3 Friends Reunite After 30 Years

by Sep 1, 2022Debt, Personal Finance, Practice Finance, Success

I recently re-read the Compound Effect, the best-seller by Darren Hardy, where he shares a classic story, which I loosely adapted to vet med.

The story is full of great reminders and lessons.

Alan, Ben and Cory were BFFs in vet school. They grew up in the same middle-class neighborhood. They had similar interests & abilities. They had similar grades. They each got married to the love of their life. They each had 2 kids. They each bought a house. They each had 3 cars (one for each parent and one for their oldest child). They each owned their own practice.

Then they lost track of each other. Through a fortunate twist of life, they got a chance to catch up around dinner at a conference after 30 years of separation.

Here are their stories, loosely adapted from the book.



Alan’s Story

After they ordered drinks, Alan started to recap his life.

He was always a show-off. In vet school, he always wore designer clothes. He had a little red sports car. He had his own apartment. And he always threw the most extravagant parties on campus. Every holiday, every big game, every birthday was an opportunity to celebrate.

Over 200 people attended his lavish wedding, all chosen by him and his lovely wife. They recovered from it during a 2 week honeymoon in Fiji.

His gorgeous 6 bedroom, 5 bathroom, 3 car garage home was located in the nicest part of town. All 3 cars were leased. His family took very nice vacations abroad 3 times every year. His retirement account was maxed out and invested in speculative stocks and stock mutual funds.

His portfolio lost a huge amount of money during every stock market crash. Yet his financial advisor told him to keep investing and “to stay the course” because “the stock market always tends to go up”.

Alan had it all.

Or rather, he seemed to have it all…

Reality was a bit different. Personal debt was surprisingly high. Several of their credit cards were maxed out. They lived well above their means. His marriage was rocky. His son was into drugs.

Alan looked happy from the outside, but deep inside, he was truly stressed out and unhappy.

In spite of a profitable practice, he wasn’t sure how he would be able to afford retirement.



Ben’s Story

Once the appetizers were served, it was Ben’s turn.

He was the humble one in the group. He did pretty well in high school. He did pretty well in sports. And he did pretty well in vet school.

He married a sweet lady with humble tastes. After a humble wedding, they spent their honeymoon visiting North Carolina for a few days. They soon bought a modest home where they raised 2 happy kids who did well in school.

They rarely went on a vacation, because Ben worked a lot to pay the bills. He regularly missed sporting events and dance recitals.

All 3 family cars had been bought new, mainly because Ben didn’t like the idea of buying used cars with no known history.

His retirement account was maxed out and invested in conservative stocks and bond mutual funds every year. His portfolio never lost much during stock market crashes, but it also didn’t progress much… beyond his yearly contributions.

Ben did have a large cash position, which he was never comfortable investing. He always wanted to wait until the stock market came down, since he thought it was priced too high.

Overall, Ben rated his life as pretty good. Nothing extravagant, which is exactly how he and his wife liked it. They lived well below their means.

His practice was humming nicely, but he was increasingly concerned about how and when he would be able to afford retirement.



Cory’s Story

As dinner was brought to the table, Cory shared his story.

Our 3rd friend followed yet another path. After college, he married a great woman. Their honeymoon was spent exploring the National Parks all over the West for 2 weeks.

They soon had 2 kids. They did well in school, in sports and in extracurricular activities.

The family found a nice balance between work and fun. They lived well within their means.

Cory read financial and business books all the time. Early in his career, he discovered the importance of investing. He learned about traditional and alternative investing.

He had a well-balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, precious metals and real estate.

The family owned 3 cars, all bought “certified pre-owned.”

His practice was doing well. His family was happy and balanced. And Cory was approaching early retirement with serenity and confidence.



Lessons Learned

Then coffee was served. After summarizing their life stories, the 3 friends shared the lessons they had learned along the years.


Alan started:

“I wish we had followed a more reasonable budget instead of living in debt.

I wish we hadn’t focused on keeping up with the Joneses. We didn’t keep up with them, we left them in the dust,” he added with an uncomfortable smile.

“I wish I hadn’t trusted the stock market exclusively.

I wish I had spent more time with my family.

I have no idea how and when I’m going to retire.”


Ben continued:

“I wish I had spent less time at work.

I wish I had learned about active and passive investing.

I wish I had been less of a chicken with my investments.

I wish I had a better plan for retirement.”


Cory concluded:

“I’m really happy where we are as a family and as investors.

Our portfolio is growing steadily and predictably, month after month.

I am grateful I surrounded myself with like-minded individuals, who helped me get to where I am today.

Our passive income exceeds our active income.

So in theory, I could retire tomorrow. If you will allow me, I would be happy to help you do what I have done through safe, passive investing.

I feel that I have reached success. Now I’m more interested in helping others and reaching significance.”


Questions for You

  • Do you know anyone like Alan, Ben and Cory?
  • Are you like one of them?
  • Do you know enough about active vs. passive investing?
  • Are you serene or worried about retirement?
  • Are you serene or worried about your family?
  • Do you have a network of like-minded people who care about your success?
  • Are you working on your legacy?
  • Are you successful?
  • Have you reached significance?

This is what the Veterinary Financial Summit is all about. It’s about creating a community of like-minded friends who grow together and help each other. It’s also a group of successful colleagues who are interested in figuring out how to reach success, significance and legacy.

To join us on the path to financial success, sign up for the next Virtual Summit in October. You can level up your understanding of personal finance, avoid the mistakes we’ve made, and learn from amazing experts who are eager to share their knowledge.


Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, FFCP