The Numbers Behind 99.9% of My Success

With my birthday around the corner, I wanted to reflect on how I got to where I am today. Reading personal finance blogs and thinking about new topics to post can skew your perspective. Everything seems doable, just a function of desire, planning, and sacrifice.  While on some level that is true, I think it’s important to pause and acknowledge the true driver of success … Luck.

Fresh Off The Boat Parents

My parents were born and raised in India during the time of Independence from British rule.  My Dad’s father passed away at a very young age leaving my grandmother with 4 kids and no chance of getting a job.  Luckily, my Dad’s uncle took the family in and made certain the kids received an education.  My Dad pushed himself through high school, college, and med school with minimal support.  That’s actually not the end of his amazing story… he then pushed further to come to America for Residency. If you think the probability of getting into med school is tough, imagine fighting a population of a billion people (it wasn’t a billion at that time but it sounded better) to make it to America.

All immigrant stories are amazing when you look at the challenges to overcome and odds of success.  The future generations get “Lucky” because of the hard work of their parents and grandparents.  My parents’ sacrifice and desire to immigrate to a foreign land meant I was born in the United States which dramatically increased the probability of success.  Being born in a free democratic country with access to food and water is better than 75% of the world.  On top of that, being born to an educated family, in a safe neighborhood, where I could go to school safely, play baseball in the front yard, and ride my bike puts me at 90% probability of success compared to the rest of the world.

Healthcare for ALL

The next thing to acknowledge is health.  Being an Emergency Physician I see everything, from kids running around the department with a simple diaper rash to watching a patient’s last breath.  We see patients with mental illness, chronic disabilities, horrible family situations, and plenty of other challenges that wouldn’t allow them the luxury to sit back and wonder “Where do I invest my next $1000?”.  While access to healthcare is a whole different discussion, having an able body and mind contributes significantly to one’s success in life.  I have been Lucky to have been in good health all my life and able to get an education without any setbacks due to health complications. I think we are now at a 95% probability of success.

Timing is Everything

It is important to acknowledge that timing is everything. The timing that I want to talk about here is how the future is decided by when you start the process.  I was in medical school when the financial crisis hit and the world was coming to an end.  While everyone else was trying to save their homes or keep their retirement accounts from vanishing, I had nothing to “worry” about.  I literally had nothing other than a small amount of cash from My Credit Card Hustle (take that SEO optimization plugin) and my Roth IRA that I had started in high school.  I could more or less ignore the noise because it didn’t change my path to becoming a doctor. My career in Medicine was moving forward by matching in Emergency Medicine and my move to Chicago. All of my 401Ks and most other investment accounts started at the bottom of the market with the financial crisis and luckily we have soared to new records since with very little effort on my part. We are definitely close to 98% now.

Gifts That Keep Giving

Beyond just giving my brother and I the chance to be born in America, our parents invested heavily in our well-being and education.  We can debate “Do you Need an Emergency Fund?” or “Is a 3-fund portfolio better than a Target-Date fund?” all day long but my parents couldn’t have cared less about their own Financial Independence.  They had one focus and that was their children and their education. Our parents made education the cornerstone of our family’s story and we were always taught the more the better. By paying for our education and supporting us the whole way through medical school, they allowed us to be independent without the burdened by loans.   My brother and I both got our MBAs after graduating from residency while working full-time because we believed in the power of education.  Was our goal to walk away from the bedside? No. We wanted to improve the care we deliver to our patients. If this isn’t 99% then I don’t know what is.

Finally, my parents supported me in a way that brought together all other aspects of my Luck and put me in the last 0.1%.  They helped with the down payment of my first place during residency.  Not everyone was running to buy a home in 2009 and banks definitely weren’t willing to throw money around.  This place ended up being my first home, my first investment property, and the foundation of my real estate investing portfolio.  I have taken on risk and gotten more comfortable with real estate investing solely because of this 2 bedroom garden unit condo.

So, as you can see, without doing a thing, my Luck (parents) put me in position to be successful.  I am VERY Lucky and this is my chance to acknowledge my true drivers of success and more specifically thank my parents for what they did for my brother and I.

THANK YOU!

–Dr. Linus

8 comments

  1. My immigrant parents did the same thing. They came here for opportunity, but stressed the importance of education. That lead me to pursue a career as a pharmacist, and my wife as an ER physician. They also worked hard to pay for college, though we had a few small loans to pay off. My wife also became an attending right after the market crash (2009), so we’ve been able to ride the wave…..very similar stories!

  2. I originally titled the post with 99% but then as I wrote it I could only keep 0.1% of the credit (sounds like an expense ratio)

    Thanks for reading! Good luck in your blogging journey.

    Dr. Linus

  3. Very astute observation and assessment. What you are describing has been the dominate belief system in America for 200 + years, the desire to make the next generation better than yours. Other societies have picked up on it, but none like the US. The sad thing is it is now labeled “privilege”, not provision and sacrifice by others. Since you don’t deserve it more than anyone else, you have stolen it from the others in your community.

    If you would like a picture of a society that begins to consume and debase all prior accomplishments in the name of equality, read Patrica McCormick’s book, Never Fall Down. The speed and depth of the fall is haunting.

  4. So much of our fortunes comes down to dumb luck- being born to the right parents at the right place at the right time. It’s important to stay grateful and not squander that 99.9% head start.

  5. Very interesting observations! Hard work is critical but being born to supportive, loving parents definitely gives a head start.

    P.S. I literally laughed out loud at the SEO optimization plugin reference.

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