Physicians, Debt, and Net Worth: Big Spenders or Big Savers?

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November 10, 2017

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Big Spenders or Big Savers?

The stereotype of doctors spending lavishly and irresponsibly may have little basis, and in fact, most physicians have a strong sense of saving and living within their means, according to data from Medscape's Physician Compensation Survey 2015: Debt and Net Worth.

Orthopedists, urologists, and gastroenterologists had the highest net worth; of all the medical specialties, they had the largest percentage of physicians with a net worth of over $5 million. Family physicians, internists, and psychiatrists had the lowest overall net worth.

Medscape's 2015 Physician Compensation Report, which detailed physician spending habits, comparative income of physicians and their spouses, and debt, turned up some intriguing points:

Contrary to some stereotypes, 61% of physicians live within their means and have little debt; another 24% say they live below their means and that people would be surprised at how much money they really have. Only 11% admit that they live above their means, spend a lot, and carry credit card balances.

22% of female physicians say their spouse or significant other earns the same as or more than them; only 8% of male physicians have a spouse or partner who earns the same as or more than them. Conversely, 73% of male physicians have a spouse/partner who earns less than them; only 51% of female physicians are with a spouse or significant other who earns less than them.

Physicians' biggest area of debt is their mortgage, followed by car payments and med school debts, according to Medscape's survey report. Fully 67% of physicians have a mortgage on their primary residence, which is slightly less than the national norm: according to estimates by Zillow, 71% of homeowners have a mortgage.[2]

56% of physicians have made investment mistakes, such as a real estate investment, stock investment, or other investment that turned out badly. The specialists most likely to have made investing mistakes were anesthesiologists (42%), urologists, (42%) orthopedists (43%), and plastic surgeons (44%). Those least likely to have made an investment mistake were endocrinologists (67%), HIV/ID specialists (65%), pediatricians (64%), and neurologists (62%).

Many physicians try to invest not only in stocks but also in various business ventures. Although 77% have not experienced financial losses in the past year, almost a quarter (23%) have lost money in the stock market or bad investments, through setbacks and financial difficulties in their practices, or in a divorce or other situation.

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