The Physician Net Worth Rule Part 2

Some of you called me out on the fact that my physician net worth rule wasn’t based on any actual data, just what I thought docs ought to have.  Remember my rule is this:

Expected Net Worth of a Doctor (ENWD) = Average Post-Residency Income X Years Since Training X 0.25

Well, there’s not much data out there.  I did manage to find one survey from Medical Economics based on 2004 data that was interesting however.  It included 2 interesting figures which I will reproduce below:

Well that’s interesting, but really not that helpful, since it includes everyone from the brand spanking new attending with a negative net worth to the 75 year old that has been retired for a decade already.  This next one, however, is much more enlightening.

Much more interesting here. There are several things I find interesting about this chart.  First, even among physicians, the value of their home is still a major part of their net worth.  In my experience, the wealthier you are the less of a difference the value of your home should make.  That’s because in many ways a home is generally more of a liability than an asset.  I also find it strange that the survey would ask about “retirement plan” separately from “stocks” and “bonds.”  I wonder if that confused any of the respondents.  It seems to me that most investors, including physicians, would own most of their stocks and bonds WITHIN a retirement plan.


I’m also surprised there’s no category for debt.  Some of it just doesn’t make any sense either.  Look at the under 35 category.  $64K outside of retirement plans but only $13K inside retirement plans?  There’s something not right there.  At any rate, let’s adjust the data for inflation and see what it looks like.   From 2004 to 2011, inflation has been a total of 20%.  Let’s increase the values accordingly.

Age Net Worth
<35 $144,000
35-39 $480,000
40-49 $840,000
50-59 $1,440,000
60+ $1,952,400

I wonder how my formula stacks up using ACTUAL physician net worth data.  The average physician salary in 2004 was $200,000.  Of course, my formula uses the physician’s average salary since residency, so just using his current salary will likely overestimate his expected net worth by a certain amount.  But assuming the doc got out of training at age 30, let’s see how well my formula predicts his expected net worth.

First, for the under 35 category, we’ll use a doctor averaging $200K who is 3 years out of residency.

$200K * 3 * 0.25 = $150K A little high, but so far so good.

Now, for the 35-39 category.

$200K * 7 * 0.25 = $350K, a little low for the actual data, but the actual data is certainly within the range of $175K-$700K that I’ve used for the expected net worth of a doctor.

The 40-49 category gives us this data:

$200K * 15 * 0.25 = $750K.  Again, essentially right on target.

50-59 category:

$200K * 25 * 0.25 = $1.25 Million.  Right on.

Over 60 category:

Let’s use a doctor 35 years out of residency, so,

$200K * 35 * 0.25 = $1.75M  Right on target.  Of course, as we get further out from residency, the effect of using this year’s salary instead of the average salary becomes larger.  But it looks to me that the data fits pretty well just using this year’s salary, so let’s just use that in my formula from now on.  Huge salary increases tend to be relatively rare for established attendings anyway.

Looks to me like my Physician Net Worth Formula fits the only available data on physician net worth mighty well.

Expected Net Worth of Doctor = Salary X Years since Training X 0.25

If you have less than 50% of your ENW, you are an underaccumulator of wealth.  If you have more than 200% of your ENW, you are a prodigious accumulator of wealth.


Addendum:  Just by way of comparison, here’s a chart showing the net worth of the average American.  Docs, as you might imagine, are still doing pretty good relatively.