I'm Struggling to Live on $160,000 a Year: MD Lament

Dennis G. Murray, MA


June 03, 2011

In This Article


Most people who don't have "MD" or "DO" after their name would assume that $160,000 is a darn good annual income.

That's what a typical primary care doctor -- family physician or internist -- earns after expenses but before taxes, according to Medscape's first Physician Compensation Survey. Yet it's often not enough in a world where rising costs collide with stagnant reimbursements.

That's because in many ways, doctors are not your typical high-earners. On average, a newly minted physician in the United States graduates with $155,000 in medical school debt, according to the American Medical Association. Many doctors trade more than twice that amount for a diploma. Add to that staggering figure a mortgage or rent, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and perhaps car payments and the cost of raising kids and that 6-figure income evaporates pretty quickly.

"With all the debt physicians have coming out of medical school, it's pretty hard for new primary care doctors to keep their head above water," says Cory White, a financial planner with Peak Financial Management in Waltham, Massachusetts.