Survey: Physician incomes rebound from pandemic

Although the pandemic was hard on doctors' incomes, last year saw some relief.

Survey: Physician incomes rebound from pandemic

Although the pandemic was hard on doctors' incomes, last year saw some relief. Practices reopened, patients returned back to their doctors' offices, while physician incomes rebounded.

Medscape's Wealth and Debt Report 2022 featured more than 13,000 doctors from more than 29 specialties sharing details about their compensation as well as insight into their savings and investments, budget management, and living within their means.

The average physician's earnings in 2021 was $339,000. The average earnings of physicians was $339,000. Specialists earned $368,000. Primary care physicians made $260,000. Physicians continued to earn wealth due to the rising stock market. Around 46% of physicians have a net value between $1 million to $5 million. 28 percent reported a net worth less than $500,000.

The 2019 survey showed that 11% of doctors had a net worth greater than $5 million. This is an increase of 7%. It is possible for the list of top-ranked specialties to change from one year to the next. Despite this, orthopedics and dermatology have remained in the top five since 2019, while dermatology has remained in the top 10.

There were also changes at the other end of this scale. Last year, 18% of the specialty's doctors reported a net worth below $500,000. 23 specialties reported this year, including pediatrics, infectious disease, and family medicine.

Male doctors make on average more than female doctors. This has an impact upon wealth development. Only 6% of female physicians made it to the $5 million club, compared with 14% of men. 35% of women had a net worth less than $500,000, whereas 22% of their male counterparts did.

However, it does not seem that women are trying to chase the money. Sterling Ransone, Jr., MD, president of American Academy of Family Physicians, stated that women in family medicine make about 16% less than men. He told Medscape Medical News that "Despite the persisting pay gap, the percentages of female family physicians and female residents has increased"

It is also alarming to see the disparity in wealth between White physicians and non-White doctors. White doctors with a net worth of more than $1 million (63%) are more likely to be wealthy than Asian American doctors (57%), Latinix/Hispanic physicians (49%), or Black doctors (38%).

93% of physicians reported living within their means. One respondent stated that they don't care if others are fashionable or not. They stick to their budgets and make wise choices about what luxuries to purchase. Others go further. One physician stated that "we do most of our home maintenance and repairs ourselves." Others report that they bring their lunches to work and keep their cars for at least 15 years.

Over half (61%) of the polled said they saved the same amount or more this year than last year. Only 9% didn't regularly save money in a 401k retirement account or tax deferred college savings account.

Lauren Podnos CFP, Financial Planner with Wealth Care, a company that specializes in working alongside physicians, doesn't find this surprising. Medscape Medical News: Podnos said that doctors have been a good saver in her experience. "This could be because doctors spend so much time [during training] making very little so they become accustomed to being cautious with their money."

Podnos says doctors also have a strong desire to build wealth as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many doctors are concerned about their financial futures, as burnout is a major concern.

She says that when working with physicians, she is trying to help them realize their freedom. They can work part-time or change careers to make it more flexible if they get burned out.

Many doctors have some debt, despite their good financial habits. Doctors owe their mortgage payments at the same rate as Americans. However, 10% to 31% of doctors, depending on their specialty, are trying to pay off student loans. It is extremely expensive to pay off medical school debt. The average US physician pays $356,000 to $440,000 per year for their educations. $165,000.00 to $240,000 is interest.

Ransone says that the challenges presented by student debt are not unique to medicine. We do know, however, that primary care physicians face a unique challenge with student-loan debt. Research shows that repayment programs or loan forgiveness directly impact physician practice choices, so we need more medical students who choose primary care.

Although most doctors are good at managing their wealth and investments, it can be difficult for some. 56% of respondents were asked about investment failures and reported that they had made a mistake.

These results are often due to bad luck. One physician said that he invested in a medical startup company that was sued. However, some losses were not so bad. Another said, "I bought Tesla stock right at its inception, but sold it far too soon."

Avery Hurt, a freelance science writer based in Birmingham, Alabama, writes frequently about medicine and science.

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