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Book Review: The White Coat Investor by Dr. James M. Dahle, MD 

By June 15, 2020 January 23rd, 2021 No Comments

One responsibility of your financial planner is consistent education. The financial world is ever-changing and therefore, each day presents new challenges and learning requirements.

As a financial planner, I am always looking for new opportunities to learn about what my clients are facing: their issues, their goals, what they think, the changes in their situation, etc.

My clients and I talk, a lot. During a routine conversation with a client, he advised me to read “The White Coat Investor” written by Dr. James M. Dahle, MD. Being a medical resident himself in the Orlando, FL area, he told me that a lot of his colleagues have read the book. I was really intrigued and finished the book almost right away.

The White Coat Investor is a high-yield manual that specifically deals with the financial issues facing medical students, residents, physicians, dentists, and similar high-income professionals. Doctors are highly-educated and extensively trained at making difficult diagnoses and performing life saving procedures. However, they receive little to no training in business, personal finance, investing, insurance, taxes, estate planning, and asset protection.

Why should you read this book If you are a doctor or a high-income earner in the US?

In my client’s opinion, this book enlightens the issues and financial questions a lot of doctors are facing in the US. The fact that this book was written by a doctor makes it highly credible and relevant. It’s not just for doctors though. Other high-income professionals will get a lot of out of this quick read.

The top three areas to focus on as a high-income earner are: your savings, your time management and your overall asset protection. These areas are described in-depth in the book and I found myself — a financial planner — in complete agreement with Dr. Dahle.

A key point from the book:

In order to become a financially successful (and a millionaire), you need to SAVE.

People often seek out a financial advisor with one burning question: what’s gonna make me rich? My answer is simple: YOU. The only — let me repeat — ONLY way to become financially successful is to save. Period. 

If you are not willing to save accordingly to what you want to accomplish, you will never become financially successful. Period. 

Young doctors begin to accumulate wealth in a short period of time, while at the same time working many hours. This doesn’t leave them much time to learn about how to manage and protect this new income.

If you are a young professional on your way to earning big, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you personally have the time to dedicate to managing your own finances. Is that time worth the 1-2% fee an advisor typically charges? Could you use your limited time off spending time with your family or on other hobbies and interests that are important to you?

Should I manage my own money going forward or should I delegate my finances to a trusted financial professional?

A biased and, perhaps, wealthier advisor might tell you “Yes….”. I’m not as much of a salesman so I would tell you straight “it depends.” 

In the book, Dr. Dahle points out that some doctors like to manage their own finances and they do not mind putting in the time to do so. They are okay with giving away several hours of their time during the week to make sure that their retirement accounts are performing well, that their account contributions match their retirement goals, that their tax exposure will remain as low as possible during their career and when they will retire. To these people, I say bravo. Money management is no small undertaking and I commend you for your dedication to your future.

However, if you find yourself valuing your limited time off as highly as I value mine, you may want to consider delegating. Time, after all, is a true challenger to money in terms of worth. As a limited resource, I know I personally treasure the time I have off to spend learning, adventuring, and spending time with people who make life worth living. 

I would advise any high-income professionals seeking to manage their own money to start by reading this book. Dr. Dahle is spot on with his recommendations. If you are looking to have more information on our similar recommandations, see below.

Questions?

Send me an email and
I’ll be happy to answer!

How to manage my finances as a high-income professional?

The below content has been created just for illustration purposes and is not a recommendation. Each individual’s situation is different.

1

Emergency Fund

This will depend on a lot of factors but, as a general rule, you should have (at least) 6 months of monthly expenses saved as an emergency fund. This will allow you to address any kind of emergency that arises including job loss, health emergencies and more. Try to find the best financial institution that both fits your needs and can provide you with an above market interest rate.

For example, if your expenses are $8,000 per month, then you should have at least $48,000 in the bank. Better yet, round it to an even $50,000.

2

Bank Extension & Savings

You should have a savings account OUTSIDE of your bank that works like an extension of your bank assets. Make sure this account is liquid, this will allow you to have access to cash rapidly, without touching your emergency fund. You can contribute to this fund over time or contribute a lump sum to it.

This account should be invested conservatively. Our goal is not to gamble with the money, but to receive a higher interest rate than your bank assets. The fluctuation of this account should be relatively lower.

Let’s take the previous example and say you already have $50,000 at the bank. You can either start to contribute to this extension savings account on a monthly basis & start to grow it, or you can deposit say $20,000 and let it sit for future financial goals.

3

Retirement

Open a Roth IRA during the early years of your career. This is a HUGE incentive when your income is still below the contribution limits/phase-outs. This account will grow tax-free and penalty-free as long as you do not distribute the funds before age 59 1/2. This is important because we know that the taxes are currently historically low in the US, and they are likely to be raised in the future. You can look up the phase-outs contribution on the IRS website and make sure you are eligible.

Also, if eligible and available, you should contribute to tax-deferred retirement accounts like 401(k)s, Traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs, etc…

4

Investment

As you are approaching to retirement, you should rebalance your investment portfolios as a whole. What I mean by that is that you should review your stock, bond and cash allocation (percentage). The closer you are to retirement, the more certainty you will need and the less volatility you will want in your portfolio. You reduce volatility by raising your fixed-income exposure, but make sure that this portion is invested in high-quality bonds. Note that some bonds - called junk - are trading like stocks and are highly volatile.
5

Insurance

In most cases, you will need a disability insurance policy in place. This will allow you to replace some of your income if you become disabled and unable to perform the same tasks.
If you are married and have dependent(s), you will most likely need a life insurance policy to protect and care for your family after your death. You can find more information on this topic here : https://moneywiththeo.com/2020/03/life-insurance-as-a-us-resident-expatriate-in-the-united-states/
6

Taxes

This is the main questions a lot of high-income earners are asking themselves. How can I reduce my tax exposures? This is a great question for your tax advisor and you should expect your financial planner to partner with your tax advisor. I have numerous trusted text experts in my professional network. Regardless of your intent to work with me, please let me know if you would like a tax advisor recommendation.

Some of the things you can do to reduce your tax exposure include : 
- if you are thinking about starting your own practice/business, select a tax advantaged structure that will best fit your situation (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, Limited partnership…), 
- maxing out your tax advantaged retirement accounts if possible, 
- using tax advantaged investments like Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs).

7

Estate Planning

Establish a Trust, at least a Will. This is extremely important, especially if you are married and/or if you have dependents. In your trust, you will be able to dictate the distribution of your assets when you pass away. Like the tax question, you should have a discussion with an Estate Planning Attorney that can help you draft a trust or a will based on your situation. I have numerous trusted estate experts in my professional network that I can recommend.

Read more about my Strategy

Get started on your path to building wealth. You are on track to become a very wealthy individual. You should be very proud of your success thus far. Make sure to surround yourself with professionals who recognize your hard work and are ready to support you throughout your career. They will also need to have your best interest in mind. Feel free to reach out to me at theo.desmulier@raymondjames.com or by phone (407) 478-0374 with any financial questions.

Any opinions are those of Theo Desmulier and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Dr. James M. Dahle, MD . Like Traditional IRAs, contribution limits apply to Roth IRAs. In addition, with a Roth IRA, your allowable contribution may be reduced or eliminated if your annual income exceeds certain limits. Contributions to a Roth IRA are never tax deductible, but if certain conditions are met, distributions will be completely income tax free. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.