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Student Loan Debt & Medical Residency

Repaying student loan debt can be tough for those who close up their books and don a lab coat for a grueling 3+ year residency or fellowship program. The average non-specialized medical school graduate comes out with nearly $200K in student loan debt. That graduate is immediately required to begin making payments, opt for deferment, or extend their repayment term through an income-driven repayment plan.

Making payments in full is hardly an option considering residents make about $9.50 – $12/hour when you break their $50K salaries into 80-hour work weeks. Deferment is great for not having monthly payments, but not so great for accruing interest while you put off the inevitable. Extending the repayment term 20-25 years isn’t the worst thing, but you’re going to end up paying significantly more than your original loan balance, often up to $20K/year.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

There is, of course, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, but it’s crucial that you understand the requirements and stay on top of things. Staying on top of anything during an 80-hour work week is easier said than done, but that’s for you to decide.

If you are pursuing public service loan forgiveness, educate yourself on these common (and costly) mistakes doctors make during residency. Be aware that hundreds of thousands come to the end of their 120 payments on an IBR plan with heightened blood pressure and a horrifying question – “What do you mean I’m not qualified?” Let’s be honest, what could be worse than trudging through making 120 payments on an IBR plan to find out you still have to repay your student loan debt in full? If PSLF is your end-game, check… Then re-check every few months.

Learn More About Loan Forgiveness

The truth is – you didn’t sign up to become a doctor because you thought it’d be easy. Residency is the most financially trying time of your career. You’ll have no problem making payments at the conclusion of your program, but it can be incredibly frustrating putting in those 80 hours a week for just above minimum wage, while your student loans are compounding every year.

Ways you can save money during your residency:

  • Get a roommate. Save on housing cost by sharing a place with a friend. This will help to keep costs low while you’re within your residency.
  • Get a side gig. With the birth of Instagram and blogging, there is no excuse why you can’t get a side gig. If you get enough followers companies will pay you to share information about their product.
  • If your hospital provides you with a meal card, use it! If you don’t get a meal card be sure to pack your own food for additional savings that are better served towards your student loan debt.
  • Live close to transit or where you’ll be working. This will cut out the cost of owning a car.
  • Cut the cord! Since your busy working and side hustling, there is no need to pay for cable. Try a subscription to Netflix or Hulu. With a subscription-based service it’s guaranteed you can watch it on your cell phone from anywhere at any time you want.
  • Buy secondhand clothes or furniture if you can. If you live in an area with consignment stores or garage sales be sure to check them out for additional savings.
  • Make plans with friends that are free or low cost. Look at the surrounding areas and see if there are local concerts or activities.
  • Use your local library. If you want to watch a movie or play a video game to get your mind off work, your library has them for free. Some libraries even offer streaming services, where you don’t even have to leave your couch!

In addition to the daily activities that can save you money, consider refinancing – which consolidates your multiple loans into a single, easy-to-remember monthly payment. If your credit is good, you’ll have access to low-interest rates, and the flexibility to choose your terms to find a repayment method that fits your current budget. If your credit is not good, a cosigner may help you to access the same low rates.

Manage Student Loan Debt

Reputable lenders like Education Loan Finance even consider your future salary potential when determining your interest rates. This allows you to start making affordable payments now and manage your student debt without compounding interest running circles through your already tired brain.

ELFI borrowers on average have reported saving $309/month*, which goes a long way on a medical resident’s salary. That’s money you could be stashing away into an investment fund or high-interest savings account. Look at that, by refinancing your student loans, interest is now working for you instead of against you. When your residency ends, you’ll already be way ahead of your colleagues and you can use that hefty first paycheck to start aggressively attacking your student loan debt. Just don’t forget to take some time (and money) to celebrate. You earned it.

See What You Could Be Saving

*Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

What’s the Best Way to Repay Student Loans?

While serving your student loan debt sentence, you’re likely searching for any and every way to ease the discomfort of burdensome monthly payments. Perhaps you’ve looked into some student loan repayment plans like income-driven repayment (IDR) programs, the most common option being the income-based repayment (IBR). (Find out more about IDRs)

 

Standard Repayment Plan

By default, federal loans start out on a 10-year Standard Repayment Plan that often result in a fairly high monthly payment. For example, if your income was $30,000 a year and your student loan debt totaled $34,722 with an interest rate of 3.900% your monthly payments would be $350. That can be tough for someone balancing rent/a mortgage, food and transportation costs.

Your income – $30,000
Student Loan Debt – $34,722
Interest Rate – 3.900%

Under Standard Repayment Plan
Monthly Payment= $350
Total Amount Paid =$41,988

These high monthly payments are why recent grads on an entry-level salary, seek relief through an IBR or IDR plan. This allows their credit score to stay intact. Also give borrowers some additional money to live their lives. This may sound great to anyone really struggling, but in the long run it can really end up costing, almost double your original loan amount.

 

Income Based Repayment

Income based repayment reduces your monthly student loan payments by placing a cap on how much you’ll pay. No matter how much your income may increase, payments on IBR plans are capped at 10% of your discretionary income (if loan money was received after July 1, 2014) or 15% if you received loan money before July 1, 2014. IBRs require you to recertify every year; your monthly payments are likely going to increase over the course of your repayment term. If you get a raise or switch jobs to a higher salary, your monthly payments are going to jump up right along with it.

Your income – $30,000
Student Loan Debt – $34,722
Interest Rate – 3.900%

Income-Based Repayment Plan
Monthly Payment= $98
Total Amount Paid =$48,523

The IBR “Forgiveness”

Most borrowers count on the remainder of their debt being forgiven after 25 years. However, understand that like laws do, there is a possibility that this can change. In addition, many borrowers don’t take into account the fact that it’s considered taxable income in the year of your release. Forgiveness comes with a price because you’re essentially trading student loan debt for a tax debt that’s due the same year you’re supposedly celebrating your student debt freedom.

 

How Income-Based Repayment really works

Without a doubt, income-based repayment is a successful method of lowering your monthly payments, but that’s about all it’s good for, unfortunately.

Not only are you more than doubling the number of years you’ll be sitting on debt row, you’re also accruing interest on all those extra years. What’s worse – the interest is then capitalized, meaning it’s added to the principal balance of your loan and you end up paying even more interest on the higher balance – in most cases significantly more than the original amount you borrowed in the first place.

Bottom line, if you’re struggling out of college to pay your loan and get on your feet, it may be a temporary solution for a year, or two. We’d never recommend IBR as your entire student loan payoff solution since most payments don’t even cover the interest being collected during that month.

 

Lower your monthly payments by refinancing

Refinancing your student loan debt is perhaps the most flexible way to manage your monthly payments. It allows you to consolidate your various loans into a single, easy-to-remember monthly payment, as well as choose whether you want a variable or fixed interest rate. You can even negotiate your repayment term for the optimal monthly payment.

Refinancing with a reputable lender like Education Loan Finance enables you to significantly lower your monthly payments and lock yourself in for the duration of your term. Our customers have reported that they are saving an average of $309 every month and should see an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing their student loans with Education Loan Finance.* (Find more ways to Pay Off Student Loans Faster)

 

Refinance vs. Income-Based Repayment

On the surface, IBRs certainly seem like an enticing option, but it’s crucial to know the long-term consequences associated. If the only goal is to lower your monthly payment, IBR is not only capable of achieving the task-at-hand but also readily available for nearly all federal loan borrowers.

Refinancing, on the other hand, is a much more intentional way of paying down student loan debt. It’s customizable for your budget and you can lock in your interest rate and know exactly how much you’ll pay every month for the life of your loan.

 

10 Facts About Student Loans That Will Save You Money

 

 

* Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

Tying the Knot on Credit Scores

Credit scores show institutions that may lend to you, if you’re a responsible borrower. It takes time to build credit and once you have, it’s important to keep it. If you aren’t sure how to build credit, check out our building credit blog here. When dating or in any type of romantic relationship, there are certain things about each other we learn pretty quickly. What our partner may like to eat, their favorite type of music, who their friends are, what’s their best angle for a selfie. We’re willing to bet that learning your partner’s credit score isn’t usually at the top of that list.

As your relationship progresses and you look to the future with your partner, your credit scores must be discussed. It’s important to understand where you both stand with your credit and how, or if you both can improve your scores. The importance of good credit cannot be underestimated. Credit is key to determining your ability to borrow money or to take out a loan, so having good credit, both you and your partner, will leave you both with better options. You both will have the ability to select a loan such as a mortgage for a home or a credit line to pay for your wedding that may even benefit you both in return! So how can you work with your significant other to raise their credit score and secure your financial futures?

Education & Open Communication is EVERYTHING

If you have great credit, you must be doing something right! Take the opportunity and show your partner what they can be done regularly to improve their credit score. It’s important to keep in mind you shouldn’t shame your partner for their finances in the past. Remember, it’s likely that your partner did not even realize how important a credit score was!

Your partner needs to feel like they can openly address financial questions and you can both have an open and honest conversation. Try to be encouraging and share your knowledge with them. Educate them on how reviewing a credit report annually to make sure there are no mistakes is important. Sit down together and walk through the first one together.

Be sure to find the problems that caused the poor credit in the first place. Was it missed payments, maxing out of credit cards, or just a lack of any credit history? Together you both can work to find a solution to this problem. There are tons of resources on the web where people can go to learn more and become more financially literate.

Build Trust

If you have good credit and you trust your partner, we mean really trust your significant other, then add them as an authorized user on your credit card. If this is something you’ve really thought about, be sure to use protection. By “protection” we mean, you’re still the primary cardholder and all responsibility of the card is all still yours.

One small slip-up can leave you with an unfortunate looking future … well at least as far as your credit score is concerned. If your partner decides to cheat on you financially and use the card to make purchases that they can’t afford and you don’t have the funds to pay for them either – it can negatively affect your credit score.

Now back to the positive of adding your partner onto your credit card. As the primary cardholder, your credit will not be affected if you add an authorized user. Your partner’s credit report will show the account history. Therefore, if you haven’t missed a payment on the card and haven’t maxed out the available credit, your significant other will get to reap those benefits. This is especially beneficial for partners who lack credit history.

Work for it

Another way in which your SO can build or repair their credit would be to open up a secured credit card. As NerdWallet explains, it is a secured credit card based on a cash deposit that you make when you open the account. They also explain that people who choose this option generally see their credit score improve in about a year if done responsibly. The deposit is usually the credit limit to which you are permitted. For example, if you put down a deposit of $500.00, you would have a credit limit of $500.

Now, don’t think because you put a deposit down you won’t accrue interest. Every other aspect of a secured credit card works the same as an unsecured credit card meaning if there’s a balance you’ll be paying interest. Secured credit cards are also accepted wherever unsecured cards are accepted.

Here are some additional tips to using a secured credit card responsibly as per Nerdwallet:

  • Make only 1 or 2 purchases per month
  • Only use for small purchases
  • Pay the full balance every month – to not collect interest
  • Pay the balance before it’s due.

If you keep the account open and pay your bills on time, you’ll eventually get back your deposit. With a good payment record on the account, most secure card providers will offer the account holder an unsecured card. If you don’t make your payments, then the cardholder will take the deposit, hence why it is a secured card because it is secure for the lender.

The Future

As every couple is unique so too are their credit histories. Whether it’s you or your significant other looking to repair or build credit. We just reviewed three proven methods. It’s important to keep in mind that not all credit is approved. You’ll still need to qualify for most of these options except for the authorized user on a credit card. Remember, this is your financial security as a couple. Your financial security will lay the foundation for the decisions you choose to make regarding finances. Keep working together to reach your goals and we are sure you’ll be so glad that you did!

Learn How to Talk With Your Partner About Finances 

Millennials – How to Travel Using Your Loan Savings

Our customers have reported that they are saving an average of $309 every month and should see an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing their student loans with Education Loan Finance*! What could you spend your loan savings on? Millennials are traveling more than any other generation right now, so it’s likely that a good trip is at the top of your list. If you are using possible loan savings to travel, here are some ideas of where to go to put those savings to good use with an affordable vacation this year:

Ready for a new passport stamp?

According to a study done by Hitlist, Phuket, Thailand is one of the most-desired travel destinations for millennials. You can actually book 3-star hotels there for as low as $20 per night. Head there to see some of the most beautiful islands and bluest oceans in the world.

Lisbon, Portugal is rich in history and is one of the least expensive cities in Europe. Eating at local restaurants and using public transportation are good ways to keep the budget low. To discover the best local restaurants, ask someone local, whether that is a guide or someone that has lived or traveled there before. You can search online for restaurants and reviews as well, but it is often more authentic to explore the city and observe where locals are stopping in for a bite. Be prepared for the staff at these restaurants to not speak English.

If you are looking to stay in a budget hotel, check out websites like Trip Advisor or Budget Places to find and compare options and read reviews. As for flights, try to be open to flying on different days of the week. A flight on one day versus another can make a big difference in price.

When searching for a place to go or a place to stay once you’ve decided on your destination, think about communication. Most cell phone providers have international service that you can purchase at an extra cost, but if you’re looking to save money, try to find a city or country that has a lot of available Wi-Fi for free, especially in the hotel/hostel/Airbnb you book. You can use apps like WhatsApp or Skype to make calls and text once connected to Wi-Fi.

Remember that traveling in foreign areas can be dangerous and you always want to be aware of what’s around you and how to stay safe. Here is a list of safety tips to consult when traveling both abroad and within the U.S.

Looking to relax on a beach?

Inexpensive beach vacations are available in countries all around the world. If you are able to buy a ticket for an international flight, try some inexpensive beach towns like Corfu, Greece or Valle Gran Rey, Spain. In the Caribbean, go for Curacao or Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricanes in 2017, but most hotels have reopened their doors. Since tourism is a huge industry there, taking a vacation and spending money at restaurants and shops can help the island continue to bounce back. If you are trying to stay within the U.S., places like Gulf Shores, Alabama or Galveston, Texas are good options. Be sure to check weather patterns and on/off seasons. If you are comfortable with slightly cooler weather, most beach towns will be less expensive during those parts of the year.

Want to stay within the U.S.?

If you don’t have a passport, don’t want to spend long hours flying, or just want to save on airfare, you can find many exciting destinations right here in the United States. Three of the most-desired vacation spots for millennials were in the U.S.: Cambridge, Massachusetts; Portland, Oregon; and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Cambridge is just outside of Boston and is the home to Harvard University. Portland is famous for its parks and gardens. You can take in a college football game in Ann Arbor or visit one of its many breweries. To keep costs low, since it’s possible you’ll be using your loan savings to travel, look for an Airbnb. These are often priced lower than traditional hotels.

Open to spontaneity?

Try out this website called Pack Up & Go. This travel service plans your entire 3-day trip in the U.S. for you – and you don’t know where you’re going until you leave! You start by selecting your price limit, then fill out a survey that asks you questions like what your hobbies are, where you’ve been in the last few years, and what you prefer to do when you travel. A trip is booked for you, all the documents you need are sent in a sealed envelope, and then you open it on the day you are to depart. You can travel solo by plane or train starting at $1,000 or take a road trip with friends starting at $400. Pack Up & Go gives you the option to start cheap and spend money while you’re there or even take more than one trip.

Love a cruise?

Cruises are often thought of as a budget-buster, but that is not always the case. There are plenty of cruises for those looking to spend less. Cruises allow for the opportunity to visit several countries, islands, or cities all in one trip. Have kids? There are Disney cruises available for a family of four for less than $3,000 total. Traveling solo? There are plenty of cruise options from Norwegian’s Sail Away program that are on the cheaper side. A tip for money-saving: book excursions outside of the cruise line’s options; they’re often much less expensive.

Searching for adventure?

Millennials often look for an adventurous experience when deciding on a vacation. Affordable adventures are all over the world. If you like snowy mountains where you can ski or snowboard, check out the budget page on Ski.com.

Cairo, Egypt is another top destination for millennials, where you can take a safari, ride a camel, cruise on a quad bike, visit the Giza Pyramids, each for less than $100. Hostels there can be as cheap as $10 per night, so you can focus on spending your money on your experiences. You can head to Peru to hike and explore Machu Picchu for affordable prices. If you love surfing, Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia may be the choice for you. Affordable hotels and hostels are common, and all you need is your surfboard.

Creating Additional Savings

Traveling can be a great experience, but with no additional funds you can feel rather grounded. Keep the adventures to your travel and don’t include them in your financial decisions. The more financially responsible you are, the more likely your 10 year later self will thank you. In order to gain savings be sure to consider refinancing any student loan debt you may have for a possible lower interest rate. Remember you could save $309 a month*!

Check Out These Personal Finance Apps

* Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors..

Should I Open an HSA?

Few things have the potential to wreck your financial wellness quite like your physical health. A lingering ailment or a sudden injury can throw a wrench into your finances with enough force to ripple into the ensuing decades. It’s wise to carefully consider the various protective measures available to both reduce the worry of something happening, and soften the blow.

What is an HSA?

Traditional Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans cover most expenses with a percentage based co-pay and relatively low deductibles. The Health Savings Account (HSA) allows for a much more individual approach to health care. With an HSA, you can make pre-tax contributions into a special savings account and simultaneously lower your tax burden.

Not to be confused with a Flexible Spending Account (which can only be established by your employer), you can open a Health Savings Account through your employer or as an individual through your bank.

The primary requirement for an HSA is to be enrolled in a High Deductible Healthcare plan (HDHP). These plans come with a minimum/maximum deductible of $1,300/$6,500 for individuals, and $2,600/$13,100 for families. Other requirements include that you not be covered under any other healthcare program and not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s taxes.

How to take advantage of the HSA

Think of it as an emergency fund specifically for your medical expenses. By assuming greater responsibility for covering your own medical expenses, you can significantly lower your monthly premium and can instead put that tax-free money into an HSA.

Obviously, if a medical issue arises, you’ll have to pay the entirety of your deductible before your HDHP provider will step in to assist. This is where your HSA can come in handy to help supplement your out-of-pocket expenses.

While there is a limit to your annual contribution ($3,400 for self-coverage and $6,750 for families), the money in your HSA can be rolled over year after year, thus building a more substantial safety net for you and your family. If you’re currently healthy and are willing to wager against the possibility of a serious accident, the HSA is a great option for incredibly affordable healthcare.

Downsides of HSAs

There are, of course, a few downsides to both the HDHP and the HSA if you were to have a serious accident or suddenly become ill. Unless you’re a few years into your account and have diligently built up your savings, it can be quite difficult to meet the high deductibles even with your HSA.

Another common drawback for HSAs is that you may be reluctant to seek healthcare when you need it, because you don’t want to dip into your savings. That’s the same thing as shying away from your emergency fund when you have an emergency. The HSA is intended as a buffer and shouldn’t discourage you from getting help.

Misconceptions of HSAs

HSAs also have common misconceptions about their practicality that are certainly worth noting. While there are substantial tax benefits associated with HSAs, some people are tempted to use HSAs as a generic emergency fund. Since early withdraws and fees on nonmedical expenses are taxed 20% (ouch!), it’s probably best to avoid this method at all costs.

Furthermore, HSAs can lure customers with their investment potential in mutual funds and stocks. Unfortunately, their ability to be invested doesn’t necessarily translate to a high investment return. Experts advise customers to think carefully before signing up for a high deductible health plan, especially regarding their investment capabilities.

Run the numbers, trust your gut

At the end of the day, health care is all about running the numbers and weighing them against your peace of mind. “How much is enough coverage for the next year and how much is it going to cost me?”

HDHPs and HSAs are a good form of insurance if you’re young and healthy. The tax advantages and investment capabilities of an HSA and HDHP should in no way influence your decision. Your decisions should be based off the amount of premiums you’ll save, the deductible proposed for a comparable PPO plan and the out of pocket spending caps associated with each policy. Basically…do your research, watch your health and plan accordingly. Simple enough, right?

See How the 50/20/30 Budget Could Help With an HSA