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Lives of Doctor Wives: Financing through Residency

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Financing through Residency

I looked through some of the other blogs, but I wasn't able to find what I am actually looking for. My husband is an MS4 right now. We have submitted his applications to 40 different programs. Even if invited to all, we will not interview at all of them. But regardless, what I am really looking to find out is a little about finanacing in residency.

As a little background, my husband has been toying with joining the military once Match is over. (this would allow him to go to a civilian residency and be able to complete whatever residency he wants.) There are huge financial benefits. As a residency, in addition to the normal resident salary (avg 45000), he would also get paid an additional $45000 from the military, plus about 2000 every month. This would take our income for residency years from 45000 to about 120,000 ish. Obviously life would be much more liveable at that rate. They also pay back $150,000 in student loans once you finish residency. The drawbacks are the deployment after residency and moving every 3 years, and going wherever they say you go.

Quite honestly, the idea of 6 months away from Justin scares me immensely. I don't handle long seperations very well. Leaving for a week or a month is one thing, but 6 months, I just cannot wrap my head around. The moving is not a big deal, living where they tell us to, again, is not a big deal.

We have decided to go ahead and try starting residency without the military and seeing how it goes. I hear so many horror stories about residency and salary, that it scares me. I was wondering if some of you wouldn't mind giving a few details about finances. If you are willing to share the salary that they make, that would be great. I understand if you don't. Mostly, I am just trying to figure out what kind of budget we will be looking at monthly. What is take home pay after taxes? I know that this is a lot of personal info, so I understand if you don't want to share. If you would be willing to share, just not on the blog, please email me at jaidiclayton at gmail.com. Like I said, any info that you would be willing to share with me would be very much appreciated. Residency budgeting scares the bigibies out of me.

Thanks to all who can help.

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Blogger sHw said...

THANK YOU FOR WRITING ABOUT THIS! We are in the same boat (husband is a MS4) and I'm quite concerned about what our financial situation will look like. I have an additional question: can we still defer his loans once he graduates? I heard that we have to start paying back a portion of the loan, even if it's a small amount. I'm so scared about that - I have no idea how we'll manage.

Can't wait to see/read the comments :)

Again, thanks so much for airing my silent worries.


September 16, 2009 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

We did a Survivor Saturdays entry about this exact topic back in May:


Living on 45K a year is possible - not fun, but possible. I had a few friends who took out additional loans during residency, so that's an option.

We were not military, but my husband's brother was. I would caution you to look very, very carefully at what a military career would entail. They have far more control over your life than they let on while they are recruiting you, and the post-training salary is a lot lower than a civilian doc's. (I think there was a post about this recently, too.)

Good luck! Know that you are not alone in these questions and struggles...and someday you will have much more than 45K to live on! :)

September 16, 2009 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It really depends on the city you match too. We were fortunate enough to match to an area where the cost of living is quite reasonable. We bought a house, I stay home with the kids and we live on Mike's residency salary. He's done a small amount of moonlighting at the VA hospital. I should add, I get a small amount in child support from my ex, but we're talking less than $200/month. We do live quite frugally, and have no car payment and very little debt. We also have a pretty good cushion in savings. A lot of this is due to my husband living quite frugally in med school and during intern year we rented an apartment and put all of our extra money in savings. I also sold my house in Idaho and I made about $10,000 after owning it for only 2 years which added to our savings. We didn't eat out much at first, and when we do it's dollar menus and little caesar's. Rarely do we go to a nice restaurant. I use coupons for groceries. There are several couponing websites available. We haven't had to take out any additional loans. Mike is in his 4th year of radiology, so I think we're doing pretty good. You have to make sacrifices in residency. It's just a given. We do okay on $50,000/year. We may not drive the nicest cars, but they're paid for. Honestly, $50,000 is a lot more than I was making as a single mom working full time. If you have any questions, you can always e-mail me at laurastucki@att.net.

September 16, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Beth Hollenbeck said...

It all depends on where and what program when you talk about salary. My husband is in a private program and started around $45K. He will get 2 raises per year and can "moonlight" year 3-5, which he can earn up to an extra $1,000 per month. We are a little different because this is his 2nd career and we made a killing on our house we sold to move for residency, which gives us a nice back-up stash. We have 2 kids and I currently do not work (but am going back part-time in about a month). His take home pay covers mortgage and bills, but to be honest there is little left over and we have to budget carefully for groceries, gas, etc. There is no shopping, pedicures, trips, etc. That is why I am going back to work...to avoid depleting our stash and to have a little "fun" money. Plus, it is a good balance for me. I have also become very creative with dollar store, thrift store and garage sale shopping. Especially with two children and hopefully one more while we are still in residency.

The way I (we) look at it is..this is temporary. My husband once had an attending say to him "live like you do in residency for 2 years once you are finished and you will have all of your loans paid off." That is our plan. Although we are older than the traditional resident by about 4-5 years, we know that with the income potential we will dig ourselves out in a short amount of time and it will all be over before we know it.

I guess what I am saying is can you live in a "temporary state" so to speak? Live tight, make it work for those years of residency versus dealing with how ever many years of separation, moving, and other military requirements? That is how we cope. We talk about our temporary housing, temporary salary, etc. There is a light at the end...Best of luck with your decisions!

September 16, 2009 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Congratulations on almost being at the end of your medical school journey!!!

I would first just like to say that money isn't everything. Time apart as a family, being separated for 6 months, or the dangers your husband might face in the military are very serious and money probably shouldn't be a deciding factor at all. I think that if he would enjoy being in the military or you would enjoy that kind of adventurous life together, that would be a great reason to choose that calling.

We are not in the military so I'm not speaking from firsthand experience but I have seen what making a decision based totally on financial reasons can turn in to. People get bitter and the money issue only grows to be this huge wall between family members. To most people there will never be ENOUGH money to have everything they want to experience, accomplish, or achieve so you HAVE to make decisions off of other parameters.

We have been blessed with two children(so far), two animals, a car, a scooter, and a wonderful home. We have the things we need and if we are careful, some of the things we want. We make $45,000 a year at our program, so we take home $1583.00 every two weeks ($3166/month approx).

I think going into a situation well prepared is the most important thing. Before we even knew what we were going to make, we sat down and made a budget of what we would NEED on a monthly basis and how much it would cost. Now I totally understand that needs are different from family to family, but this is the time to enjoy the small things and be happy for what you have been put in charge of stewarding for the next 4 years. Here is a link to my personal blog, a couple people asked about our budget before we moved to Michigan, so I shared. A couple things have changed since then, like our health insurance is now taken out of his paycheck and was reduced from $360/month to $80/month and some other small changes but this is how we live month to month. http://thehowardhousehold.blogspot.com/2009/04/budget-fun.html

I also recommend that you don’t live in the mentality of “just four more year, if I just can hold on for 3 more years, oh only 2 years of this terrible agony left, sweet just 12 months left…..” Many of our friends took that outlook in college and medical school and no matter what they had, they were always looking to the future for satisfaction. I love what the Bible says about this matter - "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23. Our standard of living in America just seems to grow like a weed and always expands to what we make so whether it be $45,000 or $150,000 it will never seem enough.

Saying all of this, $45000 is totally doable. Not only doable, but more than enough for most families. I know many people that have not been blessed with anywhere close to this amount for their family and still have all their needs met. We have excess and can help others, so we are so thankful. This post is not meant to be any kind of brag; I just know that money has ripped our extended family apart. Tom is the 7th doctor in his immediate family, so if money made good decisions or could make people happy about where they are in life, then my family should be bouncing off the walls with joy. Sadly they are miserable, greedy, and self centered….they have let money run their hearts, their practices, and their family decisions and they are paying for it heavily on a daily basis.

The choice is totally a personal choice, but I encourage you to pray long and hard about this decision and let money be the last factor you consider because remember….. My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

And now I will step off my soapbox!

September 16, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger MorrowFamily said...

I agree with the others, we have 3 toddlers and 1 baby on the way and live in a nice home (though it's getting a bit cramped!) on a salary of $45k, but my husband has been able to moonlight since PGY3 and earns up to $2500 p/month depending on how many times he does it so that's helped tremendously and has allowed us to take on a car payment for a bigger suv for our expanding brood as well as have the kids in a Parents Day Out program and have some leftover each month, but even without the moonlighting we could manage our household expenses each month just there wouldn't be much leftover. We're very blessed that our parents do many nice things for us and our kids, stuff that we otherwise wouldn't be able to afford but even without that we could make it on our own. The way we look at it is residency is a continuation of living frugally as you did in medical school. The payoff of having a bigger salary in a few years will come. But regardless of how much money a person makes you can definitely spend more than you can afford so I think at all stages of life/salary it's important to have a budget in place. Good luck in your decision process!

September 17, 2009 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

My PERSONAL opinion is don't do it - its not worth any amount of money to be away from your husband and risk deployment.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

1) If you really need additional money you can take out loans in residency http://www.gradloans.com/medical_school_loans/medical_residency_loan.php

2) It may be wonderful to make $125,000 a year during residency... but it will also STINK to only make that much (or a little more) as an attending orthopedic surgeon. So you will make more than everyone else at the beginning but you will make a lot less than everyone else later on.

3) Have you thought of trying to make any extra money by perhaps watching another resident's child? I know that I hope to work and would LOVE to have another mother watching my kids... and if I cannot find work I hope to instead watch someone elses kids. Just a thought.

If this is not helpful to you please disregard it!

September 17, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

soo... I have thought long and hard about what to write back to you... because, well, I am living the whole "money's-tight-but-not-forever-delayed-gratification" thing right now... and some days my attitude is better than others. Today is an okay day. {then again, it isn't 100 degrees in north texas and I am not having to drive with the windows down because we don't have the money for the pricy a/c fix for the volvo}

So here is the deal, we are in the $3100 range for monthly take home and I stay at home with our son. Neither my family nor my husband's is in the position to give us "extras" that some of our resident friends end up with {ahem, free rent, $15000/year private school tuition, his and hers rolex watches, new cars, etc. you get the point} so we really are not living high on the hog so to speak. but {this is key} it is okay. In fact, most days, it is more than okay. Because it isn't forever that we have to sacrifice {and I am not talking about watches! I don't even care about the watches!} I am talking about going to the grocery store and buying what I want to, or having friends over for dinner, or LIVING IN A HOUSE THAT ISN'T 900 SQ. FEET.

The main thing I want to point out is that we are able for the most part to do what other families are doing. I am in 3 different social/service groups that give me sanity and time away from mommy-ville and our son is in a great weekday school twice a week, and we have him in music and this summer we did little gym. We are members at the zoo and the children's museum. and how can we afford it?? A TINY RENT HOUSE. {I could write a book on how crazy a tiny rental house will make you} and the fact that my husband's program picks up the full tab for our family's health insurance. And I coupon like a crazy woman, and I NEVER GET NEW CLOTHES OR BEAUTY TREATMENTS. NEVER. So we are making sacrifices, and some days I feel those sacrifices. Like, when I have to get dressed to go somewhere and realize that my clothes are from high school and college. or when I think of the days that I used to look pulled together with freshly pedicured feet and manicured hands.

But here is the kicker - I know that we have much more than many, many people {like the bums that walk up and down my street - did i mention i hate WHERE we live, too?} and I know that we will have even more one day. And that being in this position is aggravating and annoying at times, but at others it is humbling. And I do not want to take out loans to obtain more stuff. And I don't want my husband to work any harder than he already is for a little more money. And really, it is all just stuff and money and what really matters is that we love each other. Cheesy, huh? But it is true for us.

You will make it work. My advice, cut back on your housing as much as possible so that you are not "house poor" and then you won't feel like you are scraping by as much. When my husband talked to another resident about money, he found out that their house payment was 3x what ours was and that each month they were barely making it. Well... our house wouldn't work for any of my friends but I like knowing that we can even go on vacation sometimes! and get away from the house!

I hope this helps!

September 17, 2009 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger stefspets said...

I don't know how much this will help since at the moment I am still working and we have no kids, but a few things that help us:

We live in an area where the real estate market is extremely depressed, so we were able to buy a house that we could afford on only his salary (I plan on leaving my job in the next few months).

His program pays for health insurance 100%.

The cars are paid for and we have no debt (outside of the obvious school debt).

Other than that I know it's easier for us because it's just him and I, but we do stay home a lot and cook at home.

We took in location (cost of living) and the health insurance as major factors when he put his ranked list in. Those two things are going to be the biggest make-or-break factors.

I think government loans can be deferred still but some private loans cannot. I know we have to start paying on a few of his at the end of the year because deferment is not an option. He will have to talk to the Financial Aid people at his school to get details about his particular loans.

September 18, 2009 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

My M1 is debating about whether or not to join the Air Force. He sat down a did all the budgeting. He figured out that yes, life in the military in the beginning will be much easier because you aren't having to pay back (as much) loans, BUT those in the military will be paid less in the long run than those who are not in the military. The health benefits of the military are great, but if your DrH is making more money in the long run, then it almost makes more sense not to do the military. It also depends on what field your DrH is in, whether they will be paid in the six figures or not.

The way I, and my M1 look at it is do you want to live comfortably now/in the next several years (not having to worry about living on a really tight budget and paying back a lot of loans), or do you want to live more comfortably when you have children/later in life?

I hope this helps. We're on the same journey and are still debating it. I, along with you am not concerned with the moving around (I think it would be fun to see lots of places!) but I am too worried about deployment and being away from my man for six months at a time.

Good luck and let us know what y'all decide!

September 18, 2009 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Jaidi and Justin Clayton and Family! said...

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has commented. All of the comments were really helpful and I really appreciated it all! Thank you for your input. It makes me feel a little more calm about being able to make it work in residency. So thank you!

September 19, 2009 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Melisa said...

I found this interesting about the Air Force match:


September 25, 2009 at 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Katrina said...

I know this is an older post and this is my first time posting, but I wanted to make a comment about the military option.
My husband was in the Navy and is now working on his bachelors before going to med school. The benefits from the military and the money that came in during deployments were fantastic. However, deployments are long and unavoidable (no matter what the recruiter tells you.... they will lie and take advantage of you just to get you to sign your life away. They get in pretty big trouble if they don't reach certain numbers so they will do anything to recruit you). I have been through a deployment with my husband, and while like I said the money was great, it was the hardest 8 months of my life up until this point. I am extremely proud of him for serving his country, but I am very glad that the military part of our lives is behind us.

I wish I could help more with the budgeting aspect, but we aren't even to med school yet and are still paying off my own tuition while he works on his bachelors (military pays for that one, thankfully!). We both work full time and together make just under $40k and we are pretty well off. We don't eat out, rarely get new clothes, and just don't live beyond our means. We are able to spend a little here & there on concerts or nights out in order to maintain our sanity though.

Best of luck to you guys and with whatever you decide. Be 100% sure of yourselves if you decide to go the military route... it's definitely a love/hate relationship with more hate than love!

November 16, 2009 at 2:10 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Really great comments! I'm really glad I found this blog!

July 8, 2010 at 9:15 PM  

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