According to the results of a Doximity poll, net worth shrunk for many physicians over the last year. The poll of 3,175 physicians, conducted this May, found that net worth over the past year decreased for 43% of physicians, increased for 40%, and stayed nearly the same for 17%.
Much of this decline can likely be attributed to the recent decline of the U.S. stock market. Additionally, though net worth and salary are not synonymous, the findings echo recent data reports about the decline in physician pay due to inflation, suggesting that being a physician is not as lucrative a career choice as it was in the past.
Overall, older physicians were more likely than younger ones to report a decrease in net worth, likely because the former have larger investment portfolios. More than half of physicians 60 and older reported that their net worth had decreased over the past year (53% for physicians in their 60s; 58% for physicians in their 70s or older). But less than half of physicians in their 50s and younger reported a decrease (49% of physicians in their 50s, 37% of physicians in their 40s, and 26% of physicians in their 30s). Additionally, this relatively large decrease in net worth among physicians 60 and over may be attributed to retirement, whereas the relatively low decrease among physicians in their 30s may be attributed to the salary bump that accompanies the transition from trainee to attending.
Looking across specialties, surgeons (46%) were more likely than both nonsurgical specialists (42%) and primary care physicians (42%) to say that their net worth had decreased over the past year. Additionally, more women (47%) than men (43%) reported that their net worth had decreased over the past year.
Though surgeon salaries are typically higher than those of their nonsurgical counterparts, both groups have felt the effects of inflation this past year. Two surgeons who commented on the poll separately noted that inflation is decreasing the monetary value of earnings. Additionally, one of the surgeons noted that reimbursement rates in medicine are shrinking.
Though there are myriad reasons for changes to net worth, congressional actions have an impact as well. Physicians experienced a 2% cut in Medicare pay this year, and another cut is planned for 2024. Such legislative decisions are not sitting well with some physicians: “There is an attack on medicine, with [the] government dictating what is done, how it's done, and when it can be done,” said Romanth Waghmarae, MD, a New York-based anesthesiologist.
In sum, there were more physicians who reported that their net worth had decreased over the past year (43%) than there were physicians who reported that it had increased (40%). However, the difference between the two groups is small. While the difference between these two groups is small, only 17% of overall poll respondents reported that their net worth stayed the same, showing that a total of 60% reported either flat growth or a decline. Given the high rates of inflation and Medicare cuts, this stalled growth could be a sign of things to come.
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz