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Mindfulness and Positive Reinforcement: The Path to Healthy Financial Habits or “Zending”

Financial Planning Dentist

In today’s fast-paced society, it’s all too easy to fall prey to the temptations of instant gratification. This attitude often trickles down to our financial habits, where we seek immediate pleasure rather than considering long-term consequences. Enter mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and sensations. By pairing mindfulness with positive reinforcement, we can cultivate a resilient financial mindset and pave the way for healthier savings habits something we are going to call “Zending” (Zen + Spending). You are Zending when you can save, and spend with mindful clarity, you are not spending in a way that inflicts anxiety later about the bill, and you are living in a way that is on your own terms and harmonious. 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness originated from Buddhist meditation but has become a secular practice in recent decades. It’s about being present and fully engaging with the here and now. In the realm of finance, this means making decisions with awareness, rather than on autopilot or driven by impulsive desires.

Why is Mindfulness Relevant to Financial Health?

When we’re not mindful, we tend to make financial decisions based on emotions, societal pressures, or even habits formed in our youth. This often leads to spending beyond our means, not saving adequately, or not investing wisely. By being mindful, we can:

  1. Recognize our financial triggers: Understand what drives our spending habits, be it stress, societal pressures, or emotional needs.
  2. Pause before spending: Taking a moment to reflect before making a purchase can prevent impulsive decisions.
  3. Make intentional choices: Mindfulness allows us to align our financial decisions with our core values and long-term goals.

Positive Reinforcement for Financial Mindfulness

Set yourself up for success, and have a “positive reinforcement” plan in place. It will help when things get hard, and the road feels long. 

Positive reinforcement involves adding a favorable stimulus to encourage the behavior that led to it. By rewarding ourselves for positive financial behaviors, we can reinforce and strengthen our newly-formed habits.

Here’s how you can apply positive reinforcement to encourage a mindful approach to finances:

  1. Set Clear Goals: Start with clear, achievable financial goals, whether it’s saving for a vacation, paying off debt, or building an emergency fund. Breaking these down into smaller, actionable steps can help make the process less daunting.
  2. Reward Milestones: Every time you achieve a financial milestone, no matter how small, celebrate it. This could mean treating yourself to a small luxury, spending time in nature, or even just acknowledging your achievement with a moment of gratitude.
  3. Visual Representation: Create a visual tracker for your savings goals, like a chart or jar where you can see your progress. Watching your savings grow can be its own reward.
  4. Enlist Support: Share your financial goals with friends or family, and celebrate your achievements together. They can serve as accountability partners and cheerleaders, amplifying the sense of accomplishment.
  5. Mindful Spending Rituals: Before making a purchase, take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself if this purchase aligns with your financial goals and values. If it does, go ahead, and if it doesn’t, walk away. Consider this act of restraint as a victory and reward yourself in a non-financial way, like taking a moment to enjoy nature or spending time on a favorite hobby.

Conclusion

Combining mindfulness with positive reinforcement is a potent strategy for fostering healthier financial habits. By being present in our financial decisions and rewarding ourselves for positive changes, we can pave the way for a future of financial stability and well-being. It’s not just about saving money—it’s about cultivating a mindset that values long-term well-being over short-term pleasures.

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Kevin Taylor

Better Money Habits: The first 8 “good” money habits (1/2)

Finding yourself in a healthy and happy financial life means practicing better money habits. And, putting you and your family in the best position possible. Raising your income, having income that not employment related, mitigating taxes and positioning your assets in a way to provide maximum benefit for your family are all a part of having “good” money habits. Following these eight very controllable tips will have a positive impact on your families outlook. Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. ~ Benjamin Franklin By Kevin T. Taylor AIF® and Peter Locke CFP® Pay yourself first For many, money gets mentally earmarked as spending, investing, saving, and giving away.  For some, finding the right balance among these four categories is difficult but essential, and a budget can be a very useful tool to help you accomplish this. So, one of the best better money habits, is paying yourself first. This becomes the mantra for the most successful savers and is the fuel for a financial plan. Here is the two step “Pay yourself first” plan: First create a budget: The only way to start planning is to create a budget. Thinking about both the near-term and long-term financial goals and what a monthly spend looks like and what one you can aspire to have in retirement might look like. This will help generate a baseline for mapping out and putting other better money habits in place. But don’t make the mistake of using this formula, Income – Expenses = Savings. This is the source of most people’s failure to plan. Because it makes you and your future self come last, i.e. the end result of the equation. Create a budget with the future you in mind, that version of your future self is the most important part of the equation. That equation should look like Income – Required Savings = Expenses.  Then create a budget that is less than the expenses amount. Although difficult to implement, this is the priority that financially healthy people adopt. Automate your savings: Making savings a priority in your budget.  Consider determining a specific amount and making a deposit on a regular basis. Think about your 401k or other company contribution plan where funds are taken automatically from your paycheck and deposited in an investment vehicle or savings plan with every run of payroll. Your personal savings plan should be no different.  In order to do this, you need to know your required rate (read and listen to our required rate podcast for more information) so you know how much savings you need to put away at your required rate to reach your goals. Know your tax plan The entirety of the IRS tax plan is complicated, full of loopholes and derived from years of bolting on special interests onto the code. Hence, the process of doing taxes reflects this. But, the second of the better money habits addresses this. At its core there are four main sources of income: Employment, investments, inheritance and windfalls. Each of these sources may be taxed in different ways and at different levels. Have a plan and control what you can control.  Have two plans for how you want to be taxed: Tax plan today: You may not feel like you have a lot of control over how you’re taxed and at what rate. But if you take a step back, you will find you have far more control then you may be aware of. Lets build on the budget example.  If you know exactly what your monthly spend looks like, then you can have more control over the total that goes into pre-tax or after-tax savings options. Think about it this way, if you make $100,000 a year but your budget only requires $80,000, then by letting yourself accept all that income you’re likely surrendering somewhere between $5,000 – $9,000 to taxes of the remaining $20,000. This should be written down as a total loss of income that could have been prevented with the use of a budget and a tax plan. Tax plan tomorrow: Knowing how to mitigate taxes in your working years is great, but having a plan for after retirement may be more important. One of the most tragic events in retirement is being confronted with the risk of a short fall, well into retirement. Finding out that your shortfall was the result of poor tax planning and income management. Having a plan in place in your working years, for how you fund pre-tax, Roth, and post tax savings gives you options for controlling the amount you will pay in taxes in a given year in retirement. This helps elongate the timeline your cash will survive, and gives you flexibility for a changing taxation landscape. Additionally, having a diverse source of cash flow from investments is a better money habits you will develop. If placed in the proper accounts it helps confirm both the amount and source of income throughout retirement. Every dollar that is mitigated in tax planning in retirement, helps to elongate the plan, support measures for unforeseen risks, and adds to your legacy. Remember: Tax nuances exist in every area of wealth planning. There may also be opportunities to incorporate potential tax benefits into your plans but oftentimes there are also negative tax consequences associated with certain decisions. It’s important to step back now to have a vision for yourself, so you can plan accordingly. Additionally, when choosing the best investments for your circumstances, taxes should not be the only consideration.  It’s important to factor in the after-tax rate of return in determining tax-efficient investments. For these reasons, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified tax advisor to ensure your circumstances and needs are appropriately accounted for. Stop living on borrowed time All borrowed money needs to be divided into two camps, accretive and erosive. When you borrow money you are borrowing from that money’s future

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Kevin Taylor

Real Estate Investment Due Diligence: Preliminary Assessment

When embarking on a real estate investment journey, one of the first critical steps is the preliminary assessment. This phase sets the foundation for your entire investment strategy and helps you determine whether a property aligns with your goals. In this article, we’ll explore the essential components of the preliminary assessment, including property identification and defining your investment objectives and strategy. Property Identification   1. Location and Geography The adage in real estate, “Location, location, location,” couldn’t be more accurate. The location of a property plays a pivotal role in its potential for success as an investment. Here are key considerations when identifying a property’s location: Neighborhood Analysis: Research the neighborhood’s safety, amenities, schools, and overall quality of life. Is it a desirable area for potential tenants or buyers? Proximity to Services: Evaluate the property’s proximity to essential services such as hospitals, grocery stores, public transportation, and highways. Accessibility can significantly affect property value. Market Trends: Study the historical and current trends in the local real estate market. Is the area experiencing growth, stability, or decline? Are property values appreciating or depreciating? Economic Factors: Consider the economic health of the region. Is there job growth, a diverse job market, or an influx of businesses? Economic stability often translates to higher demand for real estate. Future Development: Investigate any planned or ongoing infrastructure projects, zoning changes, or commercial developments in the area. These factors can impact property values and rental potential. 2. Property Type Real estate encompasses various property types, each with its unique set of characteristics and investment opportunities. Common property types include: Residential: This includes single-family homes, multifamily units (duplexes, apartment buildings), and condominiums. Residential properties often cater to renters or homeowners. Commercial: Commercial real estate includes office buildings, retail spaces, industrial warehouses, and hotels. It offers income potential through leasing to businesses. Industrial: Industrial properties are typically warehouses, manufacturing facilities, or distribution centers. They can provide stable rental income from industrial tenants. Mixed-Use: These properties combine two or more types, such as retail spaces on the ground floor with residential units above. They offer versatility but may require a deeper understanding of multiple markets. Vacant Land: Vacant land can be developed for various purposes, from residential housing to commercial or agricultural use. It offers the potential for significant capital appreciation. Investment Goals and Strategy   1. Identify Investment Objectives Your investment objectives serve as the compass that guides your real estate journey. Common investment objectives include: Rental Income: Generating consistent cash flow through rental properties, which can provide a steady stream of passive income. Capital Appreciation: Focusing on properties in areas expected to experience significant appreciation in value over time, with the intent to sell for a profit later. Portfolio Diversification: Adding real estate to diversify your investment portfolio and reduce risk. Tax Benefits: Utilizing tax advantages available to real estate investors, such as depreciation deductions and 1031 exchanges. Long-Term vs. Short-Term: Determining whether you’re looking for a long-term investment strategy (buy and hold) or a short-term approach (fix and flip) 2. Determine Investment Strategy Once you’ve identified your objectives, it’s crucial to align them with a specific investment strategy: Buy and Hold: Acquiring properties with the intention of holding onto them for an extended period, generating rental income, and potentially benefiting from long-term appreciation. Fix and Flip: Purchasing properties that require renovations or improvements, with the goal of selling them at a higher price after the enhancements are made. Wholesale: Acting as an intermediary between sellers and buyers, typically without taking ownership of the property, and earning a profit through the transaction. Development: Investing in undeveloped land or properties with development potential, where you can build and sell or lease the completed structures. DSTs: A pooled, small-scale, investment vehicle that provides directed exposure to the underlying investment and very limited liquidity. REITs or Funds: Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or real estate funds, offering diversification and professional management. The preliminary assessment stage of real estate investment lays the groundwork for success. By carefully considering property location, type, investment objectives, and strategy, you set the stage for informed decision-making. This phase is just the beginning of your journey toward achieving your real estate investment goals. Stay tuned for our next articles, where we’ll delve deeper into the various aspects of real estate due diligence to ensure your investments are well-informed and profitable.

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Kevin Taylor

How Dentists Can Increase Revenue

There is a wall street mantra, “you can’t cut your way to growth” and that is as true for your dental practice as it is for any publicly traded company. Focusing on increasing revenue is still your best bet for expanding the bottom line. For most dentists, the best way to profit is to increase revenue and put an emphasis on effort that allows you to expand the top line. We review some of the steps other dentists have taken to increase bandwidth, reach, diversity and scale your income. By Kevin T. Taylor, AIF® Increase your client acquisition rate Of surveyed dentists the acquisition rate ranged between 20% to 30%. The average acceptance was 24%. This means that almost eight out of ten prospects you meet with each month are finding treatments recommended by you at a different office, or not at all. Expanding that case acceptance rate to even 50% would increase revenue twofold for the dental office on the same number of prospects. How do you get there? By making two changes to the way you approach patient acquisition.  Process – For our dentistry clients the client acquisition is a documented sequence of events that every prospect goes through. The focus on this pattern becomes repeatable and helps both to determine where prospects exit the sequins and gets your whole team into an organized way of doing business. But it’s key to also remember that people will do business based solely on the way they feel about a person, place, idea etc. So your process should be centered around a way a prospect feels about a decision at every step of the way. The process you implement should reflect that customer centricity and by thinking about every element of what the client goes through and the experience you are hoping to convey.  Teaming Up – Use the case presentation moment as a “team event.” Take this step away from solely being the doctor’s responsibility, and give elements of the presentation to office staff beyond yourself. This change pays dividends in both the way a client feels about their relationship with the office, and offloads some of the management of the engagement onto other people in the office. The presentation of your case cannot be based upon teaching the patient dentistry, that won’t move the needle for patients who decide to do dental treatment based on the way they feel about your team and you, not just the education you provide. Expand your capacity to Increase Revenue The amount of time you can commit to performing the technical aspect of dentistry the more capacity for revenue you will have. This shouldn’t be a revolutionary concept. Our clients focus on increasing revenue need to focus on total capacity by adding additional treatment space, hiring more staff, or adding another dentist or hygienist to the practice. These are all pretty straight forward, so to go a step further they also increase capacity to do more dentistry by increasing their efficiency.  How often are you rescheduling for hygiene? A General Practice should be 80% +.  Are you hygienists doing the rescheduling?  If not, they should be.  Don’t miss out on easy opportunities and don’t assume people are or aren’t doing something. Some other successful examples are setting up a routine for the rooms they visit, setting timelines, scheduling next visits, offloading the sterilization process, and gaining speed on dental procedures through organization. The summation of all these activities allows the dentist to get through more lucrative work, more quickly. Expand your capacity outside your practice – Sources of revenue are not limited to your professional capacity to earn, your profession should be viewed as a platform for generating income. Our dental professionals use their practice income to seed revenue generating activities in and out of the office. They find real estate, financing, medical lending, owning other practices, and other business opportunities to expand their network of income and leverage their profession and their income. Most dentists have at least one source of income beyond the office that they rely on either personally or professional.  Expanding the menu of procedures up market Veneers, implants, endodontics, and crown and bridge are examples of procedures that for our clients have had a higher profit margin and ultimately increase revenue. Offering these types of procedures expands the range you can bring to clients, and given their margin is a more effective use of time that can raise the top line. An important consideration is that the sheer size of the fee isn’t necessarily indicative that it‘s more profitable for the practice. Keeping time, and capacity in mind is the origin of scale when stretching up market.  Expand your market – You can increase the number of prospects you can review treatment plans with by doing more internal and external marketing. But our clients have noted that not all marketing is the same. Word of mouth is still the most popular, but often the hardest to manage and grow. While a concerted effort in online and traditional marketing can be costly and outside the skill set of many dentists. Regardless of the method, what is most important is focusing on ROI and scale, and likely bringing in resources to assist in this field.   It can be difficult to determine what strategy will have the greatest effect for your practice, and it is likely a combination of some or all of the above. Our Certified Financial Planners who specialize in dentistry can help contextualize what your current efficiency metrics look like, benchmark them with other practices, and help you build a platform for generating wealth and cash flow for yourself and your practice.  Increase Revenue by expanding your total market You can increase the number of prospects you can review treatment plans with by doing more internal and external marketing. But our clients have noted that not all marketing is the same when it come to an increase revenue objective. Word of mouth is still the most

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