The Real Truth About Money's Role In Our Lives

The following quote from the Nonfiction Research Group is sobering:

“Almost immediately upon beginning our research, we realized that a staggering number of Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money. To their friends and neighbors their lives look normal, even prosperous. But privately, behind closed doors, Americans are badly in need of help with money and the emotions around it. We discovered that 52% of Americans admit to having cried because they didn’t have enough money.”

This past week, I was surprised to see the significant reaction to my Facebook post about ignoring those who brag about how amazing their practices are and simply set your sights on having an amazing day.  The comments were awesome and it’s clear that there are many who base their happiness (or sadness) on their financial well being and perhaps how they view themselves against those posting online. However, one thing was missing: The discussion of money and the real role it should play in our lives.
I want to introduce you to a book you’ve probably never read nor even heard of. It’s Jacob Needleman’s “Money and the Meaning of Life”, published in 1991.
It taught me the greatest lesson I ever learned about money. But first…
We’re orthodontists, not day laborers, and we are incredibly blessed at the opportunities we’ve earned (yes, earned, not given). As long as we do our due diligence, work hard and develop a decent business plan, we’re going to make a great living, enjoy wonderful working hours and conditions and generally be the masters of our professional future. But we’re also so hung up about money. I’ll often be watching a speaker and someone near me will whisper “How big do you think his practice is?”  My question is: “Who cares?”
I’ve seen $6 million practices with 70% overhead and $1million practices with 50% overhead. It’s not the size of the practice, nor is it the take home income, but rather the life behind the numbers. Please don’t misunderstand the last statement. I’m not talking about the time spent playing with kids or time traveling the globe. I’m referring to understanding Needleman’s treatise on money, discussed in his book. More specifically…
How do you view the role of money in your life?
Needleman asserts that money is a commodity. A dollar bill in your pocket is no different than the dollar bill in mine. It can buy no more or no less. It cannot make you happy and it cannot make you sad. It isn’t anything to be proud of owning or sad if you don’t have enough. In short, money is just, well, money. It’s a piece of paper with a number stamped on it and you can trade it for goods and services. But only WE can cause ourselves to be happy or sad depending on how we view money. Don’t believe me? There are millions of people out there who don’t have a ton of money but lead very happy lives and those who are fantastically wealthy (by my standards) who are depressed, wishing their lives were better. Money needs to be taken in its own context as simply another tool in our lives and  the sooner we realize that it alone cannot rule our emotions, the faster we will realize what’s really important and the role that money can play in our happiness. The amount of money that speaker takes home doesn’t really seem so important now, does it?
Free yourself from the idea that money can have an impact on your emotions and you’ll find it so much easier to go through life. Forget about comparing yourself to what others have and you’ll find incredible satisfaction in what you do on a daily basis. Every single day is a blessing because we’re alive, have those who care about us and we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Period.
Sure, we need to pay the bills and the lack of money can create psychological stress, but take a step back and realize the worst consequences. You won’t be living on the streets and the worst outcomes are money-based. Yes, there are rare exceptions and we’ve all been there, but for most of our money needs, they will work themselves out and we need to have more faith in ourselves and keep a positive attitude. The worry does you no actual good and actually can have incredibly bad impacts on your emotional well being.
In my 26 years of practice life, ever since I read Needleman’s book, I’ve had maybe 1 or 2 nights of restless sleep about money-and I want you to think about what kind of finances I had going back to residency at age 44 with three middle school age kids. I refuse to allow money to take over my mindset and affect the way I look at my future or treat my fellow man. I affect my financial future, and as pilots say “attitude affects altitude”.
So, the next time you think about money, your retirement, your bills or your financial life in general, put it in proper context. Money is just, well, money. YOU have the ability to control your happiness and sadness and not some green paper. More of it doesn’t make you a good person and less of it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Strive to help your fellow man, make the world a better place and be a giver, not a taker. But that message is an altogether different post for another time.  😉
All the best,
signature 2
Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, there are only two prerequisites: You’re an orthodontist (yes, you can be an associate) and you want to contribute to a group of like-minded peers who have come together to share our practice ideas and solve our common business, leadership and management issues. Email me at to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot