After so many years of education, residency, tests, all-nighters, study groups and so much more, you can finally say you made it! You’re almost ready to walk through the doors of your first real medical job with your head held high and your stethoscope ready. All is right in the world!
For most, the excitement of that first job also comes with a harrowing revelation: the mound of debt that has piled up over the last decade or so. The vast majority of medical students will finish their studies with nearly $200,000 in debt. It may seem like a big uphill battle, and it is, but you can definitely take the right steps to get out of debt and on with your life. What should your first steps be? Check out some tips below in order to get started.
Over the last decade, your life has been dedicated to obtaining your medical degree. Almost all of your energy and time has gone into this one, very long goal. First, you should commend yourself for having such a strong, long-term commitment. Not many people have done or could do what you have done.
But since you’ve been focused for so long, you might still be in the bubble of the medical world. So for this, it’s time to take a step back and start examining your whole life picture.
Undoubtedly, medical expenses are playing a huge role in the financial section of your brain (which is next to the hippocampus, or something) but you have other expenses to be mindful of. Sit down and make a list of what other needs you have. What does your rent look like? Are you buying property? Are there family expenses? Do you need to make any other purchases in your life?
With this big picture idea, it’s good to start setting a budget and planning out how the next few years will be for you financially. Set your goals and do your best to keep them. While some of this may be overwhelming, consider meeting a financial planner or advisor. You could be an expert in the areas of the heart but be absolutely clueless when it comes to interest rates or investments. There’s no shame in asking for help.
Fortunately for you, you have a very specialized profession with lots of available options. This isn’t the summer of your sophomore year in high school when your parents tell you that they won’t be paying for your gas. You had to find a job, so you applied for anything from being a lifeguard to working as a cashier. You were essentially shotgun blasting your way into a job. This time, you can be much more precise in your hunt for work.
When checking out potential jobs, you’re going to want to have an idea of the salary you’ll be making in order to plan out your finances. While you don’t have to have the numbers down to the exact cent, it pays to be able to carefully plan ahead and be more precise.
Be sure to look at your future home as well to see what financial implications it may have on you and your career. Will you have to file a state income tax? Will, that affect your future plans? What is the cost of living like in your future residence?
Remember, this is the job you will probably be at for a long time, so you want to make sure you have the right fit for you, both in and out of the workplace!
Unfortunately, you probably aren’t going to win the lottery and be able to pay off your debt in one swoop. There will be no walking up to your lender, taking out a stack of bills and plopping them on the desk before you leave triumphantly (If that does happen to you, please at least consider this scenario).
For the rest of us, paying off your debt is going to be a lengthy process that will take years. It’s easy to become frustrated about the situation, especially if you have other bills or life events that need your attention.
That’s why it’s called debt management, not “solve your debt with the snap of your fingers”. You will have to be more careful with your spending through the first years and that’s OK. Be mindful of your money and make sure you are paying off your student loans first and foremost. Getting behind or mismanaging your payments is a surefire way to land you in hot water or interfere with your other life plans.
It’s going to be a long ride, but you are used to long rides. Stay focused and keyed in on your goals and you will be able to be debt free and ready for your next big life step.