Dental school is a huge investment of your two most valuable currencies: time and money. When your’re a young student with no money, the significance of the value of these two items is extremely difficult to comprehend. There’s just no way to understand how valuable a year of your life is when you’re in your early twenties, and there’s no way to appreciate how hard it is to earn a living until you’ve actually had to do it. If you’re an older dental student that’s had a bit more life experience and career experience, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not, and you’re going straight from undergrad to dental school, student loans in one hand and no real life job experience besides a summer camp counselor gig in the other hand, fear not.
I was recently asked on Twitter (you can follow me @LarryDougherty) if I had any topics for investing money while in dental school. I’m a dentist, of course, not a financial advisor, so I’m not sure how much I can help! Dental school in and of itself is an investment, as I stated in the first paragraph. If you’re enrolled in dental school, you’re an investor already. You’re investing your time and your money with the hope of a future return on that investment: a career that will support you and your family financially and provide you with a sense of fulfillment and purpose in your community and to your patients. So there you have it, that’s your big money investment right now.
Educate yourself on how investing and savings works. It seems a little intimidating at first, I know. There’s a lot of terminology to learn, but you can learn it. It’s the type of thing where every young dental professional needs a working knowledge. It’s worth your time and effort.
When I was in dental school, we had a class that required a subscription to Money magazine. At the time, I didn’t find it all that interesting. I just wanted to be a dentist and do good work, I didn’t really care what a Roth IRA was or what percentage of my income should be devoted to paying off debt vs. investments. I didn’t have any money anyway, what did it matter?! I figured I would worry about it in the future or that it would all magically take care of itself. When you’re in the middle of your third year of dental school, a year and a half into the future might as well be 20 years into the future! Real life can seem so far off when you’re knee deep in dental school.
The future came faster than expected, and the vocabulary of investment concepts, investment principles, and investment products that I learned from that forced subscription and forced reading of Money magazine was extremely valuable. I didn’t know much, but I knew more than nothing, which was a start.
Here’s a beautiful thing: it doesn’t matter where you start, and you don’t have to only listen to just one person. When I was eleven or twelve years old, I decided I liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers because my friend’s older brother thought they were cool, and we all thought he was the coolest guy. I listened to all of their music, read every interview they gave, and found the original version of any song they covered. For every band they name dropped or covered, I learned everything about that band, and any band they talked about or covered, I would research that band, and so on and so forth. Within three or four years, I knew a little something about every single significant band in the history of rock and roll! One band always seemed to lead me to the next band. I didn’t start from the beginning, I started where I started, and I just went where the road of seeking knowledge took me. Your personal investment education will likely follow a similar path. Just get started somewhere! Everyone seems to recommend the earlier the better, which is very safe and logical advice.
Warren Buffett. Dave Ramsey. Suze Orman. John Bogle. Ramit Sethi. Look those names up on YouTube and watch a few videos for each one. Treat it like I just gave you a list of bands I want you to check out to see if you like their music. If they reference another person or a book, look that up. Decide for yourself who you like or who has advice that speaks to you. You might think some of it is garbage and you might start taking some of their advice today. Themes and ideas come up over and over again. Once you gain knowledge, you can start having your own opinions and strategies. Then you are a real investor!