As women, we often feel like we have to “do it all.” As a successful dental professional, you probably have many roles: meeting with patients, running your dental practice, managing family responsibilities and allocating time for hobbies and yourself. When juggling all of these demands, it is easy to let your financial planning priorities slip aside. It is no secret that female dentists, especially practice owners, often face unique needs that their male colleagues do not, which can cause emotional and financial stress; however, with a little education and the right team in place, you can overcome these obstacles and achieve your career and financial aspirations.
Why Women Make Better Investors
According to the UBS “Own Your Worth 2020” study, only 16% of women take the lead in long-term financial decisions, while 49% leave it up to their spouse.1 Although many women underestimate their ability to manage their personal finances and retirement accounts, several studies have shown that women tend to outperform men when it comes to investing. Women are more likely to take a long-term buy and hold retirement planning approach with their investments, and on average, less trading means better returns over time. Women also tend to save more, are risk-adverse and patient about their decisions, viewing money as a strategy to achieve goals versus focusing on performance alone.
There are more ways than ever to invest in your values to ensure your money is making a positive impact for the causes that you care about, also known as impact investing. Socially responsible investing (SRI) is the process of selecting investment funds that target positive outcomes, such as combating climate change, diversity and inclusion, animal welfare, etc. and/or excluding companies that do not meet personal ethical guidelines, such as guns, alcohol or human rights violations, while still achieving returns. Gender lens investing focuses on companies that have a high representation of women in leadership roles and work to advance women. There are now plentiful financial strategies to create an investment portfolio that aligns with your specific mission and values, which a financial advisor can assist with.
Unfortunately, women are 40% less likely to have adequate retirement savings compared to men, while outliving them on average, according to a Bank of America survey.2 Reasons include lack of knowledge, holding cash instead of investing in stocks, leaving the workforce for family responsibilities and the gender wage gap. Most dentists start saving later because of dental school student loans and practice debt, and female dentists have the additional challenges of personal and family needs to account for. This is why it is crucial to understand your cash flow, save for retirement while paying off student debt and to develop a financial plan. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone!
Establish your Team of Experienced Professionals
Just as your patients come to you for your expertise, outsource duties outside of dentistry to save you time, energy and stress. This may include hiring a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, CPA, life insurance and disability insurance agent, estate planning attorney, banker and retirement plan provider who are specialists in their field of practice. Your team of professionals should work in cohesion to ensure your personal finances, business and family are on track to meet your goals and are properly protected. Do not be afraid to ask your current professionals for a referral if you do not have a contact in one of these areas. Allowing these professionals to do what they do best frees up your time as a business owner to spend with your patients and loved ones.
Starting or raising a family is a significant responsibility that often falls on the woman’s shoulders, so take the time to plan financially and career-wise. As a female dentist that may have to cover many roles during this time, consider the following questions as you work to integrate your career with your family plan:
- Who will cover for me when I am on maternity leave?
- Do I plan to work full-time, part-time or not at all while my children are young?
- How will I communicate this to my patients?
- Have we budgeted for healthcare and the cost of childcare?
- Can I start investing for my children’s education now?
- How will I continue to fund my other financial goals during this time?
You may also have aging parents or other family members that you intend to help care for. This is why it’s so important to have your financial life and support system in place now, including family, friends and the right dental staff, to prepare for these significant life transitions. Work-life balance can be tough to achieve, so openly communicate with your staff and patients, and arrange for time off to rest and recharge.
Demands of practice management, taking care of family and making time for self-care can be hard to manage. Set your schedule, stick to it and delegate duties outside of dentistry. Women tend to want to “do it all,” but hiring other professionals, both in and out of your practice, makes your life easier and allows you to focus on your profession and personal life. Taking the time to financially prepare and establish those relationships now will only ensure a stronger, less stressful financial future.
This article was originally published in the North Carolina Dental Society’s Gazette.
1 UBS. (2020). Own your worth 2020. https://advisors.ubs.com/fwmgsarasota/mediahandler/media/323256/own-your-worth-report-2020.pdf
2 Longo, T. (2021, May 19). Women Have 40% Less In Retirement Savings Than Men, BofA Finds. Financial Advisor.