Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Can Pharmacists Ever Be Rich?

Sure, anyone can get rich if they’re born wealthy, or inherit wealth from someone else (e.g. wealthy parents, rich relatives). One can also get rich winning the lottery, discovering oil on their land, getting lucky at the casinos or races, or in the stock market; although one could also end up poor if in the latter two things do not turn out well.   The odds of getting rich are probably very high in the above mentioned examples.  With the exception of luck or being fortunate in life, whether a pharmacist can get rich by just being a pharmacist requires further review.

First of all, it depends on the definition of being “rich” – it is relative.  For example, a million dollars for one living in California with a $5,000 per month mortgage, a wife or husband at home with three kids attending private school, and a debt of $100,000 at 7% interest owed to the bank will probably not be considered enough money considering the salary will further be reduced by taxes, insurance deductions, retirement, and other needs.  The one million dollars will be used up pretty quickly.  Of course, one living far away from urban areas such as rural parts of Iowa with a $900 per month mortgage will fare much better considering more of one’s salary will be saved, and taxes may be much lower than California residents.  Also, someone paying $900 per month on a home may be considered rich in many other countries where a U.S. dollar is worth a lot of money in their own currency.

Let’s focus on a pharmacist in the United States of America to remove any disparities in the definition of wealth between different countries, and exclude any serendipitous circumstances in life that only a fortunate few will encounter. So then, what is the answer?  It depends…meaning yes and no.  Take for example a pharmacist in California who may endure one of the most difficult times becoming a millionaire considering the high taxes and real estate in the area. Using the example from the pharmacist in the previous post, this pharmacist earns $136,100 per year, slightly higher than the $122,230 average pharmacist salary earned in 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   The pharmacist has a non-working spouse at home, with two children, and also maximizes their retirement contributions.  After all other deductions (e.g. insurance, taxes, etc), the pharmacist’s net earnings are roughly $74,361, or $6,197 per month goes to the bank.  Of course, these are only estimates, and may be higher or lower depending on the amount and type of deductions counted against the income.

Most people in America would say a million dollars is a lot of money, and therefore, those with a million dollars may be perceived as rich by the average working American.  Therefore, we will use one million dollars as our threshold of what is considered rich for now (although this number is probably peanuts from the standpoint of Warren Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg, but we’re looking from the viewpoint of the average American). Simply, one million dollars net worth is when “Assets” minus “Liabilities” equals $1,000,000 or more.  For example, if you have a total combined worth of $1,500,000 of cash, stocks, bonds, properties, etc. but have $500,000 in total left on your mortgage, loans, or other debt, your net worth would be $1,000,000.

A goal of $1,000,000 from a net annual income of $74,361 is feasible; however, it will depend a large part on your spending habits.  Therefore, sticking to a budget will assist with reaching this goal.  The more you spend, the less you will save, making it harder to reach your goal of one million dollars.  Spending less usually equals more savings.  If you’re starting out after graduation with mounting college loans, high-interest credit card debt, and a family that eats out and spends money on high quality fashion and services, saving money will be difficult on one singular income alone.  One way to facilitate saving money would be to avoid eating out frequently at fancy restaurants, staying healthy to avoid expensive hospital bills, living in not-so-posh neighborhoods, avoiding the brand name clothing, sending children to public schools instead of private institutions, or performing a lot of household chores yourself rather than hiring a cleaning service or landscaper.  Looking for discounts, or buying used items could also assist with cutting expenses.  These are personal choices that every family will have to make.  Some consider living in good neighborhoods to attend excellent public schools, attending private schools, sacrificing retirement savings and wealth for the sake of children are worthy investments; however, this post cannot discuss or recommend what one should do with their earnings, but rather assess whether saving a million dollars is possible for a pharmacist.  Another way to speed up the goal to a million dollars is to work more (e.g. another job), earn more (e.g. promotion), or the non-working spouse may be able to enter the workforce and help increase the income that comes into their household.  Doing well in investing your savings could also help reach the goal a lot sooner.  Earning interest on your savings and investments over time by starting early will be valuable to reaching a million dollars.

In another example, a single person with no debt (e.g. college loans, car loans, mortgage), zero savings, a salary of $74,361, and is able to save half  of their paycheck(~$3,100 per month) while earning an average interest of 5% a year will be a millionaire in 2034 (~17 years from this year) according to CNN’s millionaire calculator.  Therefore, a single person starting out at the age of 26 may be able to be a millionaire by age 43!  Although this is highly unlikely considering the unpredictability that life brings such as getting married, having kids, health issues, or going through an expensive divorce.

Therefore, it is entirely possible in one’s lifetime under the right circumstances to get to a million dollars as a pharmacist as long as there is a steady stream of solid income, disciplined spending control, and time for your investments to grow.

 

Your First Paycheck as a Pharmacist

401kcalculator.org

After four long years, and maybe a year or two of residency or fellowship for some graduates, endless hours of studying into the night and early mornings before an exam, mounting college loan debt, you finally land a job. That is great news because it is primarily the reason we suffer through any rigorous schooling.  We aim to get a good job in order to get paid and make the best life for yourself and your loved ones. Some of you need income quickly as you might have kids who need clean diapers and food in their mouths. You’ll need an income to support a nice house for your spouse and children. So what happens when you receive your first paycheck? Some may gift their first paycheck to their parents to thank them. Others may put down a down payment towards a new car. Most will probably save it, and use part of it to pay your mortgage and rent. Regardless what you’ll do with your first check, be prepared that your first direct deposit into your bank account may not be what you thought it was.  This goes without saying in almost any career in America.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data in 2016, the average salary of a pharmacist was $122,230. The state with the most number of pharmacists is California according to their data with an average yearly wage of $136,100. In this post, let’s focus on the paycheck of a California pharmacist, and how much they would take home after deductions to get a better understanding of our hard-earned money.  The take home pay will vary depending on the amount of deductions you have. These deductions may include the level of insurance coverage, insurance type, retirement contributions, and tax exemptions available.  For example, If we begin with an average rate of $136,100/year salary based on California’s average pharmacist wage from 2016, with the assumptions that the pharmacist has a non-working spouse and two kids, the pharmacist maximizes their 401K retirement contributions ($18,000 annually in 2016), has a standard level of health insurance for a family if we use one study as a reference ($5,277 for all family plan types), claims two exemptions (one each for marriage partners), the pharmacist would be taxed at the 28% marginal federal rate, and a 9.3% marginal state rate, plus pay FICA which subsidizes Social Security and Medicare (6.85%), and vision/dental insurance (let’s assume $1500/year for a family of four), and receiving a paycheck every 2 weeks…you can expect your paycheck to be a lot lower. Even more so if you opt to add short-term or long-term disability insurance, life insurance, and other types of optional benefit contributions the employer may offer (e.g. legal insurance).  Using various paycheck calculators available for California income taxes, $136,100 may turn into $81,138 when affected by federal/state income taxes, FICA, with two personal exemptions, and deducting the maximum allowed contribution for a retirement 401k plan in 2016 ($18,000).  When further deducting for health/dental/vision without including other optional insurances such as life and disability insurance, the $81,138 turns into $74,361.  $74,361 split into 26 paychecks per year would be around $2,860 net pay per two weeks for a family of four.  This is drastically different from a gross pay of $5,234 ($136,100 divided by 26 paychecks)… essentially a 45% reduction compared to the gross amount before deductions! Therefore, you should budget wisely as there are college loans, credit card debt, mortgage payments, childcare, sales/property taxes, food, utilities, clothes, internet, cell phones, car fuel and maintenance, and so forth to consider assuming only one person works in the household.  $2,860 is around $74,360 per year after deductions are counted for.  Remember, this example is merely a rough estimate, and may not be the actual amount since taxes and exemptions can be complicated, and insurance options and retirement contributions will vary individually.  However it is probably in the same ballpark to what a typical California pharmacist in a family of four with one working person would receive after deductions.  Every state has their own income tax rates, property tax, and sales tax, health insurance rates that will affect the net pay.  Cost of living will also affect how valuable your income is worth.  Some states have cheaper tax rates, housing, gas and food costs than others.  For example, California is known to have the highest state income tax rates, and expensive real estate, whereas Florida and Texas have no state income tax, and relatively more affordable housing compared to parts of California.  However, states may compensate for the lack of tax receipts from income taxes by raising taxes in other areas such as for sales or property tax rates.  Therefore, before you blow your paycheck on a Mercedes Benz or a big 3500-square foot house, it would be wise to establish a sound budget.

Show Me The Money!

Most people love money. This isn’t usually debatable. It is why people all over the world will gamble even though the odds are against them, and casinos who eventually almost always win.  People also want a quick unearned bonus from playing the lottery, although the probability of winning is nearly impossible.  You’re better off giving that money to the poor, or to charity…at least it will do some good rather than making the casinos richer.  There will always be the question as to whether money will buy or bring happiness.  Some people who meditate on this may say that it does not buy happiness, while those who are brash and realistic about life say money does.  Considering we hear timeless stories and articles about many rich and famous people in Hollywood with loads of money who also do drugs,  or get divorced, are depressed alcoholics…money doesn’t always correlate to happiness.  Some wonder why they partake in such activities given they have all the money in the world to do anything they want, yet they pursue activities that will leave them miserable, or even broke in some cases (e.g. divorces).  It is true, money may put you in a better position to have a better life and be happy.  Therefore, indirectly, it may bring happiness…or at least comfort and contentment so that you don’t have to worry about not having the things in your life that will bring some joy such as a nice house, car, education for your kids, and so on.  Although the definition of happiness differs from one person to the next, most of us will agree that having money will make life a lot easier.

For those of us who are pursuing a profession in pharmacy simply for the rewards it may bring (e.g. money), you should probably think it over.  Although a pharmacists’ salary isn’t relatively bad in the United States, it isn’t like you won the lottery, or will get rich.  This assumes you can even get a job after graduation, and can hold onto it.  This also assumes you will save more than you spend, and you keep your expenses and debt low.  With good money management, a pharmacists’ salary can provide a good living while providing the most essential things in life such as supporting a family.  It may not provide you with the spending capital required to buy a yacht, or the freedom to travel on first-class to exotic locations, and staying in fancy hotels many times a year without going broke.  However, there are things a pharmacist, or anyone with a decent paying job can do to stretch out those extra dollars.  For example, using a cost of living calculator comparison tool such as the one here, you’ll notice your buying power in one city may be a lot different when living in another city in the United States.  For example, let’s say you earn $100,000 per year in St. Louis, Missouri.  According to this calculator, you’ll need to earn around $187,648 in San Francisco, California to have the same buying power.  This is because home prices, gas, taxes, insurance, and many other products and services will cost a lot more in San Francisco.  If you decide to move from St. Louis to San Francisco and do not get an offer of much more than $100,000, you’ll probably lose money compared to living in St. Louis because you’ll need more capital to live the same way.  Lets look at another example.  Say you want to move from Dallas, Texas to New York City, New York.  If you make $100,000 in Dallas, you would need around $234,232 in New York City (Manhattan) to have the same lifestyle.  Therefore, where you live and how much you earn in those cities may indicate the amount of cash you can save. Cities and states in the United States will have different levels of expenses such as the various tax rates (income, business, property, sales, etc), insurance costs, interest rates, mortgage/rent pricing, etc.  Obviously, living in a low cost of living area will allow you to save more money for the same products and services, thereby “showing you the money” a lot quicker.  Of course if you spend more than you save, you’ll have no money regardless of where you live.  Therefore, although a pharmacists’ salary after taxes and other deductions may not make you rich…saving money over a long period of time could make you well-off, or at least comfortable enough to not worry about bills as much.  Living in a cheap area will quicken the savings…although some people prefer to live in the expensive big cities due to the fact that it may have more to offer than a less populated small town.  They may not correlate money with happiness, but more happiness from life experiences instead.

What you can do after getting a PharmD

So you finally earned your Doctor of Pharmacy degree after sitting through 3-4 years of mind-numbing lectures on cytochrome p450 enzymes, vancomycin dosing nomograms, and reading through hundreds of adverse effects, contraindications, dosage/administration, and mechanism of action information about drugs.  You also secured a hefty loan from a lender where now the interest on the loan will start adding to the principle.  First of all, congratulations on finishing pharmacy school and getting your degree.  It is no small feat, and the patience, discipline, hard work, and fortitude required to achieve a PharmD will have prepared you to become a professional working contributor to society, which will help facilitate and advance your career.

So now what?  If you haven’t already begun (perhaps six months prior to graduation in seeking a job or a post-graduate position (residency, fellowship, etc) then you should probably begin searching for a job.  Apply to jobs within a state in which you plan living in, and obtain the necessary requirements by referring to the State Board of Pharmacy for each state, which will guide you on what you need to start practicing as a pharmacist.  Usually, this will require a state exam (MPJE for most), and the national pharmacy licensure exam (NAPLEX).  Apply to as many jobs as you are able to, and begin studying for your tests so that you’ll be eligible to start working if you are fortunate enough to be accepted for a position.  Many employers would want to know that you have the required eligibility and license to practice as a pharmacist before they would even consider granting an interview.  Post-graduate programs such as residencies and fellowships may not require this since interviews with those programs may begin long before graduation.

Ok, so now you have earned your state pharmacy license(s) to practice, and you have hopefully found a job.  You’ve made it!  You can now start to apply for health insurance benefits, contribute to your retirement plan, pay off those high interest college loans, help out your family,  and maybe consider replacing that broken-down car of yours.  You may finally get to go out with your friends and eat something nice for once rather than looking for the cheapest item on the menu, or sticking with the cup-o-noodles and peanut butter sandwiches that you feasted on through college.  Hopefully, your bank account statements will look nicer each month as long as you save some of your income, and if you don’t spend more than you earn.  Now what? You’ll notice after a couple years of working as a pharmacist that it’s pretty much the same old same old everyday whether you work in the retail or hospital setting.  As a retail pharmacist, you’ll come to work with dozens of refills to process, and insurance companies to call when the claims are rejected.  You’ll constantly talk to angry customers waiting to pick up prescriptions that are not ready for them, or even misfiled.  You’ll have pharmacy technicians not report to work on time, or call-in sick which will almost certainly lead to a very stressful morning.  You’ll deal with slippery situations when you feel a prescription is forged, or if customers are being prescribed too much narcotics for their pain, but yet are  yelling at you because they want their pain medications immediately while you ponder what to do.  As for hospital pharmacists, you’ll deal constantly with nurses on the phone calling you for missing medications which was supposed to be sent hours ago, and which you may have already sent twice but somehow kept getting lost.  You’ll deal with your coworkers calling in sick requiring you to do another double shift.  These are some examples of situations that await you after pharmacy school.  Generally, the pay appears to be very good at first.  However, you’ll notice the salaries plateauing and not increasing as they may do for other occupations.  Even after many years, you may not earn much more than when you first started your position after graduation.  As your life progresses and you get older, you’ll probably be getting married at some point, have kids, and buy a new home.  You’ll wonder if you’re able to earn more income, and if there other ways to better your position, of if doing the same old same old stagnant job every day is it for you until you retire.  Of course, this applies to pharmacists who are unsatisfied and want more out of their careers.  There are many pharmacists who are okay with the same old same old status quo until they retire, and may not care to do anything else.

There are some options you have that may put you in a better position to excel or move up the ladder.  Opportunities for leadership positions such as a manager or director of the pharmacy, or a different type of industry altogether such as pursuing a career in consulting ,or an atypical pharmacist position are some options for you.  Applying for these positions may require either experience or degrees and certifications, or both.  If moving up the ladder to management positions, a masters in business administration (MBA) or a masters in public health (MPH) may be a good start, or something to put on your resume.  There are many pharmacy schools that offer a dual degree program combined with a PharmD, but since you’ve already graduated, perhaps you could check your benefits department to see if they would subsidize part of your tuition if you decide to obtain another degree.  If you’re interested in pursuing the clinical route, asking your management whether board of pharmacy specialty certifications will earn them more income, or whether the exams and certification fees can be reimbursed by the employer may be appropriate considering the costs required to obtain the certification.  Networking with other similar health professionals by joining an organization, attending or participating in meetings and events (continuing education) is another great way to learn about other opportunities that you would otherwise not know of when using only the internet or job sites.  Networking can be the most formidable tool you have if you are able to establish relationships easily.   Attending classes or joining clubs which focus on helping you network may be beneficial for you such as courses that educate people how to perform presentations (e.g. toastmasters).

These are only some of the options that are available for those that feel stagnant in their careers.  Keep in mind that pursuing another graduate degree, or a board specialty certification could be costly, and may take your time away from your family or social life.  Work/life balance is something that has to be assessed by each pharmacist depending on their life situation and age.

Famous Pharmacists in History

Famous Pharmacists in History

If you’re considering a career in the field of pharmacy, you may be interested to know that the job does not always involve counting pills and printing labels for customers. As many people who have chosen this career path would confirm1, this important vocation offers countless opportunities to positively impact the lives of others. In fact, a pharmacist acts as a crucial link between patients and their health care providers. 

In addition to being an intensely gratifying line of work, the pharmacy profession has also produced a wealth of fascinating individuals. These famous pharmacists have accomplished some truly notable deeds. In some cases, their achievements were related to their original vocation of choice – while in other instances, they were not. The following are a few examples of famous pharmacists in history.

Hubert H. Humphrey

Hubert H. Humphrey’s accomplishments have been well-documented – and for good reason. The American Pharmacists Association even extends an award2 in the man’s name. This former pharmacist who went on to enjoy a highly successful career in politics – first, as a U.S Senator for the State of Minnesota, and then, as Vice President of the United States under Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969. Humphrey followed his father into the pharmacy profession, and he worked as a pharmacist in the drugstore that his father owned in South Dakota. Some of the most notable accomplishments of his political career included chairing the advisory council for the Peace Corps, chairing the Civil Rights Council, organizing an antipoverty program, and working with Congress to enact Medicare and the Voting Rights Act3 .

Charles Alderton

After attending college in England, Brooklyn-born Charles Alderton obtained his training in medicine at the University of Texas. He then worked as a pharmacist in a drug store in Waco, Texas4. The drug store in which he worked also had a soda fountain, which was the place that Alderton observed customers growing bored with the traditional soda flavors of the time period (the late 1800s). That observation inspired the pharmacist to create a carbonated drink with a flavor that smelled similar to all of the various fruit syrups used in the store to make sodas. The result was a beverage that remains highly popular to this day – which is known as Dr Pepper (the original period after the “Dr.” in the drink’s name was eventually omitted)5.

Agatha Christie

When you consider her history as an apothecary’s assistant, it is no small wonder that Agatha Christie experienced great success as an author whose crime novels sometimes included poison as a means of murder. To say that Christie was successful is actually an understatement; after her work as a volunteer nurse during the First World War and then in the pharmacy field6, she became known as one of the top-selling authors in the world7.  

 

Benjamin Green

After he served as an airman in the Second World War, pharmacist Benjamin Green began experimenting with various substances in order to create an effective sunscreen. He initially applied a type of veterinary petroleum to his skin to protect himself from harmful UV rays during wartime. Later, he added other substances to develop what would ultimately become the basis for the suntan product manufactured by Coppertone8.

Luke Howard

Londoner Luke Howard was a pharmacist who became famous for his meteorological work in the 1800s. After establishing a pharmacy of his own in Fleet Street, he partnered with scientist William Allen to start a pharmaceutical firm. Howard later became known for creating some of the cloud names9 that are still in use to this day. Howard has since been referred to as the “Father of Meteorology”10.

A career in the pharmacy field may be one of the most personally gratifying career choices you could make. Helping consumers to get the medications they need is an invaluable service. If you follow the lead of some of the most famous pharmacists in history, you may even find yourself using your knowledge to benefit the world in ways that you never imagined.    

Henri Nestle

Most people are familiar with the chocolate brand, Nestle.  What they might not know is it began with Henri Nestle, a pharmacists’ assistant, before becoming the world recognized brand that people love and admire.

Footnotes:

1. Pharmacy Times, “Why I Love Being a Pharmacist: Honorable Mentions” <https://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/why-i-love-being-a-pharmacist-honorable-mentions> (accessed August 15, 2016)

2. American Pharmacists Association, “Hubert H. Humphrey Award” <https://www.pharmacist.com/hubert-h-humphrey-award> (accessed August 15, 2016)

3. Encyclopædia Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, “Hubert Humphrey, Vice president of United States” < https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hubert-Humphrey> (accessed August 15, 2016)

4. NNDB, “Charles Alderton”, <https://www.nndb.com/people/635/000207014/> (accessed August 15, 2016)

5. Dr Pepper Museum, “History of Dr Pepper” <https://www.drpeppermuseum.com/About-Us/History-Of-Dr–Pepper.aspx> (accessed August 15, 2016)

6. Science Friday, Kathryn Harkup, “Agatha Christie: From Pharmacist’s Apprentice to Poison Expert, An excerpt from “A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.” <https://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/agatha-christie-from-pharmacists-apprentice-to-poison-expert/> (accessed August 15, 2016)

7. Bio, “Agatha Christie Biography”, <https://www.biography.com/people/agatha-christie-9247405> (accessed August 15, 2016)

8. The New York Times, “Sunscreen: A History” <https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/fashion/24skinside.html?_r=0> (accessed August 15, 2016)

9. Royal Meteorological Society, “Luke Howard and Cloud Names” <https://www.rmets.org/weather-and-climate/observing/luke-howard-and-cloud-names> (accessed August 15, 2016)

10. Royal Meteorological Society, “The Invention of Clouds: Luke Howard, The Father of Meteorology”<https://www.rmets.org/events/invention-clouds-luke-howard-father-meteorology> (accessed August 15, 2016)