Welcome to another installment of Interviews with Real Female Physicians. The goal of this series is to share their story so that you, the reader, may learn and be inspired by their experiences – good and bad. We all come from different backgrounds and have different situations. Some of you are married, some are not, some with kids, some with blended families. Let’s show other women that any of these can work financially!
So let’s introduce our next woman physician rockstar – Jordan!
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Jordan, I am an OBGYN Hospitalist in the Midwest. I live with my 3 kids and husband and our 2 dogs. We are in a relatively low cost of living community but chose to live in a bit more moderate housing environment to maintain walkability and proximity to downtown
(houses average 400-800k for a 4BR/3BA… and up!) We can walk to all of the schools, a small inland lake and restaurant and shopping district in less than 5 minutes. It is fantastic and well worth the housing premium.
I love OBGYN. The work is really challenging and joy-filled. However- I struggle with sleep deprivation and the biomechanics of long surgeries. If I knew what I knew now, I’m not sure I would choose OB again. No matter how creative we are with shifts and jobs, babies will never agree to all come during the day! That said, this is the specialty for me, one thousand percent. I am very passionate about women’s health and deliver quality and respectful care to my patients.
OB is fantastic but the liability is high, the hours long and the earning potential significantly less than other surgical specialties. I hope that this will all improve with time but for now, this specialty is best for those who dearly love OBGYN.
Are you a resident or attending?
I am an attending in my 6th year of practice. I just left private practice to do hospitalist work and made a long-distance move to do so.
Did you graduate with student loans?
I went to a small liberal arts undergrad on a full-ride swimming scholarship and worked part-time doing odd jobs throughout undergrad to keep extraneous costs down. I had no undergraduate debt. I took my MCAT during junior year without a lot of thought or planning and fortunately met the requirements for my state medical school’s early admissions, so no interview costs or private school options even considered!
I had 180k of medical school debt at graduation, mostly 6.8% interest- despite working part-time during much of med school. We tried to do IBR during residency and had a hard time. The interest capitalized during forbearance and I graduated with 250k in debt.
Now… my student loans are gone, gone, gone! I had a very emotional desire to eradicate them. I was mad that I had them, mad that I let that interest capitalize and intensely wanted them gone. I never refinanced. I knew the only way out of all that mad would be to destroy our debt. So, I worked hard and paid them off in less than 5 years. Nothing can describe the feeling of knocking out that level of debt. It is incredibly empowering.
Financial Aspects of Kids
When did you have them?
My first daughter was born in medical school. I took a year off to stay home with her and then returned. My other two were born during residency.
Are you planning to fund their college expenses?
We are planning to pay tuition-only for in state school. I feel strongly that adults are capable of working to earn their room and board during college. My husband and I both worked during school and I also carried a D-1 athletic schedule and sorority involvement. I expect my children to meet their personal expenses and am thrilled to be able to help with tuition. We also have asked them to consider waiting several years to go to college; this will allow more time for interest to compound and for them to really sort out what they want to do. Trade school and direct work force entry are common topics at our dinner table. My children are 7, 9 and 12 and they have heard a great deal about mom’s educational debt!
What are your child care expenses?
My husband has stayed home with our children since the 3rd was born. In the beginning, it was a financial necessity. Three kids in daycare on a resident salary of 42k? No thanks. He has always been productive, running our household, writing a book and successful blog, writing for parenting magazines and now working in the non-profit education world after earning dyslexia-specific training. Prior to that, we were spending the equivalent of his teaching salary on childcare- we cycled through a live-in nanny, daycare, and licensed in-home care. One of our criteria on a one-income household is to live in a community with great public schools.
Financial Aspects of Marriage
Do you and your partner agree on finances?
We have fundamentally different approaches to spending and emotions about money. I believe money can always be created and that life is very short. Some experiences- tasting menus at amazing restaurants, travel, time with friends and our kids simply cannot be valued. My husband, as the sensible one, is far less of a spender. He manages our daily budget, bill paying and tracks our spending. I manage our long term plans and savings targets. I know that as long as we are meeting our savings goals, we can continue to live life the way we have been living it.
Are you the breadwinner?
My husband carries the ‘mental burden’ of running the household and so I don’t know that either of us considers me the breadwinner. I literally could not do what I do without his support. The way he handles our daily lives is amazing and impeccable. My time at home is almost completely spent enjoying life and our family.
Have you made any financial mistakes?
Buying four houses was a terrible decision from a closing cost perspective. Don’t do that. Fortunately, we were able to use one as an income property and made money on the others as they had increased in value and we try to buy and sell FSBO. Don’t even get me started on that student loan forbearance…
Of note, I did make two planned “joy purchases” in the last year of private practice. I bought a lightly used luxury SUV (paid cash) and the very day I paid off my loans, I bought a vintage watch. Neither of these makes a darn bit of financial sense but I don't regret either one and I absolutely earned them.
What’s your FI (financial independence) number?
Between 1.8m and 2.0m, presuming the house is paid off. Our actual home won’t be paid off by then but will have sufficient equity to buy a new primary home once we are no longer tethered to our preferred public school district. This number is based on our current expenses minus 529 contributions and kid expenses with some adjustment for health care. The bulk of this is food and travel!
We plan to be at this number in the next ten years, which is also when my youngest graduates. I imagine if my current job exists in its present state, I will continue to work beyond that time or perhaps transition to locums. I’d like to retain my earning potential for a period of time. Our initial brainstorm for that goal is to sell our home, take a 6-12 month sabbatical to travel and then either return here or do locums. I suspect we will take a long break from home ownership.
Do you DIY or do you have a financial advisor?
We are very frank about finances. He does the daily stuff, I keep my eye on the long term. We had a fee-based financial advisor charging us 1% AUM. I released him about a year ago and have kept it simple since that time. I may enlist more help as we approach retirement, however, information is just so readily available online and I have the time and energy to devote to the topic.
What is your net worth?
I preach financial transparency and it STILL feels icky to consider disclosing. We have not yet reached 1 million but it is close enough to feel possible. This includes equity in our primary home.
How are you saving for FI/retirement?
I max my 403(b) and my 457 (non-governmental) and receive additional matching, Backdoor Roth IRA for my husband, HSA, SEP IRA for any 1099 income for me and a taxable account. Most of this is in my own hands at Vanguard. I am a simple girl, nearly 100% equities all in low-cost index funds. We save about 25% of my income and some years more.
Previously, we had rental property. I think this is a fantastic revenue source and addition to our portfolio. We really had a huge change of heart in the last year and have strived for our personal version of minimalism. For us this meant selling the rental, shrinking our liabilities and simplifying our lives. That may not have made financial sense but it has been great for us."I believe money can always be created and that life is very short. Some experiences- tasting menus at amazing restaurants, travel, time with friends and our kids simply cannot be valued." Click To Tweet
Biggest financial failure/regret:
Leaving private practice was a huge financial loss. I left behind a killer salary, additional sources of retirement savings/profit sharing and several passive income streams. I don’t regret it- leaving has improved my career longevity and life in every possible way. I do sometimes think about the opportunity cost of leaving and realize how much I truly gave up. That said, my hospitalist job is amazing and has great benefits and longevity.
One thing you wish you knew:
I wish I knew about the math behind FIRE 6-12 months ago. I would've purchased an entirely different house during the move and things would look a lot different- probably FIRE by 40-42.
Do you have insurance?
I have an own-specialty disability policy that I started after residency. We both have term life insurance and a large umbrella. I have elected additional life and specialty specific disability through my employer. I will probably start to eliminate some of these as our net worth grows and we graduate our kids.
Do you give to charity?
Yes, typically we support childhood literacy and international maternal health. One of my social media groups has now donated 2 ambulances and supported 2 birth centers in developing nations.
Any parting words of wisdom?
It doesn't always make sense to live life as close to debt free as possible… yet I am certain that my absolute hatred of consumer, education and car debt has set me up to retire at 45-47. Those few habits of paying cash for everything, saving distinct funds for every purchase and eradicating my student loans has freed up incredible income stream to dump straight in savings. This isn’t a mathematical argument, it is an emotional one. For us, the stubborn avoidance of debt in our lean years with small kids in residency paved a path leading to FIRE.
Tell readers a fun/random fact about you:
My passion is physician burnout and career optimization. I had a tough time with burnout in private practice and it was largely predictable and preventable. My heart is with every doc who is struggling to see a sustainable life in medicine- I’ve been there. This is all so tied up in finance and the feeling that one MUST work. The road to FIRE is the same road that leads to only working for the pure joy of taking care of patients. It is SO freeing to be on this path.
And finally, where can people connect with you?
www.invokeMD.com is my little work-in progress.