The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way of life for most Americans and impacted nearly every industry. Labor shortages, higher gas prices and supply issues have affected everything from construction, to restaurants, to education, and everything in between…including and especially healthcare. One of the major impacts is that many doctors, new and old, have been moving more.
And this is on top of the usual to and from flux of new doctors moving after medical school or residency graduation.
What’s the current situation?
Significant move outs are still occurring in states such as, California, Washington and New York. The influx of out of state moves contributes to the supply and demand problem, influencing higher relocation costs nationwide.
Further, with remote work options becoming a permanent solution for many – even doctors with telemedicine, the cost of relocating has also increased.
In fact, a study by Pew Research Center, finds that a fifth of adults in the U.S. moved, or knew someone who moved, as a result of the pandemic.
Generally speaking, moving rates rise during the “peak” months of May-August, regardless of location. This general trend pairs up well with graduation season for medical student and residents. It is also the general start of the new “medical year” even for attending physicians moving positions…
Rising relocation costs
The rising costs of moving really become a huge issue for new doctors moving however.
New doctors moving to residency or moving to their first job don’t have readily accessible cash most of the time.
The reality is that the spike in moving costs can negatively impact medical professionals, new doctors, in particular. While doctors are high earners, young physicians usually carry a large amount of debt.
A study from EducationData.org finds that as of 2021, 76-89% of medical students leave school with an average debt of over $215,000. So, while most medical school graduates can expect to earn a six-figure salary, they are also dealing with large education debts.
Moving to Buffalo after training, I had worked out a moving clause in my contract to cover moving costs. I highly recommend you all do the same.
However, moving from Rochester, NY to NYC after medical school was a burden. Selenid and I took out credit card debt that we had trouble paying back until I graduated from training 7 years later!
This is not even to speak of all of the credit card debt that I took on to travel to different residency interviews as a medical student. Thankfully it seems the pandemic has spurred programs to offer more virtual interviews to limit these expenses…
Why are moving costs rising?
The cost to relocate during peak moving season tends to increase by 20%, according to Josh Morales, CEO of International Van Lines. Yet, since the onset of the pandemic, relocation costs have risen 10-25%. And they have remained at this level, regardless of seasonality.
There are several factors that have contributed to the rise of moving costs.
First off, like many items, packing supplies now cost more than they did during pre-COVID times. There is also a shortage of moving trucks and drivers. An increase in gas prices has further compounded the issue. Some moving companies are now flat out refusing out of state moves entirely.
What can new doctors do to ease the cost of moving?
If you are in med school, or the early stages of your career, you may be facing this exact situation now or in the near future.
As I discussed above, the recent increased cost of moving is concerning for doctors, given the large amount of education debt you have likely amassed – as I had.
The good news is, there are a few options available to medical professionals to alleviate the high cost of relocation.
1. Relocation assistance
Like in my case, many medical positions will offer some level of relocation assistance. The question is whether or not the figure offered will be enough to offset the large spike in moving costs.
Also, remember that any relocation money gets taxed as income now. You should still take it, it’s better than nothing – but just be aware of the coming tax implications…
If this relocation assistance is not available to you, your options dwindle to largely these 2…
2. Credit card debt
This is obviously not the best option. Unfortunately it is the option many physicians take because we think it is the only one available. Like I said, I took out credit card debt for my moving expenses as a new doctors. Same with licensing fees and exam fees.
Thankfully, there is a better option available for new moving doctors. Way better than the 25+% interest on credit card debt…
3. Personal loan
Let me first say that I am still a huge proponent of getting out of debt. But right now we are talking about another situation entirely…
In this situation, you face expenses that you need to pay. And you can’t pay in cash.
In this case, applying for a personal loan with a lower interest rate compared to credit cards makes sense.
Again, relocating tends to require hefty upfront costs, which many medical professionals, especially those just embarking on their career, do not have on hand. That’s why a relocation loan, specific to physicians and residents, is such an valuable option. This solution allows residents, fellows, doctors and dentists a way to secure funding to cover moving costs, deposits and new purchases.
The issue becomes that as new doctors moving, we have very little credit history to our name. Therefore traditional banks often will not loan to us or will loan only at rates or terms as bad a credit cards.
However, Doc2Doc Lending does offer a solution here. They are a company formed by doctors for doctors to lend money at low, physician-preferred interest rates based on you being a physician.
Their unique program allows medical professionals to receive “cash in hand,” pay off revolving debt and improve their credit score, without any prepayment penalties.
This then becomes an attractive option to minimize debt and interest payments.
Bottom line: Tips to new moving doctors
- Minimize your expenses
- Negotiate moving expenses (taxed) in your contract
- Pay in cash when able
- Limit credit card debt (ideally to none)
- Consider a moving expenses personal loan from Doc2Doc Lending if you cannot cover expenses in cash to minimize interest and debt burden
And don’t forget to develop a debt pay off plan to get debt free! You can find mine here!
What do you think? How did you cover moving expenses? Do you wish you did anything different? How can the healthcare system better support moving doctors? Let me know in the comments below.