Originally published, November 30, 2018 by The Darwinian Doctor
Editor’s note: Today’s Post is from our PhREI Network founder, Daniel Shin MD, at The Darwinian Doctor.
You are NOT alone… This post from Dr. Shin is an incredibly open and honest look at the monthly expenses that a Physician household can accumulate. It is also great because most Physicians will be able to relate to this post. I hope that by reading this you will see that you are not alone.
After reading this post, take the time to look at your finances and break down your expenses. You might be surprised what you find and may even find some areas where expenses can be cut. There may be non-negotiable items as well. For example, private school and Beach clubs… But analyzing your monthly finances is a great exercise and you may be surprised by what you can save. (Monthly Expenses)
Lastly, remember you are not alone and don’t feel guilty about having a large monthly Expenditure Breakdown. Mo Money Mo problems… Use this example as motivation to take an assessment and adjust. This post is from 2018…. Dr. Shin’s journey since this post has been amazing. Check out some of The Darwinian Doctor’s recent posts after reading this one to see the growth. Take it away Dr. Shin….
Below you’ll find a brutally honest breakdown of our monthly expenditures. With real numbers, I’ll show you why I’m handcuffed to my job.
This is a follow up to my previous post in which I frame this discussion: Golden Handcuffs: Why I can’t quit my day job (for now)
This chart above represents the vast majority of our disposable (post-tax) income. In full disclosure, our lifestyle is also is supported by the Darwinian Dr-ess’ (AKA my wife’s) salary. Also, I couldn’t decide how to represent our pre-tax retirement savings, so I left that out.
Beach Club: $750 a month
As our most indulgent luxury, we have a membership that grants us access to the facilities of a beach club. In our mind it’s equivalent to a super fancy gym membership. It gives us a built in weekend destination where the Dr-ess and I can take turns working out while the kids safely roam the sand. It’s a good example of the cognitive dissonance that allows me to pursue financial independence while also having such an incredible luxury in my life.
Car Payment: $930 a month
I bought a Tesla Model 3 a few months ago. I have a lot to say on this subject, but will save it for another post. For now, I will leave you with three words: Tesla. Future. Now.
Groceries: $1100 a month
We recently decided to start buying organic produce when possible, and our grocery costs increased by about 30%. The fruits in general are notably less sweet and smaller, and I struggle to find a good crisp apple. The jury is out on this choice, but emerging evidence supports the link between organic food and reduced risk of cancer.
Insurance: $790 a month
Being well insured buys us peace of mind. I’ll break down our policies in the future, but briefly, they include car, disability, property, term life, and umbrella insurance.
Live in nanny: $2240 a month
As the Dr-ess and I both work full time, we need significant childcare to help with our two young boys. The Dr-ess grew up with live-in nannies, so we decided to go this route via a foreign Au Pair when our first son was born. It’s been a bit rocky at times, but overall has worked out well for us, and has been about 20-30% cheaper than if we had utilized a traditional nanny.
Mortgage and Property tax: $7900 a month
Seeing this chunk of our expenditure pie surprised me. The White Coat Investor has spent countless hours warning against the a big house purchase early in one’s career, but has also acknowledged that in many cases the allure of the “Doctor House” is too much to resist. This was the case for me. I still think I underestimated the impact of property tax on the cost of the house, as well as endless stream of thousand dollar maintenance related projects that aren’t reflected in this graph. The Dr-ess has asked me to point out that she was quite happy in our small two bedroom house which was much more affordable, and her proclivities towards private school and nice vacations impact our finances much less than our big mortgage payment. She’s quite right.
Other: $3200 a month
This is anything from Amazon purchases to new car tires and plane tickets; anything that doesn’t fit into a neat category. Since they’re not repeating costs, this category is theoretically one in which we can trim a lot of fat from our spending. However, it’s also a tough category to analyze because of the nature of the expenditures (mainly one-offs).
Parental support: $1600 a month
When I lured my parents to come out of retirement from Nevada, where their cost of living was minimal, I did it with the promise that I would help supplement their rent and living expenses here in SoCal. Here, they share childcare duties with our au pair, much to the joy of my kids and hopefully my parents as well. In any case, I consider it money very well spent. In fact, we’ve recently decided to convert our garage into a small apartment for them. This is a pretty huge development, which I plan to chronicle over the next year as the project progresses. Let me just say that construction costs in SoCal are massive, as are the Dr-ess’ concerns about having her in-laws living 10 feet away from us.
Private School: $1740 a month
As a proud product of the public school system (at least through high school), the cost of private school in Southern California boggles my mind. But it’s a cost the Dr-ess (AKA wife) is happy to pay if it buys a better education for our kids. Her reasoning is that parents have two main jobs: 1) impart morality and 2) educate their kids to best prepare them for the challenges of life. I share these thoughts, but we differ in deciding if it’s really worth it to spend over $20,000 a year to send our 4 year old to a private preschool. If my understanding of his school day is correct, 15% of the time is spent napping. So that’s $3000 a year of supervised naptime that we’re paying for!
Given the firmness of the Dr-ess’ opinions on this matter, I don’t see her compromising on this choice unless our financial position changes significantly. Only time (and our kids’ academic success), will decide if the investment will be worth it.
Restaurants: $1120 a month
Between getting food during the workweek and date night with the Dr-ess, we tend to spend a fair amount of money on restaurants each month. This is one area that I feel I can decrease while also improving my health by being better about bringing food to work. To this end, I recently purchased an Instant Pot.
Savings: $4000 a month
Half of this goes to taxable accounts, and half goes into 529 educational savings accounts for our kids. I feel this number should actually be higher given our high income, but inevitably some large cost comes along each month that seems to eat up the rest of our cash.
Student Loans: $2100 a month
When I graduated from residency, I had about $300,000 in student debt. I decided to refinance this with a private lender and have been slowly paying this off with a 3.5% interest rate over a 15 year repayment period. The debt weighs on me, and I often wonder if I should be paying this off faster. Thus far, I’ve decided to invest my extra cash rather than accelerating paying off my relatively cheap debt. Out of the many student loan re-financiers out there, I found the best rate with First Republic Bank. (Feel free to use my referral link to their loan refinancing services.) There is a lot to say about student loans, and I hope to cover this in detail in future posts.
Utilities: $900 a month
Energy and water in Southern California is not cheap. There’s not too much to do about this given the landscaping constraints the Dr-ess has dictated (read: green lawn and cool house). However, with a smart sprinkler system and drought tolerant grass, I’ve made my landscaping as water wise as possible. I’ve also given some thought to solar panels. There is an economic calculation that definitely makes solar a good long term play, but it’s still a relatively expensive investment. For now, we are putting this off in favor of other projects.
Total Monthly Expenditures: $28,000 a month
All the categories together translates to an annual expenditure of about $340,000. So you can see why the Dr-ess and I both feel that we are handcuffed to our high paying jobs.
I debated for weeks if I should post the actual dollar amounts of our expenditures in this blog. I finally decided to share all the details for a few reasons. I want this blog to be as interesting and useful as possible to others who feel similarly shackled by their high cost of living. I want our journey to financial independence to resonate and inspire others who would like to do the same. Specific numbers are necessary to do this.
It also helps that for the time being, the avatar of this blog is the Darwinian Doctor fish, and not my smiling face. So I feel somewhat protected by my veil of anonymity.
Despite our crazy high costs, I hope to stabilize our finances, invest wisely, and be financially independent within 15 years. Does this sound impossible, based on what you’ve read? I don’t think so, and I will present some numbers and projections in the next post to support this.
What do you think about these expenditures? Does it sound crazy or make sense? It probably depends on where you live.