Good morning all, and I’m excited to let you know that I have another interview lined up for you! Today I’m talking with Dr. Jenn MD, a married surgeon with three kids who lives in the midwest. She has a passion for personal finance, just like me, and is very excited to be able to help other women achieve their financial dreams. Her and her spouse have paid off a tremendous amount of debt and built a high net worth, and now she’s working to help others on top of being a successful surgeon. She reached out to me to share her story, and I’m so glad she did.
Before we start, however, I’d like to give you my standard “doctor disclaimer”. A lot of folks who aren’t doctors think that because doctors have high incomes, they’ll automatically “have it easy” when it comes to building wealth. The reality is that doctors have distinct disadvantages to overcome – lack of time, huge student loans, pressure to “keep up appearances” or “look like a doctor”, lack of financial education, and many other things. Not everyone who earns a high income is wealthy.
Let’s meet Dr. Jenn!
1. Tell us about yourself!
Hi. I am a surgeon (surgical subspecialist who focuses on the genitourinary tract), 42, married with 3 children and 1 dog who lives in the Mid-Atlantic area. I grew up in the Midwest and did my training on the East Coast. I enjoy reading, running and of course personal finance.
2. 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 currently make in the high six figures annually. My husband also works and brings in six figures. We did not start off making this much. During residency, I made approximately 60k while my husband made close to 100k. Over the past 10 years, our salaries have increased as we have moved and changed jobs. Our net worth is now around 1.5 million. When I finished residency our student loans combined were 408k. We had only 20k in retirement and had 2 homes underwater. In the past 8 years, we have aggressively paid off the student loans in full, sold the homes, built a home, maxed out our retirement accounts and experienced the joy of being debt free except for our mortgage. Our financial change came about when we decided to, “live like no one else so later we could live like no one else” (Dave Ramsey).
3. How did you get started in the workforce?
I had spinal meningitis at age 3. This was in the 70s so less was known about meningitis and the long-term effects than now. I would spend a significant amount of time in and out of the doctor’s office. I have papers from kindergarten where I wrote I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up! When I enrolled in medical school, I knew I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I ended up working on the other end 😉 I finished my MD at 26, residency at 33 and I have been working full time since then.
4. How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
I was on a pretty straight trajectory since high school. I went straight to college, medical school, and then residency. After residency I joined a hospital employed group and then took a job in private practice where I am currently a partner.
5. Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
My master plan is to retire by age 50. Not because I don’t enjoy what I do, but because I feel that I have more to contribute to the world than just medicine. We love to travel and take at least 2 international trips a year (one with the kids, one without). I love discussing financial topic with other doctors and friends. Maybe I’ll be the next Dave (Davina) Ramsey?
6. Becoming a millionaire is a dream of many people. How did you get there?
We got here by paying attention and having a plan. It helps to have a high salary but if you don’t know where your money is going, it doesn’t matter how much you make. I spent a lot of time on Bogleheads and later White Coat Investor. CMO note – I also love both those sites. I also got over my inhibitions with money and started asking questions of those around me who I knew were doing well financially. Information is key and changed our financial journey.
7. Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Many, being a female and a surgeon puts you in a position where you are frequently the only woman in the room. In the OR and on the hospital floors, many will assume you are the nurse and not the doctor. Early on I would be bothered (especially when a patient who I just operated on asked me to move their tray since they thought I was nutrition services) and later I would gently correct the offending person in a way they would feel just embarrassed enough not to feel offended but enough not to offend their next female physician.
8. Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
Our savings strategy is simple. Max out all 401k, 403b, backdoor Roths, and HSAs. Then we place the maximum state deduction amount in the kids 529s. We have an emergency fund in a high interest online checking account. We also have opened a taxable account and place approximately 10% of our income monthly into index funds. I have more recently become interested in cryptocurrencies and invested early. I do not have the heart for speculation so after my investment doubled, I withdrew the original amount invested and will see where the market takes me.
We have taken the time to educate ourselves on insurance. We currently have term life insurance, disability insurance, umbrella insurance and the usual home and auto insurance. I also participate in an insurance captive at work and my practice is self-insured for health insurance.
9. 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?
- Live below your means. You never know where life may take you.
- Never assume anyone will care more about your money than you. Learn to manage your own finances. You can ask others for help but make sure they explain what they are recommending in terms you can understand. The simplest plan is usually the correct one.
- Money is just a tool. But it is a tool that gives you choices. If you can manage your money now, you will have more choices in the future.
10. Where can people connect with you?
I have recently come out of my shell and am now on social media. People can connect with me on Twitter @DrJennMD, Instagram @dr.jennmd. Other physicians can join me in my FaceBook group called Financially Fit Physicians where we discuss financial issues that affect doctors and other high income professionals. You can also find me on my website, drjennmd.com. I recently published a book, Financially Fit Physicians which should be available on Amazon and in your local bookstore early 2018.
CMO Here Again
Thanks so much to Dr. Jenn for stopping by to share her story! I think it’s fascinating how it was spinal meningitis as a child that sparked her interest in becoming a doctor. You never know what will inspire a child to take a certain path in life. I also love her mission to help and empower other high-income earning women to take control of their financial lives. Best of luck to her in launching her book!
Hope you enjoyed this weeks story, and I’ll see you again soon with more great CMO content! Have a great day.
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