Remember those Looney Tunes episodes where Bugs (or Porky or Daffy) had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and they were both trying to persuade him to do the right thing—or be wicked? If you're thinking about ownership, you know what that's like. Will the pressures of being a boss be balanced out by the joys of self-determination? Will you mind longer hours if you know you'll hold on to the financial rewards? These are the questions that can cause an eager associate to wake up late at night in a cold sweat.
The bottom line
I'm going to play both angel and devil, giving you both the pros and cons of practice ownership. Which will you listen to?
You earn what you deserve
The bad news: Although owners make almost twice as much as associates, according to data from the AVMA, they also experience about twice the stress. Is it worth it? If the practice experiences a few down months, whose pay suffers? (Here's a hint: not the team's.) If the gross is down, team members and the IRS still get paid, so you'll make less.
Especially in the early years of ownership, this income uncertainty is a serious challenge. Yes, you might make a bunch more than your associates—but you might not. Can you sleep nights despite worries about paying your bills and providing for your family? The financial upside is greater for owners, but so is the risk.
The good news: Whether it's your own herd of children who need a college education or the dream of owning a fleet of yachts, major financial requirements point to ownership as the obvious choice. Sure, the first few years will be rocky and penury may be your middle name, but soon you'll have enough to buy lunch, and from there it's all uphill in the income category.
You do things your way
Of course, financial success isn't guaranteed, and it's based on making smart decisions, but the earning potential is much greater for owners than associates. You'll have an income from your work as a doctor and as an owner. You'll make money from all the services in your clinic, whether you perform them or not.
You make your own hours
If you plan strategically at the right points in time, your practice will gain enough value that you can sell it and retire at 40 to write best-selling novels.