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Geographic Arbitrage: Maximizing Your Professional and Financial Well-Being

Jun 15, 2024

You face an increasingly complex array of challenges, ranging from the pressures of corporate medicine to the high costs of living in certain areas. Geographic arbitrage, a strategy where you move to regions with lower costs of living while maintaining or even increasing your income, can be a powerful tool for maximizing both your professional satisfaction and financial well-being.

Understanding Geographic Arbitrage

Geographic arbitrage leverages the differences in cost of living and compensation rates between different geographic locations. For you, this could mean relocating from a high-cost area with modest pay to a region where the cost of living is lower and the potential for higher earnings is greater. This strategy can result in significant financial gains, improved quality of life, and greater professional autonomy.

Trends in Physician Pay and Cost of Living

  1. Regional Pay Discrepancies: Physician compensation varies widely across the United States. States like California and New York tend to offer higher salaries, but these are often offset by the extremely high cost of living and taxes. In contrast, states like Texas, Florida, and Tennessee offer competitive pay coupled with no state income tax, making them attractive options for many physicians.

  2. Cost of Living Variations: The cost of living encompasses housing, utilities, groceries, healthcare, and taxes. By relocating to states with lower living costs, you can often stretch your salary further, leading to greater savings, better investment opportunities, and a higher standard of living.

  3. Demand for Physicians: Certain regions experience a higher demand for specific medical specialties. Rural and underserved areas often provide lucrative incentives to attract physicians, including loan repayment programs, signing bonuses, and higher salary offers.

Insights from the Field

A recent coaching question from a SimpliMD community member highlights the real-world application and challenges of geographic arbitrage for physicians:

Tod, thank you for your recent post My Journey To Empowering Physicians Through SimpliMD but you are preaching to the choir with me! I am an internal medicine doc in my late 50s. For the past 15-18 years I have been trying to create a stable, independent-contract model of practice for myself. At times I did it with temporary success as a night-time hospitalist, and occasionally in outpatient or traditional IM practice. The real challenge is to find a practice setting where this type of practice is supported or encouraged. The agenda of corporate medicine and the medical industrial complex is not to offer primary care docs a rewarding or satisfying professional experience. Rather, the agenda is to reduce primary care docs to overworked, minimum-wage customer service agents for their corporate overlords within the medical-industrial complex. The agenda is to completely control and manipulate the doc such that the doc works to line the pockets of someone else (typically the hospital, the insurance company, or the academic medical center).

Right now I have an employed position in California, whereby I am paid pretty modestly (by physician standards), I pay the highest taxes in the country, I have to accept a very high cost of living, and I have the same quality of retirement plan as someone who works as a gas station attendant. Other than a modest paycheck, I receive virtually nothing in return for my efforts. I know there is a better way to live, but the challenge is trying to finding a stable, physician-friendly environment where primary care is needed and in-demand, and where the corporate medical-industrial complex is willing to be flexible with parameters. My favorite location for practice is Texas, which has a very competitive marketplace for docs. Do you know of any organizations in Texas that would be amenable to the employment-light, long-term independent-contract model of practice?"

This is a great case example of the effects of geographic arbitrage, and in this particular doctor’s life, he was seeking to layer in job structures that provided greater personal and professional autonomy—like employment lite.

So let’s try to answer his question.

Recommendations for Considering Geographic Arbitrage

  1. Research and Compare: Before making a move, conduct thorough research on potential locations. Compare salary data, cost of living indexes, and tax implications. Websites like Medscape and Doximity offer comprehensive salary reports and cost of living calculators that can aid in this process.

  2. Identify Demand: Look for areas with a high demand for your specialty. Underserved areas and rural communities often have a greater need for primary care physicians and may offer better financial incentives.

  3. Evaluate Professional Environment: Seek out regions with physician-friendly policies and a supportive environment for independent contractors. States with less restrictive corporate practice of medicine laws and a higher prevalence of physician-owned practices can offer more opportunities for autonomy.

  4. Network and Connect: Leverage your professional network to learn about potential opportunities. Joining physician groups, attending conferences, and connecting with colleagues in your desired location can provide valuable insights and leads.

  5. Consider Telemedicine: Telemedicine can be an excellent way to maintain or increase your income while living in a lower-cost area. This model allows you to practice across state lines (with appropriate licensing) and can provide greater flexibility.

Texas: A Case Study

Texas is often cited as an attractive destination for physicians due to its favorable tax policies, high demand for healthcare professionals, and relatively low cost of living. Here are some insights for those considering a move to Texas:

  • No State Income Tax: Texas does not have a state income tax, which can result in significant savings compared to states like California or New York.

  • Growing Population: With a rapidly growing population, Texas has an increasing demand for healthcare services, particularly in primary care and specialties like internal medicine.

  • Support for Independent Practice: Texas has a more flexible regulatory environment for independent practice compared to many other states. This can provide greater opportunities for those seeking independent-contract models.

Finding the Right Fit

To find organizations in Texas that support an independent-contract model, consider the following steps:

  • Contact Medical Societies: Reach out to local and state medical societies, such as the Texas Medical Association, for information on independent practice opportunities and supportive organizations.

  • Explore Rural Health Programs: Investigate rural health programs and initiatives, which often offer flexible practice models and incentives for physicians.

  • Utilize Professional Networks: Tap into professional networks and online communities, such as LinkedIn groups and specialty-specific forums, to connect with physicians already practicing in Texas.

  • Check with Residents/Residencies: Because residents are in the front lines for the recruitment, they are often aware of the trends and options that exist. For this particular doctor, I reached out to my son for information since he just completing his 2nd year of his FM residency at JPS in Fort Worth.


Geographic arbitrage can be a transformative strategy for you, helping you escape the constraints of high-cost living areas and oppressive corporate medical environments. By relocating to regions with lower living costs and higher demand for healthcare professionals, you can achieve greater financial stability, professional autonomy, and overall quality of life.

For those like our community member seeking a better balance between professional fulfillment and financial reward, Texas and other similar states offer promising opportunities. With careful planning, research, and networking, you can find a practice setting that aligns with your values and career goals.

SimpliMD is committed to supporting you on this journey, providing the resources and guidance needed to navigate the complexities of the healthcare landscape and thrive as both a healer and entrepreneur.

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