As some of you know, income is merely a snapshot of the overall financial health of the profession. On any given year, that can change on a dime. Procedure reimbursement can change. Codes can vary. And, professional or technical fees rarely stay the same.
However, most financial surveys report on physician income, ostensibly the real marker of physician economic well-being. But, what is the one long term indicator of a medical specialty’s financial health? Well, it’s going to be a long term indicator of physician savings, their net worth!
More to the point, each year, Medscape publishes the physician debt and wealth report. And, this information is more telling about the long-term state of our profession than any other survey out there. Therefore, I look at these statistics very carefully to see how we compare to everyone else out there in the medical world.
And, this year I found something interesting. On one of the last Medscape survey slides (#23 to be exact), our specialty has the highest percentage of physicians with a net worth over 2 million, tied with a few other specialties (plastic surgery and orthopedics). At the same time, we have the lowest percentage of physicians with a net worth under 500,000 dollars (slide #22). However, we are not quite at the top for the proportion of physicians over 5 million dollars (slide #4). And, on another presentation on physician income on the 2019 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, we are only tied for 5th highest mean income.
So why is it that we do not have the highest income but yet we have a higher percentage of physicians with a net worth of over 2 million dollars? Moreover, why do we have a lower portion of radiologists with a net worth of greater than 5 million dollars than many other specialties? Let’s dig further into the weeds.
Radiologists Are Not Show-Offs
You probably know a few radiologists that drive their 100,000 dollar Tesla and live in a castle. However, overall, radiologists are not ones to take all the credit. And, from my experience, most are more humble, similar to how we need to work within our profession. And, this personality trait more typically describes their more simple spending patterns.
What do you do if you don’t spend much on things to display to the world? You save or at least get rid of debt!
Many Years Of Good Fortune
For years, radiologists have been blessed with more and more new procedures and technology. And, each year, private insurers and the government continues to reimburse reasonably well. This pattern has become long standing for years and years. Regular salaries mean more saved wealth!
Additionally, even in the leaner times, newer radiologists could command a higher salary than most other professions out there. So, even recent grads will tend to have lower debt loads and higher net worth than other specialists.
Skewed Age Of The Measured Population
Elsewhere in the survey, you will note that the older the physician, the more net worth saved. And, the population of radiologists slightly skews to older age compared to some of the other professions. We can still work into our 70s, 8os, and even 90s (if we are lucky!) All we need is a set of glasses and some insurance credentialing, and we are good to go! Therefore, savings can take the same overall weighting as well.
We Do Not Have As Many Income Extremes
What exactly explains why radiologists less commonly have a net worth over 5,000,000 dollars compared to some of our other subspecialty brethren? At least, this is my explanation. We can’t sell eyeglasses in our offices (as some ophthalmologists do) and engage in businesses that involve patient purchases. And, we need to take all sorts of insurance to make ends meet. (Many physicians in other specialties have concierge practices that don’t!) So, as a whole, we tend not to have some of the upper extremes of income that other medical specialties can provide. Therefore, most of us do not accumulate the more substantial assets (over 5 million dollars) that other specialties more often do.
Radiologists And High Net Worth
So, these are my explanations for the overall state of financial affairs for the average radiologist in the community. Remember. Not all of us adhere to these rules. You will undoubtedly find impoverished debt-ridden radiologists as well as radiologists who live more similarly to Jeff Bezos than the typical physician. But, based on being in the trenches, these overall patterns seem to explain the survey results. Shoot me an email or message if you think differently!