As a part of a feature we're calling "Early Career Spotlight", we recently asked several early career physicians what wisdom they had for their peers when it comes to financial wellness. Here's what Liz B. had to say:
"My story starts out like many of yours. I paid my way through undergrad via scholarships and odd jobs. I took out loans to cover every aspect of my medical school life- from tuition to rent money. I spent my residency in a now-obsolete economic hardship deferment program and my fellowship in income-based repayment. Despite sending my servicer $400 each month, my loan balance kept increasing thanks to my 6.8% interest rate- I wish my investments were making that kind of interest! I took an attending job in academic pediatrics, doing a job that I love dearly but earning a lower income than many medical specialties. Less than two years later, my loans were paid off. What I did to accomplish that goal matters a lot less than what I didn’t do.
I didn’t go to an expensive school. I didn’t borrow for undergrad, passing up big-name private schools in favor of my state school. I stayed at that state university for medical school, still got my top draft pick in the Match, and saved a ton of money in the process.
I didn’t borrow 'play money'. This was true when it came to taking out student loans and it is also true when it comes to credit cards. Student loans are not there for you to buy purses, big screen TVs, or vacations. Students- don’t take out more than you need! Residents and young docs- buying things on credit is living above your means. If you have to charge it, then you can’t afford it.
I didn’t run off and buy myself a new car/house/boat/timeshare. I did treat myself to a monthly massage and some help keeping house. I also took two overseas trips during that time. Lesson- large overhead expenses are way harder on your budget than smaller occasional treats.
I didn’t treat my debt like that closet you keep meaning to clean out- yeah I owe 100k but I’ll take care of that soon enough. Early retirement blogger Mr. Money Mustache said it best- YOUR DEBT IS A HUGE FLAMING EMERGENCY!!! Treat it as such as, and put out the fire as fast as possible."
Do you have anything to add to Liz's story? Comment below. Let's pull this student loan debt issue out of the closet and discuss it openly. Wellness isn't just for our patients...it's for physicians and their pocketbooks as well. Let's get financially well!"
Originally published for the AAP Financial Wellness Series 05/25/2016.