The struggle is real.
Oh so real. The realest.
Ok, so here’s the deal. As a doctor you have firmly established yourself as middle class, with possible candidacy for upper-middle class. The likelihood of ever being upper class is pretty low. However, as soon as you get an MD behind your name, everyone you know thinks you are ballin’ out of control and makin’ it rain in the club… and well, that is patently false.
It’s not their fault.
They think you finished medical school and just casually stepped into a job making like 200k+. I would venture to say most people outside of the medical profession have no idea that there is residency after medical school. I will even say that when I was in college on the pre-med track, I had no idea what residency meant or the length of it. Additionally, most people have no idea of how much debt you have accrued to go to medical school and that you don’t really make enough during residency to pay much of it back, or even cover the interest during that time.
A good example would be your parents, especially if they aren’t doctors or aren’t involved in the medical field. I was the first doctor in my family. My parents graciously helped me with college, but when it came time for medical school they simply couldn’t afford to help me anymore. Additionally, I didn’t really want their help.
I wasn’t just some kid anymore and I was going to be fine. Soon enough I would be a young professional and make good money afterwards… right? I made my way through medical school without too much trouble and even matched into my first choice specialty and was pretty much “set”.
My parents just didn’t understand or couldn’t understand why I didn’t have any money. I had to pay my rent, necessities, and pay back the minimum on my loans. But wait a second, I was the “rich doctor”, wasn’t I? No matter how many times I tried to explain to them that although yes I am a doctor, with an MD behind my name, that I was still just a resident and made about 45k a year. However, they still just didn’t understand. They grew up in a different time, where medicine and doctors were viewed differently. During their time, doctors commanded the utmost reverence and were paid an enormous sum of money… at least, that’s how it felt to them.
Then they said, “oh it’s only for a year right?”
“No, mom and dad, it’s for 3+ years, or in my case, a total of 6.”
How could they fathom that my medical school debt would be 300k after 4 years of medical school and 6 years of post-grad education? A debt that large is incomprehensible to my parents.
Finally, after finishing residency and fellowship, I started my first job. Later that year, I came home to visit my parents, who were oh-so-proud to have their doctor son home. They started talking to me about buying a house and I explained to them that I still had a significant amount of debt, and my wife had her own debt as well. They seemed surprised. “You still have debt?” they asked.
Where did they think it went?
It was then that I realized that for my parents, ignorance is bliss. Later, during the same visit with my parents, my dad sat me down and told me “I’m sorry. Had I known you would need to go into this much debt to become a doctor, I wouldn’t have pushed you to do it.”
It’s ok dad. It really is. I wanted to be a doctor for myself… not just to please you. I do appreciate your sympathy though.
It’s definitely a first world struggle, but a real one nonetheless. You need to be aware of it. Just because people think you’re a “rich doctor”, you need to constantly remind yourself that you aren’t. For the most part, most other non-doctors will not understand your financial situation.
You need to stay lean and mean coming out of fellowship and control your spending habits early on. Grow into your money slowly.
One thing to remember is when you think about your debt, don’t think “200k”. Say “TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS”.
This simple change will make it more real to you.
Not many people understand the amount of debt (and interest) you accrue while becoming a doctor. Also, even when they find out, no one will have sympathy for you or really understand.
Control your spending habits early on. Grow into your money slowly.
TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Not just “200k”.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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This post is not meant as a “sob story” of the new young doctors coming out. This post is simply meant to be informative. No one will understand “your struggle” and you can’t ask them to. However, the onus is on you to take steps in controlling your financial and professional future.