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|Put some order in your life ©1989. As successful executives and professionals you are constantly being offered services to assist you with the management of your professional and personal lives and are in desperate need of such quality advice, but often choose it without proper investigation of the qualifications you employ and without asking or knowing the service you need or are about to pay for. These decisions are made at seminars, because a friend has just spoken of such a service at a cocktail party or in the operating room, because of a recent unsuccessful financial experience, and because another professional has recommended it. Any plan must indeed be "planned" for you, based on your family rather than having your family adjust to someone else's suggestions. The planner should be selling you nothing but experience and advice.
Those of us who deal almost exclusively with the problems of economically successful and upward mobile people see recommendations and advertisements called efficiency training, money management, estate planning, avoiding probate, risk management, capital preservation, asset protection, productivity increase, investment management, and as support systems. Every professional business needs some continuing help. Many professionals need a good deal of advice and support. Some only need a little correction in their professional course of business and although the advice may be small, the direction and pattern of their lives can be enhanced substantially. Historically and well known and discussed by accountants and lawyers is the fact that many executives who control the fortunes of others will seek legal advice after they have made important decisions and after they have committed themselves to a course of action and therefore are predisposed to follow a process. They tend to predetermine for their advisor what direction he should take. People with continuing cash flow, doctors, corporate and business leaders should learn to ask the difficult questions before they make up their minds, and should look for and find out what the potential troubles are or could be before committing themselves emotionally and financially into an economic spiral which likely will be controlled by someone else and certainly by circumstances outside your professional control. Knowing what the risks and alternatives are to a particular investment, business plan, style of office management, or estate plan should become native to the executive since he is constantly involved in providing others with proper guidance. Note I said should become, yet because time is short and cash flow is substantial, personal business and economic management decisions are often shot from the hip and reactions to others' decisions rather than influencing them ab initio, from the beginning. When people consider and plan their economic lives, the proposal for change must include a discussion of their office practices and contingency plans in the case of premature unplanned illness or death and how the career will continue to operate or fare at that time. This is a necessary part of estate planning. There is a relationship and a bond between the two, but too often the estate planning is only concerned with the development of revocable and irrevocable trusts, appropriate will formats, and the formation of family partnerships and gift plans to take as much capital out of probate as possible. Investment managers are concerned with capital accumulation, safety of capital, increasing dividend and interest returns, and are often predisposed to selling and recommending those products and investment ideas which yield a higher income to them or in which they have the greatest expertise by training or employment. Accountants want you to do it all properly and keep detailed records and might share with you the best time to record your losses or why a substantial increase in income at a particular time may or may not have tax advantages. When we do risk management and capital preservation planning for individuals and groups, we are often faced with answering the emotional and conservative needs, but are not requested to suggest economic lifestyle adjustments. As in the medical world, economic advisors have developed into super-specialists knowing more and more about less and less. They do a better job in their own field while at the same time they may be overlooking a more important strength or weakness which needs to be addressed. Tunnel vision is common. Loss of central vision is perhaps less common but is far more disruptive of lifestyle. A person specializing in laser surgery of the retina may be relying on the general practitioner who did not inquire into the equation of how lifestyle affects the general vision in this particular patient. The good primary physician, indeed the competent specialist, may not have kept up with the nuances even in his own field. The stock salesman may not know the risks of poor estate planning, while the annuity and estate planner may not see the potential growth or the planned decline in your practice income. The risk manager may not know how to protect your capital from malpractice lawsuits, and your efficiency expert probably does not understand the malpractice risks which are created with a smoother and faster patient flow. Clients frequently tell me: "Come into my office and tell me what I need," or "Tell me what I should do about ...," or "Find me safe investments which will appreciate at 20% per year," or "I am committed into going into this deal; take a look at this contract I want to sign." This very last statement is extremely common and represents a plan of action by successful physicians who have predisposed themselves to economic difficulty. Frequently a person signs a contract and then wants it evaluated. This terrible habit of committing oneself and then seeking advice used to be very common, still occurs, but fortunately is now in decline. Most often a person helps write, plans, reads, and deliberates on a contract, but gets some advice before signing it, but he has made some kind of verbal commitment which may or may not be binding. He certainly puts all his cards on the table and puts his own mind in a frame of reference which is relatively fixed. Least frequently of all, people in their private lives as distinguished from most successful corporate functions will get business planning advice when they first investigate a new proposal. Remember that contracts have various purposes. The one purpose which is most obvious and generally considered is really of lesser importance. Generally, people believe that contracts bind the two parties to certain promises of performance and when there is a breach by either side, the other side has the basis for litigation, recrimination, and being made whole again after suffering an economic injury. The far greater benefit of a contract is the prevention of the latter. In entering into contracts which are not of an adhesive nature, a different planning method is necessary. Just for the purposes of discussion, the adhesive contract will not be considered here, it being the kind of contract which is generally signed when one finances a car, agrees to certain pre-conditions in opening bank accounts, stock accounts, insurance contracts, or with large conglomerate enterprises which have fixed take it or leave it procedures. The contract between two individuals or businesses should provide the major framework for open and frank discussion of all contingencies to be considered, even before they are committed to paper. Contract discussions should occur before a contract proposal is submitted. Contract discussions will allow the parties to know whether they wish to join in an enterprise and indicate to both of them the other's flexibility, concern, risks, strengths, and weaknesses. Contract discussions should make it clearer as to why and what the parties want of each other. If the other side wants money from you, why you and why not someone else in the professional money lending business? If the other side wants you to control and take responsibility, do you wish to do so, have the expertise, and why do they not merely employ someone with that special knowledge? Is the contract a partnership, or do you wish to take advantage of the other party? Some of these questions appear to relate only to the written contractual agreement of a business relationship, but should be asked of all business and professional relationships in which you participate.
The basic questions which (young) people should ask before they choose their professional way of life, the answer to which are frequently left to chance, and the unhappiness and frustration which face many smart health care providers may be rooted in the following questions.
Also ask yourself or your spouse to answer:
"I never reached my goal. I passed my goal a long time ago; perhaps it was too modest. I need another hobby or another trip to help me unwind. I can't wait for the weekend. I need the best possible service at the lowest possible price. Mrs. "Brown" sure is annoying by calling so often with her anxiety about this venture."
Do not go to the person who most certainly will tell you that which you wish to hear, who will choose the easiest road to nowhere, or whose effort on your behalf will be determined by the fee you are willing to pay. So we finally get to the question: "What do I do now?" Everyone needs to start someplace. You must write your answers in total honesty to yourself. Thinking them is not enough. Write them, put them away, reread them in several days, and add to the answers. Do not change any answers. Answer all the questions above and add your own which have not been addressed here. Then create a very detailed balance sheet of your assets and a very detailed income statement, a very detailed accounting of your income and expenses. List your three most important goals. List your three greatest fears or frustrations. Then have this data base analyzed by someone who can direct you where to get such guidance, from whom to buy such services, and who would explore some easy resolution with you. The approach should be a group-directed effort, not an instant penicillin cure, nor a valium cover-up, nor a tincture of time poultice. If you are a middle-aged or older executive, you can recall your training and the seminars which analyzed and dissected problems in both an elementary and complicated manner, while at the same time suggesting ordinary and simple resolutions while always considering and holding in abeyance radical procedures. A program must be developed, an approach must be outlined which is unique to your personal wishes, circumstances, needs and financial status. No pre-printed format can apply to your individual social and professional goals. No predetermined road map will fit your capital growth or preservation goals. Your estate plan must indeed be "planned" for you, based on your family rather than having your family adjust to someone else's suggestions. Insurance must be used to safeguard what you hold precious and not to insure the income of the sales person. Investments must yield substantially more to you than they do to the person earning the commission. Office management, direction and efficiency should make it more fun to go to work and make your clients happier than creating a restricted environment over which you feel you have lost control. You must know who to interview, how to interview, and when to employ. An accountant must account to you with reasons that make sense in addition to explaining the numbers which he created and a computer reported. You want a lawyer who is a counselor, so that you will not need a lawyer who is a litigator. You must understand your practice and life, so that you may ask intelligent questions and give direction to those you choose will serve you.
What is best for you "personally"?
E-Mail to: DrRein@FloridaCourt.com or call me yourself (407) 333-4444
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