9 Common Money Mistakes New Dentists Make

Posted by on Apr 26, 2023 9:00:00 AM

Are you a new dental practitioner? Whether you’ve just finished dental school or are just graduating from a specialty residency program, here are some common money mistakes you’ll want to avoid when it comes to managing your finances.


The Top 9 Money Mistakes To Avoid:

Mistake #1: Not Having a Cash Cushion for Emergencies

We can’t stress this enough (and we never tire of saying it, because most people come out of the gate without any cash reserves). Everyone should have, at a bare minimum, three months of their spending (not income, but actual spending) in a money market or savings account. We say three months because in the unfortunate event that you’re disabled, in the best-case scenario, provided you have purchased adequate insurance, it would likely take 90 days before you receive any replacement income from your disability income insurer. Over time, you want to systematically save to create a six to nine-month cash reserve.

Mistake #2: Thinking Your Emergency Reserve Fund Is “Investable”

You do not want to invest this money in the stock market or some other vehicle that is illiquid and at risk. The money needs to be readily accessible, and available to you at a moment’s notice without any penalty. Put your cash reserves into a money market or savings account at your bank. If you want a slightly higher interest rate you may want to shop for an FDIC-insured bank online.

Mistake #3: Not Educating Yourself on Paying Off Dental School Loans

Every situation is different. Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans with low initial payments that can be advantageous. You can temporarily use an income-driven plan to build an emergency fund, a home down payment fund, or pay off higher interest credit card debt. Income-driven plans do offer the potential for forgiveness of the remaining balance after 20 to 25 years. 

However, the amount forgiven is taxed which could create a significant cash flow strain.  Furthermore, payments increase with income and many practitioners may find that higher payments will be enough to pay off the loan.  Because private student loan refinancing lenders often offer much lower rates than current federal rates, it may be a better, and lower cost choice to refinance when cash flow allows.

Mistake #4: Paying Off Dental School Debt Too Quickly

Often people feel like they have to get their student loans reduced because the sheer volume of the debt feels so overwhelming. Closer to the truth for most people is that if the loan is at a low interest rate and you can get a better return on your money in a retirement account or an investment that exceeds the rate of interest on your loan, you are better off not accelerating your debt payments.

Mistake #5: Acquiring a Variable Rate Loan 

With interest rates having increased substantially, it may make sense to consider a variable rate loan if there is a substantial difference between the fixed and variable rates. Historically, interest rates have dropped after a period of rate hikes by the Fed. This may afford the opportunity to refinance in the future at a lower fixed interest rate. When considering this strategy, it is important to understand that there is no guarantee that interest rates will return to lower levels.

Mistake #6: Mistaking Youth for Being Invincible

Lots of younger people disregard the need for insurance because they mistakenly believe that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Sadly, this is far from the truth. Every dentist should have disability income insurance: It protects your ability to generate an income in the event that you can’t work. 

Everyone should have an umbrella policy: it provides protection in the event that you are subject to a general lawsuit. Say you're in a car accident and the other party sues you, your base limits on your auto and home policies may run out. You should maximize the liability in your auto and home coverage, and then buy an umbrella policy in case you are the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. 

Mistake #7: Postponing Dental Practice Ownership Because of Fear Of Risk

Many graduates delay buying into a practice because they fear that their student debt load may hurt their application. The fact is that many lenders finance close to 100% of a new practice even for borrowers who have student loans. What banks are looking for is cash flow. If it looks like you will have the cash flow to repay your loans on time, they may very well take a risk on you. 

Mistake #8: Buying “Too Much House,” or “Too Much Car.”

After years of being in school and living a student life, many graduates have a pent-up need to splurge on something big. For some, it’s a fancy house, for others it’s a fancy car. Something to keep in mind is that you don’t want your debt (student loans, mortgage, credit cards, etc.) to exceed 30% of your gross income – even if banks will often lend you more. Banks don’t necessarily care that you are saving toward your retirement. You, however, should care about saving for retirement, and that may mean living in a smaller home so you can accomplish both goals.

Mistake #9: Not Seeking Professional Advice

The internet, self-help books, webinars and a myriad of well-intentioned friends and relatives will all want to tell you what to do with your money. But these lay voices cannot provide the advice of an experienced professional versed in the financial life of dental and medical practitioners. 

Assemble a team to advise you from the start. You may not have much in assets to begin with, but the foundation you establish needs to be strong. Find an attorney, a CPA, a lender and a financial advisor – who all specialize in working with dental and medical professionals. 


Avoid Money Mistakes and Conquer Dental School Debt

With the right tools and professional advice at your disposal, you can plan for a brighter financial future and how to get there by avoiding money mistakes unique to dental professionals along the way.

To discover what steps you can take for dental career success, read your complimentary Post-Dental School Survival Guide.

About Treloar & Heisel

Treloar & Heisel, an EPIC Company, is a premier financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service. 


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