Now that you’ve got that degree, it’s time to look successful

One of the first people I met at doctor school, was a tall, mid-western guy standing in front of me in the registration line. As we started talking, he was explaining to me why he wanted to become a doctor, and what he planned to do when he got out. His reasons were purely financial, and his plans were focused on becoming an ultra-consumer. He had no thoughts of helping people get or stay healthy, but was all about himself.

He told me, “After graduation, I’m going to walk into the dealership and say, ‘See that D-R in front of my name? Now give me that truck.'”

Trying to be polite, I gave him a courtesy laugh, but I couldn’t believe someone would be so focused on spending their money so long before they even made it. (On an unrelated note, this guy lasted a couple semesters before failing out of school.)

Since graduating from school, and building a successful career, I have become more of a target from marketing agencies, and local business owners who want me to spend my money on their services. I am told that I should ‘look the part’ of a doctor by driving a Mercedes, or buying custom fit tailored shirts and slacks. I should not fly coach on our occasional trips, but should pay double for the 3 extra inches in business class. I should not work out on my own, but should relegate that to an expensive trainer who will get me ‘better’ results. I should hire an in-home chef, rather than my wife or myself cooking for our family. My wife should always have perfect manicures, and wear fancier jewelry in order to sparkle more. My children should participate in more after-school activities, regardless of the risk of over-scheduling a 5 year old.

Even my own extended family has joined in the erroneous thinking. “You are a successful doctor. Why do you drive that old car? You should drive something that conveys your success.”

To all my high-earner friends out there: Don’t buy-in to someone else’s vision of success! Find out what success and happiness look like to you, and focus only on that. Reject your broke friends spendy habits, and become wealthy.

I have found out that most people who look successful, actually aren’t. It’s pretty easy to make the monthly payment on a leased luxury vehicle, or make the minimum payments on maxed out credit cards. You can rent a large house, without having to save up anything for the down-payment. You can finance jet-skis or RV’s. It is so easy to look successful, but by so doing, we give up the chance to actually become rich.

Other people want us to stay HENRY’s in perpetuity. A lot of money is being spent to encourage us to spend our high earnings, thereby creating the need for us to continue working for money the rest of our lives. People are constantly going to tell you what success should look like, in their opinion.

Once I defined what success looks like to me personally, I have had an easier time avoiding spending my money to look like a success to someone else.

My wife and I choose to live well below our means. From the outside, we might not look very successful, since we don’t care about being ultra-consumers. But we have a home with all the fancy comforts of an American middle-class household. We have been able to be more generous with donations that we choose, and have set a retirement goal of 9 years from now. Our children’s need are met, and we are able to spend time together as a family.

That looks like success to me.