If you are a dentist, you can become rich over time through disciplined saving and prudent investments.
One distinct advantage that you have over other professionals is your high income. If you couple that income with money from your investments and other sources, you can live an enviable lifestyle. But saving and investing is just one path to wealth.
There are 4 ways that a dentist can become rich: (i) earn income from your job as an associate dentist and invest your savings; (ii) start your own dental practice; (iii) buy cash-flowing assets for extra income; and (iv) own a passive side business.
We’ll cover each of these methods in detail below. The first option is the “safe” one and can provide you a reliable path to a comfortable retirement. The other three entail a bit more risk (and work) but can grow your wealth far beyond what a salaried dentist can typically achieve.
With that, let’s get into it!
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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment
1. Be An Associate Dentist and Invest Your Savings
This is the most traditional (and obvious) path toward wealth that you can take as a dentist. If you are someone just learning about the dental profession, an associate dentist is a dentist that works for another dentist or dental practice.
They are salaried employees or independent contractors, so they don't usually have an ownership stake in the dental practice (although some associate dentists join a practice with the plan to eventually buy and take over that business).
According to the ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for an associate dentist is $159,740. This means that, although it may not be easy, there is plenty of opportunity to save and invest if you are careful with your spending.
Saving Is Essential
It goes without saying that to use this strategy you must save some serious money each month. I would aim to save at least 10% of your income, although a higher percentage like 15% or even 20% should be possible.
If you are struggling with debt (often due to high student loans), overspending, or just can’t seem to get ahead with what you are making right now, check out my article on basic personal finance, which tackles each of these topics and shows you how to navigate through them (including large student loan debt).
If budgeting is your problem, you can read my article on the 10 biggest reasons why budgets fail and how to fix them.
Investing Is Essential Too
If you have your spending and budgeting under control, the next step is to invest your savings.
Where to start?
If you are a beginner, I like Vanguard's total stock market ETF (ticker symbol “VTI”) and have invested a decent chunk of my portfolio in it. VTI is great because it has low expenses and you get broad exposure to the stock market.
Depending on your risk tolerance, you may want to buy Vanguard's total bond ETF (ticker symbol “BND”). This will give you broad exposure to the total bond market and further reduce your risk. A common allocation between stocks and bonds is a 60/40 split.
If you prefer a more nuanced and ready-made solution, take a look at Titan. They were voted the top robo-advisor of 2020. Check them out below if you want to learn more:
How Much Can You Make As a Dentist?
Assuming you are a 25 year old dentist and invest 10% of your $160,000 salary each year into the stock market at a projected 10% return, at age 65 you would have over $7 million! And if you invested some of that money inside a Roth IRA, your withdrawals from the Roth at retirement would be tax-free to boot! I would say $7 million is pretty rich by anyone's definition.
2. Start and Grow Your Own Dental Practice
If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you may want to consider opening your own practice. Not only do you get to be your own boss, you can make some serious money if you successfully grow your practice. I know some very wealthy dentists and all of them have their own practice.
How Much Do Dentists Make If They Own Their Own Practice?
According to the Survey of Dental Practice, the average net income for dentists in private practice in 2019 was $204,710 for general dentists and $343,410 for specialists. The average annual gross billings per owner was $742,490 for general dentists and $1,059,890 for specialists.
The income for a general dentist who owns their dental practice is higher than the average income for an Associate Dentist, but not orders of magnitude more. So is it worth the risk?
That depends on what you value more. Do you prefer the relative stability of a high paying job or the freedom (and potential upside) that comes with owning your own business? If you want to get rich faster, having your own practice can certainly give you the opportunity to make a lot of money in a shorter period of time.
Make More Money By Becoming a Specialist
As we referenced earlier, there is a dramatic difference in pay between dentists who are general practitioners and specialists. In our example the difference in average net income between general practitioners and specialists was $138,720 per year. That’s a massive difference, especially taken over the course of a career.
You are talking millions of dollars. If you want to get rich being a dentist, you can’t ignore the benefits that specializing will offer.
One of the most well-known specializations in dentistry is orthodontics. Among the general population, the rumor is that they do quite well. So, are orthodontists rich?
Orthodontists can be considered rich because they make on average $256,491 per year. In higher-paying states, that figure can reach $411,580, while in lower paying states, it can drop to as low as $151,569. Given that the average wage in the US in 2019 is $51,916, making over $250,000 certainly seems rich in comparison.
Bottom line: The data clearly shows that specialization (whether it’s orthodontics or another specialization) is a proven way to augment your income as a dentist and quickly build wealth.
3. Buy Cash Flowing Assets for Extra Income
If you enjoy working as a dentist but would like an extra source of income to accelerate your wealth, you can buy passive income assets. I am talking about assets that will generate money for you even if you are not actively involved in managing them.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
Rental Property Investing
Investing in rental properties is a popular option among dentists. It is not completely passive, but you can outsource most of the key activities and make it mostly passive.
I own nine rentals (which I self-manage) while working a demanding full-time job, so I can say with full confidence that you can manage your rental properties in an efficient way that doesn’t require a ton of work. But if you are swamped and absolutely need someone to handle the rentals 24/7, you can do that too by hiring a property manager.
Want to learn how to get started? Check out my step-by-step guide to getting started investing in rental properties.
Ninja tip: Want to learn about a rental property investment that is completely passive right out-of-the box? Check out my article on Triple Net Properties. You can make a ton of money renting out property to corporations like McDonalds, Walgreens, etc. and they take care of all of the repairs, maintenance, taxes, etc. You will need some money to put a down payment on these expensive types of properties, though.
Rent Out Stuff You Already Have
The triple net strategy is a pretty good one if you have the funds, but if you don’t have that much money yet, here’s another little-known strategy that's a lot more affordable:
Rent out your car (or even extra space in your house) for an additional source of passive income.
If you want to rent out your car, I would look into Turo. They are the Airbnb of car rentals. For renting out your extra storage space, check out Neighbor. I have used both and written articles on these passive income methods. If you are interested, check them out below.
If you want other great ideas on renting out your existing stuff, check out my article on 15 truly passive income ideas that require no money. It talks about how you can rent out stuff like your backyard, pool, musical instruments, and other things you probably never imagined could give you passive income.
A vending machine can be a terrific asset that produces great cash flow.
Just put it in a high-traffic location and make money every time someone buys something from your machine. The cost to get started varies, with a simple gumball machine costing only around $200 to a more expensive vending machine running between $3,000 to $5,000.
The only part of this that requires some work is restocking and collecting money from the machine, but you can easily outsource this function.
For more details on this business, check out my beginner’s guide on how to start a vending machine route for passive income.
For an even more passive vending option, consider ice vending machines. Because these machines do not need to be restocked, they really can be the ultimate passive income asset. If you are interested in learning more, check out my step-by-step guide on how to start an ice vending machines business.
Did you know that you can buy ATMs and set them up at various locations to make passive income? Every time someone uses the ATM, you will get a fee. Occasionally, you will need to restock the machines with cash (which you can outsource to companies that handle this), but there’s no inventory, customers or employees to manage.
Can be an awesome passive income set-up. If you want to learn more about how to get started, check out my article on ATMs for Passive Income
4. Own a Passive Side Business
Now I know what you are thinking – how in the world can I operate a business when I am working full-time as a dentist? It’s a valid question, but there are businesses out there that can be run without your day-to-day involvement.
They are called “absentee-owned” businesses and there are tons of people who operate their businesses in this way. If you want to make serious extra money outside of your dental income, then this is the way to go.
Now, no business is completely passive – you must still oversee the overall business and make sure it stays on track, but you can outsource the daily functions of the business to employees and managers who will handle the operations, so you don’t have to.
Here are a list of some of the businesses that can be run passively (with links to my articles showing you how to get started):
- In-Bay Automatic Car Washes
- Buy Billboards and Rent Out Ads to Local Businesses
- Rent Out Bounce Houses
- Buy a FedEx Route
- Buy a Bread Routes
- Passive Income Blogging
For more passive income business ideas, check out my article on the topic here.
Ok – there you have it. Four ways that a dentist can get rich.
None of these methods is going to make you rich overnight, and they each have their pros and cons, but if you are determined to make big money as a dentist, it is absolutely possible.