Managing Your Med School Debt
December 26, 2014
Image Credit: Simon Cunningham
In a survey by Merritt Hawkins, three out of four final year residents reported having some amount of student loan debt. Over half of the respondents reported that the debt exceeded $100,000. When faced with six-digit debt, it’s easy to feel stressed and uncertain about paying it back. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you navigate repayment and keep your sanity.
MAINTAIN THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
While considering the amount of student debt you have, you’re likely to have a few regrets about your choice of career and your decision to take on the debt in the first place. If you feel this way, it’s important that you put your debt in the right perspective.
There are two types of debt: good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is the kind that’s spent on products or services that don’t increase in value over time, nor help you gain a better personal or professional position. Good debt is precisely the opposite; it’s an investment that helps you move forward in life. Your student loan debt is necessary to help you attain a more valuable position in your career.
Being a doctor is a valuable and respected position even though the road to to an MD is extremely hard, requiring investments of time and resources. Don’t rue your choice to take on student debt – it allowed you to take that journey. This decision has helped you on the road to tremendous success.
CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION
A lot of your concerns about loan repayment can be eased by creating a plan of action. Assessing your situation, figuring out your next steps and charting your course to payoff removes the cloud of uncertainty that causes a lot of that distress.
Start the process by creating an overarching view of all your debt obligations. Draw a chart or create a spreadsheet listing all your debts (good and bad), along with their amounts, interest rates, principals and terms (duration until repayment). Highlight the good and bad debts using our definitions above. For all bad debts: make it a priority to pay them off as soon as possible. Bad debts, usually in the form of credit card debt, tend to have much higher interests rates. Save yourself from unnecessary costs by paying off their balances first.
Once you’ve organized your student loan debts, explore your repayment options. The U.S. Department of Education has a good overview of repayment plans for your student loan debts. Whatever plan you choose, make sure it doesn’t impose a large burden either in the short term or the long term, but instead helps you comfortably repay your debts from now until completion.
You can’t do it all on your own. Even with the least complicated financial situations, seek the guidance and insight of a professional. Take the time to find a good financial advisor to assess your situation and provide you with recommendations for more financial solvency. If you need help in finding an advisor, read through this helpful list from White Coat Investor. As always, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you should treat any free advice with a high amount of scrutiny, especially when it impacts something as important as your personal finances.
Want more tips and suggestions for financial stability and success as a resident, fellow or physician? Take a look at our blog and guide on the subject. At Falcon Healthcare Agency, we set you on the path to success in your physician career. Get in touch with us to discover the positions you deserve. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.