Despite the popular belief that many doctors retire with large stashes of cash in their bank accounts, some end up leaving the profession with relatively little in savings—often thanks to education-related debt and delayed earnings earlier in their careers.
Earned, a wealth management platform formed in 2021 exclusively for physicians and their families, is looking to change that, John Clendening, the company’s founder and CEO, told Healthcare Brew.
“It’s shocking to realize, when you look at the data, that one in four physicians [ages 65+] in the last couple of years retired with less than $1 million in total [household] net worth—two people working, a lifetime of service to the rest of us,” he said. “We feel like physicians deserve better.”
US physicians earn a median annual salary of more than $223,000, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released in April 2023. But more than seven in 10 students graduate medical school with debt, a 2020 Association of American Medical Colleges report found. The median debt for those graduates was about $200,000 in 2019.
To help doctors navigate debt and plan for future financial decisions, Clendening said that Earned creates individualized plans so physicians can optimize their career choices and investments, as well as protect their assets through insurance and estate planning. The company—which uses both technology and human financial advisors—also helps break down the trajectory of a physician’s net worth and how various decisions or investments can affect it.
Earned is not alone: Several other wealth management companies offer specific financial advising services for physicians.
But, Clendening said, those competitors do not usually offer all the services or functionality that Earned does.
“We think about the random [registered investment advisor] or the companies lending to physicians only. They’re onto it—isn’t it great to focus—but they haven’t pulled it through to product differentiation, breadth of service, and they’re not applying the tech that we’re building” he said.
Unlike other wealth management companies, Earned also doesn’t require users to have a certain net worth, Clendening said. The minimum fee for physicians who use the platform is $2,400 per year—and it’s about half that for residents.
More than 100 households (and hundreds of individual clients) use Earned, which instituted its Forme Financial platform in 2022, Clendening said. The company, which continues to work with physicians even if they leave the field for other jobs, boasted an average per-client household tax savings of $77,000 in 2022.
Clendening said he wants to eventually expand Earned’s client base to include other healthcare professionals. The company is also eying potential partnerships with health systems that would include Earned services in employee benefit packages.
“It seems like people who are competing for talent are catching up to the idea that they’ve got to sell the talent—not take them as a given anymore,” he said. “A lot of companies figured out decades ago that you’ve got to have an edge that makes someone feel like ‘You care about me more than the other opportunity—my financial wellness will be better.’ That sort of feeling. It’s new territory, and we’re pretty excited about it.”