Building Wealth Outside Your Practice- Real Lessons from Dr. Jerry Hayes

September 22, 2019
This week’s email is highly personal for me, not because it’s about finances (it is) or optometry (it is), but because I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite people in the world, my father Dr. Jerry Hayes. We talk about his background, his attitudes on money and how he built wealth outside his practice and businesses. 

Dr. Hayes was born in New Orleans and raised in rural Mississippi by a single mother along with two young sisters. He attended Mississippi State, then LSU (Geaux Tigers!) before entering Southern College of Optometry. Upon graduation, there were no corporate optometry jobs in Mississippi at that time, so he elected to buy a small practice in Vicksburg. 

Our conversation meanders a bit (you can watch the whole thing HERE and please forgive the fact that my audio doesn’t synch with my lips), but here are the big takeaways you can learn in 120 seconds of reading:

Started saving early in his career: Dr Hayes started his savings program in his mid twenties with 10% of his pre-tax income. He noted that he and his wife had to live below their means to accomplish this.  

Learning from failures: Like many optometrists, Jerry indulged his entrepreneurial streak and pursued what we might call “side hustles” today-- he and his wife bought rental homes and opened a cosmetics boutique. Ultimately those ventures were stressful time eaters and money losers, but taught them a lot about the real world of business. 

Money is a Tool: Growing up in a household that lived paycheck to paycheck, Dr. Hayes says he knew he wanted to be financially independent, but felt uncomfortable with the prospect of being wealthy. Over time he realized that while money isn’t good or bad; it’s critically important life tool you need to learn how to manage. It's a major problem if you don’t have enough, and it's something you have to have for building your practice, supporting your family and doing the things that are important to you in life. 

On DIY Money Management: like many young doctors, Dr. Hayes didn't start his investment program with a well thought out financial plan, but working with a broker to buy individual stocks and mutual funds. The reality is, only a tiny percentage of stock brokers beat the market long term, let alone doctors doing it part time. At the same time, he was helping his mother manage a small inheritance and quickly realized her portfolio was doing better than his because he was an emotional and risky investor with his own money. That is when he decided to engage a professional investment advisor. 

The Single Biggest Money Mistake ODs make: Dr. Hayes says the biggest financial mistake ODs make is viewing their personal wealth through the lens (clever pun!) of their practice income. Yes, you have to put money back in your practice to grow but most ODs over-invest there to the detriment of their personal finances. The key is to balance what you reinvest in your practice with drawing distributions to build wealth outside your practice. 

His Best Wealth Building Advice For ODs: Dr. Hayes advises that even if you’re starting your investment program at $0 today, you should start putting something away on a weekly or monthly basis and then be very wise about how you invest your savings over time. The younger you start the better, but it’s never too late to start building wealth outside your practice. 

I hope you enjoyed these life lessons almost as much as I did (admittedly I'm a little biased).

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