Industry Trends Physician

Physician wealth in 2018: Which specialties are worth the most?

Physician wealth and debt

It’s been a topsy-turvy few months on Wall Street. Stocks have dropped, rebounded, bottomed out, and then recuperated again. The market’s unpredictability can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. After all, for individuals nearing retirement, that volatility may affect the depth of their savings — and how long they choose to work. Also, weakened investments could impact how much liquidity is available to cover children’s college tuition or other big expenditures.

Financial advisors typically caution investors against panicking during these turbulent cycles, citing the stock market’s history of eventually correcting itself. But whenever savings become vulnerable to uncertain circumstances, it’s a good reminder to reassess your assets. In fact, the Medscape Physician Wealth and Debt Report 2018 recently reviewed doctors’ financial status and discovered that more than 40 percent of the 20,000 participants enjoy a net worth of $1 million or more. However, the majority has saved or invested less than $1 million.

Keep reading for other noteworthy distinctions the survey detected among specialties, age groups, gender, and even attitudes toward financial planning.

Physicians' Net Worth

Image credit: Medscape

Wealth distribution

Of course, whenever wealth is the topic of discussion, you have to consider annual income. According to the Medscape 2018 Physician Compensation Report, the average physician salary in the United States adds up to $299,000 — specialists earn approximately $329,000 whereas primary care practitioners cash in at $223,000.

Given this, it’s not surprising that specialists also report the greatest net worth. For purposes of the survey, net worth is defined as income plus savings, investments, and equities, minus debts, such as loans, mortgages, and liabilities.

The five richest specialties, those tallying up more than $5 million, include dermatology (17 percent), orthopedics (14 percent), gastroenterology (14 percent), cardiology (12 percent), and ophthalmology (12 percent).

Conversely, family medicine practitioners account for the fewest physicians hitting the $5 million milestone at only 1 percent. Rounding out the bottom five specialties at 2 percent each are neurology, critical care, pathology, plastic surgery.

Richest physicians

Image credit: Medscape

Loan liabilities

Interestingly, net worth among specialists does not appear to correlate with those still shouldering medical school debt. Approximately one-third of all respondents admit to still paying off student loans, mostly among those younger than 50.

Among specialists, 43 percent of both urologists and family medicine clinicians continue to carry that particular liability. More than one-third of emergency medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, critical care, and oncology practitioners also remain in the red.

Physicians' debt and student loans

Image credit: Medscape

The specialties with the least number of physicians in debt from medical school are: gastroenterology, infectious diseases, pulmonary medicine, nephrology, and public health/preventive medicine.

Of course, tuition isn’t the only form of debt. Nearly two-thirds of physicians hold a mortgage on their primary residence, 40 percent are paying on at least one car loan, and more than a quarter deal with revolving credit card balances. Another 18 percent have taken out loans to pay for their children’s college tuition.

Age & gender parities

Older physicians, who have had longer careers and more time to save, declare a greater net worth than younger counterparts. One out of five individuals age 65 or older has accumulated more than $5 million in savings and investments, whereas 96 percent of doctors younger than 35 have yet to surpass the $1 million mark. More middle-aged physicians have banked assets in the neighborhood of $1-$5 million.

Physicians' net worth by age

Image credit: Medscape

When looking at wealth between the genders, men maintain an edge — at the $1-$5 million range, men outpace women 40 to 29 percent, respectively. The difference grows at the top, where only 2 percent of female physicians have banked more than $5 million compared with 7 percent of men.

Financial planning

In terms of attitudes toward finances, almost all physicians say they keep living expenses either at their means or below. However, 32 percent state they do not adhere to a budget for personal finances.

Among the various financial planning products available, approximately half of the respondents set aside more than $1,000 per month in a tax-deferred retirement or college savings account. On the other hand, nearly one-third admits to not regularly contributing to a taxable savings account.

A locums investment

While the stock market will always be susceptible to financial whims, one investment physicians can bank on is locum tenens. Short-term assignments empower providers to supplement their incomes at, oftentimes, higher rates than salaried staff. Plus physicians nearing retirement can continue to produce income while also controlling their schedules. And individuals recently out of residency can begin earning while testing out clinical and community settings without signing long-term employment contracts.

To discover how locum tenens can help boost your professional and personal worth, give a us a call at 954.343.3050 or visit our job board for locum tenens job opportunities.

About the author

Anne Baye Ericksen

Anne Baye Ericksen is a journalist and locum tenens subject-matter expert with more than two decades of experience. She was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler and Healthcare Staffing and Management Solutions magazines.

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