It’s easy to accrue debt both while you’re in medical school and in the several years after you graduate. Why? Medical school is expensive. Student loans tend to be hefty, even with scholarship or grant assistance.
Then, as a student and as a new professional, you’re working around the clock but haven’t started making a significant salary yet. This can lead to consumer debt, whether that’s your looming credit card bill or the loan you took out to buy a new car. Being young in the medical field is not financially easy, and at first glance debt might seem like the easiest option in the moment. You might rationalize that you’ll be able to pay this off later, but do you really want to be trapped under a debt-boulder long-term? Probably not.
Why Paying Off Debt is a Priority
As a financial advisor, I always advise that my clients attack debt first and foremost when creating their financial strategy. Debt is the biggest financial roadblock that’s currently in the way of you leading a fulfilling, financially-stress-free life. After all, nobody envisions themselves paying off their student loans well into their middle age. Unfortunately, if you don’t put a strategic plan of attack together, that could very well be the case. Knocking out your debt has more than one benefit. Yes, it’s amazing to be debt-free early on, but it means much more than that. Paying down all your debt as soon as you can be the first step to being financially stable.
The Types of Debt You’re Facing
There’s an old saying that where there’s debt, there is always more debt. This, unfortunately, tends to be accurate. Right now, you’re probably dealing with multiple kinds of debt. There is good debt and bad debt, and bad debt (think: credit cards, new car loans) needs to be paid off first. But the uphill climb doesn’t stop there – good debt needs to be a close second priority, and paying it off as soon as possible following your bad debt elimination needs to be part of the plan.
Once you eliminate all your debts, both good and bad, you’re less likely to fall into the trap of accruing more debt. You’ll have extra money that was previously used to make payments on loans or monthly credit bills, and your financial decisions won’t be so locked up in whether you’re willing to dig yourself deeper into the debt-hole as a result.
Here’s the kicker: after your debt is paid off, I advise that you never rely on debt again to pay your way forward. You can take all that hard-earned money you’re no longer spending on paying down debt and save for whatever big-ticket purchase you’re thinking about. Being in debt isn’t a lifestyle you want to allow to continue long-term. Frankly, it’s exhausting to feel like you owe such a large portion of your income (which may already be minimal if you’re still at the start of your career) to pay pack your debtors.
In the future, you should look to avoid decisions that force you into debt again. This will become even more important as you get closer to retirement, as your extra money should be spent on saving for a fulfilling lifestyle after you retire and engaging with your hobbies, loved ones, and just generally living life to the fullest.
As a medical professional, or newly graduated medical student, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Finances can easily fall to the back-burner, but now is the time to start making key choices to set you up for long-term success. That’s why I’ve put together an easy-to-follow financial planning guide that outlines the few basic first-steps to get you on the right financial planning path.