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Is It Reasonable to become a Physician Financially?

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  • Is It Reasonable to become a Physician Financially?

    Hey, so I will break down the numbers, but the short is I am trying to make sure going to medical school is not a terrible idea. Just to clear the air yes I want to do this, but I also won't do it if I thought it would mean undo hardship for my family.

    As for background I am 24, currently make around 80k WFH. I have been accepted to a US MD school, pretty average state school, not top tier but good. The total CoA is 207k. I am married and my wife makes about 40k, she plans to work until we have kids and then stop (or go PT). No plans for kids until after med school, probably in residency (when we are in our late 20s). I plan to take a state sponsored loan for 14k a year (56k total) that is forgiven upon working in the state in any capacity for 4 years. (hopefully I match in the state and that is taken care of). Best case scenario I have 151k debt, worst case I have 207 (of course before interest). I am mainly interested in FM or Psych (of course that is subject to change in school, but just going off my experience thus far which is all I can do) so post residency salary expecting 250 or so.

    I understand going to med school may not maximize my lifetime earnings, but I do not care so much about that. I care mostly that I can comfortably care for my family, this is the career I want but I have to do it responsibly. I am a first gen student, and come from a poorer background so the idea of this debt is frightening. However, running the math it seems quite manageable with the expected salary. I suppose I wanted the guidance of some who have done this to see if this is a reasonable choice. I have a comfortable life currently, if not the most interesting, and I fear giving that up to take on that loan burden. Especially with the nagging though of what if I fail out and have to start over with 100k of debt (currently debt free from UG, and nervous about the cost).

    Any thoughts or guidance is appreciate, thank you.

  • #2
    What's your current career?

    Medicine is a high floor profession with regards to compensation but there are limits to how much you'll make clinically. You'll likely be able to live a very comfortable life but probably won't be extravagantly wealthy. There's a decent chance that you'll likely have friends that make more than you and work less.

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    • #3
      You have several things going for you:
      1.) you've already been accepted.
      2.) you have a working spouse to minimize the amount you will need in loans for attending...is the total CoA just tuition or a sum of the school's "recommended loan amounts"? I was able to get by just taking tuition and while it still amounted to $175k of debt, it was better than $275k from needing living expenses, health ins, etc.
      3.) you're young--you haven't been burned out in another career.


      A few things to consider:
      1.) most people change their minds RE specialty at least once between pre-med and match day (except maybe the ortho people...), so be open to what you enjoy (and what you dislike) and don't confine your choices to preconceived notions.
      2.) what prompted you to apply? I assume something related to your current job or is your current job unrelated to your undergrad studies?
      3.) do you or your wife have any undergrad debt?
      4.) autonomy within medicine is wildly variable and dependant on a number of factors; while employed vs private is not something you can predict at this stage, if you're already looking to practice within your state, consider the prospects of both. Not saying private is always better, but lots of employed primary care gigs (particularly FP) that amount to indentured service. Psyche is in such high demand that -- if you actually go that route--you'll have a hard time not finding a place to practice.
      5. ) what's the ceiling (financially and career wise) with your current job and is it something you are doing just to pass the time or is it entry level with room to grow?

      I wouldn't let the fear of debt prevent you from attending unless you plant on taking $100k/year, don't have discipline, already have major undergrad debt or have bad spending habits--but this doesn't sound like the case given your story. It's staggering for sure, but you're fortunate to be able to minimize it with a working spouse and no kids.

      FYI I was undecided for much of undergrad, toyed with lots of different majors, and thought I wanted to do physics. Fell in love and TBH planned my next 2 yrs on what would provide the most secure financial life for my eventual family--which was perhaps naive but it worked out well. Have had bumps and disillusionment along the way, like everyone, but never looked back or wished I had chosen physics instead.
      Last edited by GlassPusher; 02-08-2022, 10:44 AM.

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      • #4
        My current career is in biotech/pharma and there is room for growth. I would cap out around 100k maybe 120k but that is hopeful. I am open to specialties, that is just a current guess at the moment. My current job is only kinda related to medicine, most of my experience was 3 years of EMS through college. . That is how I payed for college, so no undergrad debt for me or my wife. My degree is biochem so I do use it, though I essentially work in regulatory now. The debt estimates I used were based on my budget, I made on out essentially tuition plus 16k a year living expenses was the number I seem to need (including my wifes income). That is why the total is not so bad, at 200k.
        I suppose I am just trying to verify at the cost and expected return it is not a terrible idea. Medicine has been the goal since I started college, but admittedly falling into such a comfortable spot makes it hard to keep going.

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        • #5
          Stamina is definitely needed to make it through 4 yrs of school and 3-6 of residency, but time passes regardless and if you envision getting bored in your current position and don't feel like climbing the corporate/pharma ladder, you may otherwise look back in 8-10 years and wish you had done it.

          If you're in a HCOL area, I can see the need for additional funds beyond your wife's $40k, but an add'l $16k/yr may not be necessary unless you need it for housing or health ins...It wasn't that long ago resident salaries were about that much and people got by ok just on that.

          You've already jumped through what most consider the most difficult hoop: getting in. I say go for it, coming from a fellow biochem major, but i'm a super nerd and did pathology...FM not my flavor of life.

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          • #6
            You are well ahead of many of your peers and you're still young. Average age of first year students has got to be about 24. You also are at an allopathic US school (congrats). Go for it.

            One thing, a lot of unhappy docs make the mistake that they'd be just as successful in business or another career. Not always the case as some of those opportunities are luck, timing of opportunities, and who you hitch your wagon to. I think you're in an excellent position and medicine will be rewarding.

            Just don't buy a condo in med school or residency, please.

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            • #7
              I was a tenured teacher before applying to med school. Figured out my break even point financially would be at 52 (due to the pension) if I had an average of 250k/year in medicine. I now make more than that, and work 4 days a week. But if I didnt apply, I'd always wonder what if, and that was enough to make me apply as long as it wasnt a financial disaster. So as long as you dont immediately start buying everything in sight once youre an attending, yes you can afford med school.

              I also chose a specialty I never wouldve thought of pre med school (preconceived notions) so yes, be open to all specialties once you hit 3rd year. When I realized I hated IM, I almost had a heart attack thinking I wasted time and money going to med school. Obviously that wasnt true, I found what I like to do. Its not all roses, but no job really is, at least not in my mind. Good luck

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              • #8
                You’re a smart guy. I know a lot of FP docs who make $250k+. I thought I wanted to do IM until I started doing my clinical rotations. You’ll probably change your mind once you start med school.

                You’ll be able to pay off your loan as long as you don’t spend every dime you make.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by IlliniGopher View Post

                  Just don't buy a condo in med school or residency, please.
                  And don’t start another thread about “can I afford this house during my residency?”

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by IlliniGopher View Post
                    You are well ahead of many of your peers and you're still young. Average age of first year students has got to be about 24. You also are at an allopathic US school (congrats). Go for it.

                    One thing, a lot of unhappy docs make the mistake that they'd be just as successful in business or another career. Not always the case as some of those opportunities are luck, timing of opportunities, and who you hitch your wagon to. I think you're in an excellent position and medicine will be rewarding.

                    Just don't buy a condo in med school or residency, please.
                    I appreciate that, and no worries no plans to buy anything. My wife and I decided buying was not worth it will after residency, just too much hassle and cost for me.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by doctorbone View Post
                      You’re a smart guy. I know a lot of FP docs who make $250k+. I thought I wanted to do IM until I started doing my clinical rotations. You’ll probably change your mind once you start med school.

                      You’ll be able to pay off your loan as long as you don’t spend every dime you make.
                      Glad to hear that, and I am generally quite frugal. A gaming PC is about the most extravagant I have gotten in 24 years. I have simple tastes, and plan to pay of loans very aggressively when I have income again.

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                      • #12
                        Go for it. It is a financially reasonable decision and it sounds like you are going into it with eyes wide open. If I were you I would save up while you are both working between now and when med school starts to give yourself a good cushion and get used to a cheaper lifestyle.

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                        • #13
                          For the vast majority of people being a physician will be the most lucrative thing they were going to do. so that shouldnt be the thing that holds you back and youd still be young getting through it which is good.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Anne View Post
                            Go for it. It is a financially reasonable decision and it sounds like you are going into it with eyes wide open. If I were you I would save up while you are both working between now and when med school starts to give yourself a good cushion and get used to a cheaper lifestyle.
                            That has been the plan, after moving costs etc we will have at minimum a 20k Efund to draw from.

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                            • #15
                              As others have said, you have all the rights parts aligned for a successful experience, go for it! I went the traditional path right out of college but my father was a truck driver who went to med school when he was 28. Best decision he ever made and strongly influenced my path into medicine. Medicine is still a good career.

                              I started out wanting to do FM, which migrated to ENT, then ER, then Radiology. I graduated before I could change my mind again!
                              Last edited by K82; 02-10-2022, 10:40 AM.

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