Remember to Make an Investment in Yourself

Physician's Money Digest, March 2007, Volume 14, Issue 3

The Book of


I want to tell you a story. Years ago,when I was a lad exploring my parents' bookcase, I came across athick, old tome called . It was written by an early 20thcenturyadventurer named RichardHaliburton. He visited, often at greatpersonal peril, most of the well-knownand not-so-well-known wondersof the ancient and then-modernworld. He was a great storyteller andI was hooked.

Keep in mind that there were hardlyany airplanes available then, letalone jets and guided tours. For instance,to get to the then little-knownand remote lost city of Angkor inCambodia, Haliburton had to take arickety steamer some 300 miles up theMekong River and then hack throughthe jungle. Today, you fly into a boomingtown called Siem Riep, you stay atone of a hundred luxury hotels, and atrained government guide escorts youthrough the cleared ruins.

I know this because in a lifelongpursuit of Richard's tales, I recentlywent there. I originally tried in 1973,but a guide who I talked to in Bangkoktold me, "I think I can get you there,but I'm not sure that I can get youout." So I waited some 30 years untilthe pesky Khmer Rouge and the localportion of their 2 million land mineshad been cleared.

Very nice, you might say, but whatdoes a vacation have to do with understandingmy personal finances? Well,Princeton economics professor AlanKrueger avers that boosting your happinessis related to not just how youspend your money, but also the correlate—how you spend your disposabletime. If you were to have, say, thechoice between a new car and a vacation,consider that the car will sit inyour driveway slowly depreciating.Meanwhile, your purchase of memorableexperiences will bring you pleasurefor a lifetime.

I have always enjoyed prescribing avacation, when appropriate, to some ofmy driven Silicon Valley patients. Andwhether or not they take that advice, itis always received with a smile. I'd alsolike to point out that, like many physicians,I try to practice what I preach.My Richard Haliburton to-do list afterall these years is getting short. I'm downto Timbuctou and a few equally remotechoices. After 14 years, I also need anew car. What to do, what to do?