Dave Ramsey has done a lot of good to help people budget and get out of debt. But what do you do to move beyond that point? Our guest, Dr. Jeff Anzalone, shares how he created financial freedom by not following all of Dave Ramsey’s advice. This dentist looks back on how one wrist injury pushed him to switch from the paradigm of mutual funds and jump into real estate syndication. Dr. Jeff also shares how he founded Debt Free Doctor, a community that helps doctors and other high-income professionals create their own powerful passive income.
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Jeff Anzalone: How This Dentist Moved Beyond Dave Ramsey To Get Financial Freedom
I got a special guest that I’ve heard about through reputation. I know he’s got a great podcast himself. I’ve heard a lot of things, especially from those of us who have been in the dental space. I know there are a lot of my clients and friends who are in this space as well. This may not be a surprise to you, but I had Jeff Anzalone here.
He’s a full-time practicing periodontist in the great state of Louisiana, as we were just talking about in Monroe. He’s an author and Founder of DebtFreeDr.com. He’s focused on helping doctors, and other high-income professionals create passive income from real estate so that they can stop trading their time for money. It’s very much in line with the message of the show. Jeff, excited to get to know you better. Welcome to our show.
Thanks, Chris, for having me.
Tell us more about your story and how you went through this. As we talked about before, you had a switch from this paradigm of mutual funds and everything else to going into this alternative space, which is what we talk about every time on the show. Tell us more about your story.
Any professional out there or anybody that works for somebody, we’re typically told one of the benefits is you get a 401(k). For me, starting my own practice, I’d started a retirement account for my employees. That’s what my financial advisor recommended. Work for 35 or 40 years, and that’s it. Like you said, “What if you don’t want to work for 35 or 40 years? What if you want other options?” Whenever you don’t know of any other options, which I didn’t back then, it was like, “Everybody else in town is doing it, working until their 70s, or some of them in their 80s. What else do you do? There are no other options.”
I knew that’s what I was going to do, and that’s it. The wake-up call for me happened 8 or 9 years ago. My wife and I were snow skiing in Colorado. We got off the lift, and a kid cut in front of me. I swerved and fell. When you fall, you instinctively put your hands down. It bent my wrist back, and I got a little wrist injury. Luckily, it wasn’t anything permanent, but that incident got me thinking that it was a catalyst, “What if I can’t use my hands? How would I make money?” I had no other way of doing it. You can’t do dentistry with your feet or mouth working on patients.
I appreciate that, by the way. You’re a periodontist or something like that.
Up until that point, I was living very risky. Luckily, I followed the Dave Ramsey methods, which I’d gotten out of debt, and we’d paid off our house and all that, but it was like, “Now what?” He ingrains so much in you that debt’s bad, that you live this ultra-frugal miserly and don’t-take-any-chances life. My natural entrepreneurial spirit says, “I wanted more.” At that point, I knew something had to be done, and I didn’t have a clue what to do. I started using a lot of the free resources that we have online, on YouTube, and on podcasts like yours. There are all kinds of information out there.
I sorted through all of it and found two things to help guide me in the right direction. 1) Over 90% of millionaires had real estate in their portfolios. At the time, I didn’t have any. 2) Millionaires average 3 to 7 income streams. At that time, I had one. That helped me narrow it down. I need to focus on real estate to get passive income. Back then, I thought that meant buying a single-family home, duplex, self-storage unit, or something, starting marketing it, and putting tenants in there, and when they beat holes in the wall, kick them out and repair the wall. I was like, “If I got to do that for my family, I’m going to do it.”
Luckily, during that whole process of educating myself, I started finding out there’s a whole different world out there of passive options that you can do. The main one that I do is called real estate syndication. You don’t have to do any of that. What’s great about it is our biggest wealth-building tool is our income. For me and other professionals, we spend a lot of time, money, and energy on getting our degrees.
When you start taking your time away from that and going and looking for houses or apartments or trying to do tenants and all this, you’re taking your time away from making money. Plus, you’re taking time away from your family with this. With this, you can stay focused on how to do your best, but all you got to do is put your money in.
It’s like a machine. It starts sending you a check every quarter. I started focusing on that, and now I’m up to 11 or 12 streams of income besides my practice. Is it going to happen overnight? No, but I’m trying to educate people that if they could start as soon as they can afford to, when they start working, starting with the end in mind to where they’re replacing their active income with passive income as much as possible, then that’s the way to go.
I love that story. You’re still on this journey. You’re experiencing it here and now. You’ve had that huge epiphany, which is something I’ve hit hard on the show, which is that one stream of income, there’s no guarantee. Even in 2020, you saw it with your practice, where you’re down to emergency case surgeries only, or type of those situations where you had to be an essential business to stay open. Even the government can shut you down at any time, even if you’re a business owner where you’re your own boss. It’s such a crazy world now.
I got an email. The 2nd or 3rd week of March 2020 from our State Board of Dentistry says, “As of Friday, you’re no longer able to practice until we tell you to.” I would’ve thought that we got this worldwide pandemic happening and that reinforced things. Luckily, I still had streams of income coming in. Some of them did shut down, but they started back up. As soon as people realized what was happening and they realized the governments pumped money into people’s pockets so they could pay rent. If you’re relying on one thing or one income source, you never know what could happen to it.
That’s right. I’m going back to the perspective shift you had to have as well. You mentioned you’re a Dave Ramsey fan and full at everything you did. You were his poster child. We have our clients who are the Dave Ramsey poster children. They get debt free and say,, “Now what?” What was that big epiphany for that purpose right there? How did that work? Did you end up using equity or debt as well to invest? What was the difference for you after that?
I spent seven and a half years living the Dave Ramsey, “You had this goal.” You finally get to it, and it was great for 24 hours. I was in my mid-30s. There’s going to be more to life than this. He does a great job getting you there but doesn’t do a good job after that. The thing is, he’s built all of his wealth with real estate, but he never mentions much about it. That’s one thing that I wish he would at least expand on. He does a great job of helping people out there because 78% to 80% of Americans are broke, living paycheck to paycheck. He does a good job of getting them on the right path, but for those that want more, they should offer more.80% of Americans are broke, living paycheck to paycheck. Click To Tweet
You call yourself the Debt-Free Doctor. Many people could look at that and say, “You’re a Dave Ramsey fan.” That’s not the case. What’s the premise behind calling it a debt-free doctor?
I started the blog when I was still on his plan and all that. I was teaching people at that point how to get out of debt and get to where you can invest. The more I started learning about real estate and syndications, the more I started shifting things over educating people in my position who wanted to change but didn’t know where to start.
I was taking all this information and putting it down to, “If you’re going to do this, these are the things that you should know in order to make an educated decision before you invest.” These investments are $50,000, $75,000 to $100,000 minimum. These aren’t cheap. If you go out and buy a single-family home or a duplex or something, you’re going to be putting at least that much or more down to buy them. There’s not much difference.
For those people that were in a similar position as you, what advice would you give them? Maybe they were doing a good job paying down all their debts and trying to save up all their money in mutual funds. What’s your advice to them? What do you feel is that bridge to get them to move over to something better?
I got this from Grant Cardone, who was real instrumental in getting me going in this direction too. He’s focused on, “Do everything you can to save $100,000. Do that first.” The point is, you see these people online, and they’re asking all these questions, “Should I invest in this account where I get 7%, 10%, or 12%?” They’re talking about $10,000. What’s 10% or 15% of $1,000 or $1,500? That’s nothing.
He said, “Once you get to the point where you got a $100,000, you got something to work with.” I recommend that if you got a bunch of consumer debt, get rid of that, then focus on everything you can to get that $100,000 saved. For me, educating yourself was about passive income creation with real estate syndications or whatever you want to do if you want to buy a business or expand your business or whatever. Start with that $100,000, and then you got something you can move the needle with.
It’s not a baby step in any way, shape, or form, but it’s true. Many people reach out to us and say, “I’ve got a large sum of money, $10,000. What do I do with it?” “Do you have any other savings besides that?” “No.” People need steps. They need to see that there’s an evolution of that. I had somebody who did have about $60,000 and said, “Where should I go?” Get $200,000, and there are a lot more things you can start doing at that point.
I spoke with Dennis right before our interview. She was out in California this morning. She had about $500,000 saved up. Somebody like that can speed up the process of becoming financially independent. She’d been practicing for about 20 years, and most of the people she knew had been practicing for 40 years. She’s like, “I can’t do that, want to do it much less than that.” Somebody like her could do it in five years or less.
It’s true. The thing is, with $500,000, if you make even just a 10% preferred return on syndication, you’re making $50,000 a year off that money passively right there, especially if you have all the tax managers, depreciation, and everything else. You can keep a lot of that money now.
The thing that was great about our conversation was she did have a good bit of rental property. Her husband was a contractor. She’d never heard about filing for real estate professional status. I said, “If you qualify, think about what you’re paying in taxes now, taking that to zero.” She was like, “I’m going to start looking at that right now.” I did take tips, but we’ll see that.
It’s true, especially with a lot of practice owners. A lot of times, they will have the building where they are actively managing that with a few more properties in your portfolio and then adding some more passive stuff. You could qualify.
She had several single-family homes, plus with her husband doing the real estate. She had never heard of it before, so I was surprised at her accountant, “Had they even brought it up?”
That’s one thing I noticed about accountants and CPAs. People say, “I have a conservative accountant. I have a conservative CPA.” No, you have an ignorant CPA. I don’t mean that in an insulting way. I just mean they don’t know where the line is because they have no clue where the line is. It’s like somebody’s in the dark. They know that the cliff ledge is somewhere nearby, so they just stand as far back as possible so they don’t fall over. Someone who knows a clear line is going to say, “Have you tried this and this?” They’re more of a proactive CPA than a passive one. This is great. Jeff, what final piece of advice would you give, whether dentists, doctors, or even somebody starting? What would you give him his final parting words?
First, it takes a mindset shift that you want to do this, and you have to figure out your why. If you go, “I just want passive income,” it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to have something. For me, it was fear. It was like, “If I can’t work and use my hands, I can’t provide.” That kept me motivated. Once you focus on finding your why, that’s going to help motivate and drive you to start learning about this.
Sometimes people don’t want to lose weight. They’re overweight, and they don’t eat well, or they drink or whatever, or they smoke. Typically, what has to happen to them is they got to have that heart attack or that chest pain to motivate them. I don’t want you to get to that point. I don’t want something bad to happen to you. Try to have more of an insurance policy.
Jeff, this has been such a valuable experience. I’m so glad that there’s another lone voice in the wilderness along with us that is trying to get people to open their eyes to something much better than what they’ve been given, especially financial advisors like I used to be twenty years ago. I appreciate your time with us today. Everybody, go to MoneyRipples.com. This is a blog post. You’re reading it, but most importantly, it’s about taking action. When you take appropriate action and do the right things, that is when your life begins to change. Remember, it’s up to you to make it a wonderful end process week, and we’ll talk to you later.
About Dr. Jeff Anzalone
Dr. Jeff Anzalone is a full-time practicing periodontist in the great state of Louisiana, author and founder of DebtFreeDr.com.
His focus is on helping doctors and other high-income professionals create passive income from real estate so that they can STOP trading their time for money.