According to a recent analysis in the “Medscape Family Physicians Wealth & Debt Report 2021,” while many American physicians struggled with income issues in 2020, family physicians did well overall when it came to saving money for the future and paying down debts. However, despite doing well as a group, in the Medscape survey of 17,903 physicians as part of their annual Physician Compensation Report 2021, many family physicians indicated that they had to cut their expenses or saved less than in prior years. Debt remained a big issue for the respondents despite the cuts and other net positives.
The annual report assessed the state of physician net worth in America, measuring total wealth when accounting for all financial assets and debts. Family physician income, which averaged $234,000, was similar to that in the 2020 report. Although many medical offices were closed for a period of time in 2020, some physicians made use of the Paycheck Protection Program and cost-cutting changes to keep earnings on par.
Family physician wealth also increased over the past year, with 38% of respondents having a net worth of $1 to $5 million, compared with just 33% in 2020. While family medicine tops the list of medical specialties with the highest percentage of members reporting a net worth under $500,000, at 40%, this number still represents a 6% decrease from 2020.
The majority of respondents, 67%, indicated they are still paying down a mortgage on a primary residence, while 44% of respondents are paying off car loan payments. Other significant debt sources included college or medical school loans—31% of respondents—and credit card debt—30% of respondents. However, despite some months of financial challenges, 91% of respondents indicated that they have been able to keep up with their bills. This statistic contrasts with a US Census Bureau survey from last July that indicated 25.3% of adults missed a mortgage or rent payment due to COVID-19-related impactors.
Of the respondents, nearly two-thirds indicated that they took no steps to reduce major expenses. Similarly, 58% of respondents were able to put the same amount or more into their 401(k). Despite this positive, again, a significant percentage of respondents, 32%, indicated that they contributed less per month compared with prior years, including drops of roughly $500 to greater than $2,000.