Dentists, money and happiness: how much is enough?

In the last few days I’ve talked to dentists who earn half a million pounds a year, £300k/year, and £180k/year and what they have in common is that they are all unhappy…

OK, maybe unhappy is the wrong wrong; they are discontent, unfulfilled, restless, anxious even.

Strange isn’t it? Anyone on the outside looking in would assume that being so well paid would lead to a lovely, happy, anxiety-free life, but that isn’t always the case with dentists. I’ve long wondered why this is and I have a few theories around wanting to be rewarded with many bright shiny objects for what is essentially an impossible and sometimes thankless job…

Perhaps after 20 or more years of doing general dentistry they simply get bored by the repetition and responsibility of clinical dentistry and running a practice.

A really interesting question (that some dentists find impossible to answer or refuse to answer — try it on yourself!) is, “How much is enough?”


  1. how many more bright shiny objects?
  2. how much income?
  3. how much in assets before I can retire?
  4. how big a dental practice?
  5. or even how many dental practices?

There’s another irony (again, quite common) that unites these high earning dental clients, which is that many of them really wish they could stop doing clinical dentistry. But they can’t see or find a way of doing this because they’re living a lifestyle that costs pretty much every pound they’re earning (or even slightly more…).

I’ve lived an acquisitive life too and I’ve also learned that there is a price to acquisitiveness, which can be doing a job that you don’t much like for more hours a week than you really want to do it. And/or giving up on having the time to do things that appeal to you more than work, in order to keep spinning the wheel, and then feeing resentful at how much time and energy work steals from you!

So, here’s what my restless clients and some of you really want. A high income without feeling like a hamster on a wheel and with the freedom to do less or no clinical dentistry and the ability to take three weeks holiday (or three months holiday even) without worrying about whether you can pay the staff wages when you get back…

If any of what I’ve said above describes you or someone you know, here are some strategies and escape routes towards a less anxious/more content version of being a dental principal:

  • Have plans that you implement! A plan to build wealth as well as income, a plan to stop working and a plan that gives you a terrific life.
  • Get hold of a great financial planner to help you answer the question, “How much is enough?” (contact me if you need a recommendation).
  • Grow and organise your dental practice so that you become less and less important as a fee earner. Leverage your time so that you can work less (clinically) and earn more.
  • Stop buying stuff to make yourself feel better (expensive cars, houses, kitchens, holidays). It doesn’t work or only works for a very short time! Try counting your blessings instead and look for pleasure in experiences rather than things…
  • Enjoy every day, if you’re not able to, change what you do (I did!) so that you can enjoy every day. Life is too short to be bored at work…

I know I’m making this sound easy, but actually it isn’t that difficult once you have the intention and the commitment to make it happen.

If you would like some help with making any of this happen, contact me for a chat:


m. 07770 430576

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