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Does a physical Therapist live paycheck to paycheck?


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Phillip’s Answer

Hi Maria.

I'll start with the caveat that I'm not a physical therapist. I do, however, have experience with personal finance, consulting, and budget planning. The short answer is that there are few careers that require/force people to live paycheck to paycheck.

I have known individuals who earn significantly high salaries, but who struggle with monthly expenses because of high costs of living and/or high amount of debt. On the other hand, I have known individuals with relatively small incomes who live comfortably with a sizable emergency fund (i.e. not paycheck to paycheck).

Ultimately, to avoid living paycheck to paycheck you have to have a certain level of income surpass your living expenses and costs. Consider the example:
Sally earns $4,000 a month after taxes. She pays $2000 a month in rent for an apartment near her work. She has a car payment of $250 a month and pays $150 in other car related expenses (i.e. insurance and gas). She spends about $1,000 a month on groceries and dining out, another $200 on other entertainment (movies, Netflix, etc.). At the end of the month, she has $400 left.

Now consider Sarah who earns $3000 a month after taxes. She lives further away from her job, so rent is less, but her auto expenses are higher. Let's assume she pays $1000 fore rent and that her total car expenses are $600 (car payment plus gas and insurance). She prepares most of her own meals, so she spends about $600 a month on food, and she choose to spend less on entertainment ($50). At the end of the month, she has $750 left over.

Notice that the person with less income per month, Sarah, actually is able to save more per month and will eventually end the paycheck to paycheck cycle before Sally. These are really simple examples, but they serve to highlight an important point. Your decisions about expenses are as important as your ability to earn income. You can choose to live close to downtown and close to work, but the rent will be higher. Or you can live further out where it's cheaper, but have other expenses like transit.

We don't always have the ability to impact the costs we accrue (i.e. medical bills after a trip to the ER), but the reality is that people who earn more money don't immediately escape the temptation of living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes, people find new (unwise) ways to spend extra income which perpetuates the scenario of living paycheck to paycheck. I have known people with huge houses (4000 sq ft and higher) that couldn't afford to buy furniture for their house. Basically, they were house poor. The money tied up in their monthly house payment prevented them from buying other things, like a sofa. Conversely, I've known people with small, but comfortable houses, that no longer needed to work because the saved money and put it to work in investments.

I suggest reading this book if you're really interested in getting a handle on your income and expensees:
https://www.amazon.com/Millionaire-Next-Door-Surprising-Americas/dp/1589795474

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Riley’s Answer

Someone who lives paycheck to paycheck does not make enough money each month to support their lifestyle, so by the end of the month they are always out of money and need to wait for their next paycheck. So this depends on your budget and how you are spending your money each month. For example, if you make $5,000 each month; but your rent is $2,000, your bills end up being $2,000 altogether, then you would only have an extra $1,000 per month to put towards other things. However, as a physical therapist you will most likely be making a pretty decent amount of money each month so unless you are living extremely lavishly or just not budgeting properly you should not need to live paycheck to paycheck.

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David’s Answer

I would say depend, an Physical Therapist can be living on a paycheck to paycheck once they got their degree and working off to pay off all the loans, expenses, cost of living and etc. After several years in the meaning of living on a paycheck to paycheck depend on living styles and more. I know a lot of Physical Therapist and some are living on paycheck to paycheck and some are not, like we all said, it is depend on your living styles if you going to spend all your paycheck or save some for future use or do whatever you want.

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Jay’s Answer

Hello! Living paycheck to paycheck is less about the career or job, and more with the lifestyle choices to live within or beyond means. It may mean starting smaller, or not buying that new car, but those choices will allow you to be able to put some money away into savings each week.

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Michael’s Answer

It is easy to live paycheck to paycheck regardless of what profession you’re in! Paycheck to paycheck means that the money earned is not enough to cover the lifestyle one chooses! Some people find it necessity take a cruise on e a year and sacrifice a mortgage payment! That is ok yo go on a cruise but it is irresponsible to put the cruise before your mortgage! One should always prioritize the money one earns! A roof over your head is priority number one! If that is all you have and all you can afford , paycheck to paycheck becomes a blessing!

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Yusef’s Answer

Living paycheck to paycheck simply means you are using most or all of your monthly income to cover your monthly expenses -- with no money left over and no money in savings. Physical Therapist usually make enough money to sustain a decent lifestyle. More importantly to avoid living paycheck to paycheck is to get a good understanding of your finances by creating a budget. Budgeting is very important.

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Rita’s Answer

Since you live in NY, the salary range for a physical therapist could be in the range of [63k to 106k]. This salary range is well within a means for you to live in NY but like everyone else is it all about living within your means (budget). Below are some things to consider:

Rita recommends the following next steps:

Create a monthly budget so you know what your expenses are (rent, utilities, cell phone, food, insurance, etc). Include saving too ($25 mo)
Figure out different budgets from the low end to high end of the salary range for PT. See how much living expenses you can afford.
See if there are cheaper living arrangments you can have (that $3k studio apartment vs $2k mo) and would you be comfortable.
If you have a higher degree (Masters) that will get you a higher salary typically
Research what opportunities are currently available in your area. You may need to consider relocating to get your foot in the door, then come back to NY for the higher salary.

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