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Save Twice for Retirement and Other Tidbits You Can Use


Post-death identity theft; social media habits of the wealthy; and one thing that makes it seem like saving twice for retirement.

— More free money! For those of you in private practice who are not already doing it, put all of your practice expenses on a cash-back credit card. You will not only be surprised by how much returned cash you get, but you will have an accurate and more easily maintained end-of-year record of your expenses.

— The federal gas tax is about 18 cents per gallon and has not changed in 20 years, in spite of inflation alone halving the dollar's value. State gas taxes range from a low of 17 cents per gallon in Oklahoma and South Carolina to 49 cents per gallon in California and New York.

— The real "Frequent Fliers" account for only 1% of passengers but a whopping 25% of revenues. No wonder they are accorded the tender loving care we 99%-ers used to receive.

— The common disclaimer "past performance is no ‘guarantee’ of future results" should really read "past performance is no ‘indicator’ of future results."

— The risk of identity theft does not stop at death. If you lose an immediate family member, contact the three credit bureaus to get a current copy of the deceased's credit status and inform them of the death.

Art investments over the last 50 years have returned an average of 8.8%, about the same as the stock market's 9.2%, according to NYU's Moses Index. In spite of recent headlines, such as Munch's "The Scream" selling for a head-scratching $120 million, "like stocks, the lower priced had the bigger gains. Returns decrease dramatically as you increase in price." Not intuitive, but logical, since the higher priced pieces have already appreciated and the market at that level is even more fickle.

— Kids who help to pay for college, according to the "Journal of Adult Development," have two things going for them. 1) The higher percentage of cost they work to contribute, the lower the number who drink, smoke and use marijuana. And 2) The higher percentage of cost that they contribute also translates directly to focus and success in getting a job after college.

— The wealthy do not tweet, says the Luxury Institute. They do not consider it a "productive use of time." But "they do find Facebook … useful."

— For those of you in private practice who think that your office rent is high consider these; San Francisco averages $38/square foot; Manhattan is even higher at $64/square foot; but the current champ is Hong Kong, which gets away with a staggering $150/square foot. Also note that retail space is higher still.

— A recent study in a business magazine reported that the best bosses are those with a strong sense of guilt. They feel "responsible for people, they try to rectify problems and they are good at getting things done." That sounds a lot like physicians, except that most analysts claim that doctors don't have the rest of the skill set to be good leaders or bosses. Just another lacuna in our professional training.

— The economy must be picking up because when I interviewed my window washer she informed me that she is booked six weeks out. Her only slow-down was one obsessive woman who said that her husband told her to decrease her monthly window washing project to bi-monthly. (I have mine done twice a year, FYI).

— Sir Richard Branson, he of the Virgin brands, wrote that the only reason to start a business was out of frustration. In other words, you see something that can/should be done better and you step up. One might say the same for medicine. Most of us are frustrated, in a sense, by suffering and illness and we want and need to do something about it. The guilt thing referenced above may also play into that.

— Business and medicine have yet another thing in common; a sense of urgency is essential to success. A job of work without a timeline is not work and nothing gets done.

— I like this analysis; "Living below your means is like saving for retirement twice." Likewise, there’s a triple benefit of delaying your retirement: not spending your seed corn, putting more away while you work and letting the total grow even more.

But "Man plans and God laughs" the old saw says, with some wisdom. You can't postpone living and, for health reasons alone, many of us will not be able to spend all of our hard-earned and hard-saved money for later enjoyment. Some would argue that moderation in all things, even savings, is the most prudent approach. So maybe take that trip now while you can. What a deal, guilt-free permission to do what you want anyway!

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice