Author Topic: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.  (Read 5933 times)

Trudie

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Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« on: March 20, 2018, 01:07:36 PM »
Money magazine had an interesting article this month on people pursuing encore careers.  Overall, the article was a fun read and inspiring.  I was pulled in by the story of an ENT surgeon who retired at 47 to become an artist. 

But in the first paragraph they noted that she'd managed to save $4000/month during her working years, adding "No, that's not a typo..." and all I could think was that it was a pittance compared to her income.  Where the hell is the rest of it?  I'm sure she could have had massive debt and all kinds of stuff, but still.  It was very sketchy.

Still, read the article anyway.  Just pick up a free copy at the library.  It's fun to read about people following their dreams.

Dicey

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2018, 07:37:57 AM »
I've read Money Magazine off and on for decades, not for the, er, financial advice, but for the stories.

Is it possible that they meant she saved an "additional" 4k per month in addition to typical retirement savings?

In my Pre-FIRE years (before the term existed), I didn't count retirement savings as "Savings". I just socked it away and included it in my NW calculations. "Savings" came out of my net pay.

These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

Either way, kudos to her for living her dream.


MonkeyJenga

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2018, 09:01:36 AM »
These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

What's the issue with including employer matches? It's part of my compensation, it's money my employer is giving me, and I can access my 401k for regular living expenses before traditional retirement age. It's actual dollars I can use to buy groceries (in 5+ years).

samsonator54321

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2018, 12:44:21 PM »
Were they talking about this article?

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/money/5101872/early-retirement-surgeon-painter

Because there is a paragraph that says:

Emmerson worked in a small medical practice in Bloomington, Illinois. She was the primary breadwinner for her family, which included her husband and two young sons. Each month, she socked away $4,000 in four different low-cost indexed mutual funds.

I don’t know for sure, but I read that as 4,000 in each of the four mutual funds. Maybe the article you read interpreted that as 4k when it was really 16k?

Because it also says they anticipate spending 5k a month. So if she was only saving 4k where would the rest be going?


I'm a red panda

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2018, 12:54:00 PM »
Quote
Each month, she socked away $4,000 in four different low-cost indexed mutual funds.

That's really ambiguous. Did she put $4k in each or did she divide it up between the 4.  It could mean either. I'd take it to mean $4k total.

These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

What's the issue with including employer matches? It's part of my compensation, it's money my employer is giving me, and I can access my 401k for regular living expenses before traditional retirement age. It's actual dollars I can use to buy groceries (in 5+ years).

Agree. The 13% of my salary my employer puts into my 403b is vested. That is MY money.  I include it in my savings (so far as the current value in my account; because it is invested it moves up and down), but it increases the numerator AND the denominator. It is part of my total compensation. 

I don't include mortgage principal as savings, even after retiring I will need somewhere to live. Just like any other item I own, I consider it spending. (And just like I can sell my house, I could sell my shoes, my kitchenware etc. So unless I consider every item I purchase savings, it just seems silly to me. A house is more likely to appreciate, but it might not, whereas my kitchenware could be collectible and shoot up significantly in value. Haha.)

Dicey

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2018, 01:06:52 PM »
These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

What's the issue with including employer matches? It's part of my compensation, it's money my employer is giving me, and I can access my 401k for regular living expenses before traditional retirement age. It's actual dollars I can use to buy groceries (in 5+ years).
Not really an issue, @MonkeyJenga, just a different way of thinking, I suppose. PF blogs (hell, the whole damn internet) didn't exist back then. I made ton of financial mistakes, because I just didn't know any better, despite a thirst for financial freedom. 

I will add that I think it's good to be reminded (thanks, old good boss at bad old company) that percentages don't necessarily equal dollars. And that comparing (or boasting about) savings rates is kind of a frugal way of keeping up with the Joneses. So good/not necessarily good.

Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify, MJ.

Oops, I see another comment. Yes, @iowajes, I completely agree it's your money. But say someone who saves just as well works for a company that doesn't match, or doesn't match as much. Are they automatically a worse saver?

I'm a red panda

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2018, 01:21:27 PM »
Yes, @iowajes, I completely agree it's your money. But say someone who saves just as well works for a company that doesn't match, or doesn't match as much. Are they automatically a worse saver?

Is it a competition?  What makes someone "worse"?

If it is a competition- well, I guess they are a worse saver if they can't put away the same amount, assuming their total compensation was the same.  But isn't that why people compare percent savings rates and not dollars?

Let's say I make $50k, have a 13% contribution (mine is not actually a match- they just put in 13%).  So I actually make $56.5k. 
If they make $56.5k and have no contribution from their employer they we are even.  If they make $50k with no contribution, then their 50% savings rate would amount to $25k, whereas mine would need to be $28.25k. 

But really- we need to look at TOTAL compensation, which generally also includes insurance.  It is a hell of a lot easier to save big when your company pays 100% of your medical needs (like my last employer- no premium, only copays for very rare things, $1,000 out of pocket max) vs a company with high premiums, high out of pocket max.

So I guess I'm just going with "it's not a competition". I have no idea what would make someone a better saver than others.

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2018, 02:16:13 PM »
Yes, @iowajes, I completely agree it's your money. But say someone who saves just as well works for a company that doesn't match, or doesn't match as much. Are they automatically a worse saver?

Is it a competition?  What makes someone "worse"?

If it is a competition- well, I guess they are a worse saver if they can't put away the same amount, assuming their total compensation was the same.  But isn't that why people compare percent savings rates and not dollars?

Let's say I make $50k, have a 13% contribution (mine is not actually a match- they just put in 13%).  So I actually make $56.5k. 
If they make $56.5k and have no contribution from their employer they we are even.  If they make $50k with no contribution, then their 50% savings rate would amount to $25k, whereas mine would need to be $28.25k. 

But really- we need to look at TOTAL compensation, which generally also includes insurance.  It is a hell of a lot easier to save big when your company pays 100% of your medical needs (like my last employer- no premium, only copays for very rare things, $1,000 out of pocket max) vs a company with high premiums, high out of pocket max.

So I guess I'm just going with "it's not a competition". I have no idea what would make someone a better saver than others.

How about if we calculate the percentage saved as a percentage of total monetary compensation plus employer sponsored contributions? We should probably factor out benefits that not everyone can benefit from (medical insurance has no dollar value if you don't need medical services in a particular year). But a 401(k) match or similar contribution, if available, should count as part of a person's overall compensation.

John Doe earns $100,000 but the employer contributes up to 3% in 401(k) matching funds... so we'd count his income as $103,000 even if he isn't taking advantage of the matching funds.

hops

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2018, 08:47:54 PM »
Here's another article about her:

http://loanpride.com/at-the-age-of-47-this-surgeon-retired-from-her-job-to-become-a-painter-heres-how-she-did-it/

Her story is interesting. She knew from the time she started residency that she wanted to retire early, and it sounds like she began investing $4k per month in the 1980s or early '90s.

She also owns income-producing real estate. She was the sole earner in her family, and was widowed when her kids were still minors. She was methodical about funding their educations:

Quote
At the time of her children’s birth, she also socked away $9,000 each for school and college tuition fees in a separate savings account. As her children grew up, their funds also grew exponentially – and by the time they went to college the $9,000 investment had turned into a 6-digit number.

Abe

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2018, 08:51:34 PM »
$4k in 1985 is equivalent to almost $10k now per the BLS CPI calculator. $120k/yr is nothing to sneeze at, especially raising three kids as a widow. Also the marginal tax rates at that time are significantly higher than now: over $169k ($400k in today's dollars) was 50%. Using that year as an example, of course.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2018, 08:57:55 PM by Abe »

Dicey

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2018, 12:01:27 AM »
Yes, @iowajes, I completely agree it's your money. But say someone who saves just as well works for a company that doesn't match, or doesn't match as much. Are they automatically a worse saver?

Is it a competition?  What makes someone "worse"?

If it is a competition- well, I guess they are a worse saver if they can't put away the same amount, assuming their total compensation was the same.  But isn't that why people compare percent savings rates and not dollars?

Let's say I make $50k, have a 13% contribution (mine is not actually a match- they just put in 13%).  So I actually make $56.5k. 
If they make $56.5k and have no contribution from their employer they we are even.  If they make $50k with no contribution, then their 50% savings rate would amount to $25k, whereas mine would need to be $28.25k. 

But really- we need to look at TOTAL compensation, which generally also includes insurance.  It is a hell of a lot easier to save big when your company pays 100% of your medical needs (like my last employer- no premium, only copays for very rare things, $1,000 out of pocket max) vs a company with high premiums, high out of pocket max.

So I guess I'm just going with "it's not a competition". I have no idea what would make someone a better saver than others.
Of, geez. My whole point is that it is NOT a competition! I must be speaking Greek today. *Palm to forehead*

Coercivity

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2018, 12:23:13 AM »
She saved 4k a month on 5k a month expenses ... that a savings rate of 44% which is pretty good I would've thought. She also retired after 20 years of work so that matches up pretty much exactly with that savings rate.

Trudie

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2018, 12:18:43 AM »
Were they talking about this article?

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/money/5101872/early-retirement-surgeon-painter

Because there is a paragraph that says:

Emmerson worked in a small medical practice in Bloomington, Illinois. She was the primary breadwinner for her family, which included her husband and two young sons. Each month, she socked away $4,000 in four different low-cost indexed mutual funds.

I don’t know for sure, but I read that as 4,000 in each of the four mutual funds. Maybe the article you read interpreted that as 4k when it was really 16k?

Because it also says they anticipate spending 5k a month. So if she was only saving 4k where would the rest be going?

This is a version of the articles but not the exact one.

The way I read the article was that she was saving 4k per month, period. 

Trudie

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2018, 12:24:24 AM »
Here's another article about her:

http://loanpride.com/at-the-age-of-47-this-surgeon-retired-from-her-job-to-become-a-painter-heres-how-she-did-it/

Her story is interesting. She knew from the time she started residency that she wanted to retire early, and it sounds like she began investing $4k per month in the 1980s or early '90s.

She also owns income-producing real estate. She was the sole earner in her family, and was widowed when her kids were still minors. She was methodical about funding their educations:

Quote
At the time of her children’s birth, she also socked away $9,000 each for school and college tuition fees in a separate savings account. As her children grew up, their funds also grew exponentially – and by the time they went to college the $9,000 investment had turned into a 6-digit number.

This is a much better article and includes much more detail and context.  The Money article left out entirety that she was widowed at a young age and the property investments and college accounts.  These are pertinent details.  Money magazine readers would have benefited from reading them.

boarder42

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2018, 04:45:12 AM »
I've read Money Magazine off and on for decades, not for the, er, financial advice, but for the stories.

Is it possible that they meant she saved an "additional" 4k per month in addition to typical retirement savings?

In my Pre-FIRE years (before the term existed), I didn't count retirement savings as "Savings". I just socked it away and included it in my NW calculations. "Savings" came out of my net pay.

These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

Either way, kudos to her for living her dream.

Principal payment is puffery.

Employer match is part of your compensation package. To disrrguard it as not savings could lead to some poor work changing decisions to "increase" savings. I get a 14.25% match of which a majority is privately held ESOP that continuously outperforms everything. I can't buy any it's given as a percentage of my pay but to not count it in my savings and the projected growth of this in my compensation calculations would be foolish.

The reason you track savings is to project when you could retire you have to live somewhere so counting your principal payment in most cases is misleading. Just like counting your house equity when determining swr.

Dicey

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2018, 06:17:10 AM »
I've read Money Magazine off and on for decades, not for the, er, financial advice, but for the stories.

Is it possible that they meant she saved an "additional" 4k per month in addition to typical retirement savings?

In my Pre-FIRE years (before the term existed), I didn't count retirement savings as "Savings". I just socked it away and included it in my NW calculations. "Savings" came out of my net pay.

These days, I am kind of amused at the things people include when calculating their savings rate percentage. I know it's generally accepted hereabouts, but including employer matches and principal payments feels like puffery to me. Sure, using trickery to keep your nose to the grindstone is fine, but as an old boss used to say, "You buy groceries with dollars, not percentages."

Either way, kudos to her for living her dream.

Principal payment is puffery.

Employer match is part of your compensation package. To disrrguard it as not savings could lead to some poor work changing decisions to "increase" savings. I get a 14.25% match of which a majority is privately held ESOP that continuously outperforms everything. I can't buy any it's given as a percentage of my pay but to not count it in my savings and the projected growth of this in my compensation calculations would be foolish.

The reason you track savings is to project when you could retire you have to live somewhere so counting your principal payment in most cases is misleading. Just like counting your house equity when determining swr.
Oh, @boarder42, I agree with you completely! I'm talking more about the backflips people do to artificially inflate their savings rate percentage. It is the dollars that count. Keeping track of every one of them absolutely matters, especially in getting to FIRE  Machinations to inflate savings percentages are what I take issue with,  especially it it's used to smugly compare one's self to others. (NOT pointing at you, b42.)

Yours is most definitely money being saved and adding to your NW. But it is passive and part of your job package. It's not money you actively save by spending less than you earn. This is especially true if everyone at your firm gets the same deal. And OMG, what a sweet perk!

P.S. This is not a hill I want to die on. It's just helpful to be aware of the distinction.

living small

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2018, 06:53:49 AM »
There is a tiny bit I want to add based on a slightly different angle. I think I may remember reading some stats that back this up, but here it is.

Surgery, of any kind, is a largely male-dominated, competitive and machismo profession. There are of course, exceptions to this.

 At the time that she began her career, the percentage of women in the profession was much lower than it is now. My guess is that she could have even made more over the course of time, but there is a strong pecking order to who gets to do which cases.

As a single parent, what happens if a kid gets sick? For men in a career, kids don't really effect them, for women, they can have a negative impact on careers. Childcare and some convenience also played a role here, I imagine. $5000 per month to live off of isn't too bad considering that, really.


Dicey

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2018, 07:01:36 AM »
There is a tiny bit I want to add based on a slightly different angle. I think I may remember reading some stats that back this up, but here it is.

Surgery, of any kind, is a largely male-dominated, competitive and machismo profession. There are of course, exceptions to this.

 At the time that she began her career, the percentage of women in the profession was much lower than it is now. My guess is that she could have even made more over the course of time, but there is a strong pecking order to who gets to do which cases.

As a single parent, what happens if a kid gets sick? For men in a career, kids don't really effect them, for women, they can have a negative impact on careers. Childcare and some convenience also played a role here, I imagine. $5000 per month to live off of isn't too bad considering that, really.
Good point. This book covered that topic very well:

https://www.amazon.com/Walking-Boys-Frances-Conley-M-D/dp/0374525951

The actual title is "Walking Out On The Boys".

Dee

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2018, 11:48:43 AM »
I really love this story. She follows her parents' advice to do something more likely to be a well-paying job than art and becomes a SURGEON! I can only imagine the personal investment one must make to do that. And she makes it -- she does what it takes to become a surgeon and IS a surgeon. And never forgets her true dream, her calling... just puts it on hold and pursues it in small steps where possible, readjusting her life as necessary. And, eventually is FI and can go ahead and be an artist without any of the worries about becoming a starving artist her parents were concerned about. It's just extraordinary! The career choice made as the alternative is so demanding and consuming...and yet, she's able to do it and not get entirely sucked into it but still nourish her true underlying passion. I just love this story!

living small

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2018, 08:58:48 AM »
wow Dicey, that looks like a good read.

I have experienced all of that first hand and can verify. I have had to stand up to professors who asked, to my face,  why I would want to choose such a path when motherhood is such a great option. Having kids would just get in the way of being a good professional, and thats probably what I would do anyway, right?

This lady is currently living my dream. I am out in 5 years and DH is taking over. I don't know if I will sell any paintings, but I will sure have fun making them.

snapperdude

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2018, 03:53:12 PM »
Of, geez. My whole point is that it is NOT a competition! I must be speaking Greek today. *Palm to forehead*


Γιατί νομίζετε ότι είναι ένας διαγωνισμός;

alanB

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2018, 07:33:27 AM »
Of, geez. My whole point is that it is NOT a competition! I must be speaking Greek today. *Palm to forehead*


Γιατί νομίζετε ότι είναι ένας διαγωνισμός;

Looks like my old stat mech notes.

Everything is a competition.  Surgeons have to cut up people because they couldn't cut it as real scientists ;P

TheWifeHalf

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2018, 11:14:32 AM »
I really love this story. She follows her parents' advice to do something more likely to be a well-paying job than art and becomes a SURGEON! I can only imagine the personal investment one must make to do that. And she makes it -- she does what it takes to become a surgeon and IS a surgeon. And never forgets her true dream, her calling... just puts it on hold and pursues it in small steps where possible, readjusting her life as necessary. And, eventually is FI and can go ahead and be an artist without any of the worries about becoming a starving artist her parents were concerned about. It's just extraordinary! The career choice made as the alternative is so demanding and consuming...and yet, she's able to do it and not get entirely sucked into it but still nourish her true underlying passion. I just love this story!

Thanks Dee, for sorting out my thoughts that are in my (injured) brain.
I'm sort of living the first part of this story.
Our daughter is very very bright, and very very artistic. (those are not just a Mom's brags, it's true)
Until about 6 mos ago, she had plans to be a doctor of some sort. I remember having a discussion with her while she was in high school, telling her that I haven't research it yet, but it seems to me the beginning of her art career, to make any money, she'd have to do art as others told her. I knew she couldn't do that but I also knew she wouldn't do what I told her to. So, I just gave opinions.
Her plans:
She got her RN degree, and works in the new psych building of a local hospital (and they're building another.) They paid for the classes needed to get her BA. She found out they do not pay for any part of med school, but all of pharmacy school.
So, she told me she now has plans to become a pharmacist. When she told me, she said it was 2 mos past the date that she would have started applying to pharmacy school, so has plans to go next year. She seems to be very confident she'll be accepted.

Her main asset is her brain and I think pharmacy is a better choice. But like I said, she's not going to do what I tell her!

As parents, it's our job to help the kids be the best they can be. I remember telling her she can do her art in her down time - we'll see where this all takes her.

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Re: Surgeon saves $48,000/year. No, that's no typo.
« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2018, 11:50:21 AM »
I really love this story. She follows her parents' advice to do something more likely to be a well-paying job than art and becomes a SURGEON! I can only imagine the personal investment one must make to do that. And she makes it -- she does what it takes to become a surgeon and IS a surgeon. And never forgets her true dream, her calling... just puts it on hold and pursues it in small steps where possible, readjusting her life as necessary. And, eventually is FI and can go ahead and be an artist without any of the worries about becoming a starving artist her parents were concerned about. It's just extraordinary! The career choice made as the alternative is so demanding and consuming...and yet, she's able to do it and not get entirely sucked into it but still nourish her true underlying passion. I just love this story!

Thanks Dee, for sorting out my thoughts that are in my (injured) brain.
I'm sort of living the first part of this story.
Our daughter is very very bright, and very very artistic. (those are not just a Mom's brags, it's true)
Until about 6 mos ago, she had plans to be a doctor of some sort. I remember having a discussion with her while she was in high school, telling her that I haven't research it yet, but it seems to me the beginning of her art career, to make any money, she'd have to do art as others told her. I knew she couldn't do that but I also knew she wouldn't do what I told her to. So, I just gave opinions.
Her plans:
She got her RN degree, and works in the new psych building of a local hospital (and they're building another.) They paid for the classes needed to get her BA. She found out they do not pay for any part of med school, but all of pharmacy school.
So, she told me she now has plans to become a pharmacist. When she told me, she said it was 2 mos past the date that she would have started applying to pharmacy school, so has plans to go next year. She seems to be very confident she'll be accepted.

Her main asset is her brain and I think pharmacy is a better choice. But like I said, she's not going to do what I tell her!

As parents, it's our job to help the kids be the best they can be. I remember telling her she can do her art in her down time - we'll see where this all takes her.

I do know people who make part, or even all, of their living from their art. They often find that they live at a higher standard of living than they did before, and they don't have to make art to order like a graphic artist for a corporation would. BUT... and this is a huge "but"... they spend enough time in the marketing and development of their art to make sure they have a target buyers' niche and a means of replication and distribution. They have skills in business, basic bookkeeping, and even Web site administration. They find ways to mass-market their work at a price point where anyone who wants to own it can do so, and they take advantage of third-party online retailers to do so. They also have multiple production projects going at a time so that if their prints don't sell today, perhaps their jewelry will. Furthermore, they put a lot of effort into the branding of what they produce: it's got a unique and consistent look, feel, and style.

This means that it's not "all painting, all day, every day". My artist friends are entrepreneurs. Some of them have taken college-level courses in things like drawing or painting to enhance their technical skills and to form a solid foundation in the craft part of their profession, but the skills they use every day also come from their business education.

None of them can afford to just hang out and paint or do art all day and not bother about anything else.