Money talks: Tips to help dental assistants plan for the future

Nov. 16, 2012
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, says don’t wait until a crisis happens to start thinking about your future and what you want out of life. Take stock NOW and start planning.

Over the past two years, you’ve read my DentistryIQ articles that addressed money issues, sexual harassment,workplace bullying, obnoxious patients, and building confidence. How dreary is all that? But like a newspaper, I’ve learned what my readers want to read. You want to learn about money, be it getting a raise or saving money. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Do you have enough money?

I interviewed a financial planner to see what kind of article I could write to help dental assistants and dental hygienists think about retirement. (That was a sobering conversation.) I’ll be honest. The financial planner pointed out that people who earn $15 per hour aren’t thinking about retirement. They’re living paycheck to paycheck. She didn’t have anything more to say that would be of use to you other than what we’ve talked about before. For this reason, I’m going to act like a mother and nag you.

What are you doing to save money either now, in the event of your car breaking down and needing an expensive fix, or for your retirement? Are there any retirement benefits that your dental practice offers? If so, grab them! I don’t care how you go about doing that, but grab them! I’ll be honest. Last week I was shopping at a discount store. (Hey, cheap is not a four-letter word. It actually means I’m smart with my money!) Five of the cashiers were little old ladies with grey hair. (I know, I would fit in that category if it wasn’t for Clairol.) But it was sobering. Look around. What’s going to happen in 10 or 20 years with your finances? Will you end up on the streets? Some of us might. I know that sounds grim, but this isserious.

As Americans, we’re known for our gluttonous appetites. We want what we want NOW. Think about your credit card usage. Whether you have the money to pay for something or not, you buy it. You’re not thinking about the long term. One dental assistant told me she was excited because she bought clothes on credit when they went on sale. But she can’t pay her credit card bill, so she’s now paying 20% interest on the bill. (So much for getting a great deal.) I think that’s the problem for some of us. You need to do the math and understand how credit cards work. Don’t buy stuff if you can’t pay for it.

Think big. Think about your future. (Here comes the nagging part.) Why aren’t you thinking about your future? Do you think that you can coast by and everything will work out in the end? Well, sorry to burst that bubble, but you’re wrong. We’re all one catastrophic illness or accident away from poverty. It’s the truth. Your life could change at the snap of a finger. A car could hit you and you couldn’t do your job. Do you have insurance that will help you survive? Probably not, because disability insurance is pretty expensive. I don’t have any. What’s your plan?

OK, enough gloom and doom for now. My point is to get you to think. I just want to shake some of you and say, “WAKE UP! Life is passing you by! Prepare for your future. Think what you want to do with your life and get started on it. Stop making excuses!”

Look, I’m 47. (Wow, that sounds old!) I’m middle-aged. (Ugh!) But I want things out of life. The most important thing to me is financial security and good health. For now, I have good health, and that is a gift. Our health is something we take for granted until we don’t have it. Don’t wait until a crisis. Start thinking about your future and what you want out of life. Then, start planning.

It all boils down to money, doesn’t it? If you want to go to school, or you want to retire, or you need help because you’re sick or unable to take care of your kids, you need money. Prayer alone isn’t going to do it. Neither is playing the Lotto. Instead, think big. Take stock of your life and know what your expenses are. Make a budget. Write down all your expenses for a week. Take a look at where every single dime is going. This is how you start figuring out what your next steps will be. So take that first step and start working on your future.

Author bio
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S/aka Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Diana’s webpage at