There are now more Australians becoming doctors than ever before. But there’s still not quite enough, as indicated by the high numbers of overseas doctors being sent to work in the regional parts of the country.
The government is pushing for more native Australian GPs to practice in the bush by offering some financial incentives.
If you’re just getting started out, then you might be wondering whether a move to the country is a smart one. But before you can make a decision, you need to determine how a move to the bush could affect your personal finances.
Consider the financial pros and cons.
Financial Pros of Working as a Doctor in the Country
On average, doctors who practice in regional areas earn about 11.5% more than their urban counterparts, according to a 2010 MABEL study.
Some of the financial incentives the government extends to doctors willing to move to the rural areas include:
– Having a HECS debt paid off in as little as two years
– Foreign doctors moving to Australia get access to Medicare sooner than if they chose to practice in a city
– Relocation grants
– Retention payments
More job opportunities
You’re virtually guaranteed to have work if you opt to practice in an underserved rural area since there’s such a high demand for doctors. You’ll get the hours you want and probably even more, if you need. You’ll also be able to provide and charge for a greater variety of services than you would if you stayed in a city-based practice with lots of competition.
Better home purchasing opportunities
Compared with metropolitan properties, you’ll likely find that your goal of purchasing a home is quickly achievable if you shop around in the rural areas.
Of course, you should only purchase a home in the country if you’re sure it’s the right move for you and your family. And property prices do vary even in the rural areas, but you could save big on a house purchase if you choose to stay and practice in the country instead of the city.
Financial Cons of Working as a Doctor in the Country
With several incentives to go bush, it seems that the financial drawbacks are relatively few.
But there are still some cons that can have an impact on your finances, to some extent.
Limited options for shopping and entertainment
It won’t take long for you to realise that there is typically less to do in rural and remote areas. If you’re a doctor who enjoys a lavish lifestyle, then you might be frustrated at the lack of options for dining, shopping and entertainment and even the lack of variety in basic grocery and household supplies.
While this could be a good thing if you want to curb your spending, some GPs find it hard to adjust to a simpler lifestyle in the country.
Unless you are able to live right next to the clinic or hospital where you practice, you might have to travel quite a bit between your job and home. You will also need to travel more for training and to also visit family and friends.This can mean spending more on fuel and vehicle maintenance. Additionally, travel time is often unpaid time.
You may be able to claim quite a few deductions on your tax return if your job requires significant travel expense. But in the short-term, the higher spend on commuting can eat up more of your monthly budget.
When you practice in the regional areas, you may be prone to feelings of loneliness or work-related burnout. Having a smaller social and professional circle can negatively impact your work performance if you’re used to interacting with more people. If you or your family aren’t happy staying in the countryside for your job, then you might be tempted to pack up and leave before you can experience any financial benefits from your job.
Rural Practice: How Does It Compare to the City?
Overall, you’re likely to find more career opportunities and higher pay if you move to the regional areas to practice, especially if you are early in your career. There are even programs available that can help match you to the ideal position that suits your circumstances.
But you do have to consider how a career in the country will impact your wealth goals, for better or worse.
Don’t make a rushed decision. It pays to work with experts who understand the unique needs of medical professionals, in alignment with your personal needs and goals.
Contact Nitschke Nancarrow, specialists in accounting, financial planning, loans and finance, investment and business for medical professionals. We operate in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and throughout Australia. Managing partner Kym Nitschke is available for a free initial discussion about your situation. Call us on (08) 8379 9950 or send me an email.
– Kym Nitschke
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