This is a post that will dive into my personal financial situation a bit, but my goal is to help someone out there who needs to hear this.
First, let’s start off with some facts to place us on the right perspective. Did you know that 80 percent of millionaires are college graduates, but only 18 percent have master’s degrees? Fifty percent of all millionaires are either self-employed or own a business.
So for most people, I believe a college graduation is essential for success in life. A master’s degree or other advanced education is not essential. You don’t need an MBA to be a successful business owner. It’s an added perk, but you’ll do fine without it as long as you have the drive and other qualities needed for success.
People ask me all the time if I had to get an MBA to open my practice and to manage it so well, and the answer is no. Most solo medical practices in the US rarely last more than five years. Of course I do have my medical degree, but absolutely no MBA. My MBA was the inner churning in my spirit that spurred me on to open my practice and stick with all the ups and downs until I saw it start to succeed and soar. Books were my MBA also. I read literature on businesses, not just medical ones. Every business has the same fundamentals.
And the last statistic, 50 percent of all millionaires are self-employed or business owners. I actually thought this percentage would be higher. So this means you can still be employed by someone else and be paid millions. Those millionaires who are employed, I’m assuming, are the ones working for Fortune 500 companies and the like and are in top managerial positions.
From the above, we can safely conclude that to have financial success, you need a college degree. You don’t need an advanced degree, and you are probably better off opening your own business and being self-employed (unless you have a path that will lead you fast up the executive ladder to top positions in big companies).
My financial story—I have been debt-free for many years. The Amex I have is the type you pay off every month. Otherwise, I have debit cards only. I do not have a personal credit card, neither do I have one for my business (more on my business below). The only debt I have, which in my opinion is good debt, is my home, which I just bought a year ago in a nice area of Atlanta (humbly said). Prior to that, after my divorce, which was nine years ago, I rented apartments in nice areas also, but I wasn’t ready to buy a home, for this reason—I was saving up for the down payment. I knew I wanted a nice home in an upscale part of Atlanta, but I wanted to put enough down payment on the mortgage so that my monthly payments would be the same as my monthly rent. I wanted to keep my monthly expenses steady so that after I bought the home I could continue saving. So I waited awhile to buy a home but was still living well in the meantime.
I opened my practice in 2004. I had to obtain business financing to get it up and running. I paid it all off within six years with the revenue generated by the practice. I hired staff and doctors gradually as the business grew. Kept my personal income low in the first five to six years, just enough to pay my bills, send my daughters to private schools, save, and contribute to my retirement fund and to my daughters’ college funds. Didn’t take many vacations in that time period. Just a few short day trips in the US.
I hired the first doctor in 2011, and this was a big turning point for me. The business loan had been paid off, and I had enough to pay another doc.
As soon as I did this, my practice, which was already growing, now grew exponentially. There were now two of us seeing patients. With a bit of marketing, our patient load grew fast. I had a free half day here and there to focus on efficiencies for the practice. I researched and studied hard to discover ways to make a practice efficient. It all worked. I hired a second doc and more support staff, and the rest is history.
Hiring 2 docs and 10 support staff and reducing my clinical time gave me time to work from home managing the practice remotely, longer vacation periods, and certainly some financial freedom. But I paid my dues—I put in the hard work, focus, sacrifice, and persistence needed along the way, and evaluated my financial position frequently with my CPA.
I only own one car, which is modest, as I ride Uber 80 percent of the time anyway. At almost 14 years old, my practice is a high-value investment on its own.
True financial fluidity is when you realize you’ve built a business of such high value that it can be sold to investors or other buyers.
The financial fluidity from my practice has also given me flexibility and options for marketing my brand-new book, Permanent Happiness, and author-branding venture. I have not had to obtain any loans for my new venture.
So there you go—that’s me being open and vulnerable and sharing my financial journey in a nutshell.
The reason I started the post with “you may need two jobs for financial freedom” is this (you may already have figured out why I said that, since you’ve been reading along): While you’re working on a new business, you still need to pay your bills and live well and exist and thrive well. So for some situations, for some people, it makes sense to still keep a job or two that guarantees your income and enables you to save. You may need to do this for two to five years or so while your business is growing. In some instances, like mine, a business finance loan may be the solution, but be careful about this. Have some certainty and evidence that the business has a high chance of succeeding before getting a huge loan that you’ll be stuck with.
More key points—save save save. Musts—a retirement fund, a savings account, and a college fund (some believe their kids should get their own college loan and pay it back, but I don’t belong to that school of thought). I believe in funding my kids’ college educations as long as they stay focused and pass their courses. Having no debt when they start off in life pushes them ahead several steps.
Extra key point: a business that you opened over five years ago—if it’s still not generating enough funds and you still don’t feel financial fluidity from it, you may need to reevaluate its potential. Be careful of wasting too much time hyperfocused on a business that is not working. It’s perfectly OK to reevaluate, restart, reprioritize, refocus, and replan your ideas. There may be a better path for you. I see way too many people hold on to businesses that are obviously not serving them in any way, and time just passes them by.
I hope someone out there has picked up a thing or two about attaining financial freedom. I’m still learning every day myself.
May we all have financial freedom and be permanently happy.