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


November 10, 2017

In This Article

Where Do Physicians' Incomes Go?

No surprise, medical school debt is a large factor in taking up a chunk of physicians' income. Physicians' top five expense categories were:

  1. Mortgage on primary residence

  2. Car loan payments

  3. Paying off their own college or medical school loans

  4. College tuition for children

  5. Car lease payments

The other expenses that physicians mentioned included: "Parent support"; "Don't forget the ex-wife! Alimony!"; "Tuition for nephew and grandson"; "Home repairs and upgrades."

While 77% of young physicians starting out are paying off school loans, those loans don't go away quickly. Even after age 50, 20% of physicians are still paying off school loans.

Although some have claimed that doctors, as a group, are confirmed overspenders, the evidence overall does not seem to support that.

"Some stereotypes are pretty accurate, but I don't believe that is the case here," says Tiku. "Physicians are in a special situation. You don't become a doctor without being bright, hardworking, talented, and completely engaged in your work. This often leads to considerable wealth but not much time to assess your financial situation.

"Many of the physicians I work with are financially cautious because they don't have the opportunity (or the inclination) to manage their finances. They are focused on their work. Additionally, when you are exceptionally driven and hold yourself to high standards, you're constantly setting the bar higher for yourself, both professionally and financially," says Tiku.

In Medscape's survey report, only 11% of female physicians earn less than their spouse or significant other. Almost two thirds (62%) of female physicians make either the same as or more than their partners. Among male physicians, 78% say that their significant other makes the same as or less than they do. Only 3% of male physicians say they have a spouse who earns more than they do.

"It is fascinating that physicians in a relationship reflect the overall biases in society, even though their perception does not reflect the facts," says Tiku. "On another note, the medical profession may be where the glass ceiling has shown more cracks than is typical in today's workplace. That would be a great development."


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