The following steps were adopted from a number of respected writers, including Renee Sylvestre-Williams at http://Forbes.com/ and A.J. Smith at http://Credit.com/, and they offer a great starting point for avoiding additional debt and achieving financial security:
1. Stay current on all of your existing debts. Pay attention to your own finances. Avoiding a bad situation will only make it worse. Make payments on time to avoid penalties
and added interest that will compound your debt.
2. Make sure you start paying yourself forward. Money experts recommend that we save 5 percent to 10 percent of our salary in a tax-deferred account. Easy? Not at all, but
it should be a goal. Start small and do the best you can consistently.
3. Spend less than you make. And live like you earn less money than you actually do.
4. Make every effort to pay cash. Doing so can help you stick to a monthly budget, only spending what you have on hand. Plus the cost of credit is high.
5. Set goals for saving. Regardless of the amount, a targeted savings plan with a goal in mind is more likely to be adhered to. Vacation travel, a
child's education or even a new car are all stimuli to save on a planned schedule.
6. Practice deferred gratification. You have invested years and a virtual fortune in pursuit of your dream. Nobody is suggesting that you wear ashes and sack
cloth, but slow down on the spending. Is buying the latest smartphone the best use of your money? How big of a TV screen do
you really need? Why not drive your old car as long as possible? Also, budget a set amount every month to spend on entertainment,
clothes, vacations and so on.
7. Don't accumulate credit card or finance debt. Ideally, don't use a credit card at all, but at the very least, pay the entire balance off every month. Consider a card that
pays you for using it. Some credit card companies reimburse you 2 to 5 percent of every dollar spent.
8. Make financial education part of your CE. Read at least one financial-focused publication every month. Attend a financial seminar quarterly. Many financial advisors
and investment companies offer free seminars and newsletters. Watch an investment-focused television program at least every
9. Grow your branches. If you attend medical symposia, read journals and consult with experts, consider that financial CE is no less important.
10. Learn what you do not know. The recent VPI/Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study results revealed that as many as 40 percent of veterinarians don't fully understand their finances,
and one in four admitted they are clueless when it comes to finances and investments. Identify and interview a financial advisor
who works for you. Ask friends, employers and other professionals whom they work with. Start learning the basics. In his book
Outliers: The Story of Success (Back Bay Books, 2011), Malcolm Gladwell says that to become an expert in any venture requires an estimated 10,000 hours
of effort and practice. It doesn't matter if we are talking athletics, music or finances. We don't have 10,000 hours to spare.
That's why you need to identify advisors who have invested the time. It is their job to know and to help you understand.
11. Invest in experiences rather than things. Studies demonstrate that buying a new item is only fleetingly rewarding. Experiences, on the other hand, can be enjoyed, relived
and shared. The shine may never wear off.
12. Count on the support of family and friends. This comes from my old friend Don Dooley. If you are married, make every effort to stay married. Divorce carries incalculable
emotional costs, and the financial ramifications can be crippling.
Is there any assurance in life that you will be rich? No. Wealth depends on a number of factors, including where you start,
good fortune, the choices you make and the choices you have already made. Some people have a huge head start in life. Born
on third base, they believe they have hit a triple. Maybe you start off with a bunt! The point is to get on base.
Dr. Michael Paul, @mikepauldvm on Twitter, is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary
Consulting. He lives in Anguilla in the British West Indies.