Insights From Our Editors

The More Profitable Career Path: Practice Owner or Employed OD?

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

June 20, 2018

Working toward practice ownership is the most profitable career course an OD can take, according to Jobson Optical Research’s 2018 ECP Compensation Study.

The average compensation reported for employed ODs was $109,625. The average total compensation of optometrists who are owner/partners for 2017 was reported as $141,624. The compensation for this group would include any salary they may have assigned themselves.

Let’s consider the raw numbers spread over a 40-year career without taking into account inflation. If we considered inflation, the numbers would be much larger, so let’s look at the most conservative case over the 40-year career of an OD. Here are the numbers.

Financial planners will tell you there is a significant difference between making less than $100,000 per year and making more than $100,000 per year. The difference impacts how many times you can eat out per week, what level of house you live in, what neighborhood you live in, what type of car you drive, what kind of vacation you take per year, what schools you put your children into, how much you put into your retirement account per year and your financial stress levels.

One of the questions I ask my OPT 1 students to answer is: Define the difference between living securely and living comfortably. Here are the two best answers: “Living securely is having all your basic needs met” and “Living comfortably is, on top of living securely, being able to have some, or all of, your desires met.”

With an additional $1.28 million over the course of 40 years, will you be able to have more of your desires met? For some people, the answer will be, “I want to live a more frugal life.” That is not a wrong answer, it is probably the right answer for that person.

For others, the answer may be, “I want to live more comfortably – I want to be able to give my children the best education while my family lives in the safest neighborhood, while at the same time, making sure my retirement is fully funded at the levels I want with less stress about my financial situation.”

What do you want? Do you want to be an employer or an employee? We’ve raised the question and given you some financial data. Now it’s your turn to decide which path you want to take to answer the question. Your answer will cause at least a $1.28 million difference over your 40-year career as an OD.

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