An Inside Look into a Pharmacist's Income

May 5, 2015

Pharmacy school doesn't prepare you to manage a pharmacist's salary.

One day, I was sucking down ramen and realized that a few weeks later I would make more than a hundred grand at my first pharmacist job. Suddenly, the ramen didn’t taste as good.

I felt overwhelmed as I transitioned from a broke college student to a clinical pharmacist making $115,000, which is fairly close to the national average.

I’m slightly scared to share this because, well, no one does. But what compelled me to write this article was an overwhelming feeling that it is the right thing to do.

Why? Because I would have loved to see this when I was in pharmacy school. I was baffled by an awesome income and struggled with managing my money.

Pharmacy school didn’t prepare me to do so, and I wasted a lot of cash because of it.

So, I’d like to give you an inside look:

Before I share my budget, I want to give you the full experience of what it’s like being a pharmacist on the money side of the career story.

As a pharmacist, you may have thought about the coming pay increase, but it is very likely you have not figured out what you will spend it on specifically.

It is crucial to your success to be prepared to handle money, because managing it is one of life’s greatest challenges:

  • The “love of money is the root of all evil.”
  • Money is one of the top reasons for divorce.
  • It’s the most popular topic in non-fiction.
  • Making money is what we humans do for most of our lives.

Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the “gotta have it” scale. -Zig Ziglar

It’s extremely important to start your career with the right mindset of intentionally controlling your money. Otherwise, you may end up way overspending it, like I did.

An alumnus acquaintance chose a different path with his money. He decided to buy the things he “truly” wanted as soon as the paychecks came in. He bought a $300,000 home, new boat, new car, multiple cross-country road trips, dog, one of those self-propelled unicycles, and basically anything that caught his fancy.

Now, he’s regretting his decisions. The loan sharks are after him. He’s had to sell the car, boat, and a bunch of other knick-knacks on eBay. He’s even thinking about selling his home.

Before we dive into details, you need to understand my worldview in order to understand my budget.

I believe my money is a gift and must be handled with care. I try my best to not waste it, but I'm generous with what I’ve been given.

I don’t believe in America’s consumer-based ideology of “BUY IT NOW. MUST HAVE NOW.” I believe debt makes me a slave. Why? Because I must repay this money. There is no legal way to avoid repaying debt.

Once debt is eliminated, except for the house, I believe true wealth can easily accumulate, and then I can begin investing heavily in things like the stock market, real estate, and startups.

If I didn’t have debt payments every month, I would free up roughly $3530 of my monthly income to spend on investments, vacations, or maybe even a jet ski.

My budget when I first started out as a pharmacist

Monthly Income

Gross Pay

$9583

After Taxes*

$6283

*Does not include non-taxable investments

Normal Budget

Utilities(Norway & DTE)

$450.00

Date Night

$50.00

House Payment

$536.05

Cell Phone

$149.02

Student Loans

$866.00

Car Payment

$202.13

Giving

$650.00

Restaurant

$50.00

Food

$300.00

Gas

$200.00

Grocery/House Supplies

$400.00

Wiggle Room

$100.00

Savings

$350

Debt Reduction

$1925.96

Lots of caveats

I live in a very rural area, and my house only costed me $60,000. If you live in a metro area, you will likely never see this price, unless you find a repo home. My friend Paul at The Pharmacist Blog pays more than $1500 a month for housing in Seattle.

I hate heating bills during winter. My utilities near $200 during the summer. I pay for 2 cell phones.

My wife has roughly $32,000 in college debt. The monthly payment on her loans is around $200. We spend $1729.91 to eliminate her debt more quickly.

I recently bought a new Mazda 5, which we call Marvin. He cost more than $14,000.

I was very blessed after college to only graduate with $48,000 in debt. I was able pay my tuition during school with summer savings, part-time work, scholarships, and my parents' help.

According to one study, the average student has college debt around $112,000 after completing pharmacy school.

If I did have $112,000 in debt, my budget would look a lot different. Here's how I would change my budget to tackle that debt faster:

Aggressive Budget

AGGRESSIVE BUDGET

Budget

Utilities(Norway & DTE)

$450.00

Date Night

$50.00

House Payment

$536.05

Cell Phone

$80.00

Student Loans

$866.00

Car Payment

$0.00

Giving

$650.00

Restaurant

$50.00

Food

$250.00

Gas

$200.00

Grocery/House Supplies

$300.00

Wiggle Room

$50.00

Savings

$350

Debt Reduction

$2397.11

I eliminated the car payment because we wouldn’t have purchased a newer car with $112,000 in debt. The following funds were decreased to allocate more money to debt reduction: cell phone (I would get a track phone), food, grocery/house supplies, and wiggle room.

I would also consider assigning more side income to debt reduction. I manage a few side businesses, which form a nice side income. This would help destroy the $112,000 debt much faster. However, I did not include them in this report, as the majority of pharmacists only have one job.

Lessons learned about money in my first year as a pharmacist

1. Hire help

Each of us has a busy life. I never have time to do everything I want.

A mentor once told me, “Use your money to buy time, not your time to make money.” Rather than spending more time on my business, projects around the house, cleaning dishes, or mowing the yard, I hired some outside help. I spend my hard-earned cash to give myself more time to spend with the people I love.

2. Focus on the debt with the highest interest rate first

I started to throw my money at our new Mazda first. I thought, “it’s only $13,000. We can pay that off in 4 to 6 months.”

But, my wife's college debt had a higher interest rate, so we plan to eliminate her $32,000 college debt by September. Is it possible? I believe so.

3. Always be generous

I wasn’t born generous, but inspired by my wife, I attempt to train my brain to give more. I believe (and have experienced) that when I give more to others, I eventually receive the benefits 10-fold.

4. Take control of your money now

I recklessly spent money on things I didn't need as a first-year pharmacist. I regret not having a budget and wasting thousands of dollars. But, you don't have to experience my regret.

Create a budget based on your priorities. Start today so that you don't waste another day or dollar.

You can do all of this by downloading my template, which provides a free and easy step-by-step process to manage your money and start spending it on the things you actually want in life.