Prior to the pandemic, the average annual income for oncologists was $377,000, which was 5% higher than the $359,000 reported for 2018. This put oncologists in eleventh place among 29 specialties. However, this information was obtained prior to February 11, 2020, before the pandemic took hold in the United States, and the financial situation has changed for many physicians.
For example, primary care physicians have reported a 55% decrease in revenue along with a 20% to 30% reduction in patient volume. The decline has even led some to shutter their physical offices, according to the larger survey of all physicians, the Medscape Physician Debt and Net Worth Report 2020. This full survey included 17, 461 physicians and represented 30 specialties.
Physicians in specialty practices may be facing even greater reductions. “Specialists are currently having more troubles than PCPs because they’re largely dependent on elective cases, which can’t be directly addressed by telemedicine,” commented Joel Greenwald, MD, CEO of Greenwald Wealth Management, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, in the survey.
Community oncology clinics and practices have reported a substantial decline in office visits and new patients because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, clinics had been closing in recent years as a result of being acquired, merging, or because of financial struggles, although that trend has been plateauing, according to the latest report from the Community Oncology Alliance.
Oncologists’ Net Worth
With regard to net worth, 42% of the oncologists surveyed reported having assets totaling from $1 million to $5 million, which is about the same for physicians in general. Only 15% reported a net worth of $5 million or higher; a quarter reported a net worth of less than $500,000.
Wealth is more evenly divided when it comes to gender in comparison to other specialties. For all physicians, 56% of men and 39% of women reported a net worth of more than $1 million. For oncologists, that ratio is 59% of men and 54% of women.
Not surprisingly, net worth also increased by age. Only about a quarter (27%) of oncologists younger than age 45 reported a net worth of $1 million to $5 million, compared to 48% aged 45 to 54 and 56% of physicians aged 55 to 64. This makes sense, inasmuch as earnings generally increase over time and early-career debt is paid down. However, net worth does appear to decline somewhat after the age of 65, presumably because of a decrease in income on retirement.
Debts and Expenses
For debts and expenses that are currently being paid off, mortgage on a primary residence (59%) topped the list. More than half reported living in a home that is 3000 sq ft or larger, and nearly half (49%) have a mortgage of $300,000 or higher. About a third of the oncologists surveyed have no mortgage or one that has been paid off.
Car loan payments (35%) and college education/medical school loans (25%) were the second and third most common sources of debt. As compared with other specialties, oncologists land right in the middle of those still paying off school loans. Only 15% reported that they had no debts or expenses to be paid off.
Savings and Living Within One’s Means
The average American has four credit cards. About half of oncologists surveyed reported having four or fewer, although about a fifth (22%) have seven or more. But the vast majority reported living within their means (49%) or below their means (46%). Only 6% reported living above their means.
Surveyed oncologists also report putting money aside in a tax deferred retirement account or college savings account. Almost half (48%) are putting aside more than $2000 every month, and 28% save from $1000 to $2000. A small percentage (8%) reported not doing this on a regular basis.
A smaller percentage (40%) responded that they put more than $2000 a month into a taxable retirement or college savings account; 18% report not doing this on a regular basis. More than two thirds also report either having a written budget or a mental one for their personal expenses.
In 2019, most oncologists (77%) did not experience a financial loss. For those who did, bad investments on the stock market (14%) were the main cause. A smaller number reported real estate losses, problems with their practice, or job loss.
Nearly half (49%) report that they currently work with a financial planner or have done so in the past.
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