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What’s Your Happiness Index? – Episode 190

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Are you looking for happiness in the right places?

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mongolia provides the backdrop for this episode of the Dentist Money™ Show as Reese shares his recent experience. He and Ryan talk about the relationship between work, family, and living a happy life. 

They compare happiness scores by country and discuss findings from an 80-year long Harvard study which identifies four common traits of happy people.

Podcast Transcript:

Reese Harper: Hey Dentist Money Show listeners. It’s Reese Harper here. Sir Ryan Isaac and I broke down today what life is like in a third world country, because we’re talking about money and happiness today. I recently got back from a trip to Mongolia where I was able to learn a lot about the local culture and things that really drive the people there. We talked a lot about happiness research, and different things that you can depend on when you’re trying to be happy, and have a positive outlook regarding your money. So pay attention to the tips. Thanks again for listening, and enjoy the show.

Speaker: Consult an advisor or conduct your own due diligence when making financial decisions. General principles discussed during this program do not constitute personal advice. This program is furnished by Dentist Advisors, a registered investment advisor.
This is Dentist Money. Now here’s your host, Reese Harper.

Reese Harper: Welcome to the Dentist Money Show, where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I’m your host Reese Harper, here with my trusty old cohost, and elements t-shirt-wearing friend, Sir Ryan Issac.

Ryan Isaac: Yes. Thank you for welcoming me to the show in my elements t-shirt. And if you ever see us at an event, come to the booth and beg for a t-shirt. If we have any, we’ll give you one.

Reese Harper: You will know-

Ryan Isaac: Don’t beg. Just ask.

Reese Harper: I appreciate you wearing our apparel today and teaching the principles of personal finance both-

Ryan Isaac: [crosstalk 00:01:21] my shirt.

Reese Harper: Through the podcast and through your apparel.

Ryan Isaac: I’ve actually had conversations where I’ve talked to someone after a presentation and just pointed to my shirt when they’ve asked questions. They’re like, “Oh, tell me again about that thing you’re talking about.” and I’ll just look down, stretch out the shirt, and then point different elements, bricks on my shirt. I’ve actually taught from my shirt.

Reese Harper: Yeah, I like that.

Ryan Isaac: So it’s a tool the trade.

Reese Harper: Okay. Well tell us what other tools are we going to be empowering our listeners with today?

Ryan Isaac: Well, today’s a fun one because we’re talking about the correlation, the link between money and happiness.

Reese Harper: Oh, I thought you were going to talk about how to avoid a sunburn when you freshly BIC shaved your head this summer because, I’m noticing-

Ryan Isaac: Well, no, funny you mentioned that. I actually just spent about eight hours paddle boarding at a Lake here in Phoenix on Saturday. I buy these huge … I’m going to take a picture of this, I’ll post it. These huge straw hats, the big straw hats. And then I reapply sunscreen about four times in an eight hour period. It’s about every other hour that I’m applying sunscreen.

Reese Harper: Yeah, I don’t know how you protect that skull.

Ryan Isaac: It’s scary. Well the rest of my skin-

Reese Harper: [crosstalk 00:02:30] I mean, I’m glad that you did.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, I don’t exactly have what you would call a dark complexion, or an olive, well-tanned hide. I’m mean, I’m so white, I’m almost blue and a little see-through.

Reese Harper: Even all of your ethnic heritage is not really pulling for you?

Ryan Isaac: No, I come from a line of McFadden’s, which I think it’s Scottish. It’s not … I’ve got a red beard and a white head. I mean, I’m a lobster and that’s all I got. White and red. Those are my two shades. So I don’t really know how-

Reese Harper: I’ve always been confused at how McDonald’s because it’s a Mick.

Ryan Isaac: Became the hamburger chain of America?

Reese Harper: Of America because that might … It should be like a Scottish bratwurst, and boiled potatoes, and cabbage distribution center, but it’s a hamburger joint.

Ryan Isaac: They’re selling cheap hamburgers that aren’t actually hamburgers.

Reese Harper: Yeah. But I-

Ryan Isaac: Or chicken. [crosstalk 00:03:24] digress

Reese Harper: But shout out to Mickey D’s when I was out lake paddling myself last night, and I didn’t end up going there, but it was one of the only two options I had. The other option was far worse, and I still chose it. But I was glad that there was a McDonald’s option there.

Ryan Isaac: You skipped Mickey D’s. While we’re on the subject, I avoid making McDonald’s except for the breakfast menu is pretty hearty. And if you take the egg white McMuffins without cheese, and you get two, and you ditch the McMuffin part on one of them, and just double up the egg whites on another, add a little sausage or bacon for some fat and protein. It’s not a bad … I’ve counted the macros in it-

Reese Harper: It’s not the worst.

Ryan Isaac: It’s not a bad breakfast.

Reese Harper: On the run, yeah.

Ryan Isaac: You’re going to get loaded some good fat and protein, a little bit of carb, and you’re good to go.

Reese Harper: I mean, what do you want on the run?

Ryan Isaac: I don’t know, what do you expect- [crosstalk 00:04:12]

Reese Harper: I just think don’t hate on them.

Ryan Isaac: Okay, well tell-

Reese Harper: That segue leads us right to the core of our message for today.

Ryan Isaac: Which is you were just living like a nomad in the middle of Mongolia. I think you actually did find a McDonald’s, didn’t you? In the Mongolian airport speaking of?

Reese Harper: Yes. I didn’t eat there, but-

Ryan Isaac: I think I saw a picture there.

Reese Harper: They have some interesting burgers there on the menu.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Well, so here’s what I wanted today. I was hoping that you would tell us maybe just a little bit about your experience of going there, because today we’re going to talk about the correlation between money and happiness.
I’ve got some really cool data from some studies that have been done in this field. There’s this whole field of happiness psychology, and positive psychology and it’s led by some really, really smart people. So we’re gonna talk about actually the four traits of happy people from this research.

Reese Harper: Awesome.

Ryan Isaac: We’re going to tie it into maybe some of our anecdotal stories of how we’ve seen that relate in dentists’ lives, and how that relates to money. But I was hoping you could begin with a little bit of a little context of maybe how good life is in certain parts of the world, and how simple and rough it is in other parts of the world.

Reese Harper: Well, it was an interesting-

Ryan Isaac: But [crosstalk 00:05:25] they do have a McDonald’s.

Reese Harper: … It was an interesting trip. I went over there to visit my parents, they’ve been there for almost five years now. And there … Mongolia is … I got a lot of … I went over there and did this trip and I’ve had a lot of clients and a lot of people ask me, what was that like? First question is-

Ryan Isaac: It’s such a random place.

Reese Harper: First question is, where is it? Let’s put you on the spot. If you had to know, do you know where Mongolia is located? Ryan Isaac? Don’t look at your phone.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, I think I’ll … phone down. I think it’s just a huge, huge tract of land below Russia, isn’t it?

Reese Harper: Yes. It’s above China and below Russia.

Ryan Isaac: Okay.

Reese Harper: And it’s compared to Russia or China, it’s not near as big geographically.

Ryan Isaac: Now, I am looking at it. Now, I’ve got a newfound respect for Russia, to be honest. That’s a large piece of land over there.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Mongolia is kind of just in the middle of the continent over there. Below China below Russia, in the center.

Reese Harper: And people, they speak Mongolian. The claim to fame over there is it’s a territorial conquest run by someone named Genghis Kahn.

Ryan Isaac: Oh, yes.

Reese Harper: They spell it, they have a weird … not weird I should say, but a unique way of spelling things like mixing English with Mongolian. So they’ll … it’s pronounced Genghis Kahn and sometimes you’ll see it written out. G-H-E-N-G-I-S if it was the Mongolian English translation. And then you’ll see sometimes they’ll spell it Chinggis, like C-H-I-N-G-G-I-S.

Ryan Isaac: What’s the alphabet? Is it a like a Latin based alphabet, or does it have its own characters like Russian and-

Reese Harper: Yeah, it’s got its own characters, like Russian.

Ryan Isaac: Interesting.

Reese Harper: Yeah, and it’s … The culture there-

Ryan Isaac: Like Russian, that was probably the real way to say it.

Reese Harper: Yeah, no, it had a lot of Russian influence. I mean it was a Russian-controlled state for a long time. Anyway, bottom line was it was a really, it was a cool experience to be able to see like their, the clothing, the temp, it’s super cold there. So there’s a lot of really cool, the classic fox hat. I got to wear a lot of cool clothes when I was over there, and check out some of the-

Ryan Isaac: You did have a big hat. What was that hat? It was very large.

Reese Harper: It’s fox. It’s a full fox. It was a whole fox.

Ryan Isaac: It was an entire fox on your head.

Reese Harper: And probably two foxes because both, over my ears there was two tails.

Ryan Isaac: You have a large head.

Reese Harper: There was tails. I had two tails. One tail on the left. One tail on the right.

Ryan Isaac: What’s it called? Is there a name for the hat, an official-

Reese Harper: Not that I know of.

Ryan Isaac: Okay.

Reese Harper: I mean I didn’t ask the name of it. But there might be, but I didn’t know. I didn’t find out [inaudible 00:08:37]

Ryan Isaac: I feel like it should be called something that sounds like popuschka.

Reese Harper: Well, they have these, they have cool robes, cool fox hats. They’re freezing cold temperatures for a large portion of the year. Where it sits in the latitude, would be the left to right movement of the earth?

Ryan Isaac: Yes.

Reese Harper: Longitude right, is the North South, is that right?

Ryan Isaac: Yes. I’m saying it’s right.

Reese Harper: I don’t know, maybe we’ve got it backwards, but that particular pocket is a really cold combination. I went to this spot where it, there was a big monument to the degrees, 50-100. So it’s the latitude of 50 and longitude of 100. There’s this big temple and statue and it’s-

Ryan Isaac: Really?

Reese Harper: Some really unique place in the globe, runs right through Mongolia where there’s just this … It’s really cool. People are hiking up like miles to get to the spot where they can stand in this perfect 50-100-

Ryan Isaac: Interesting.

Reese Harper: It’s a specific coordinate that means …This is really meaningful in some faith traditions.

Ryan Isaac: Some kind of maybe there’s a portal to another dimension somewhere around there.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: That’s what I would hope.

Reese Harper: Yeah. That was cool. The housing was really cool. Most of them … There’s about three and a half million people that live there, and half of them are in the city, which it looks like a Russian city. It’s really still got a lot of-

Ryan Isaac: Architecture?

Reese Harper: Cold War influence, some Russian architecture. But it’s just a … it’s still pretty dirty and pretty … It’s advancing, but it’s very … I would say there’s half a lot of haves and haves-nots in the city. Really nice mall in one pocket, and then it’s just impoverished and two blocks away.

Ryan Isaac: Really?

Reese Harper: Yeah it’s like economic diversity there is not … There’s no middle class still, in the city. And then outside the city you’ve got another million and a half to plus people that just live nomadically that live in these things called gers. They’re just round, single room houses, tent-like structures that have a coal burning stove in the center. There’s usually three beds. It can fit three beds. And so people’s families are usually two adults and a child. And sometimes two children, and they’ll double bunk on a single twin bed.

Ryan Isaac: Do they take them down and travel with them? They pull the … it’s poles and sheepskin. Or I’m just imagining things.

Reese Harper: They can be taken down and moved. The exterior, the newer ones are made out of tarps. But there’s a lot that you’ll see that are made out of fir or a pelt or aged hide.

Ryan Isaac: Hide.

Reese Harper: And they can be portable. A lot of people, once they plant and claim their spot, they’re staying, but they farm-

Ryan Isaac: What do they do? What’s life? I mean, what do they do?

Reese Harper: They’re herding sheep, and goats, and cows, and they’re living on the land, letting their animals just roam free. They want to live in these pockets. They don’t want to go into the city. They’re consciously wanting to stay away from the urbanization that is happening. They like their kids to experience living nomadically. It’s pretty amazing. The countryside is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever see.
I mean it’s super green in the summer. We were in a Land Rover, a Toyota, and driving around to get to different places. I drove … There’s not even roads to most of these places.

Ryan Isaac: [crosstalk 00:12:35] so you’re in the middle of a field? Pasture.

Reese Harper: You’re just driving across green grass that’s being mowed down by animals for hours. You’re just driving for hours past animals, and little tents, until you get to a big pocket of tents, and a big pocket of people.

Ryan Isaac: Really so are they set up tents in towns?

Reese Harper: Clusters.

Ryan Isaac: Are there main buildings? Of [crosstalk 00:12:55] buildings?

Reese Harper: There’s no physical buildings out in the countryside. They’re just larger groups of gers, these tents. There’s clusters of them. Maybe you see 10. It’s interesting though, some of the tents will have satellites on them, and they’ll have a little TV inside. And they have all have cell phones still. So now that phones are out, everyone’s got cell phones, even out in the-

Ryan Isaac: Middle of Mongolia. Crazy.

Reese Harper: There’s just a lot of cool traditions for people that, the idea that they don’t want to lose some of their history and the work ethic. It’s so cool to see a little seven year old kid riding a horse around the middle of the prairie, coaching the sheep on which direction to go-

Ryan Isaac: Just rounding up animals.

Reese Harper: It’s crazy. And there’s a ton of … I mean, cashmere’s the biggest export in Mongolia. I mean, they’re the exporter of most of the world’s cashmere apparel. There’s like 31 or 32 animals for every human in Mongolia.

Ryan Isaac: Really? 32, one to one ratio?

Reese Harper: Yeah, yeah.

Ryan Isaac: That’s a good ratio.

Reese Harper: Yeah. I think it-

Ryan Isaac: It’s like Zootopia.

Reese Harper: I think it was something like 70 or 80 million animals there. Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Crazy.

Reese Harper: And you could see, you just look at out in the field, you’ll look it’d just be green grasses and mountains for miles, And you’ll just see animals scattered across the whole plain.

Ryan Isaac: Did you feel like you just went into another time, another time period in history? [crosstalk 00:14:36] leaving?

Reese Harper: The thing that throws it off is then they pull out a cell phone and you’re like, “Whoa, I’m back.” But they’re intense. They’re like-

Ryan Isaac: Dirt floor tents. Bathroom is where?

Reese Harper: It’s crazy.

Ryan Isaac: Bathroom’s outdoors?

Reese Harper: They’re just holes in the ground. The restrooms are just holes in the ground. They’re outdoor outhouses. They’ll sometimes throw up a small wooden outhouse.

Ryan Isaac: Structure.

Reese Harper: There is no plumbing, right. In these … It’s a total … it’s one of the only places in the world where millions of people are still living nomadically, and it’s just insane.

Ryan Isaac: Wow. And you, okay, one more too. You said that, I remember you’re talking to us about air quality. Because that’s something we complain about in Utah during the winter time. Air quality gets, one of the worst in the country, but-

Reese Harper: In the city itself, the city … Keep in mind, when I was traveling around, I was driving 12 miles to get somewhere, you’re driving. If you want to get to the nomadic life, it’s not close to the city. It’s hours away. And so the city’s sitting inside of a mountain range that’s in a low elevation bowl and then everyone is … Even close to the city, the here are still a lot of gers, and a lot of what they call ger districts, or pockets of places that aren’t a tent, but they’re not really like a house, like we would think about it. They’re small cabin-like houses out of wood that are close to the city. Because people don’t want to move into apartments because they’re too expensive. They can’t afford them.
But they’ll build a 10×12 room out of wood, and live there right outside the city in these ger districts. Sometimes there’ll be the tents there too. But people want to get close to the city cause they have to commute in for their jobs if they work in the city. So they’ll burn coal. A lot of people are burning coal, and just right around the city limits. And even though the buildings in the city are mostly like modernized apartments, that probably aren’t polluting as much …
It’s just the traffic … France exports all their cars that are not meeting health standards, to other countries. Mongolia is a big importer of cars because they don’t have any kind of regulation yet on vehicles. So you’ll just see cars and buses driving around that are just like pouring out smoke into the air. And then the coal burning that they’re doing just goes up into the air, and it sits in that low pressure system where the mountains are surrounding the city and then the cold air temperatures just compress the pollution down.

Ryan Isaac: Okay. So where I wanted to go with some of those stories is today we’re going to tie in how some financial and money decisions affect happiness. We’ve been for the last 11 or 12 years, watching dentists make decisions with their money and what they spend it on, what they buy. You could probably think across all the people you’ve met, just anecdotally, people who come across as more content and happy.
So I wanted to tie some of those lessons that you saw there into the things that we’ve seen, and statistically what research is showing are traits of happy people, and how we think money plays a role in that. When we come back from a commercial break, we’re gonna hit this, and we’ll just jump right into this list, right when we get back.
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Okay, so Reese, the first thing this is actually outside of the list of some of the research I brought up on traits of happy people. But I wanted to talk about this first because I think this is a really big one. You were talking about this earlier. But I want to talk about the trait of knowing you have enough, or being content with what you have as being an indicator, or something that really drives a lot of happiness.
And I think that your experience in your story … You probably met a lot of people in Mongolia that live on dirt floors in, I can’t remember what they’re called, the tents. What are the tents called, yurts?

Reese Harper: Gers.

Ryan Isaac: No, gers. I don’t know where that came from, but-

Reese Harper: Yeah, it’s like G-E-R.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, okay. So living in tents, dirt floors, poor health, life expectancy, toilets are holes in the ground. They spend their lives in cold weather. But you probably met a lot of people who you would describe are happy, and I think a lot of that has to do with this principle of like just knowing you have enough. I’m just curious what your thoughts are on that.

Reese Harper: Yeah. So you’re saying that that’s kind of one of the … I’m curious, before I jump into that what the … Is that a principle that you’re saying was in a study recently?

Ryan Isaac: No, it’s actually outside of it. I was just assuming-

Reese Harper: Is this anecdotal on your end?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Well, I’m assuming that you probably have noticed, I mean, compared to the way you or I live, or a lot of us live in the United States, or developed world countries. I mean, it’s a very different life. But you’ve probably met people who are just as happy as any of us could relatively expect to be.

Reese Harper: Yeah, and I don’t-

Ryan Isaac: [crosstalk 00:20:07] I think that’s just an important principle.

Reese Harper: I think maybe to your point then is, I don’t … I feel like happiness around money is usually, it’s very subjective, and it’s based on looking over your left shoulder or right shoulder.

Ryan Isaac: It’s contextual.

Reese Harper: To the person that you are associated with. There’s a lot of quotes about be careful about the type of friends that you have in life because that’s going to affect how happy you are with your money.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: I’ve seen that, that’s probably a common theme is I think that as soon as you don’t have something that someone else has, you’re not happy. And I don’t think Mongolian people are probably less likely to suffer from that, because I mean, once someone gets a cell phone, I’m sure everyone else needs a cell phone. Once someone has a satellite dish on their tent, someone else’s gonna want one.

Ryan Isaac: Or can drive kids into town for school, or-

Reese Harper: Yeah. It’s like, “Okay, well you’re driving your kids into town for school. I guess I better.” Right. Cause that seems like … I mean once something becomes possible, then it becomes the new normal. That was the thing that’s so surprising maybe to me was just how the difference between a third world country, and a first world country is what everyone considers normal. Right? What is normal? What’s normal when it comes to sanitation? What’s normal when it comes to the size of structure?

Ryan Isaac: In this context of knowing you have enough, or what you have feels like enough. What could a dentist do that maybe feels that way? Maybe mid career, they’ve accomplished a lot of financial goals, they’ve achieved ownership. And they’re just in this place that they always wanted to get to, but they’re feeling like, “I don’t know. Is that enough? Do I have enough? Do I need a bigger business? Do I need more money?” You know, what’s, what’s something that can satisfy that or help that, something practical to implement?

Reese Harper: Well, I don’t think that any the best advice I can give somebody, because I’ve struggled with this throughout my life too. I think the best advice I can give is just like you have to spend more time. I’m big into meditation. I’m big into gratitude. I’m big to my own version of meditation and prayer, which is, helps me kind of acknowledge what I already have in my life.
I think if you don’t look around your immediate circle, you have to look past your immediate neighborhood. I would give the same advice to someone in Mongolia who’s struggling to be content, or happy, or know … Because every day should be like a gratitude-filled experience for everyone, at any stage of wealth.
Doesn’t matter if you’re an undergraduate that’s getting your first student loan. If you’re in an entry level job or if you’re super successful. Every day should be a good experience, a positive experience. One that feels full and grateful and one that feels exciting, energetic. A lot of times the only way to really feel that way is taking time to actually give thanks in your life for the things you have and looking outside of your immediate neighborhood to be able to get the full context of the world.
I don’t really like saying compare yourself to people that are worse off than you. Or compare yourself to people that are better than you. But just get a broader perspective of how the world’s economic circumstances. Just take in your life in context. And don’t take in your neighborhood’s life. Don’t take in your immediate surroundings, because that’s not enough context that’ll ever make you feel gratitude for the level of life that you do have.
And sometimes it’s not stuff, or things, or money that you’re going to be able to hold on to, to be content, and happy, and grateful like that in that moment. Sometimes it’s just health. It’s sanitation. It’s the fact that your eyes can function, and that your limbs can move, and that you’re able to speak.
Some of them are things that are financial, like a warm home. The ability to not travel long distances for goods or services. The ability you have to get access to education, and improve your environment around you. Control that you have over your future.
I just think that there’s too much time spent accumulating things that our immediate surroundings have. Like, if I’m in a neighborhood that has four car garages, then why don’t I have a four car garage, right? And then if I get the four car garage, what do I put in the garage? And if I don’t have an ATV, or if I don’t have a boat, or if I don’t have a trailer, what kind of trailer do I have? What kind of gear do I have? What kind of-

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, it never ends.

Reese Harper: It just never ends, you know? So you have to take time on a regular basis to acknowledge the good things that you have in your life, and make them part of your daily ritual. Because it’s the only way to happiness. To me, it’s not a level of wealth that will either make you happy or unhappy. It’s the acknowledgement of how good your life is. And the good thing … not how good your life is. Maybe the good … Practicing acknowledging the really good things that are there.

Ryan Isaac: [crosstalk 00:26:07] The good things that are there.

Reese Harper: It’s a really important life skill, I think.

Ryan Isaac: That was kind of a long first one that I wanted to throw in, there just based on your experiences from traveling to such a different place than the world we live in. But let’s go through the four really fast that are becoming the pillars for standards or traits of happiness.
The first one is the most common, and it’s actually really fascinating because one of the longest lasting human studies ever done in the whole world is this thing from Harvard called the Harvard Grant Study. It started in the 1930s, where they just started tracking people’s lives. There was, I’ll have to go back to it, but there was, it’s quite a big study, hundreds of people. But they’ve been tracking these people’s lives for 80 years. It’s a happiness study.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: And it’s like has the most longev … You’ve heard of that before?

Reese Harper: Yes.

Ryan Isaac: The Grant Study?

Reese Harper: Yep, exactly.

Ryan Isaac: And so the number one finding from this … Were you going to say something about that?

Reese Harper: Well, they ran a couple of studies in tandem, at the same time, and this one has been the one that’s lasted the longest.

Ryan Isaac: Longest, yeah. Most of the people in it are, there’s only like 18 people-

Reese Harper: I mean this is in-

Ryan Isaac: [crosstalk 00:27:10] That are even still alive anymore.

Reese Harper: Yeah. It’s like any going on 80 plus years.

Ryan Isaac: So the number one finding from this though, the number one correlation to people’s happiness in this 80 year study was connection with other people. It was the number one thing. So as you were talking about this first principle of contextually, how we look around and view our own lives, and judge ourselves against our surroundings. That came to mind too. Slowing down and being more present to connections you have with people in your life and maybe working on them and building them. Which I mean, I want to tie a lot of this back to what financial planning can do for someone, and being financially organized, and having just more context around their finances.
I think people are … When there’s more organization, and there’s good planning in someone’s life, I feel like you have less stress to be able to build those connections and work on connections with people. It’s easier to have social connection in your life when you’re not freaked out about money, and you’re stressed about work all the time. But that was the number one thing out of that long Harvard Grant Study, was that connections with people was the number one driver of happiness. Even among people who had poor health, or less wealth, or less money. So I don’t know if you had any thoughts on that one. That’s the most prevalent one.

Reese Harper: That’s probably the most common thing I’ve seen people claim at the latter stages of their life. I was at my … I was just with my grandfather this weekend. He doesn’t remember me anymore. But he’s almost a hundred. I think he’ll turn, well and anyway, he’s almost a hundred years old. And he, about a year ago he stopped really remembering people, day to day.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, man, my grandma’s in the same situation.

Reese Harper: I had a lot of conversations with his, a couple of his kids, and his brother. It was just interesting to see how people really value what make … I was talking about happiness, and some of the stuff that you and me were planning to talk about on the podcast. I remember hearing one of his brothers tell me that he stopped measuring success a long time ago based on the money that he made, or the things he had. He’s actually a really successful guy. He just said, it’s all, he’s just always, he said he never really knew this along the way, but it was relationships that drove his happiness his whole life, and he wished he had known that earlier.
I you hear that from, I mean will Smith said that. One of my favorite … There’s a lot of quotes I love about this. But you’ll just, you can see hundreds of quotes about how success is really going to be measured based on the type of impact you have, or the lives you touch, or the relationships you make. It’s not really about the amount of dollars, or the net worth, or the things you accumulate that’ll drive happiness.
I really believe that, and I think that’s probably one of the things I should have like highlighted in my original comments about looking around. I really think that at the end of every day, that’s what you’re going to be able to, I think, hold onto the most, is do I have these … And it’s not like the … Sometimes social media can play against you in that, because it’s almost about the volume of relationships you have that makes you be happy, right?

Ryan Isaac: Oh yeah, that’s changed a lot. [inaudible 00:30:45]

Reese Harper: If you have friends, it depends on how many likes you get, and depends on how many views you have. I’ve always thought that’s a fascinating social experiment to see how … Some people actually really engage in social media and they’re fine and they’ll literally keep going and they have like 10 friends and 10 likes, eight likes, single digit, single digit reactions to their posts. And they just keep going forever, and they’re like pretty-

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. They’re just sharing their life with people. It’s like cool, they’re the same eight people, cool.

Reese Harper: And then some people seem to be on a constant journey for volume of friends. And I can understand in a business context why that would be important. To some degree, reach is important to really important to me as well. But I mean the who you actually get, in social media, who you’re interacting with still I think is more important than the volume. I think to even people with large followings, they want to know, do I have real followers? Do I have real relationships? [crosstalk 00:31:49] Do I have real humans that I’m touching and influencing? And that relationships, they really are the driver of a lot of our happiness, in my opinion.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. And so I would say again, to tie some of this back, just anecdotally what we’ve seen over the last decade plus, watching dentists make financial decisions. I think that, you’ve seen the stories, you’ve lived it yourself too. Where there’s periods of time where work is so stressful, money is so stressful, that you feel like even those closest relationship, spouse, kids, best friends, whatever, those relationships suffer because there’s so much stress around work and money, you know?

Reese Harper: Yes.

Ryan Isaac: And it’s amazing what a little bit of like pressure relief can do on those relationships. I’ve seen it just looking back and thinking through stories. I’ve seen it just calculating that someone isn’t spending too much money, like they’ve worried about so much, improves the relationship with the spouse immediately.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Or knowing that someone is going to be fine on the path that they’re going. They had no clue till they actually tracked and monitored it. But now that they know they can go home and go to little Timmy’s game because it’s, they’re just not stressed about it. They can get off the phone. They can go watch the baseball game. They can spend time, because they’re like, “I can go back to work tomorrow on the path I’m on is okay.” It’s just amazing, the power of having a little bit of organization, what that can do to improve those relationships, when the stress is gone.

Reese Harper: I like that.

Ryan Isaac: Anyway. Yep. Okay. So the other one we’re going through that was the, that was number one out of the official list.
Number two is people say that they are happier when they have purpose and meaning. I think we could take this in a million different directions. I kind of just wanted to tie this to some of my experiences in watching dentists over the years. When I think of some of the happiest dentists I’ve met, they’re definitely people who … one common trait seems to be people who have a lot of purpose in giving back to their community. This could be from people who love to teach. They’ll do like free lectures to students, and they’ll go teach at their local colleges. People who organize, or just participate in charity, mission trips, doing dental work in different places of the world.
Or we have clients who run, who have actually built their own charities, to their own charitable causes and they run community centers. So that’s one trait I think of this purpose and meaning that I’ve seen in dentists. I don’t know what you would say behind this principle. People are happy when they have purpose and meaning, how you would interpret that and what you’ve seen in dentists, and your clients.

Reese Harper: Well, I think that your … That ties back to relationships a little bit, because purpose and meaning typically is some kind of influence on relationships, some kind of-

Ryan Isaac: Helping some kind of-

Reese Harper: [crosstalk 00:34:39] impact where you’re building real human connection and you know, you mattered. There’s just a lot of truth to that. There’s just a lot of truth to the fact that if you are, if you have an isolated, and less impactful from a relational perspective, you have a less influence on people, and less interaction with people, it’s difficult to be happy.
So there’s a lot of research that’s done on jobs, and happiness around jobs. Jobs surprisingly enough, like US News, and World Report has a really high satisfaction rating for dentists and specialists, nationally. It’s always in the top three to four of most satisfied professions. Which is really interesting. I think it’s not just because of the impact they’re having. Part of it’s the financial reward.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: But it’s a nice combination of every day you’re actually either relieving pain, giving people clarity, you’re making sure they’re educated on something that they were nervous about. You really are creating … In most cases you’re not adding pain. People are scared to go to you, but by the time that they’re-

Ryan Isaac: You’re relieving pain, yeah.

Reese Harper: Getting good treatment, there’s a lot of gratitude and positive positivity around that.

Ryan Isaac: I’m sure you can relate to this. I feel that way in our industry. There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping someone have an experience in a situation that they normally don’t expect to have a good experience. People don’t expect to have a good experience at the dentist, I don’t. But when I do, I’m like, “Oh, that feels good.”
Or people don’t expect to have a good experience around money, and talking about finances, or hiring someone in our industry. It feels good to provide someone, where someone has an experience and they’re like, “Oh yeah, that was, that was different. I expected it to be, you know, maybe worse or more painful.”
Let’s go right into point number three would be, and I think actually this may be what you were saying about statistics of dentists being happy. Point number three is there’s a lot of studies around the amount of free time people have, and how that correlates to happiness. There’s actually, I was just reading one this morning.
There’s a very large study that’s fairly new, and they’re still trying to figure out what that means, but they’ve actually kind of pinpointed in this study, what they call the ideal amount of free time per day. Where people like if they have too much, they start to feel a little bit unproductive and lazy. But if they have too little, they just feel too slammed and stressed and pressed.
So they actually pinpointed that around like two and a half hours a day of free time. Now what people consider free time varies, but I wonder if that also has an effect from being a dentist, because you can structure a career where you work three days a week or four days a week, and have long weekends and.

Reese Harper: Yeah, that’s a proactive choice that you’ll have to, most dentists will have to make to create that kind of career opportunity, though. Because a lot of them are … they do get overwhelmed, and buried, and they’re not able to breath during a day. And they’re going straight from work to home.
But for the people who can manage to create some free time … I know, yesterday I had two, or two and a half hours of free time that I was able to go with my kids in the evening, from like six to eight, 8:30 go paddle boarding, like that. If I wouldn’t have done that and I would’ve come home and I would’ve went straight into tasks or like, “Okay, now I’m going to clean the garage.” Which I did do at 9:30. But, I was able to have a break. It’s pretty critical, I think. I’ve noticed in my own life, I can’t go too long without free time before I start cracking. And then I start seeing the whole world less rationally. So I don’t know. How do you feel about that? I’ve got some interesting stats on this too.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Well let’s, let’s hear them. Go right to it.

Reese Harper: There’s there’s a lot of happiness studies that have been done across all the countries in the world. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of these, but you know, comparing Asia.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. I’m always surprised they’re always the cold ones.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Everyone’s always happy in the cold place. What’s up with that?

Reese Harper: Yeah, Asia, and Europe, and the Americas, and Australia. They take every country and they score them. I, I saw study that was done that took incomes and it shows income, and then compares income to happiness. And then kind of like maps every country in the globe on this like matrix.
There’s some really interesting outliers where countries are pretty wealthy, they’re definitely … Like Hong Kong for example. Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest countries in Asia, but it’s also one of the least satisfied, least happy countries. Same thing and change thing with like Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Even Japan, there’s very low, Japan scores even lower than the United States, in terms of overall personal happiness.

Ryan Isaac: Wow, I wouldn’t have thought that.

Reese Harper: And, the wealthier country … sometimes the wealthiest countries can also be the happiest. It’s not always a correlation. The US is not the wealthiest per capita country. I mean, it’s one of the wealthiest. It’s pretty close, but I mean Finland, and the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and Norway, they all have much higher income averages than the US does. But they also score significantly higher on, I wouldn’t say Switzerland and Norway. Switzerland and Norway are actually pretty similar in happiness level to the US. But Finland, and the Netherlands, and Sweden. Even Canada, Canada scores significantly higher than the US does on happiness levels, and their incomes are very similar.
There’s definitely a correlation though, between happiness and income, but not as much as you would think. It’s just-

Ryan Isaac: It’s not direct, yeah. It’s not that easy.

Reese Harper: This is a very complicated equation, happiness and money. And you’re probably not going to get there self-diagnosing this. You need some therapy, it’s not … Because it isn’t like … there’s nothing we can tell you on this podcast that’s universally applicable to every person. That if you just did this. These principles are true, but we don’t know how to tell. We’ve got to talk to you more in understanding.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. There’s hundreds of nuances in all these principles. Like what is [inaudible 00:41:25] a meaningful relationship or purpose in building a business to one person is totally different to another.

Reese Harper: Yeah. Anyway, what’s your last couple? Let’s hear them.

Ryan Isaac: Okay. Well the last one. Let’s do the last one with an invitation then. Because I think this really directly correlates to the stuff that we do on a daily basis for dentists, and have for over a decade now, which is people are happiest when they have progress in what they’re pursuing. So when people know that they’re actually getting somewhere in the things they’re working on, then they feel happiness.
I think that’s a pretty easy principle to wrap your head around. It’s like when you know that you’re accomplishing stuff, whether it’s running a 10k, or building a business, or building your first emergency fund, or savings account, paying down a debt, whatever it is. When you can see, and when you know you’re making progress, then you’re happier.
And that’s what actually one of the biggest things, one of the biggest reliefs I’ve seen with clients. It’s kind of cool to just see it happen over and over and over again. And it happens with someone who’s brand new, a right out of school, negative net worth, huge amount of debt, all the way up to the multi-location practice owner that has a high net worth, and high income, and tons of liquidity.
Just the principle of knowing where you are compared to where you used to be, and acknowledging that progress that you’re making, or not making, and improving it. I mean, it’s such a night and day difference in people’s stress levels. You see it all the time, and it’s really amazing how that works. So that’s the last one, is when people can see progress and the things they’re working on, they’re happy.

Reese Harper: Yeah. We talked about this morning in our advisor thread, which was-

Ryan Isaac: Oh yeah.

Reese Harper: Matt Mulcock, shout out to Matt. He was telling us about an interaction he had with someone where they hit a meaningful milestone in their personal net worth, and how that really created a lot of satisfaction in their life, and to see that. I think that kind of goes back to what I was saying at the beginning about gratitude, is until you take in the good things that are really happening to you, compare them to your own personal situation.
Objectively, I know right now that my life is so much better than my previous life, from all kinds of aspects. But if I compare my current life to my life 10 years ago, and I am honest, and acknowledge the progress that I’ve made, both financially, emotionally, with relationships, maturity, and career, I can be really happy with my health, or my overall growth.
But if I compare myself to what I am not, or someone, or some thing, or some neighborhood, or if I look at the average income of people in Qatar, or Luxembourg, I’m like, “How does the average person in Qatar make like 150 grand a year on average?” They’re triple that of America.

Ryan Isaac: Wow.

Reese Harper: It’s all just … But the satisfaction level, if you just looked at that. If just looked at that ticket, you’d be like, “Oh, okay, well man, sitting here grinding away on my,” A lot of people, that we don’t have a lot of non-dentists that listen, but the average American would hear that and be frustrated, and be like, “Oh geez, all those wealthy oil tycoons.” Or whatever.
But if you look at the satisfaction scores of people that live in Qatar, it’s by far the biggest outlier of all happiness statistics in the world. Something’s wrong there, right? The average person is really mad at their life.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Which could be like hundreds of things. [crosstalk 00:45:14] we have no idea what it could be.

Reese Harper: Yeah, we don’t know, yeah.

Ryan Isaac: It’s a hard field of study.

Reese Harper: But if you, if you acknowledge the good, where you have been, where you’re at and just acknowledge your progress, man, there’s a lot of happiness that can be derived from that. Tons.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. So we’ll just end it with that. Something I’ve been thinking about lately a lot is that financial planning could probably be described as just, as a dentist, you’ve got hundreds of decisions to make over the course of decades and making those … making more of those decisions better, and having fewer bad ones is just going to lead to more favorable outcomes.
So the invitation would be, do what hundreds of dentists have done in trusting a Dentist Advisors to help organize them, give them context about their progress they’re making in a bunch of different ways in their life. Help them make decisions with a cool head, and in context, and have some satisfaction around the progress that they have made and some peace of mind about where they’re headed in the future.
So the invitation would be give us a call, 833-DDS-PLAN. You can call and talk to one of our advisors. Go to our website, go to Click on the book a consultation button and you’ll just, it’ll pop up a calendar, and you can pick a time that works for. You can have a chat with one of our advisors.
And as always, the invitation is open to go to our Facebook group, go in and post questions. We take a lot of stuff for the, a lot of material for the podcast from there. It’s, that’s our Facebook group.
So I hope everyone’s happy. I guess that’s what I help. I just hope everyone’s happy. I just want everyone to be happy. Dang it.

Reese Harper: Well, you’re doing a great job, sir. Keep it up. Thanks for all your help here, shouting it out to the podcast waves.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, well thanks everyone for listening, and make good financial decisions. Be happy. Do good stuff.

Reese Harper: Carry on.

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