The Part-Time Doctor

Bill Del-Sette |

“Only do what only you can do”

— Paul Sloane

“Lost Time is Never Found Again”

— Benjamin Franklin

Imagine that your Doctor practices medicine part-time.

When you call his office, he answers the phone and schedules your appointment. When you arrive, he is plowing his driveway after a snowstorm. You walk in to the building which, in an effort to save money, is an old garage the Doctor renovated with the help of his nephew. You slip on the ice, and the Doctor jumps out of the plow truck. As he throws a couple of handfuls of salt on the walkway, he exclaims “I sure hope you are you OK! I don’t have liability insurance — it cost too much”.

Finally, the Doctor sits down at the front desk and takes off his jacket and boots. He then takes your insurance card, pulls your file, and gives you a questionnaire to fill out as he calls your insurance company to see if the exam is covered. As you sit down to wait, he rushes back to see a patient in the cold, dark exam room. Every couple of minutes, he races back out to the front office to answer a call.

When you are finally called by him to the exam room, he takes your weight and checks your vitals. “Doctor, don’t you have any help?” you nervously ask, as you consider heading for the exit. “No, I want to do it all myself so I don’t have to pay anyone — pure profit for me!” he exclaims as he sweeps the floor around you and wipes down the exam table.

When he is finished with the exam, he writes your prescription, recommends you stay away from dairy, suggests day surgery, and does the billing. He says you should come back next week for a follow up, but it will have to wait because he has to attend a workshop on the new Obamacare insurance program. “All of my colleagues send their staff — can you imagine spending that kind of money? Watch that walkway! I’ll give you a call when I can find the time” he says as he empties a wastebasket. “You might want to perform that surgery on yourself to save a buck!” he shouts.

It’s unlikely that you will ever find a doctor’s office run this way, and if you did, you might want to consider finding a different doctor.

The same should hold true for your financial advisor. I am hired by my clients to manage portfolios, prepare financial plans and taxes, and communicate on progress with clients. I also need to stay abreast of the constantly changing tax and financial landscape. Would you really hire me if I actually was a part time administrative assistant to myself as well as my own database administrator, office manager, payroll person and event coordinator? How about your dentist, lawyer or brain surgeon — what if they spent eighty percent of their time on all the other things involved in running a business?

At first, I could save some money by doing it all myself, and in many startup businesses, you don’t have a choice. But as a mature business, my biggest expense is payroll, and I’ll gladly pay my team to make sure we take good care of our clients at the expense of temporary profits. Like a factory machine run 24/7 without a single maintenance break, I’d eventually breakdown if I tried to save money by reducing overhead that way. Fatigued, over-worked and under-staffed is a recipe for disaster. What if I only spent twenty percent of my time planning? I couldn’t imagine keeping up with the demands of my profession if I had to become an expert in twenty other things! Ultimately, my health would decline from stress and burnout, and my wife would divorce me.

It’s just as ridiculous to try to do it all in your personal life. The amount of time it takes to master any field is estimated to be 10,000 hours. Before you undertake to prepare your own taxes, draft your own financial plan on one of those websites, or perform surgery on yourself, consider the potential true cost in terms of lost free time with family or on rejuvenation. Are the cost savings really worth it?

The most precious resource of all is time. If we were good at everything, and enjoyed everything, and had unlimited time, life would be easy. But the reality is that we enjoy only certain things, we aren’t good at everything, and our time on this earth is an unknown.

Life is complicated enough. Whether you are lucky enough to be in retirement or still supporting a family, concentrate on your passions, whether it be family, a hobby, or your job. Find professionals that you can trust, and focus on just the things that matter most to you. Delegate all except your unique skillset and your passions.