
Road, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or firstname.lastname@example.org.