I figure the average doctor will have about 100,000 hours of work in them before they have to stop working. This is assuming a long career in medicine working full-time, straight out of residency.
For primary care doctors it’s a potential for $10 million of gross wages (in 2018 dollars) over our lifetime. Or $30 million for the smarty-pants specialists. Bastards!
If you want to skip reading this post, the main point of it is that you’ll earn more per hour over your lifetime and have a lower overhead by working part-time.
Let me go over the take-home pays for a family medicine doctor and an orthopedist. This is assuming they will work 40 years full-time. And the calculations are based on take-home pays after taxes are deducted.
Full-time Family Medicine Doctor
Let’s start with that family doctor with a take-home of about $160k/year, assuming she files as married, and maxes out all her retirement accounts.
Over her full-time, lifelong career her total income would be $6.4 million – after taxes, over 40 years. We won’t get into how much of it she actually can keep. That of course depends on how much she spends, how wisely she invests, barring unforeseen financial disasters.
That’s a career hourly rate of $64/hr.
The orthopedist could see a take-home of $380k/yr. This would come out to $15 million over a 40-year medical career.
You will notice that the specialist doesn’t end up with 3x the take-home even though her/his base pay is 3x that of the primary care doctor because of taxes.
The specialist’s hourly take-home rate would average $150/hr over the 40 years.
Full-time → Part-time
Let’s say the family medicine doctor and the orthopedist worked their asses off for 7 years after residency and then dropped down to a 50% part-time schedule.
Part-time Family medicine Doctor
The FP would earn $1.1 million in the first 7 years and $90k/yr take-home for the next 32 years which adds up to $4 million over a 40-year career.
The FP will have worked 51,000 hours over the span of their career which comes out to $78/hr. That’s $14 more per hour by working part-time.
The specialist would earn a take-home of $2.7 million in the first 7 years then in the next 32 years the specialist would make $230k/yr for a grand total of $10 million.
The specialist will have an average hourly rate of $196/hr. $56 more per hour compared to a full-time income.
The First 7 Years
The reason I mentioned working full-time the first 7 years is because that’s when your income can really work to your advantage. It’s also a time when you’re young with more energy and more resilience.
In these 7 years you could save for a house or pay off a house. You could pay off your student loan debt and invest your money.
I’ve talked about investing early and did the math on numerous boring examples – the point is it’s better to have your money in the market longer, if you’re the Wall Street investing type.
For you moldy mattress savers it really makes no difference.
Part-time → Full-time
What’s fun about the math is that you can flip it around. You could start part-time and switch to full-time when your income is highest.
Most of us will see our highest inflation-adjusted income in our late 30’s, after that it plateaus for most medical professionals unless you have your own private practice.
It’s also worth adding that as a part-time physician you can always pick up extra hours. Or you can switch to full-time if needed.
But it’s much harder going from full-time to part-time. You certainly can’t just work less than full-time for a few months just because you want to.
Part-time Medicine Lifestyle
Could medicine be easier to practice, more sustainable and less draining if done at a part-time pace? Perhaps. I know for some of you specialists it’s hard working part-time but that’s changing quickly.
Many of my orthopedist, anesthesiologists, radiation oncologists and emergency medicine buddies have the option of working part-time.
The overall lifetime earning difference isn’t that big – only a couple of million. This might seem like a lot but remember that you will be spending far less with a part-time lifestyle.
Part-time medicine allows you to take longer vacations which usually decreases the costs of traveling. You can handle your own babysitting. And you will have more time to handle your own affairs, instead of hiring people to manage that for you.
By working part-time, you’ll have more time to explore other career options or other income sources.
A full-time physician rarely has any time to dedicate to interests outside of their work. This is probably fine if you don’t anticipate any hiccups at work but the practice of medicine can be a risky one.