If you graduated with medical student loans, you’re not alone. At least 76% of medical students graduate with debt. And not just a few thousand dollars. The average amount of debt physicians have as they leave medical school is a staggering $215,900, according to EducationData.org.
Although all this debt can feel overwhelming, the best way to reduce the stress and anxiety of your medical school loans is to get organized and create a repayment strategy.
Know What You Owe:
If you’re like most physicians, you have several different loans with different loan servicers, so different payment amounts are due at different times. One way to get organized is to create a spreadsheet that tracks all the important information – lenders, the amount borrowed from each, payment amounts, payment due dates, and login information. Once you have all your loan data organized, simply add automatic calendar reminders to ensure you don’t miss any payment dates.
Chances are your medical loan payments aren’t the only bills you are paying every month. One way to make sure you pay everything (not just your medical school loans) on time is to set up automatic payments from your checking account. If you set up ACH payments, it minimizes the chances of missing a loan payment, and lenders typically offer a 0.25% interest rate discount for doing so.
To ensure all your monthly expenses aren’t withdrawn on the same date, it’s a good idea to stagger payment dates. Some people even set up a separate account just for their loan payments. This can be done by dividing your paycheck between two direct-deposit accounts.
Establish Your Goals:
Everyone wants to reduce the burden of their student loan debt, but what is the best way to do it? The answer depends on your personal goals. Some medical professionals want to pay off their debt as soon as possible and may choose one of the government’s standard repayment plans, while others are looking to minimize payments during training years and will choose one of the government’s income-based repayment plans. For medical professionals looking to reduce their interest rate, minimize monthly payments and ultimately save money on interest, refinancing their loans is a great option. This means you replace your existing loans with a single new loan that tends to have a lower interest rate.
Your medical training years are undoubtedly some of the busiest years of your life. Managing your priorities, in addition to your student debt, can feel overwhelming. In reviewing these four ways to get a handle on your medical school loans, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Most of your peers are in the same position but nobody talks about it because it’s often difficult to discuss personal finances. Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends for support — chances are they are going through this too and they may have discovered some tactics that could help you manage your debt. Remember, the sooner you get organized and create a strategy for repaying your medical school loans, the sooner you can get on road to financial freedom.