Dentist, small business owner, City Council member, County Commissioner, board member, community leader, motwher and wife. Dr. Elba Garcia has embodied all of those titles and more.
Born in Mexico City, Garcia knew from an early age that she wanted to be a dentist. She credits the influence of her father, a doctor.
“Before healthy diets were popular, they were regular in my house. He said no bubble gum, no candy, no soda. That’s probably why I became a dentist,” Garcia laughed.
She earned a dental degree in Mexico and was ready to practice in her home country, but after meeting her future husband, the two decided to move to the Dallas area where he had grown up. Garcia immigrated shortly after they married and immediately encountered two obstacles in her professional life. Her dentistry degree was not recognized in the United States, and she had to learn English.
“My English was good enough to go into McDonald’s and order a Big Mac but that’s about it. I enrolled in community college and I learned.”
Becoming fluent in English while earning her Doctorate in Dental Surgery from Baylor College of Dentistry, she graduated in 1990 and was anxious to put her skills to use. “I had been to two dental schools by then and always joked that I had two degrees.”
Starting at a non-profit community dentistry practice, she went on to join a private practice, which was then offered to her for purchase when the owner retired. That’s when she encountered another hurdle.
“When I applied for a loan to buy the dental practice, nobody would give me one. My financial background was not solid enough, according to them. That’s when I realized it was very important to have a financial professional.”
“The biggest challenge for young professionals is to be able to get those loans for that first business. Be sure you are in good standing to be able to get that line of credit and loan and be able to pay it back too.”
Dr. Garcia used all her personal savings to buy the practice.
She built a rapport with the community and established a clientele as she juggled family life with her husband and two young boys. Her career choice proved to be a perfect lifestyle fit.
“I worked part-time some days if the kids had events. Dentistry is fantastic in that area, It allows you to set up your schedule. No matter what, I always made sure we had dinner as a family at 6:00.”
Her desire to help others soon led to another venture: public service. For years patients had been telling Dr. Garcia about their concerns in their neighborhoods when people began suggesting that she run for city council, Dr. Garcia agreed. Because of the financial planning she had done over the years, she felt confident, from a financial perspective, making a leap into public service. Dr. Garcia beat a longtime incumbent and spent eight years on the Dallas City Council, playing a key role in numerous projects, including the Latino Cultural Center. Subsequently asked to run for Dallas County Commissioner in District 4, she beat another incumbent and became the first Latina in the position.
Through her entire career there has been one constant: meticulous preparation and foresight.
“As a professional you always have to be ready not only to do the best job that you can but you also have to plan in order to be able to grow. That includes having someone that helps you with good financial planning.”
She also leaned on mentors, colleagues, friends and family for everything from advice to help with the children. Her tip for young people just starting off, “Know what you want and do your homework. If you want to be in construction, business or anything, join organizations and find people that can help and mentor you.”
Dr. Garcia still practices dentistry one day per week in her office. The rest of her time is spent in her role as a Dallas County Commissioner, as well as chairing several committees and serving on a variety of boards. Life has been extremely fulfilling in ways she never could have foreseen.
“I knew I wanted to be a dentist but I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to help and serve people and that’s a fantastic feeling. You get to see how many people you can touch and how much good you can do. As a Latina, as a minority, as an immigrant, as a professional, I care a lot about opportunities and I want to open the door to people who otherwise would not have them.”
She has worn many hats in her career, constantly reinventing herself.
“I consider myself very blessed. I tell students, study hard, do your homework. You can do anything that you want, you live in the best country in the world where opportunities are there if you are willing to put in time and your best effort. That’s exactly what I’ve tried to achieve.”
Dr. Garcia is a client of Northwestern Mutual. Her wealth management advisor is Karin Larrave. Karin works with a number of doctors and dentists and recommends the following:
Create a balanced life. Karin advises her clients about the importance of living a balanced life. Building a strong financial foundation will allow you peace of mind and time to spend on family, philanthropy or other passions.
Make an informed decision about disability income insurance. It’s important to understand the difference between a total and partial disability and how each is defined in the policy you choose. You should look for coverage that gives you the most flexibility and control on how benefits are paid to you should you ever become disabled.
Choose a financial professional who you trust. Your career is unique. Your representative should be committed to understanding your dreams and goals, thereby making sure you are protected against risk, able to build and accumulate wealth (in a tax efficient manner) and develop a plan to leave a legacy for your family.