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The 10/20/30 Plan


This simple plan will get your fiscal house in order while also leaving you enough time to enjoy your profession and avoid burnout.

Time and Money

Doctors, soldiers and entrepreneurs seem to have a warrior mentality that has a common thread—it encourages them to suck up and repress feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or depression, to "fake it till you make it" or to hide things for fear of retribution or adverse consequences.

We've heard a lot about burnout and, from my perspective, most of the recommendations to identify and treat it usually include ideas about how to take more control of your time and use it for rest/relaxation, exercise, practicing a hobby or spending more time with family, friends or other members of your social network.

If you are doing more and enjoying it less, maybe you should consider Plan B.

I'd suggest the 10/20/30 Plan as soon as you can. No, not the one Guy Kawasaki advised when pitching to investors with Powerpoint. My plan includes:

A 10-month calendar

Lots of teachers and academics use it and you can too. It's called vacation or personal time and every year on July 1 you should plan your calendar for the upcoming year. Don't be one of the 42% of Americans who didn't take a single vacation day last year.

Work 20 hours a week

Given the different stages of our careers, your goal is to do this as soon as possible for as long as you want. Do the math. If you make $250/hour x 80 hours, that equals $20k a month. Since you will working only 10 months, then your yearly income will be $200,000. Congratulations. You make twice as much as the average American. Impossible to find that kind of job, you say. Think again and be creative.

Save the 30%

Many doctors, despite the conventional wisdom, have less net worth than their salaries. You won't be one of them because you are saving for your future. Put aside 30% for taxes after you reserved 30% for debt repayment and pension and nest egg investments. So take roughly 200,000-30% for taxes=140,000. Take 30% of that, which leaves 140,000-42000=98,000/12=$ 8,166/month. Who knows, throw in an occasional windfall, side job, or inheritance and pretty soon you are in fat city.

Now comes the hard part. You and your family will have to temper their expectations and moderate your spending. But let's face it. It won't mean you have to live in a mini-house with 400 square feet. but you won't be living in the "doctor house" on the hill either. That's the good news. Public golf courses aren't so bad either.

Of course, we can take this even further and you can plan to retire before you are 40. Then, it's the 10/20/30/40 plan.

Simplify, simplify, simplify and take control of the most important asset you have-your time. There. Now don't you feel better already?

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