Are You Focusing On Financial Freedom Or The Tools That Get You There? – Part 2

Written by: Dr. David Phelps, DDS
financial management


In part one of this article, I discussed how optimizing your time is a key part of living a life of freedom. The other important tool to consider is your belief system. Is the risk of failure getting in the way of your truly being free? 

financial management

The first house Dr. Phelps bought with his dad.

Risk of Failure vs. Risk of Regret

As clinicians, we are trained to avoid mistakes and failures at any cost. From dental school onward, we are conditioned to meticulous planning, foresight, and risk mitigation. But outside of the mouth (in the real world), this mentality can hold us back from navigating the opportunities that life provides.

You have put an extensive amount of time and effort into building your business to solve a specific problem, sell that solution, and become an expert in your field. The conventional path to “success” as defined by society dictates that you’re “supposed to” work long hours and make many sacrifices for the majority of your years until you finally retire and live your life of freedom. But is this the only path to the life you desire?

What if the life you really want requires you to be willing to go against the status quo, test something new and possibly fail?

No one wants to fail, but failure at some level is required to move forward. Don’t follow what most people do unless you want the results that most people get. The best way to guarantee yourself not to have the life you want is to do what everyone else is doing – unless you want what everyone else has for a life.

That is a terrible decision. Being able to think for yourself is a muscle that needs to be exercised. The easy way is to go along with everyone else. It takes no effort, no critical thinking or discernment, and it feels safe.

Plus, it’s getting tougher to duplicate yesterday’s lifestyle going forward using the same principles we’ve been taught (old mindsets and beliefs… get a good education even if it comes with massive debt, go into a profession, etc.).

The headwinds are substantial today:

  • Cost of professional education
  • Taxes
  • Government interference
  • Inflation (another tax)
  • Outdated retirement planning
  • Risk of recession/economic volatility

These are creating the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the history of humankind. Not just debt and taxes… inflation is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich and well-connected. It’s not fair.

Wealth inequality will become a lightning rod for social unrest in years to come, so what can you do to protect your hard-earned “nest egg”?

Have The Hard Conversations.

The life you want is on the other side of a few hard conversations. Don’t live a life you hate because you’re too afraid to have them. Most of us avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable.

Whenever I am angry, frustrated, sad, or insecure, I ask myself, “What is the conversation that I have been putting off?” What needs to happen? Having the conversation frees you to move forward. Delay only makes your situation worse.

Anxiety costs. Whenever you have an unmade decision, every second that you spend thinking about the unmade decision could be gotten back simply by making that decision. Overanalyzing has a cost. Some decisions require serious deliberation. But trying so hard not to make a mistake becomes a mistake.

Change Your Perspective.

The amount of debt many new dentists are graduating with today creates significant drag on getting into a “flow state” quickly. I still maintain that it (freedom) is doable in less than ten years, but discipline, a viable game plan, and a spouse (if married) who is in alignment are critical.

Most don’t get guidance, advice, or spousal support. Some say that my generation was “lucky,” or we had the perfect timing – that it would be impossible to duplicate today. I say it’s about desire and a plan. I was the only D1 (first-year student) in my dental class who owned a rental property. The rest is history.

I left my clinical day job in dentistry in my 40s, not because I hated dentistry, but because of my daughter’s health crisis. Fortunately, my early years of grinding allowed me the financial feasibility to buy my time back when my time was more important as a father than as a dentist. It wasn’t luck or good fortune. I had a plan. I had help.

Be a Contrarian.

I didn’t feel like I had to compel myself to “fit in” or be cool. I had friends – good friends. But I didn’t force anything to happen because I felt “needy.” I was content to march to my own beat. I tried some team sports (basketball and baseball), but my eventual focus became tennis.

I believe this was because I could stand on my own and not depend on others for achievement. Not that I’m opposed to team efforts, I’m a huge believer in teams and collaborations. It just wasn’t my imperative at a young age. Why care what others may think of you when those whose approval you secretly seek will someday, just like you, die and be gone? Stop caring what others think of you. Invest in yourself.

Challenge Limiting Beliefs.

For example, the “status quo” is to hand your hard-earned savings over to a financial advisor and have them manage it for you. However, this traditional retirement model will not give you financial freedom before it’s time to retire.

Most financial advisors learn about specific investments and offer similar 401(k)s, index funds, and stock market opportunities to all their clients. This is easy and enables them to follow their company policies and earn appropriate commissions. In addition, many of today’s young advisors have never experienced the current, volatile market with high-interest rates and inflation. They continue to recommend the same old, familiar investments completely unaware of the implications involved with today’s secular market shifts. And if your money is stuck in the “401(k) Lock Box,” you won’t be able to access those funds until you’re 59 1/2 years old.

You have to be more in charge of your financial future than ever before.

The good news is that you can. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need an MBA in finance. In fact, that would be the wrong move.

No one initially told me this. I had to be curious enough to want to find a better way, and then I had to go on the hunt for it. Yes, I did grind for almost 10 years to hit my inflection point – my passive income was replacing my active earned income (and at a much lower tax rate).

What we tolerate becomes a tacit endorsement (low standards). A vice masquerading as a virtue. If you’re willing to tolerate the grind, that is what you will find yourself stuck with. Multiple streams of income are a game-changer. They give you the ability to control your time and the security you need to sleep well every night. Look for my next article to discuss this in more detail.


When his young daughter was hospitalized with leukemia, Dr. David Phelps, DDS could turn to his alternative investments, step away from his dental practice, and be by her side. From this experience, he created Freedom Founders in 2012. This community helps dentists and other professionals take control of their retirement investments to produce passive cash flow, security, and live life on their terms. To contact Dr. Phelps, visit