Financial Independence

How we use the S.O.A.P Format in achieving Personal Goals and Financial Independence

What do you want to get out of life? Is there a voice inside your head telling you to be this or to achieve that? Are the goals you set for you and your family seems out of reach?

As physical therapists we were trained to be problem solvers. Every time we see a patient (or random stranger in the mall) our PT brains turn on instantly. They don’t even have to tell us anything, but from the moment they walk pass by us, we come up with educated PT diagnoses of what the patient may have.

All accredited PT schools teach aspiring students how to do an Evaluation, Assessment, and Treatment Planning. This is skillfully documented on our widely used S.O.A.P. note form (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan). This format gives us a way of consolidating our findings to come up with the best treatment plan for our patients.

Evaluation (S-O) is where we gather pertinent information that are necessary to help the patients with complaints and difficulties that they have. It consists of the comprehensive interview and physical examination process.

Assessment (A) is where we make sense of all the findings we gathered. This involves prognosticating, formulating problem lists, and creating short- and long-term goals.

Then we execute the Treatment Plan (P) for a predetermined amount of time, and after the sessions we Re-Evaluate to adjust our approach as needed.

This is our training, the set of skills that makes us good clinicians. We do this over and over for the course of our career to help clients with their physical impairments and functional challenges.

Do you know that these skills could personally help you succeed in life? These could help you not only to be the best PT for your patients, but to realize your personal and financial goals.

Yes, putting your life in the system of S.O.A.P format could be what you need to be a successful “whatever you want to be.” You can apply this to any skill, state of mind, hobby, work, dreams, and financial goals.

How to use the S.O.A.P format

Evaluation

Always start by researching the body of knowledge you wish to excel at or want to accomplish. Like what you do when you sit down with your patients, knowing about the patient diagnoses first is essential.

Proceed by asking the right questions to tease out where your present situation and the things you may be lacking. In the S.O.A.P note, this is when you do the interview and perform the appropriate tests and all of these are tailored to what your patient presents now. We’ll show you how we did that in 2019 in the examples below.

Initial Evaluation01/26/2020

S:> Towards the end of 2019 we bought our first home. This purchase had drained both our savings accounts to less than 2 months’ worth of expenses. We are not used to this, although we are not as intentional in spending as we want to be, we still lived with a significant cash cushion. The fear of not having the ability to pay our bills worries us.

We will be spending the holiday season house poor and paycheck to paycheck. This problem is made more difficult by the recent virus outbreak. My wife loss her job and I took a pay cut because there are less visits to be done. We now experience some feelings of insecurity around money.

I came across Financial Independence on a personal finance podcast that I have been following. We were implementing some of the hacks that they are teaching, but maybe its time to take thigs to the next level. Could Financial Independence be for us too?

If not, things still must change. If we continue with the status quo, we will eventually run out of money. Getting in debt will be our only option from that point and on.

O:>

  • Average monthly income = $4,000
  • Cash (Checking Accounts) = $6,270.27
  • Equity (Retirement Accounts) = $48,431.28
  • Net Worth = $54,707.55
  • 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house = 2 rooms vacant
  • Average Monthly expenses = $4,170

Assessment

Seeing the figures will allow you to see your strengths and weaknesses. Create your problem lists, goals and strategies based on what you found. This is when your extensive research on your topic becomes valuable. Make S.M.A.R.T goals. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound)

In the PT practice, this is letting all patient information pass your critical thinking brains to make sense of it. This approach makes your job as a PT efficient because you address the root cause of the condition instead of tackling it on all sides hoping something works.

A:> The arrival and eventual explosion of Covid-19 in the U.S. has drastically reduced our income by 83%. This is because my wife lost her job and the fear amongst clinicians and patients has reduced the number of visits I can do. We have 2 vacant rooms that we currently use for storage. We could possibly rent them out.

We found ourselves in a tight spot, but we still have positive net worth (mortgage not included). In a couple of months, we must plan to sell our investments to cover our everyday expenses. This is because our expenses exceed our income by 4.25%.

Should investing take a backseat for now? We can barely fund our daily expenses. Where can we find the money to invest? The market is projected to hit its all-time low due to the looming health crisis. Maybe we should stop all kinds of investments including my 401k contributions and instead maintain a good cash reserve. Current savings rate is 4%.

Goals:

Long Term Goal: In the Next Five Months, to increase Net Worth by 20%.

Short Term Goals: (in the Next Three Months)

  • To not touch our retirement accounts
  • To continue investing every month.
  • To double our savings rate.
  • To increase our income by 50%

Treatment

“The Greatest Gap in the world is the gap between Knowing and Doing”

John Maxwell

Your goals are right there in front of you. So close and yet so far. You already imagine yourself living it, but there’s still something you must do and that is well… Do it!

Examine your short- and long-term goals and do the wisest next step to reach them. You can find an accountability buddy, schedule it on the calendar, get in contact with the right people. Just Get it DONE!

PTs don’t just write impeccable S.O.A.P. notes wrap them with a big red bow, then bid our patients goodbye. Our assessment means nothing to them unless they see results. The gap is bridged by doing the plan of treatment.

P:>

I made myself top of mind in the office with regards to availability to see patients. At the time when there were no longer shortages in PPEs and health protocols were already in place, patients started to pick-up, and we took advantage of this.

We attacked our monthly expenses line item by line item. Planning our meals, calling our providers and more strategies in this article. The most substantial boost in our savings rate was house hacking. It had allowed us to live rent and utilities free for a whole year.

See how in the video below!

Re-Evaluation

Different outcomes are waiting for you in the end. Re-Evaluation is the point to know when you have already become “whatever you want to be.” Also, sometimes goals do not get realized and our plans comes up to be ineffective. Constant Re-evaluation is the driving force of growth. It allows you to honor the goals you have achieved and revise or let go of those that fell on the wayside.

PTs treat this type of S.O.A.P note as a look-back on the last sessions so we can plan for the sessions ahead. It allows us to align ourselves with our patients’ expectations and assures them that we still prioritize their goals.

Re-Evaluation06/30/2020

S:> We have returned to building a healthy cash cushion by taking more patients and saving aggressively. This had given us some sense of security around money.

O:>

  • Average Monthly Income = $6,000
  • Cash (Checking Accounts) = $11,803
  • Equity (Retirement Accounts) = $61,458
  • Net Worth = $73,261
  • 3-bedroom 2-bathroom house = 2 rooms rented
  • Average Monthly Expenses = $3,070

A:>Thanks to the evolving knowledge on Covid-19 we were allowed to see more patients. Rental income from the 2 rooms in our house greatly helped. Our household income increased by 33%. We should research more on acquiring rental properties next year.

Implementing small strategies added up to reducing our expenses significantly. The lockdown kind of helped because we did not go out to eat or watch movies. This resulted to a 26% decrease on our monthly expense. In the next 6 months, we could compute for our retirement timeline using our new figures.

Six months ago, I already planned to sell our 401k and Roth IRA investments to cover our monthly costs. Thank goodness we didn’t have to do it as the market hit its lowest in the year. Amidst the rampaging pandemic, we managed to continue saving and investing (even on the market decline).  Our savings rate increased from a scary -4% to an exciting 48%. I should research on low cost and long term investing options to maximize our returns.

P:> Continue as previously planned. Research rental property investing, Know our FI number and timeline and Research long term investing options.

As physical therapist we all have a knack for solving the hundreds of complex problems that our patients present. It is the accumulation of intense school training and years of experience in the field that allowed us to be effective evaluators, goal-makers, and planners.

Personal finance is just another complex problem that we can deconstruct through methodical approaches. The right tools and knowledge that we learned researching our fields of interest had allowed us to develop a critical mind in Personal Finance the same way we did in Anatomy & Kinesiology.

Implement these tools. Acquire the skill that you want to learn and reach financial independence that you deserve. You are at a great advantage not only because of your salary, but most importantly your problem-solving skills that enables you to achieve any goal you put your mind into.

Know about the non-renewable Life Energy and maximize it in achieving your personal goals in the video below.

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