Welcome to another installment of Interviews with Real Female Physicians. The goal of this series is to share their story so that you, the reader, may learn and be inspired from their experiences – good and bad. We all come from different backgrounds and have different situations. Some of you are married, some are not, some with kids, some with blended families. Let’s show other women that any of these can work financially!
So let’s introduce our next woman physician rockstar – Liz.
Tell us about yourself:
Hi. I’m Liz. I’m an academic attending neonatologist 2 years out of fellowship training and I practice in Cincinnati, OH. 70% of my time is devoted to research. My pay is around the 25-30th percentile of other academic jobs in the area.
I am married to a wonderful stay-at home-dad (SAHD) husband and we have a 3-year-old daughter with some special needs.
I am happy with my specialty because I love my job, but it’s frustrating to get paid less than what most physicians make. Especially as the sole income earner. I’m doing better than general pediatricians, but I’m taking frequent call and dealing with very stressful situations. My colleagues in PICU are paid more and the discrepancy between my pay and adult intensivists is wide.
If I had to do it all over again I would have gone into anesthesia or dermatology. I had the grades, board scores, etc, but neonatology had stolen my heart, so I’m in it until I burn out.
Did you graduate with student loans?
I graduated with $250,000 off student loans, most at 6.8% interest rate, that were in forbearance all through training. I do not recommend this. I didn’t know about PSLF until late in fellowship, and that was a terrible mistake. My husband also has about $60,000 in loans that are below 3%. I went to a public medical school specifically to save money. My parents were unable to contribute a dime to college or med school, so that influenced my decision. I had a great education and then went to top places for residency and fellowship.
I have fully paid off my loans after a windfall I got after being hit by a car. I do not ever recommend this. I’m heading to a total knee replacement next month. But at least there’s a little silver lining. My husband’s loans are at such a low interest rate that we are slowly paying it off.
Financial aspects of kids
When did you have them? Are you planning to fund their college expenses? What are your child care expenses?
We have one, and had a lot of difficulty having her, so I am not sure if two is in the future. I do not plan on making their 529s a priority until we are in a better situation with our finances. I did not have any money given to me for my college and I feel like it built a strong work ethic and I had no sense of entitlement. My husband became a SAHD shortly after my daughter was born, so the net cost of that is about $10,000 per year after accounting for lost income and not having to do day care. I had my heart set on public school because both my husband and I are products of public school, but with my daughter’s special needs, I’m not sure what we will do.
Financial aspects of marriage
Are you married? Did you get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? Do you and your husband agree on finances?
We are married, no prenup, and we agree mostly on finances and my husband stays at home. He had always wanted to do this and I am mostly happy with this arrangement. Therefore I am the sole breadwinner and it has caused no issues. My husband is the manliest man I know, but also one of the biggest male feminists I’ve met.
Have you experienced a financial catastrophe?
None except we both grew up relatively poor. We were extremely poor until just recently as my husband lost his job several times as I moved across the country to do training.
What’s your FI (financial independence) number?
Our FI number is around 2.5-3 million. We think living off of $100,000 per year is reasonable, which is how we reached that number. I will retire around 65, but probably won’t quit entirely for a few more years after.
Who handles the finances in your relationship? Are you DIY or do you have a financial advisor?
I mostly handle the finances. We have a great fee-only FA we found through the WCI list. She shares our same philosophies about passive investment with index funds. My partner and I both agree on this.
What is your net worth?
Probably around -$200,000 at this point, mostly due to mortgage debt.
How are you saving for FI/retirement?
We are maxing out my 403(b) and 457(b) at $18,000 per account. My work also puts 10% of my total salary into a separate retirement account. I’m using my HSA as a stealth IRA. We have one Roth IRA we’ve funded for one year. We also put part of our e-fund in a taxable account with a more conservative mix of index funds including bonds, international stocks, and total market funds.
Biggest financial failure:
Not knowing about PSLF.
One thing you wish you knew:
Get disability insurance as soon as humanly possible.
Do you have insurance?
Due to my car accident issues and other health problems, I don’t qualify for any worthwhile disability insurance policies. I have ok long-term disability through work, but it’s only own occupation for 5 years. Still better than nothing. I’ve never had to use it. No life insurance yet, we do have a $1M umbrella policy.
What does FI/retirement mean to you? What does it look like?
FI/retirement means being able to work only when I want to. I’m pretty sure I’ll want to stop all clinical activities once I reach FI.
Do you give to charity? If so, where and why?
I donate monthly to Planned Parenthood and give intermittent donations to social causes I find important.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Get disability insurance as soon as possible, talk about financial goals with your partner before you get married, get a fee-only FA, use an HSA as a stealth IRA.
And finally, where can people connect with you?
You can find me on Twitter as @LizEnlowMD or Facebook Elizabeth Marie.
And … that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in doing this please send me an email – I’d love to hear from you!
I hope you enjoyed reading Liz’ story. Her story is not only inspiring but shows that FI is possible even when life throws some unexpected wrenches along the way.