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End-of-Year Financial Wisdom


It is natural and traditional to look back at the end of the year to review what we have done, possibly learned and, hopefully, do something differently in the coming year to our profit.

It is natural and traditional to look back at the end of the year and review what we have done, and possibly have learned, and then, hopefully, do something differently in the coming year to our profit. We can certainly learn from the experience of others as well, often more — “Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we want.” Maybe Henry Miller said it best when he said “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” So let’s take a look.

How about this for starters: Jeff Ladouceur said in Worth magazine “Getting to the right question is key to making the right decision.” True in research, true in patient interviews and true in managing money. For instance, when people ask me what to invest in, I politely reply that is the wrong question. There is plenty of evidence to suggest the right question is “How do I invest?” And that’s another reason to keep reading PMD.

A hard lesson for type A docs to live with is “Time, not timing, makes wealth.” Maybe it becomes more palatable if we spin it to say we are “Getting paid to wait.” Einstein put it this way: “The habit of persistence is the habit of victory.” Getting rich quickly is a fool’s errand, wide media coverage of the rare exception notwithstanding.

For those of you looking for rationalization, how about “Poor quality is our most expensive item.” That brings to mind the old saw that “We appreciate good quality long after the (high) price is forgotten.” For those of you who are not comfortable with this approach, how about Charles Jaffee’s dictum that “It’s not your salary that makes you rich; it’s your spending habits.” Or, “It’s not how much you make but how much you save.” Ouch, but true…

From my Silicon Valley perspective, where we monetize disruption, I recall Margaret Thatcher’s opinion that “You can’t lead from the crowd.” Or Mark Twain’s version: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Other examples for you would-be innovators are “Heretics create change” and “Geniuses break rules.” Or at least the successful ones are later called geniuses. For the not-successful, other words are used.

Back to Einstein, who also said on the disruptive theme, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created the problem.” Deep. To further the point of going against the stream for success, Warren Buffett has done, and said, “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.” But that’s easy for him to say…

For straight financial advice consider that “Financial history never repeats itself, but it always rhymes.” Or when buying a stock, consider asking “Would I buy the whole company?” If not, don’t buy one share. For those of you who get into disagreements with your spouse about evaluating a stock, remember that “…men tend to put a higher value on assets while women often emphasize higher debts.”

All of this is enough to send one back to the eggnog for a double. This wisdom, and one might argue also for all activities that humans do, is in service of hard efforts at self-help of one stripe or another. My last summary insight, applicable to most docs, as well as writers, is that “One of the things I try to do occasionally is to have some unexpressed thoughts…”

On that note, have a happy, safe, healthy New Year. See you in 2014.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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