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How Can Therapists Actually Retire? – An interview with David Frank, financial planner for therapists

Curt and Katie talk with David about managing finances, including student loan debt and retirement. We look at when to start saving, what to do when you’re starting to save for retirement later in life, and how much is too much to save. David also shares his concept of a Money Date and how you should start looking at your financial picture. He also talks about financial planning and when to seek a professional for support.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

Interview with David Frank, Turning Point Financial Life Planning

Interview Bio Picture: Picture of David Frank, financial planner for therapists and owner of Turning Point Financial Life Planning, our guest on this week's episode of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast.David Frank is on a mission to ensure every therapist has access to unbiased and fiduciary financial advice! Through the firm he founded, Turning Point Financial Life Planning, he helps therapists navigate every element of their financial lives: from understanding your practice P&L and building a personal budget to managing student loan debt and investing for retirement… and everything in between. Dave earned both his undergraduate and MBA degrees in finance and he also completed a certificate in personal financial planning. He’s worked for over twenty years in investment banking, corporate finance and now personal finance. Don’t let his love of the tax code and spreadsheets scare you off! You’re just as likely to find him with his nose buried in one of Pema Chodron’s books as reading up on the latest finance planning techniques.

In this podcast episode we talk about:

Managing Personal and Professional Finances

  • How perfectionism can get in the way of saving
  • The importance of “just getting started” in saving for retirement
  • Saving money is a practice, not something you figure out once
  • Why it is important to save money as soon as you can

Navigating Student Loan Debt

  • Student loan debt and how overwhelming it is to look at these debts
  • The desire to pay off this debt as quickly as possible
  • David’s advice to save at least one time your annual income before aggressively paying off your student loan debt
  • The comparison of interest rates on your debt versus returns on investing money

Retirement and Investing in your Future

“Starting to save and invest young is such great advice… and… it’s advice for time travelers” – David Frank

  • For younger folks, the advice is to save as soon as possible
  • What to do if you are closer to retirement age and you haven’t started saving for retirement
  • How to determine when you can retire

“No one does this money thing perfectly, even if we start out of the gate pretty strong.” – David Frank

  • What to do when life happens and you have to start over
  • David’s own story of having to start over
  • Societal fear due to 2008 and the Great Recession

David Frank’s Concept of “Money Dates”

  • Reserve time each week to look at your money
  • Start understanding how much you need to save
  • Idea: go to the Social Security Administration Website to see what you’re entitled to in social security

How Much Money to Save

  • The money mindset concerns that can get in the way of saving (or even looking at) your money
  • How much money is too much money to save?
  • Emergency funds and the feeling of safety and security
  • The risks of saving too much money
  • Quality of life questions when you are underspending
  • Online tools to identify what you need in retirement, so you know when you’ve saved enough
  • Actual numbers of what to save for retirement and what you can spend now

Financial Planning – When and why to seek help with your money

  • The complexity of the decisions related to paying debt versus investing
  • The number of options available to each person when making decisions on our money
  • Get feedback on how well you are doing on your practice financials and saving for retirement
  • Risk planning, financial planning, estate and incapacity planning
  • The importance of understanding your values when you look at how to spend your money
  • Financial planning when you don’t have a lot of money
  • Choosing what you sacrifice when you decide to invest in shiny objects
  • The problem of “shoulds” and getting financial advice from other therapists

Our Generous Sponsor for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:

Logo Image of Simplified SEO Consulting, our very generous sponsor for this week's podcast episode of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide. Simplified SEO provides search engine optimization services and training to improve your organic search rankings on Google.

Simplified SEO Consulting

Simplified SEO Consulting is an SEO business specifically for therapists and other mental health providers. Their team of SEO Specialists know how to get your website to the top of search engines so you get more calls from your ideal clients. They offer full SEO services and DIY trainings.

These days, word of mouth referrals just isn’t enough to fill your caseload. Instead, most people go to Google when they’re looking for a therapist and when they start searching, you want to make sure they find you!  That’s where Simplified SEO Consulting comes in.

Founded and run by a private practice owner, they understand the needs of a private practice.

They can help you learn to optimize your own website OR can do the optimizing for you.

Visit SIMPLIFIEDSEOCONSULTING.COM/MODERNTHERAPIST to learn more and if you do decide to try your hand at optimizing your own website, you can get 20% off any of their DIY SEO Courses using the code “MODERNTHERAPIST”

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

David’s Website for Turning Point Financial Life Planning

David’s Finance Quickstart Guide

David’s Quickstart Intensive Coaching Session (use code MTSG for 20% off)

David on LinkedIn

Social Security Administration Website

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

The 4-1-1- on your 401K

Making Bank as a Therapist

Overcoming Your Poverty Mindset

Don’t Take Tax Advice From Therapists

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:

Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Curt Widhalm  00:00

This episode is brought to you by Simplified SEO consulting.

Katie Vernoy  00:03

Simplified SEO consulting is an SEO business specifically for therapists and other mental health providers. Their team of SEO specialists know how to get your website to the top of search engines so you get more calls from your ideal clients. They offer full SEO services and DIY trainings.

Curt Widhalm  00:21

Stay tuned at the end of the episode for a special discount.

Announcer  00:24

You’re listening to the modern therapist Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings to support you as a whole person and a therapist. Here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm  00:40

Welcome back modern therapists, this is the modern therapist Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for all things therapists. And that includes money and how we’re setting ourselves up for running good practices, taking care of ourselves, both while we’re working and towards retirement so that way, we don’t have to do this forever. And we can potentially retire someday. And here to help us talk about this is David Frank. He is a financial planner and the founder of Turning Point financial, and he’s here to help put the fun back in funds and take the ire out of retirement. So thank you very much for joining us today.

David Frank  01:29

Brilliant, thanks so much for that introduction. Kurt. I’m super excited to be here and to talk about, yeah, all things Money and Finance and even the dreaded R word of retirement.

Katie Vernoy  01:40

I’m so glad you’re here, we had a lot of fun working together around the conference. And we definitely I feel like you’re a friend of the show and a friend of mine. And so I’m so glad you’re here talking about that.

David Frank  01:51


Katie Vernoy  01:51

Because I think there’s a lot that needs to be discussed. I feel like this is an important conversation for us to be having. And you’re a great person to do it because you’re a financial planner, who has chosen to work specifically with therapists. But before I get ahead of myself, the first question we ask everyone is who are you? And what are you putting out to the world?

David Frank  02:26

Yeah, so as Curt mentioned, my name is David Frank, and I am a financial planner, and the founder of turning point, financial fat is a financial planning firm that I began and it is focused exclusively on helping therapists or mental health professionals take care of their finances. So that’s what I’m putting out into the world. That’s what I’m doing. My kind of mission is to help people live better lives to help your listeners, your therapists out there live better lives, and also grow their impact in the world. Because when we get sort of some of this money stuff out of the way, we can be more present for every element of our lives. And I think it’s less about the money and more about the actual feelings and feeling better about money and not being so stressed and overwhelmed about it.

Curt Widhalm  03:08

What’s wrong with you if that you chose to work with therapists? How does somebody be like, You know what there there are people who are easy to work with with money, and I’m up for a challenge. Why? What brought you to the the mental health world as far as your client population here?

David Frank  03:31

Yeah, great question. Well, so within the financial planning community, much like within the therapist, community and mental health community, there’s this like raging debate going on about whether niching down and really specifically defining your target audience or target market is a good idea or not. And when I started turning point, when I started my own business, the big thing I was worried about is like, is anyone actually going to show up and want to work with me, like actually pay me money for my services? And the other the secondary concern was like, will I be able to add enough value will I actually be able to, like, really understand what’s going on for folks and really help them in a meaningful way. And I became super convinced that the solution to both of those anxieties was to define a niche of who I really wanted to work with. And it was a very, what’s the right word, I was just very stressed about getting the right niche. And at that time, I was, I was seeing my own therapist, and I had been seeing this guy for several years, and he was awesome. I was working with kind of a life and business coach, and I was agonizing over this decision. And finally, my coach reflected back to me something that was obvious to him, but was invisible to me. And he just said, Why don’t you work with therapists? And I was like, Oh, my it was just like a light went off. That’s the wrong metaphor, but it just it felt so right. I love talking to therapists, like I sometimes I think like a therapist. I love learning about their business. And it just seemed like a population that I could help and like you say, like, maybe maybe I’m up for the challenge.

Katie Vernoy  05:01

What do you think therapists get wrong when they think about retirement or saving money or taking care of their finances?

David Frank  05:08

Yeah, I what I see is something that not just therapists get wrong, but just generally most people get wrong. And that’s this idea of having to figure it all out or get something perfect, rather than just simply getting started. And when it comes to managing finances, both personal finances and professional finances, like your private practice finances, I think the key really is simply just to get started. And so if we think about saving for retirement, I mean, man, just even saying that makes me feel a little bit overwhelmed, right, like, there’s so much there to navigate and figure out. But I think the key is to just sort of get started and meet yourself where you’re at and just say, Okay, what you really need to do to save for retirement is just that to start saving. So understanding if you can put away even if it’s just $5, every month, just get started, build that muscle, build the practice of saving some money and moving it, even if it’s just moving it to a dedicated checking account where you’re beginning to build up savings, then like down the road, you can come back and sort of figure out, okay, I should probably be investing this money rather than simply putting it into a checking account or something like that. And it is like it’s a practice, this stuff is not a project that you sit down one day and get it all done. And then you’re just good. It’s kind of like a mindfulness practice is really the way I often think about it and encourage others to think about it is to carve out some time, every week to just spend with your money stuff, both your internal stuff, what comes up for you, when you’re dealing with money and finances, and with the external stuff of the accounts that you have in the amounts of those accounts and how you navigate it. So I’m just a huge proponent of just sort of getting started and make taking those small, little steps. And I feel too often people get hung up that like, No, I have to make this big, monumental shift, that perfectionist tendency that so many of us have, can really hold us back.

Curt Widhalm  06:57

So I think in your own way, you’ve answered a couple of the questions that we would normally ask here, which is, when should people start saving? And how much should they start saving, which I’m hearing you say, early, and whatever you can. So that’s kind of the first part of this, for maybe some of our listeners who are earlier on in their careers who are facing things like massive student debt, where it’s like, well, I should be throwing money at, you know, getting the government off my back or blowing providers off my back. What do you say to somebody in that position where it’s very earlier on where they might be kind of death, avoidant, as opposed to starting to think about investing in themselves?

David Frank  07:44

Well, yeah, a couple of things I want to say in response to that. And first, Curt, I think you hit the nail on the head, start saving as soon as you can, there’s this this magic of compounding what we talked about in the financial world. And that just means the sooner that you get started saving, the longer you have, or the longer you give those investments to grow. So the amount that you need to save can are like the percentage of your income that you should be saving toward retirement, it can change dramatically depending on when you start. So if you’re starting to save for retirement, say in your mid to late 20s, from mid to late 20s, all the way through retirement, that’s like 40 years for most of us. And so if you start that early, you could save like 15% of your income and be absolutely fine. The longer you wait, the greater percentage of your earnings that you’ll ideally need to set aside. Now I don’t want anyone to hear those numbers and kind of like freak out and prevent them from from even getting started. Because anything is better than nothing in this sort of situation. So that’s part of the answer. And we can probably talk more about that. But the the student loan issue, I think is a huge one. And yeah, I mean, I really feel like it’s so it’s so easy to want to avoid student loans and not even look at them. And what I would say is that, regardless of the type of debt, whether it’s student loan debt, or a mortgage or auto loan, or really almost anything else, I don’t encourage people to start aggressively paying off debt until they’ve saved, you know, roughly about one times their their annual income through a combination of emergency funds, retirement account savings, and even just, you know, ordinary savings and other other investments. The one exception to that might be really high interest rate credit card debt, which you might want to pay off. But student loans, especially, the only way that you can really get into trouble with student loans is to ignore them and not look at them. There are so many amazing options in terms of different income driven repayment plans out there. If you have federal student loan debts, I would encourage you to start saving and start looking at your student loans and considering what might the right path be for you because there are so many good options out there. Unfortunately, because there are many options. It’s a little confusing and overwhelming to navigate. But there are definitely great resources out there. So super long answer To your question, allow you guys to jump in.

Curt Widhalm  10:03

And if I can provide, you know, maybe a little bit of a perspective on this, you know, if you’re looking at student loans, if your rates are like 5 6 7 percent in interest, even that can feel scary. But when you look at like stock market returns over the last couple of years, money that you could be saving 5% on by putting into your loan, you could have been getting returns of 1015, or more percent, depending on how that kind of stuff is invested, where you’re using that same money to make your retirement come sooner. This is where having some of the ability to kind of sit and look at some of this stuff. And sitting with somebody like David would, I’m sure walk you through some of these kinds of comparisons of here’s how you can make even very little money work for you.

David Frank  10:49

Yeah, I think that’s that’s an excellent point, Curt. And like that’s, that’s right. Like, it’s always great to be investing the money and seeing really great returns from the stock market, like we have seen over the last couple years, really over the last 10 years, it’s been an insane period, where there’s been really healthy returns. And you’re right, like you could have not pay down your student loans whatsoever. Because yeah, they’re probably in the neighborhood of 5 6 7 8% interest each year, something like that. And that’s just it’s so complicated. Like there’s so many factors to think through that I think yes, the more you spend some time just sort of looking and learning yourself, the more comfortable you’ll start to be with it. And that way you can kind of avoid making more rash, emotional decisions, which is sometimes when folks get themselves in trouble. And yeah, you know, I’m having a conversation with financial person, who you who you trust, and who can help you make the right decision for you. Because there there is no one right decision really ever when it comes to all these things. It really is personal and helping a client or helping the person sitting across from me determine what is the right move for them, given their life’s their their life, rather, their goal, their anxieties around money, their worries, how do we manage all those different things?

Katie Vernoy  11:59

I like that you’re talking about it as individual decisions. I think there are some things we’re kind of the cold hard numbers with some therapists are great at math, many therapists are not great at math, that’s kind of a trope that I don’t actually like, I think it’s this thing of, of being able to actually look at the cold, hard numbers of what do I save by paying the minimum payment on my debt? Versus what do I earn from even putting something in a very risk free I mean, the stock market isn’t necessarily risk free, you could make 10%, or you could lose 20%. You know, there’s, there’s so much there. And I think some people can hold that risk and are used to that, and some folks can’t. And so I think looking at what, what makes sense for you with the emotional makeup of how you’re looking at your money, the amount of bass that you have and can play around with as well as what your debt looks like. It seems like understanding that is really important. I think when we’re looking at folks who are first starting out, which is kind of Kurt’s question, which is like they have student loan debt, most likely, they are not earning a lot. And so you’re saying kind of look at the numbers identify what’s going to make the most sense, save a year’s worth of salary before you really aggressively attack your student loan debt, I would recommend probably paying minimum payments. So you don’t start? Well, yes, fee is as well. But like, I think there are folks that want they want to be debt free. And I think there’s also a lot of folks who know that most people are never completely debt free because of mortgages or, or car loans or other types of debt that can be accrued. But when you look at folks who are a little further on, and whether it’s age wise, or career wise, they’re further along, and maybe they haven’t saved for retirement, what would you say to them, because I think for folks who are early on and they can save the $5 a month or whatever, that’s awesome. And I think that there is that compounding that you were talking about. But there are folks that I’ve talked to even that are like, I am in my 50s I’m in my 60s, I haven’t done anything. And I just don’t want to have to work forever. And so what would you recommend for folks who are further on in their life who are maybe further on in their career? What should you say, you know, how do you determine what you should save? How do you determine how and when you can retire? I mean, for folks who are later on I think there’s there’s sometimes a bigger question mark than folks for starting out. I mean, the message when you’re first starting out when you’re younger, and you’re newer in your career, like just save, start it, you’ve got a lot of time it’ll grow, we promise. But for folks that don’t have that time, it’s especially people who have recently seen their parents, colleagues and friends go through, you know, 2008 or, or different times when retirement just dropped out completely. I mean, there’s some fear there’s some societal fear around investing. Potentially you have to look at too.

David Frank  14:47

Yeah. No, I like the way you teed up that question too, because I Yes, starting to save and invest young is such great advice. And I also like to describe it as I’m like, It’s advice for time travelers, right? Because it’s like yeah, that is a lovely thing, but like who actually does that? I mean, some people do for sure.

Katie Vernoy  15:05

Curt and I both did because of the backgrounds that we have. So we both are very fortunate. But not everyone has that.

David Frank  15:12

No, well, just like as an aside, like, I also have like that similar background, like I have an undergraduate degree in finance, I have an MBA in finance. And so like, right out of the gate, in my early 20s, I was like, I gotta be saving, I got to be putting all this money in a 401k. And I did that from like, 22, or whatever to like, 32. And I was doing great. Like I was killing it. And then you know, life happened. And like, I went through a really rough period in my life, I ended up unemployed for like, three years. And guess what, like, I burned through all those savings. So I thought I had done all the right things. And I had, but like, life just happens. And so the story that I told myself at the age of 35, when I was like, essentially broke and starting over was, like, there were a lot of nevers like this is I’m never gonna have the same amount of money, I’m never gonna have the security, I’m never gonna feel comfortable. It’s just like, it’s kind of like it’s over for me. And the truth is that life had all kinds of twists and turns in store for me, and that most of what I was telling myself then wasn’t true. So why do I even tell that story? I think the point is, is like a no one does this money stuff perfectly, even if we start out of the game strong, so just be kind and forgiving to yourself, number one. And number two, you really don’t know what the future holds like there can be tremendous improvements made in a really short amount of time. So with that, as background, I would say, again, I have this concept I call money dates, which is just set aside 30 minutes, every day, every week rather, or so every week or so 30 minutes or so put it on your calendar and just treat it as if it were, you know, a client appointment and be like, I’m going to sit with my money stuff, and just look at it every week, and just see what’s happening. So that I think, especially if you’re find yourself later in life, and you use the specter, you have worry or fear about retirement, just start that practice, start getting familiar with what’s happening, start understanding maybe how much you might need to save. Yeah, and also try to bring someone else into it with you. Maybe that’s a significant other, maybe that’s someone in your personal life, who you feel comfortable having this conversation with, just to sort of make it seem less private and scary. That could also be someone like me, like a financial professional, that you have reason to believe would be trustworthy, and would give you good advice. Because there are always options, there’s always hope. There’s so many things, different levers, you can pull. And the last point I’ll make on this is that if you’re really worried First, I would go to the Social Security Administration website and just log in, create an account, see what your you’ll be entitled to in terms of social security benefits, it might actually be a little bit more than you’re suspecting. And that’s just like so that that can provide a really solid base. It’s not like you have to pay for everything yourself in return in retirement, we do have a bit of a backstop. So start there, and then begin to think, okay, beyond that monthly payment that I’ll likely get, what more might I need? And how might I start to get there,

Curt Widhalm  18:05

I’m imagining these money dates of just sitting around with your financial statements and staring them in the eyes and doing the 36 questions to make you fall in love. Alright. Sounds great. But I don’t know also, that it’s that far off, when it’s actually being able to look at this stuff intently as you’re describing, and kind of shifting this from maybe more of the personal finance section to you also work with people as far as their finances towards their practices as well. How did how did those conversations look?

David Frank  18:39

Yeah, I mean, they they really run the gamut, you know, you know, what, what most people want to know, is just like, Am I doing okay? Like, is this okay? And I think the answer is, it’s kind of this, I’ll give like someone like something I read on the cover of a Buddhist magazine, which is like, your perfect just as you are. And you could use some improvement. I feel like that’s always kind of like where I kind of began with this. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s just like, that’s just the truth, you know, and like, so everyone, like, it’s a similar practice of just being like, okay, let’s, let’s look at your practice financials. When’s the last time you looked at your profit and loss statement or your p&l? And for a lot of people, it’s like, well, the last time I had to, which is when I had to prepare my taxes last year, and like, from there, like I’m not really sure. And so it’s like, okay, let’s no big deal, a very common experience. And we can and we can do better. So we can just sort of look at it and just sort of spend time with those numbers and just be like, I don’t know what any of this means. Right? Like it’s they’re confusing. These financial statements are confusing. And every therapist that I’ve ever met, whether they’re self described good at math or terrible at math, can understand them. Because this is just simple math. I think it’s more about creating room and space for the uncomfortable feelings that come up. When when folks start to, to work with their practice finances, and it’s Working to sort of sweep out of the way limiting beliefs around Oh, I’m just no good at this, I’ll never figure this out. Because I guarantee like you can figure it out. And sometimes sure you need some support from a professional like me or a peer or whomever. But it’s just spending time. And yeah, asking those 36 questions to fall in love with your practice, P&L, I think is, it’s not a bad place to begin.

Katie Vernoy  20:23

That’s funny, I think there’s, there’s so much emotion around money and security. And, and I think everybody, you know, there’s a lot of different episodes, we’ve done with different folks on, you know, kind of money mindset and stuff. And we can link to those in the show notes as well. But I think that there’s this idea, you know, we’ve got the folks that haven’t saved anything and just, you know, they’re living in a way or practicing in a way where they’re barely making enough money to survive, or they’re just not thinking about it, or whatever, you know. And then there’s folks I’ve interacted with on the other side, where they don’t pay themselves a lot, they save a lot of money in a, like an emergency fund, or they’re investing a lot. And one of the questions that you had suggested we talk about is can you save too much? And so, so I wanted to ask about that. Because I think that there are folks who feel very safe, when they have a lot of money saved or set aside. And then and then they don’t touch it at all. And to me, I feel like there there’s some benefit to that. But I think to a point, and then there’s also I think some potential things that can get in the way if you need a gigantic emergency fund.

David Frank  21:41

Yeah, I mean, well said exactly. And I kind of like talking about this too, because having money saved wherever it is, whether it’s an a retirement account, or an investment account. It for a lot of people, it feels like safety and security. And I think on some level, but you know, money touches pretty much everything. I might argue everything in life, like every moment of your day, is impacted by money, even if you’re just like carving out enough time to not be working or thinking about money. That’s that’s time, I guess, theoretically, you could be making money, or something like that. So it’s so intertwined. And we get so many messages from society around money and why it’s important what we should be doing with it. That yeah, that at that end of the spectrum, where it’s just like, I want to squirrel away and save, because it creates safety and security, I think, yeah, I think I think there is a risk of saving too much. And it’s the question I always ask is sort of, you know, what, what is important? Like, if you find yourself saving a lot of money, ask yourself what is important about having so much money in this account, or what is important about having a big emergency fund, you know, what comes up that there’s, there’s certainly something going on, and I think it isn’t necessarily bad. And yet, I would say if you are constantly finding yourself having to live from a place of restriction or scarcity in that, like, oh, I can’t take that vacation. Because I I’d rather be saving money. I can’t even maybe take a professional training because even though I feel really passionate about doing that, I need to be saving money. If you find you’re constantly saying no to things that would nourish you that would make your quality of life better, then I think there’s something there’s something you need to look at. And again, it’s it’s it’s likely an emotional issue. And I think that’s that’s another good opportunity to, you know, work with a professional or also there’s like so many, like pretty good tools online these days to help you assess where, where am I really in terms of saving for retirement? How much? Like, how safe do I do I need to be? This is like a personal story about saving so much for retirement, I had a friend who lived in New York, he worked for, I can’t remember who he worked for. But he had, he had like a pension, like a really generous pension. And he was putting a ton of money into his 401k. And he was like three years away from retirement. And like, by any measure, he had all the safety and security at least financially that anyone could ever hope for. And he was so looking for forward to retirement, and then the pandemic hit. And he he died of a heart attack, just a sudden heart attack. Totally unexpected. I mean, the reason I share that is like It was tragic. It was horrible. And, and it’s life, right? Like we’re never we’re not promised anything. So I think it’s got to be a balance. Yes, save and plan for the future. And just know that there is no such thing as complete safety and security because our life’s journeys can end really at any point. And I think we just need to acknowledge both of those facts that yes, we want to be living in the moment and making our current life as good as reasonably possible. And also be planning prudently for the future and then balancing those two and it’s tricky.

Curt Widhalm  24:50

Besides just like squirreling money away and the places to put that money and how to spend that money. Are there other considerations of how therapy should be taking care of themselves and their assets. You know, like with your friend example here, I’m sure that part of the extension of this is looking at things like wills and power of attorney type things.

David Frank  25:14

Yeah. Yeah. All that fun stuff. That’s yeah, like, I think of it as like, risk risk planning, and then estate and incapacity planning. And as a comprehensive financial planner, those are things that I that I help folks look at as well. And they’re things that many of us don’t want to want to look at. But yeah, you know, you know, I think when it comes to like, sort of estate in an incapacity planning, and that’s the type of work that I will help clients think through, and you almost certainly need to work with a professional attorney licensed in your state of residence to put a plan like that in place. So many folks think, oh, estate planning, that’s something for rich people. And yeah, that’s true. And it’s also pretty much for all of us. So like, putting in place like a professional will, which really just ensures that your your clients are cared for in the event, you can’t continue to show up for them the way you do today in your practice, and also having like personal incapacity and estate planning documents in place, powers of attorney, you know, wills, maybe maybe a trust to depending on what state you live in, these are uncomfortable things to think about. It’s not comfortable to think about our own potential, passing our inevitable passing, or our potential incapacity. And I think it’s really important. It’s really, I think, I view this stuff as like an extension of loving kindness to, to your future self, to your clients, to your family members and loved ones. And having having a thought partner to think through what are the right pieces of that plan to have in place for you, I think is is really important.

Katie Vernoy  26:46

The balance between living now and saving for the future, I think is a really tough one. I think along the lines of we could die at any moment. But we also could live longer than we expect.

David Frank  26:57


Katie Vernoy  26:57

I think the retirement age of 65, which, you know, came into place when people lived to be 70 or 75. You know, I think people living into their hundreds, I think that there is there is a lot longer that people theoretically could be retired. We also know there’s a lot of therapists who practice well beyond that, because it’s it can be a good quote unquote, retirement career. But to me, it seems like there’s there’s a lot to consider both in how do I live well, today, but also, how do I save enough to really live a long, long life, you know, like, the hope is that you’re going to live and be in retirement for 3040 years. Right. You know, I think that that seems that’s what I want. And so, if we’re looking at identifying, I don’t even know if there’s a there’s an answer here. And it probably is, you know, appropriately and it depends answer. But is there a percentage of our income that we should say, versus a percentage that we should and reinvest into our businesses? Or a percentage that we should use to enjoy our lives? Like, like, Are there standard typical percentages that people can kind of keep in mind when they’re trying to make some of these decisions? If they are currently doing that on their own or with a, a non professional thinking partner?

David Frank  28:27

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think you’re right, that my answer is going to be prefaced by It depends.

Katie Vernoy  28:33

Of course,

David Frank  28:34

and yeah, you know, and obviously, nothing we’ve covered here today, including what I’m about to say is advice for anyone listening, right? Like, I don’t know, you personally, listener, whoever you are. So I can’t give advice that’s, that’s tailored to your particular situation. But in general, going back to the theme of it, it also depends when you’ve started saving. So if you’re starting to save for retirement, and you’re somewhere in your mid to late 20s, targeting saving 15% of your, of your pre tax income. So a quick aside, like it’s difficult to know, like, especially if you’re self employed, you have your own private practice, how much money am I even making, the best place I think to go and look for that is on the first page of your federal income tax return. I know that’s like a scary place like no one wants to go to unless they’re absolutely forced to. But there’s so many good numbers on it. And there, you will find your total income on the very first page, I think it’s like line 16 or something, and that’ll tell you your total income. So I would say find that number. And then say if you’re in your 20s, multiply that by 15% or 15% of that, that’s ideally how much you should be saving every year. If you’re in your late 30s, I would say that number should be closer to 25% of your total income. And then if you’re around 50, late 40s 50s, then that number starts to get closer to even 50% which is like a scary number. So that’s that’s kind of aspirational, like who can really do like that’s, that’s really, really tough, which is why I don’t want those numbers like they’re not carved in stone. They’re rough guidelines. And if you find yourself for not meeting them, that would be a typical human experience, right? Like most people aren’t going to consistently meet those. That’s okay, just continue doing the best the best you can. And then like, once, if and when you can hit those numbers, then it’s like the rest of your money, you need to figure out like, what, what is the right balance for you, and then it totally depends like is, if you can hit your savings targets of let’s like, roughly, for most people, it’s gonna be like 15, in the range of 15 to 25%. Like, that’s mostly realistic. And that’s like a pretty solid number that we can really begin to work with that opens up options for yourself for your future self, then they spend the rest of the money in the way that feels best to you, like, yeah, reinvest some of that. reinvest in your practice, like do do what feels what gives you energy, like kind of like, like, you know, what gives you joy? Like that’s, that’s really how I think it’s important to think about

Curt Widhalm  30:53

when you’re working with clients, I’m imagining that some of the depends that you’re talking about here and getting to know them probably comes very much like therapy, and what do you value would you are hitting some of these financial goals and how you should spend it that for some clients, it might be, alright, you need to start spending this money, let’s talk about buying a second house. Whereas for somebody else that might be, you know, what’s you know, and see what kinds of, you know, charitable contributions that you can make? Do you ever find yourself in those very, very positive positions, but also on the flip side of that, like, hey, maybe you shouldn’t get that doctorate, because it doesn’t fit within your financial plans, or any kinds of other like, hold up like, this doesn’t seem to fit with the lifestyle and values that you’ve talked about?

David Frank  31:46

Yeah, I mean, what I like to say, and this is not an original phrase that borrowed it from someone else in the personal finance industry, but I like to say like, you can have basically anything you want, you just can’t have everything. So if you really want to do something, for whatever reason, I always encourage a little bit of self reflection, just sort of asking what what is it about, for example, getting a doctorate that feels so important and vital to you? And then if you answer that question to your satisfaction, like that’s not it’s not my life, it’s not up to me what the best use of your money is, if it’s really something that’s vital and important to you, then the question is, well, what are the right trade offs? So let’s, let’s just look with some clarity and say, This is how much this is going to cost. In the case of a doctorate, there’s student loans and options like that, and just be as clear eyed as we can about the future and say, Okay, here’s why you want to do this, here’s the why it’s important, or here are the elements about it that are important for you. And here’s the numbers associated with that, let’s just figure out how to make it work well. And sometimes when when, when folks see the other the sacrifices and other areas of their life that they might have to make, suddenly they realize, actually, maybe this isn’t what I want, because there are competing employer priorities that are actually more important. And I just, I sort of forgot. So sometimes what I do is just remind people just reflect back to them, what they’ve told me, or what they’ve demonstrated to me is important to them. Because as human beings we do with like, we see like a shiny object, and we want to chase after it. And sometimes that shiny object is like really something you should be pursuing. And other times, it’s something that’s just a distraction, and we just need to be reminded of what’s more important.

Katie Vernoy  33:23

I love that I think it’s really important, I guess that’s the right word, I can think of here to understand yourself your values, and put put an individual plan together, I see a lot of shoulds you should be making this much money, you should be doing this, you should be doing that. And I think being able to really talk through with a knowledgeable person, you know, what, what actually are my values around this? What are my life goals? And how do I actually plan for those life goals versus someone else’s, and and even really looking at individual circumstances, I’ve had folks that have told me that they don’t want to take insurance because they get $5 less than their full fee. And I’m like, you’re listening to advice from people in California where they get half of their full fee, you know, and so, like, you know, all of these shoulds and the kind of impromptu financial advice from other therapists and Facebook groups I think is something that we really need to fight against so that people can look at their own numbers, their own situation and make their own plan and so I love everything that you’ve said. And I appreciate your your thoughtfulness and your understanding of the emotional aspects of it that really make it hard for some folks to do this in a clear eyed way.

David Frank  34:43

Yeah, well thank you that’s very kind and and yeah, I just think that word should I hate that it’s just like stop shooting all over yourself like there is no once i Mister like they’re just there is no right answer really for any of this and Yeah, like advice. I just like, I get so triggered Maybe is there I don’t know what the right word is. But like when people give advice, I heard this in a webinar I attended the other month. And the speaker said, All advice is autobiographical. And I’m like, what does that mean? And what he meant was that anytime someone is giving you advice, they’re speaking from their own experience. So they’re really giving advice to themselves, like, oh, I should have done this in the past, or I should be doing this right now. But I’m actually not, or, or whatever it is. And so advice can be good. But whether it’s coming from a professional, like a financial advisor, or a colleague that you know, somewhere, or someone you don’t know, but in a Facebook group, just ask them to explain. They’re like, Oh, okay, interesting point. Why do you why do you say that? Like, what, what is the thinking behind that? And you may discover that, oh, that, that that piece of advice applies for them, because it’s autobiographical, but it’s sure doesn’t apply to me. Um, or you might find it does apply to you, and great if it does, but it is also individual,

Curt Widhalm  36:01

where can people find out more about you and turning point financial, if they want to reach out to you and work with you?

David Frank  36:10

Yeah, so the best thing for people to do is to navigate to my website, and access my finance quickstart guide for therapists. And that’ll give you a sense of what you should be thinking about in your fancy financial life. And it also gives you a good sense of what it might be like to work with me. And my website is turning point So that’s like turning point, a bridge, the abbreviation for headquarters. And yeah, there’s a ton of good resources on there. And I think I will even by the time this airs, we’ll have a little simple worksheet that folks can work through to help them determine how much they might, they ought to be I don’t, I’m gonna use the word should how much they might want to consider saving for retirement so so they can navigate to the website and find all that good stuff.

Curt Widhalm  36:51

And you’ve got an offer for our listeners as well.

David Frank  36:56

I do for just a special offer. For the listeners of this great podcast, I’m offering 20% off my QuickStart coaching intensive. So navigate to my website, under the Services description, you’ll find more information about that. And when they’re scheduling that meeting, if they just enter the code, MTSG, or something like that, I will offer them 20% off when it comes to pay me.

Katie Vernoy  37:18

Yay. That’s awesome. Thank you.

Curt Widhalm  37:20

And we’ll include links to all of that in our show notes. You can find those over at And make sure to join our Facebook groups, modern therapist group, and follow us on our social media for updates on everything that we’re doing and connecting you with some of the other wonderful people in our community, much like David. So, thank you very much for joining us today. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and David Frank.

Katie Vernoy  37:48

Thanks again to our sponsor, simplified SEO consulting.

Curt Widhalm  37:52

These days, word of mouth referrals just aren’t enough to fill your caseload. Instead, most people go to Google when they’re looking for a therapist. And when they start searching, you want to make sure they find you. That’s where simplified SEO consulting comes in. It’s founded and run by a private practice owner who understands the needs of a private practice, and they can help you learn to optimize your own website or they can do the optimizing for you.

Katie Vernoy  38:16

Visit to learn more. And if you do decide to try your hand at optimizing your own website, you can get 20% off any of their DIY SEO courses using the code MODERN THERAPIST. Once again, visit simplified Seo forward slash modern therapist and use the code modern therapist all caps.

Announcer  38:40

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