Who are you and how old are you?
I am a female in my late 20s who will start working as an attending physician in a few months.
Tell me about your background.
I was born in China, immigrated to the US when I was very young, grew up on the West Coast,and stayed in the area to go to college and medical school. I then moved to the East Coast to complete my medical residency and will start working as an attending physician in a few months.
Most people start doing their medical fellowships where they specialize in a certain field after medical school but I am holding off on doing that for personal reasons. At the moment, I'm also not sure if I'll want to continue working at a hospital, open up a private practice, or go into academics - we'll see!
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
I am currently getting paid as medical resident - my annual salary is in the mid-five figure range. Once I start working as an attending physician, my income will quadruple.
I really like my residency program - it actually pays more than other residency programs and the cost of living is less in the area that I live in. Even though my annual salary is only in the mid-five figure range, it’s more than enough for me.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
I definitely did not grow up with money. My parents were immigrants and had a hard time finding a job when they arrived to the US. They initially worked as academics and eventually switched over to working in startups, which increased their salaries. They have always been very thrifty and relaxed a little when my younger sister was born. However, we still weren’t wealthy and that affected my financial behavior quite a bit.
I’m not used to spending money on myself and have always been very frugal. I would buy all my clothes at Ross Dress for Less and never spent more than $20 on an item. When I was in college, I lived about 30 miles away from my parents on a dorm at campus and rarely spent money on takeout because I would pick up multiple containers of home-cooked meals from my mom on the weekend and bring them back to campus to eat during the week.
However, my financial habits changed a bit this past year. I began dating (and just got engaged over winter break!) and started spending more money on going out, buying more fashionable clothes, etc. Now that I’ll also start working soon, it’s important for me to look a certain way so I’ve done a wardrobe overhaul.
Do you still have school loans?
No, I don’t have any student loans. I had some loans after med school but paid off everything during the 2nd year of my residency program. I had scholarships for college so I didn’t have any student loans there. When I was in medical school, I had a $15K / year scholarship, worked part-time as a Teaching Assistant, got paid to do research, and had some financial help from my parents. I had to take out some student loans but as I mentioned, I paid everything off relatively quickly.
One of the deals I made with my parents was that I would pay for my younger sister’s college tuition. She is doing very well in college and I am happy to support her.
Do you invest your money?
I don’t invest money now but will do so in the future once I start working in a few months. I’ve been looking at some Fidelity accounts and the hospital I’ll be working at has a few financial programs available for the physicians.
I’m also in the process of buying a house right now so I haven’t looked too closely at investing.
What does your family situation look like?
I just got engaged over winter break and will be getting married to my finance who is also in a medical residency program. He has a year left and hopes to attend a two year healthcare program afterward so we will most likely stay in the area for a few years. We don’t have any kids yet but have talked about having some either while I work as an attending physician or after my fellowship. I’ll be in my mid-30s at that point.
As mentioned, I have a younger sister and am paying for her college tuition. My parents are doing great and still living on the West Coast.
Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?
At the moment, yes, because I’ve always made so little. When my income quadruples, I think I’ll still be really frugal.
Have you ever jumped income brackets (either going from low to high or vice versa) and how did your lifestyle change?
I went from making very little money as a medical school student to making money in the mid five figure range as a medical resident. My income will quadruple once I become an attending physician - the jump is rather substantial!
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I talk about money with my parents and my fiance.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
The hours for an attending physician for pretty great - I technically only work half the time. I will thus pick up moonlighting as a second job. Moonlighting gigs are essentially six hour shifts where I fill in at the hospital for any absent physicians - the work is exactly the same as that of an attending physician. You basically get an email every week alerting you of any moonlighting gigs and you sign up for what hours you want to fill in. The nice thing about having a MD is that my career path is very flexible - there are a lot of industries I can go into!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.