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New Thoughts on MD Emergency Funds

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Physician Household Emergency Fund Size

[By Staff Writers]

It has been said that most ordinary people should have at least three months of living expenses (not including taxes) in a cash-equivalent reserve fund that is easily accessible (i.e., liquid).  The amount needed for a one-month reserve is equal to the amount of expenses for the month, rather than the amount of monthly income. This is because during no-income months there is no income tax.  

However, the situation might not be the same for physicians in today’s harsh economic climate. 

The New Realities

Now, some physician-focused financial advisors and Certified Medical Planners™ suggest even more reserve fund savings; up to two years. That’s because many factors come into play when determining how much a particular doctor’s family should have.

For example: 

  • Does the family have one income or two? If the doctor is in a dual-income family with stable incomes and they live on a single income, the need for a liquid reserve is less.  
  • How stable is the doctor’s income source? If a sole provider with an unstable income who spends all of the income each month, the need for a liquid cash reserve is high. 
  • Does the doctor own the practice, work in a clinic, medical group, hospital or healthcare system? In other words – employee (less control) or employer (more control). 
  • What is the doctor’s medical specialty and how has managed care penetrated his locale, or affected her focus? 
  • How does the family use its income each month; does it have a saver, spender, or investor mentality?  
  • Does the family anticipate the possibility of large expenses occurring in the future (medical practice start-up costs or practice purchase; children, medical school student debts; auto or home loans; and/or liability suits, etc)?  

The Past 

In the recent past, a doctor may have opted for a nine-twelve month reserve if the need for security was high – and a six-to-nine month reserve if the need for security was low. But today, even more may be needed.  So, the following questions may be helpful in determining the amount of reserve needed by the physician: 

1. How long would it take you to find another job in your medical specialty if you suddenly found yourself unemployed – same for your spouse?

2. Would you have to relocate – same for your spouse? 

3. How much do you spend each month on fixed or discretionary expenses and would you be willing to lower your monthly expenses if you were unemployed? 





Once the amount of reserve is determined, the doctor should use the appropriate investment vehicles for the funds. 

At minimum, the reserve should be invested in a money market fund. For larger reserves, an ultra-short-term bond fund might be appropriate for amounts over three-six months. While even larger reserves might be kept in a short term bond fund depending on interest rates and trends. 

So, what do the initials M.D. really mean? … more dough!

How much reserve do you have and where is it stashed?


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11 Responses

  1. Emergency Fund

    Good article. A counter point; but bear in mind that MDs need be concerned with asset protection.

    Clearly, a 2 year reserve in a taxable account in the Drs. name is going to be problematic.

    Jeff Seymour CFP


  2. Cash CD Account Risks

    I think this issue requires a multi-variable analysis for sure.

    And, perhaps a better question might be how can the physician evaluate the risks associated with high-yielding, brokered bank certificate of deposits for these short-intermediate term cash funds?

    For example, the doctor-investor should determine if the CD is issued by a federally insured institution. If the answer is yes, the investor knows that a portion of his money is safe if the institution fails. If the answer is no, the doctor should obtain the institution’s ratings from the appropriate rating agencies and analyze the institution’s financials.

    Second, the doctor-investor should investigate the volatility of the CD’s return. When interest rates rise and fall the price of a brokered CD will fluctuate in a manner similar to that of a bond. Therefore, short-term securities will be less risky than long-term securities.

    Of course, the above are applicable to all of us, and the issue of tax-exempt versus taxable accounts has not been addressed. But, with declining interest rates – and physician incomes – the difference may not be dramatic for some MDs. And, you can always place the funds in the account of a spouse; if you trust him/her.

    Nevertheless, I do agree with the trend to expanding one’s emergency fund, regardless of occupation; and perhaps even more for physicians as the original post authors’ suggest.

    A Financial Advisor


  3. Fed says Americans are hoarding cash

    The low level of money movement in the US is a sign that people are unwilling to spend, according to a new paper from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.




  4. 25% of Americans have more medical debt than emergency savings

    According to a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International:

    • 55% are worried they will find themselves overwhelmed by medical debt.
    • 27% are very worried they will find themselves overwhelmed by medical debt.
    • 28% are somewhat worried they will find themselves overwhelmed by medical debt.
    • 43% are either not too worried or not worried at all about being overwhelmed with medical debt.

    Note: Interviews were done in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from August 21 to 24, 2014. 1,006 adults living in the United States were interviewed by phone.

    Source: Bankrate, Inc.


  5. Billionaires are hoarding piles of cash

    A new study finds members of this global elite are stashing an average $600 million each — 10 times more than a year ago.


    St. James


  6. Is An All Cash Emergency Fund Stupid?

    Academics say … Yes!


    What about you?



  7. CASH

    If you enjoy following markets and want to take advantage of future opportunities, consider keeping a small portion of your overall portfolio in cash. I choose 20% [80/20 rule], though your willingness to patiently wait in low-yielding cash may justify a different percentage. Keep it separate from an emergency fund meant to cover bills should you lose your job or suffer an unexpected illness.

    Make a plan ahead of time for how to deploy the cash if stocks fall, so that you won’t get caught up in the heat of the moment.

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


  8. 45% of Americans Would Have Difficulty Paying a $500 Medical Bill

    Kaiser Family Foundation recently released survey results on healthcare affordability. Here are some key findings from the report:

    • 3 in 10 households report problems paying medical bills in the past year.
    • 27% say they or a family member delayed getting needed care due to costs.
    • Almost 1 in 4 Americans skipped a recommended test or treatment due to cost.
    • 45% of Americans would have difficulty paying an unexpected $500 medical bill.
    • 1 in 4 are “very worried” about not being able to afford health care services.
    • 22% are concerned about losing their health insurance.

    Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2, 2017


  9. The ‘sidecar’ plan that could soon be attached to your 401(k)

    While economists disagree over whether there’s a retirement-savings crisis in the U.S., one thing is clear: There’s an emergency-savings crisis.




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