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 – The Frugal Physician!
Tell us about yourself:
Hello! Many thanks to Miss Bonnie for having me on here. Like many of you, I’m a multitasking, sometimes malwired machine that runs on caffeine. You can call me… The Frugal Physician (cue theme music). I’m mommy to two toddler boys, wife to my trophy husband (he loves it when I call him that), blogger at www.thefrugalphysician.com, and primary care physician trained in internal medicine.
I dream of one day owning a jazz club and crooning at the piano in fancy dresses. They won’t be able to kick me out because I’ll own the place! And, I’m banning tomatoes. Anyway, until then, I’m focusing on being frugal and paying off debt. I live in Upstate New York (also known as “not the city”).
I’m in Internal Medicine. So basically, I’m Dr. House…minus the cane and the opioid addiction. I started off in Hospital medicine and then switched to primary care. You’re going to think I’m nuts, but I LOVE primary care. I love being the first diagnostician my patients see and I love building relationships with my patients.
Are you a resident or attending?
I’m the boss, baby. Not really, I’m employed. I’m an attending 3 years out of residency.
Did you graduate with student loans? How much & what are the interest rates?
I graduated med school with $191k in student loans but by the end of residency they had grown to $237k, despite the $25k of payments I made in residency. I found myself on the wrong side of 6-8% compounding interest when $18k of interest compounded as I switched to standard repayment as an attending. So frustrating!
How fast (or not) are you paying them off?
Oh yeah, I’m burning through them. First I refinanced with Sofi. This year, I’ve paid about $120k in 9 months towards the blasted student loans. Why? Because student loans weigh down my soul and crush my happiness. And, I did the math. If I put everything I’ve got towards the loans and burn through them, I can still catch up on investing by the end of 10 years. See my post “Counting Macaroni’s.” My goal is to buy my freedom! Once the student loans are gone and I have a good stash of savings, I really feel like I can be a better doctor. I can advocate for my patients and for what I think is right without fear of not being able to feed and clothe my kids if I lose my job. My dream is to one day start a non-profit, cash only clinic with a graded pricing scale based on income.
Financial aspects of kids
When did you have them?
At the very end of residency and in second year as attending. Wouldn’t recommend that. In hindsight, having them both in residency would have been better. Being a nursing, sleep deprived new attending blows. We have a lot more protections in residency as far as benefits and work conditions go.
Are you planning to fund their college expenses?
Yes, once I’ve paid for my schooling expenses. Right now, they have regular brokerage accounts for the money they get for birthdays, etc. I’ll roll that into 529’s once they meet the minimum required for the state.
What are your child care expenses?
$2200 a month for daycare … barf. Still going.
Are your kids in private or public school? What is the cost including after care if needed.
We’re going public. Free school! New York taxes sucks but they pay for nice schools.
Financial aspects of marriage
Are you married?
Married to a studmuffin.
Did you get a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement?
No, wasn’t smart enough to think of that. I was a broke resident not Jay-Z, so my head just wasn’t there, you know?
Do you and your husband agree on finances?
Mr. Frugal Physician was always on board with the idea of achieving financial independence. Agreeing on deflating our lifestyle and increasing frugality took some time to achieve. Key to our success are monthly budget dates, where we can realign our goals and our spending habits.
Does your spouse stay at home?
No. He did that for two years and that didn’t work for us. He is a lot happier working. Staying home is a lot of work!
Are you the breadwinner?
Used to be for the two years Mr. Frugal Physician stayed at home, took care of our baby, and worked on his masters. It was tough.
What financial mistakes have you made?
Oh boy where do I start. Wish I had started a Roth IRA in college when I was working 3 jobs. Right out of residency, I inflated my lifestyle to my attending salary, which was a big mistake. We reversed course and deflated the lifestyle within two years. More about this on my blog.
Have you experienced a financial catastrophe?
Yes, our house flooded with Hurricane Irma. Flood insurance doesn’t cover everything you might think. Biggest lessons: read the insurance policy and talk to insurance provider before making any changes to areas of the house that might flood. Keep a written record of all communications with the insurance company.
What’s your FI (financial independence) number?
$2.5-3 mil. Calculated by using the 4% rule: Yearly expense x 25. I don’t plan on retiring when I reach FI, though. Being idle is not my forte. I just want the option and the freedom.
Who handles the finances in your relationship? Are you DIY or do you have a financial advisor?
I do. We met with a couple of financial advisors, but I really wanted to learn how to do it. I’ve found DIY to be much better. I get much better returns than my financial advisor just investing in low cost index funds.
What is your net worth?
About $165k including home equity. Up from the negative $100k or so just a couple of years ago.
How are you saving for FI/retirement?
IRA’s, 401k’s, HSA. But currently, most of our extra money is going towards paying down student loans as fast as possible. Asset allocation is 80:20 stocks to bonds. Plan to get into real estate more in the future.
Biggest financial failure/regret:
Just wish I had started saving earlier.
One thing you wish you knew:
That I didn’t have to finance my lifestyle in medical school! Wish I had been more frugal while in school and had taken out less debt.
Do you have (long term) disability insurance? Life insurance? Umbrella?
Yes to all
Have you had to use (long term) disability insurance?
Do you give to charity? If so, where and why?
Yes! Giving brings me a lot of joy. Since we don’t have extra money right now, we donate our time. My husband and I volunteer to cook meals for the Ronald McDonald House. We did a lot of fundraising this year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Just spend less than you earn. Invest the rest. Read J. L. Collins’ “Simple Path To Wealth.” Plug into the financial independence community and you will learn a lot!
Tell readers a fun/random fact about you:
I used to have an elephant mow my lawn! I’m a first generation immigrant. In India, we had an elephant that lived with her caretaker in our neighborhood. Her name was Jamuna. She would come around and give us rides. My parents would let the grass grow long enough for her to eat and then let her have at it!
And finally, where can people connect with you?
Come subscribe to The Frugal Physician at www.thefrugalphysician.com, follow me on Twitter @FrugalPhysician!
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 love how The Frugal Physician is crushing her debt at lightning speed. Go check her out!