Hi all, welcome back to another awesome interview! Today I’m fortunate to have Foreign Born MD with me – she’s an internist in hospital medicine, mother of three, and the primary breadwinner. Her husband stayed at home with their three kids for a while (just like my husband is a stay at home dad!), but in her Asian culture, that’s even less acceptable than it is in our American one. She has quite an interesting story, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Before I start, though, I’m going to share my usual “doctor disclaimer”. Sometimes people mistakenly believe that just because someone earns a high income, saving money is easy. And yes, it’s easier to save a lot when you make a lot, but doctors still have a lot of forces that work against them. Unscrupulous salespeople, a desire to keep up with the Jonses, years of low earning residency, large student loans – the list goes on. So becoming a financial success, even when you make a lot of money, isn’t guaranteed.
So without further ado, here’s the story of Foreign Born MD!
Tell us about yourself!
I am an internist, and I work in hospital medicine. I grew up in Asia and moved to the States in my mid-20s. I have 3 kids and a supportive spouse, who had stayed-at-home for a while but went back into the workforce part-time 2 months ago.
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
I started off making 175K. Since then, I have risen to the ranks as part-owner. My salary differs yearly (due to insurance changes, expenses, variable number of patients we see), but have been > 500K in the past 3 years. Our current net worth is around 2.5 million (depends on how the stocks are doing and how much value you put in our fully-paid off properties).
How did you get started in the workforce?
Completed med-school, started my 3 year residency training in my mid-20s (first moved to the States for that) and started working as an attending physician and had my first kid (within the same month)! at 27.
CMO Note: I remember reading that you only took a very short period of time off after your kids were born – a few days to a few weeks! I thought my six weeks was short, but that must have been very difficult to only have a few days off.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
My father, who worked in a high level corporate position, unexpectedly had to retire for health reasons when I was a second year medical student. Fortunately, I was quite the entrepreneur and managed to find a job working part time for several companies based in America. That is how I paid for my living expenses and exam fees, etc – fortunately my parents were frugal and had saved enough for my medical school fees.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I am pursuing financial independence, and we are about halfway there. My biggest concern would be college/education expenses for my children and healthcare expenses/unexpected expenses for my parents and us. I love my job and intend to continue working even when that occurs – hopefully within the next 10 years. I am currently dwelling into passive income streams.
If breadwinner: What’s the biggest challenge in being a breadwinning mom? What’s the best part?
If millionaire: Becoming a millionaire is a dream of many people. How did you get there?
If six figure earner: What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
I’m all three – breadwinner, millionaire, six-figure earner – the hardest part is challenging stereotypes – it is still not common in Asia to have a stay at home dad. We had faced tremendous challenges initially when my husband’s family were rather unhappy with me being the breadwinner and spouse staying home. I have also learned how to ‘let go’ – if the house is a mess over the weekend while I’m at work, I need to get over it. It is hard enough for my husband to manage the lawn, cook and keep everyone safe. CMO note – I have learned this lesson too. If I don’t want to do it all myself, then I need to make sure my standards are aligned to the things that really matter to me. And a white-glove-level clean house just doesn’t make the cut.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Yes, just because of my gender, I am often referred to as ‘the nurse’. I respect my nursing colleagues, but it is unacceptable especially when a patient complains that they have ‘never’ seen the doctor their entire hospitalization but I was doing a great job as ‘their nurse’. Also, my hospital administration and leadership – is composed entirely of males and Caucasians, many with less experience than I do. CMO note – that sounds astoundingly annoying.
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
We live a very frugal life – and save at least 80% of our gross salary – so I have that part down pat. I am still pretty uneducated on personal finance and investing, and am learning so much from White Coat Investor, Physician on Fire and various other sites.
I am investing in index funds and we have 2 rental properties currently.
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
1 – It is challenging being the breadwinner and mom, but keep up with the hardwork – it’ll all work out.
2 – There are ways to put money aside to reduce your tax liability on relocation and sign-on bonus, Also, please save 40% of bonus for taxes, I know of at least three high earner friends who didn’t do this and had to pay penalties to IRS. (Link to my article on: Beware: High Tax on Relocation Packages and Sign on Bonus
3 – Take care of yourself first: when mom is healthy and happy, the family will be as well.
Where can people connect with you?
I share my experiences (as a primary breadwinner, physician mom and international medical graduate) at www.foreignbornmd.com. You can also reach me on Twitter, Facebook, or email: email@example.com
CMO Here Again!
Thanks so much to Foreign Born MD for stopping by today and sharing your story! Be sure to leave her a comment with a question, shout-out, or welcoming her to the personal finance blogging scene.
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my new one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Know someone that would be perfect for this series, or is that you? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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