3 things about debt you wish you knew

Dear OPMs:

First I want to thank everyone who has offered advice and inspiration to me, either directly or indirectly, via this site in the past three years. Here I must echo the sentiment expressed in a recent post by ttraub; I got into med school thanks to you! I will be starting as an M1 at Loyola in July. Having now scaled that mountain, I turn again to the sage “voices of experience” gathered here to ask for advice about managing the financial aspects of medical school. I would welcome responses to any of the following questions for thought:

What three things do you wish you had known about medical school debt before choosing your lender and/or repayment plan?

Is there insurance available to protect you from financial ruin in the event of an accident or other health crisis that affects your ability to work?

Is it possible to manage the educational debt and still put aside money for retirement (I will be 43-ish when I finish residency)?

This is the first time in my life that I have ever needed to borrow such an intimidating sum of money. At present the financial “level of terror” is my primary anxiety about making the final commitment to pursuing medicine. Any thoughts or advice would be sincerely appreciated.



I can only offer advice on the borrowing such a large sum. I take it you haven’t taken out a home loan yet? That would be my frame of reference. So if you’ll allow me…

My wife was a military brat and then a military dependent. She’s always known the security of a paycheck regardless of how small. I was military and it offers a very real sense of financial stability in knowing you will always get paid on the 1st and 15th.

My exodus from the military was more than a few years ago and after 3 years of being civilized we bought a home. Between the both of us we weren’t clearing $100k and yet we strapped on $257k in a mortgage. We were will within the limits. We were absolutely mortified. Our mortgage was more than my take-home pay when stationed in North Carolina.

We bought a house that was too far from work and as a result sold it within the year. Before going to closing my wife was RIF’d from her job but was offered a better paying job within the week.

So my point was…? Oh yeah! That mortgage impressed upon me that we could make it. That, while painful and ridiculous, you can survive. Now physicians even those kiddie docs make more than I and my wife were making. So I’m comforted knowing that I won’t go broke and I’ll be able to pay off the loan.

I won’t live in the biggest house the world has ever seen. Nor will I drive a car worth as much as my house. However I’ve never wanted too. I do know that I will earn enough to pay my loan and provide a decent life for my family doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing.

There are loan repayment programs in many states if you are so inclined to go into primary care. The US Public Health Service has a scholarship which provides you with a stipend and pays for tuition and books.

Last story and I’m out…my office mate is a Colonel in the Army. He and his buddies were terrified at the enormous debt they would get into. They all ran to the recruiters and joined the military to avoid going into the poor house. The amount that had them so petrified…the amount for which they gave up decades of their live to join the military…$60k TOTAL! That’s $15k for each year of medical school!

Not sure if I helped or not. I just think that while the tuition rates are ridiculous they are manageable. Unfortunately the price of medical school is a very real cost of “counting the cost”. I know you’ll be fine.

Anatomical, I unlike you, I will be in my early 50s once I finish my residency…so you’ll actually have 10 years headstart. Like crooz, I’m not getting into medicine for money…though I would plan on purchasing a small condo/house since real estate is still a good investment for my future, I am also going to look into the repayment options that crooz mentioned. In some areas, you can about $30,000 for each year that you work in an underserved area towards your student loan.

Congratulations on Loyola (one of the schools that have impressed me)!

I’m looking forward to more posts on this topic…I am going to be up to my eyeballs in debt when I graduate next year.

Anyone interested in National Health Service Corp? They are one way of working it off in an underserved area. I am interested, but I am a little nervous as to how hard it is to pick where you practice.

I will owe a bunch when I graduate… over $200,000. I can only hope I will make enough to pay off my loans. The payments look like they are going to be about $1700 per month. I knew how much it would be going in so it is not a shock. You need to make sure you keep a good amount of life isurance on your self to cover anything that may happen.

I have gone with http://www.northstar.org/ all 3 years. They have no hidden fees like a bunch do. They have already saved me money. My friend ended up graduating with nearly $4000 in fees from her lender.

All I can say about repayment and retirement is it can be done. DOnt let it stress you too much during med school. The classes alone will be stressing. Good luck and congrats on yoru acceptance.

Amy B