Most doctors graduate with significant student loan debt. There is plenty of information and advice accessible on the internet, but we asked three financial planners what is one thing they want to share with doctors about educational debt.
Read what Meredith Jones, DVM, CSLP®, associate financial planner at Vincere Wealth and veterinarian, Benjamin Bush, CLU, ChFC, managing partner at Northeast Sequoia Private Client Group, and Josh Lantz, CRPC®, chief investment officer & financial advisor at MD Financial Advisors, wish doctors knew about their student loan debt.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
BB: The one thing I think that I would like for them to understand and try to appreciate is that student loans are an investment. Student loans are an investment in your ability to have a not just a little bit higher income but a much larger income on average. Yes, you have to pay them off, but that ability to have an increased income through your education was an investment. As long as you manage that system correctly, it’s going to pay off for you in spades.
Also, I wish they just knew all of the options available. Without financial education, most of them are getting online. They’re trying to find what they can do and piecemeal or talk with other physicians, but there are a lot of professional resources out there to help manage student loans.
Knowing all the refinance options that are available in the marketplace is also huge. There’s a whole subset of people that have no idea that they can refinance their student loan debt out of the federal loans. I just think the lack of knowledge and understanding of the entire system is troubling. Frankly, we’re talking about kids taking on loans, starting when they’re 17, 18 years old for the next 8 to 12 years without understanding any of the parameters, rules or options around them.
I wish they knew that there are a lot of resources available and often those resources are not expensive or could be free that can help them navigate this conversation so they’re not doing it on their own and trying to figure out the entire American financial system on a trial and error basis.
JL: Know that there are other programs besides PSLF. A lot of doctors are unaware that there are state sponsored programs for example. Many states provide these programs. They tend to lean more primary care but not always.
The other thing I would mention is a lot of doctors are very ambitious and want to get done with these debts so fast that they get too aggressive with the loan pay-down. They take a five year note when they really should do a 7 or 10.
So, they go into practice, they get that five-year note, and they get bigger payments because those payments are condensed into five years. Suddenly, they have kids, the bills go up, and they’re paying for the nanny.
And they’re over their skis, and they can’t afford things. What’s the first thing they’re going to cut? Well, it’s the retirement savings, so they wait to save for retirement. And that just prolongs how long they’re going to have to work. In many cases, it means that they don’t have enough for retirement later on in life.
MJ: The biggest one is that student debt doesn’t have to affect your career decisions. No matter how much debt you have, there is a plan out there that is going to work for you. There’s a lot of really comprehensive and valuable help out there for people who are looking for a student debt repayment strategy.
There’s a lot of value to meeting with a student loan consultant or meeting with a financial planner familiar with student loans. It’s 100% worthwhile to talk with an expert about your student loans so you’ll have peace of mind that you’re on the right plan.
You may spend a few hundred dollars to have a consultation like that if it’s just for student loans, or if you’re meeting with a financial planner, then it may be more. I’ve heard stories from student loan consultants of folks who saved tens of thousands of dollars by meeting with a consultant because they were actually not on an optimal plan for their student debt.
We spoke to Meredith, Benjamin, and Josh about several other topics surrounding doctors’ student loans. Check out:
If you need help navigating your debt burden, there are people who can help. Our Build Your Team program connects you to a financial advisor for free. Don’t face the challenges of becoming and being a doctor alone.
Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice.
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