Author Bio: Phil Bradford is a financial content writer and an enthusiast. He has expert knowledge about personal finance issues. His passion for helping people who are stuck in financial problems has earned him recognition and honor in the industry. Besides writing, he loves to travel and read books.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), 4 years of medical school cost the class of 2019 about $250,000 at public universities and $330,180 at private universities. And almost 8 out of 10 medical graduates take out student loans to earn their degrees.
Graduating from medical school will give you immense happiness as it depicts your hard work and dedication to become a doctor. But amidst this happiness, your student loan debt can be a big reason to remain worried. Besides, carrying a student loan can refrain you from saving money as well.
That's why we have listed some of the best possible strategies to pay off medical school debt before you turn 30.
Let’s start one by one.
Make the good use of physician signing bonus
Offering a handsome amount of signing bonus is one of the common ways to attract healthcare professionals. In 2018-19, the average signing bonus for physicians was around $32,692.
So, if you receive a good amount of signing bonus, you can dedicate that money to your student loan payments. Making extra payments can help you to pay off your medical school debt faster and save money on interest payments too. Thereby, your signing bonus can help you to make pay down your student loan debt before attaining the age of 30.
However, I would suggest you read the terms and conditions of your contract carefully. In many cases, you may be asked to serve a certain tenure with your employer to be eligible for receiving a signing bonus.
Try to make payments during residency
Usually, medical school loans start accruing interest when you are in school. And you can start repaying the loan after 6 months of your graduation. But let me tell you that you can start making payments during your medical residency.
During your residency, you may choose to defer your student loan to delay the repayment process. But in the long run, you may have to shell out more money in interest payments. Because the unpaid interest may be added to your loan balance after you complete your medical residency.
So, it’s always better to start making payments for your medical school debt right from your residency days. It can help you to pay off your debt before you reach 30.
However, if you can’t afford to make full payments during residency, I would advise you to make at least partial payments. Your small contributions will also make a difference instead of deferring payments.
Stay away from lifestyle inflation
Once you become an attending physician, your salary will be much higher. You might tend to increase spending money on discretionary expenses. Eventually, you may fall prey to unsecured debt like a credit card, payday loan, etc. to maintain your lifestyle. By doing so, you will have to sacrifice a substantial amount of your paycheck. The reason being, the incessantly high-interest rates of credit cards and especially, payday loans. A CFPB study has revealed that 4 out of 5 payday loans are rolled over or renewed as the borrowers are unable to repay.
So, I would like to suggest you lead life like a resident for a few more years by keeping your lifestyle in check. It will help you to save a substantial amount of money to make extra payments to your medical school debt. And thereby, you can pay off your medical school debt before you turn 30.
However, if you are already trapped with payday loans, you can opt for the payday loan debt consolidation to get rid of them with ease and save money on your interest payments as well. Hopefully, it will help you to eliminate payday loans from your life faster so that you can save more for making extra payments towards your medical school loan.
Refinance you medical school loan
If you have taken out a private medical school loan with a high-interest rate, refinancing can be a good option. You need to have a high credit score and low debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a refinance loan at a much lower interest rate. Besides, you can choose a new loan term too, preferably lesser than the original loan term. It can increase your monthly payment but it can help you to pay off your medical school loan faster and save money on interest payments too.
However, remember that if you refinance your federal loans, you won’t be eligible for federal programs like income-driven repayment or student loan forgiveness.
Look for medical school loan forgiveness programs for doctors
Are you willing to work in a public sector or underserved area for a certain time? If yes, you can qualify for medical school forgiveness programs for doctors. Here are a few loan forgiveness options that you can consider, like:
State repayment assistance programs
Many states offer repayment assistance programs to help physicians pay off their medical school loans. Usually, you can qualify for these programs if you serve a rural or underserved area for at least 2 years. You can find detailed information about state-sponsored loan forgiveness programs in the database of AAMC out there.
NHSC (National Health Service Corps) loan repayment program
You can receive up to $50,000 of forgiveness after working in a designated NHSC-approved site for at least 2 years. If you qualify for high-need areas, you may have to serve for more number of years. In that case, you will be qualified for a larger amount of forgiveness too. And guess what? The student loan payout of the NHSC loan repayment program is tax-free.
Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP)
You can receive up to $40,000 a year in loan repayment assistance if you are a new doctor entering the Navy through this program. Besides, if you are a practicing physician, you can receive between $220,000 and $400,000 as a signing bonus.
So, the bottom line is, medical school is really expensive but that shouldn’t be an obstacle for aspiring to be a doctor. A 2019 report by Weatherby Healthcare revealed that almost 35% of the doctors were able to repay their medical school loans within 5 years. So, why can’t you?
You can follow the strategic ways that I mentioned above. And hopefully, you will be able to eliminate medical school debt from your life before turning 30. Besides, make sure to do proper financial planning for a bright future ahead!
What do you say?