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Physician Student Loan Debt: Tips to a Quicker Payoff

Since finishing medical school do you find yourself avoiding the mailbox or inbox because your dreaded student loan statement might be there? Fear not, for you are not alone. According to the AAMC, the average medical student has a median loan debt of $190,000 when they graduate. That number does not even account for the considerable amount of interest that will be added to the loan before it is finally paid off. If you are struggling with student loan debt while living on a minimal Resident's salary, you may want to consider trying some of these debt reducing strategies:

  • Put Extra Money Towards Principal

    An effective and easy way to decrease your debt load over time is by paying down your loan principal. Try setting aside some money each month so that by the end of the year you have enough to send in an extra payment. By sending in an extra loan payment each year you can decrease the length of your loan by up to 7 years(1). Making this small adjustment can make a big dent in your debt load over the long haul.

  • Federal and State Loan Repayment Programs

    There are multiple medically-focused federal and state loan repayment programs available for those interested in practicing in approved settings.
    • National Health Service Corp (NHSC) provides up to $50,000 for a 2 year service commitment at an approved practice site.
    • The Armed Forces provide various loan repayment programs based on service commitments.
    • National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a loan repayment program for up to $35,000 a year for Physicians interested in pursuing research careers with the NIH.
    • State Repayment Programs are found in most states and frequently involve practice commitments in underserved areas within each state.
  • Refinance

    Another possible option to reduce your student loan debt involves loan consolidation and refinancing. Refinancing your loans may be especially beneficial if you have a high interest rate on your current loans. Consolidating multiple loans when refinancing can decrease your interest rates and  simplify your monthly book keeping by reducing the number of creditors you pay each month. Although lowering interest rates and simplifying your bill paying sounds great, refinancing may not be the best option for everyone. If you have federal student loans, refinancing them may cause you to lose certain benefits conferred with their use. If federal student loans are refinanced with private lenders you can no longer use federal income-based repayment plans, deferment or forbearance. If you wish to consolidate and refinance your loans federally you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. This type of loan can adjust your time to payoff while changing your benefits. The U.S. Dept. of Education has a great resource to explore this topic at: Federal Student Aid.

  • Employer Loan Repayment

    Physicians are currently in high demand. Healthcare shortages in the U.S. make you a highly sought after professional that has an advantage come negotiations time. Capitalize on this advantage by negotiating your employment benefits to include loan repayment incentives. These can include annual lump sum payments, monthly reimbursements or similar variations that meet your needs. What could be better than receiving a paycheck while also having your loans paid off! It's a win-win.

  • Celebrate the Successes

    Praise is an effective incentive on its own. Make sure to recognize employees who are helping with the initiative and have referred prospective candidates to the workplace. Consider recognizing an employee's recruiting efforts via announcements or emails at a weekly meeting or perhaps a company gathering. It always helps to reward an employee's continued initiative.

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