Make Peace with How Much You Can Afford to Spend

In 1998, Kurt Vonnegut gave the commencement address at Rice University, where he told a wonderful anecdote featuring his friend, and famous author in his own right, Joseph Heller. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:


Joseph Heller and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island

 I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday          may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22’ has earned in its            entire history?”

          And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”

          And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”

          And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

I think this story captures the essence of the wealth creation strategy I want to discuss today: Make peace with how much you can afford to spend.

When You Know You’ve Got “Enough”

Up until now, this blog series has focused on your cash flow: where it comes from, where it goes, and the importance of correctly structuring your personal and business financial lives so that you can achieve your long-term financial goals. And don’t get me wrong; the nuts and bolts of creating and executing a holistic financial plan are both important and necessary.

But I believe the single most difficult challenge that a dentist may face in the process of creating wealth is knowing if and when they “have enough.” And that’s a purely qualitative endeavor.

As a dentist, you’ve toiled to achieve professional and financial success. So, what’s wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor? Absolutely nothing! The real question when it comes to the fruition of a wealth creation framework rooted firmly in your most important values is not if you’ll be able to enjoy the product of all your hard work, but when you will enjoy this success.

The individual wealth creation strategies we’ve addressed over the preceding months all build on this basic truth.

By balancing your needs, wants and savings, thus aligning your financial priorities, some of your wealth will be set aside for the future needs of you and your family. It’s been our experience that temporary imbalances between wants and savings – periods of time when you’re forced to reduce savings to increase current spending – are inevitable and will not significantly harm your financial plan. But the hard reality is that consistently spending more than you can produce is simply not sustainable in the long run.

By starting early and investing pre-tax savings in a diversified, evidence-based portfolio where they can grow over decades, you can be confident that you are on track to a comfortable retirement, secure in the knowledge that you’ll truly “have enough.”

This commentary originally appeared November 29 on

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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the BAM ALLIANCE. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.

© 2017, The BAM ALLIANCE

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