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

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November 10, 2017

In This Article

Net Worth

Earnings are related to net worth, but debt, spending habits, expenses, and investments also play a huge role. The specialists with the highest percentage of net worth over $5 million were orthopedists, urologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, and surgeons. However, the largest category amount of net worth among all specialties up to age 49 was under $500,000.

For many people, net worth plays an emotional role as well as a role in financial security.

"Net worth is a significant benchmark that measures success," says Pran Tiku, CFP, of Peak Financial Management, Waltham, Massachusetts. "For most, it is a statement not only of someone's financial accomplishments, but the achievement of very personal goals as well. Having a vacation home on the beach or a collection of antique cars can represent great monetary value but it is much deeper than that.

"When someone has worked hard to build a nest egg and it is quantified for them, it isn't just about the numbers; it represents the dreams they've fulfilled and the chances they have taken successfully," says Tiku.

Medscape asked physicians to estimate their net worth, defined as total assets (eg, money in bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, home equity, value of cars, value of jewelry, etc.) minus total liabilities (eg, money owed on mortgage, car loans, credit card debt, school loans, home equity loans, etc.). Respondents rated their net worth on a scale of 1 to 5 in these categories:

  1. Under $500,000

  2. $500,000-$999,999

  3. $1 million-$1,999,999

  4. $2 million-$5 million

  5. Over $5 million

Then the ratings were averaged within each specialty. At an average rating of 2.95, orthopedists had the highest net worth; at 1.95, family physicians had the lowest.

When correlated with age, as expected, older physicians have built up a larger net worth. By age 59, almost 30% of physicians had built up from $2 million to $5 million in net worth; from age 60 upward, almost 35% of physicians had that amount.

In a 2012 Medscape survey, overall, only about 11% of physicians said that they considered themselves rich, while 45% said that their income is no better than that of many nonphysicians. Another 45% said that although their income probably qualifies them as rich, they have so many debts and expenses that they don't feel rich.

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