Managing your financial health
From paying off student loans to budgeting for big purchases, here's what you need to know to help keep your finances secure.
Financing your education
Paying for medical school is the biggest financial investment you’ll make in your career. To help lower your debt after graduation, you can:
- Apply for scholarships. Check with your medical school’s financial aid office for scholarship opportunities. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine will waive fees for students based on financial need.
- Enroll in service programs. These programs often cover tuition and offer a stipend for living expenses in exchange for medical services after you graduate. Programs include National Health Service Corps and the armed services.
- Study your loan options. Federal loans offer perks like fixed interest rates and various repayment options. Private loans tend to have higher interest rates and may require repayments while you’re still in school.
Managing student loans
AOA members can explore public service loan forgiveness, income driven repayment plans, National Health Service Corp and other popular loan repayment and forgiveness strategies by engaging our partners at Student Loan Professor (formerly DWOQ). AOA members get a 25% discount off an initial student loan consultation. Student Loan Professor also offers free refinancing assistance for those who prefer a simpler approach to loan repayment. Learn more about their discounted services for AOA members. SoFi also provides AOA members (including residents) a 0.25% rate discount when refinancing student loans.
Mapping your financial future
Completing your residency training is certainly a cause for celebration. You’ll want to set the foundation for good financial health by putting together a plan to manage your finances. Setting short- and long-term financial goals can help you prioritize paying off debts and saving funds for bigger purchases like a car or home. To begin, you’ll want to create a budget listing:
- All sources of income
- Fixed expenses, including rent, student loan payments and retirement contributions
- Variable expenses, including dining out and fuel costs.
You’ll also want to establish an emergency fund with enough to cover living expenses for three to six months, and set aside money for your short- and long-term goals. Consider setting up automatic payments to transfer money from your checking to savings accounts.
No matter where you are in your career, living within your means will help you stay on the path to financial solvency. Stick with cash or your debit card when making purchases, and be sure to pay your bills on time to avoid costly late fees.
Making big purchases
It might be tempting to splurge when you receive your first paycheck as a practicing physician. But financial experts caution to hold off on making luxury purchases until higher financial priorities, like paying down student loan debt, are addressed.
Buying a car
When it’s time to purchase a car, be sure to:
- Make sure you can afford it. Bankrate suggests keeping your monthly car expenses (car payment, fuel, insurance) within 25 percent of your monthly income.
- Get a bank loan in advance, then compare the terms to what the dealership has to offer.
- Factor in the true cost of owning a car, including maintenance and repairs. Kelley Blue Book offers a cost-to-own calculator to help you determine those costs.
Buying a house
One purchase that you might not be able to wait to make is purchasing a home. A physician mortgage offers a specialized home loan financing program for physicians that can result in a lower monthly payment compared to conventional mortgages. AOA members, for example, have access to PhysicianLoans, which offers home financing to physicians with no down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI). Typically, buyers pay PMI when they put down less than 20 percent for a down payment or they refinance a mortgage with less than 20 percent equity.
While forgoing a down payment can help cash-strapped physicians, it also means having little to no equity. If your home’s property value declines, you could end up underwater, meaning you owe more than your home’s market value. If possible, try to make a modest down payment. You’ll also need funds to cover closing costs.