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Medical School/Healthcare (Blog or Resources)

Student Loan Refinancing vs. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

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Graduates seeking enriching careers like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists can often graduate from school with a large amount of student loan debt. Student loan debt can be especially burdensome during residency. 

 

Many healthcare professionals look to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) for relief. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal government program under the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program offered to forgive qualified candidates of their Federal Direct Loans. The PSLF program can be a good option for healthcare professionals, but it is vital to understand the qualifications.  

 

According to USA Today, the PSLF program has had 41,000 submissions, and only 206 applicants have qualified. When choosing how to proceed with your student loan debt, it is essential to be well informed and have all the facts before making a decision.

 

Let’s review the requirements of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, take a look at student loan refinancing, and review the qualifications of both programs to see which option could be right for you.

 

Facts About Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you are a borrower of student loan debt and you work within the public or non-profit sector, you have probably heard of the PSLF program. 

 

If you ever played the game “telephone” as a kid, you’ll know that word-of-mouth from multiple individuals can get information and facts mixed up. According to Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, the “PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.” 

 

To fully understand this Act, let’s review the legislative history. 

 

The program created under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) was designed to encourage student loan borrowers to remain and pursue careers in the non-profit and public sectors, as salaries in the private sector tend to be higher.

 

Loans Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Certain federal loans are eligible for PSLF. The eligible loans for PSLF are non-defaulted loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. 

 

You may know this as the Direct Loan Program or Direct Loans. According to the Department of Education, the loans provided under this program are: 

 

Direct Stafford

Undergraduates, vocational, or graduate students. Must be enrolled half-time in participating schools.

 

Direct Unsubsidized Stafford 

Undergraduates, vocational, or graduate students. Must be enrolled half-time in participating schools. 

 

Direct PLUS 

For parents of dependent students accepted for enrollment half-time in participating schools. As of July 1, 2006, graduate students are eligible.

 

Direct Consolidation 

Individuals with student loans that have defaulted but have made satisfactory arrangements to repay the loans. 

The Federal Family Education Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program, don’t qualify on their own for the PSLF program. However, if you have a loan within one of these two programs and consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan, they can qualify. Now that we understand the type of eligible loans we’ll take a look at some qualifications.

 

Qualifying Repayment Plan

Borrowers seeking the PSLF program must have federal Direct Loans and be on a “qualified payment plan” known as an Income-Driven Repayment Plan (IDR). 

 

The 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan qualifies for PSLF, but to have a balance remaining, you must enter into an Income-Driven Repayment plan. If you do not enter an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, you won’t have a loan balance left to forgive since you will have paid it off by the time you qualify for PSLF.

 

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-Driven Repayment plans base your monthly federal student loan payment on your income. Income-Driven Repayment Plans Include:  

 

Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan 

Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse’s) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.

 

Pay As You Earn or PAYE 

Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a “new borrower” as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.

 

Income-Based Repayment or IBR 

Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.

 

Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR 

Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can’t qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse’s income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner’s income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment. 

 

Keep in mind: On an Income-Driven Repayment plan, be aware of the overall loan balance. A review of the total debt amount will take place when applying for a mortgage, credit card, or auto loan. A standard evaluation process for financial institutions is reviewing a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Borrowers who have high DTI ratios may receive higher interest rates on their loans because financial institutions view these borrowers as higher risk. Your federal student loan balance could end up costing you in terms of higher interest rates on other types of loans. 

 

120 Qualified Payments

If you are on a qualified repayment plan, the next step is making 120 qualifying payments. If the total student loan balance is of concern and you plan on paying extra monthly, do so with caution. When paying over the minimum amount you will need to contact the loan servicer. For example, a common federal student loan servicer is FedLoan Servicing. When you contact the federal student loan servicer, you have to request that the extra amount paid is not applied to cover future payments. To qualify for PSLF, you cannot receive credit for a qualifying Public Service Loan Forgiveness payment if no payment is due. You will also need to pay the full amount on the bill for it to be considered a qualified payment. 

 

A common misconception about the PSLF program is that payments need to be consecutive. Payments do not need to be consecutive to count as qualifying in some circumstances. For example, if you work for a qualifying employer and made qualified payments, but then begin to work for a non-qualified employer, you will not lose credit for the qualified payments made before working for the non-qualifying employer.1

 

It is essential to know that your payment cannot be any later than fifteen days after your due date to be considered a qualified payment. On loans placed into an in-school status, grace period, deferment, or forbearance, you cannot make a qualifying monthly payment. If your loan is in deferment or forbearance to make a qualified payment, you must contact the servicer and request the status waived. According to the federal government, the best way to ensure that you are making on-time payments is to sign up for direct debit with your loan servicer. You need to be working full-time for a qualified employer while making payments on the loan.

 

1 https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service#qualify

 

Qualified Institution/Employer

Your employer plays a vital part as to whether or not you can qualify for PSLF. A qualifying employer should be a government agency or certain types of non-profit organizations. If PSLF is important to you and part of your financial plan, it is imperative that you verify this internally. If at any point your employer is no longer a qualified institution, they are not responsible for notifying you. For example, in the healthcare industry, it is not uncommon for hospitals to convert from a non-profit to a for-profit institution. 

 

To qualify for PSLF, you need to be working full-time for a qualifying employer. Requesting the Employment Certification Form annually from your qualified employer can keep you on track for the program. 

 

Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is common among borrowers with federal student loans, but the qualifications are not well-known. For that reason, we have gathered some documents and information for you. First, you should complete and submit the Employment Certification Form for Public Service Loan Forgiveness annually. If you change employers, you should also have this form completed by your new employer. If you do not submit your Employment Certification Form yearly, you will need to submit it when you apply for the PSLF program. When applying for the PSLF program, you will need to submit one for each employer where you worked while making qualified payments. If you are looking for the Employment Certification Form you can download it here.

 

You can download the PSLF application here. Once you’ve completed your forms, you have three options for submission. Forms can be mailed, faxed, or submitted through your student loan servicer. Mail your completed application to:

 

U.S. Department of Education 

FedLoan Servicing 

P.O. Box 69184 

Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184 

 

To fax your information use 717-720-1628. The last option provided for submitting your Public Service Loan Forgiveness is uploading the application to the servicer. 

 

The Reality of Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program only allows forgiveness for certain types of federal loans as described above. To date, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has rejected 99% of applicants2. If you want to qualify for PSLF successfully, you must pay close attention to the detailed eligibility requirements of the program. Many of the requirements of the PSLF program can be difficult to understand or even find. To the benefit of those who refinance, student loan refinance companies are obligated by law to disclose information regarding their offerings. Some would say that student loan refinancing has a straightforward process when compared to the PSLF program. Not only is student loan refinancing transparent and held to a number of standards, but it can also really empower borrowers with options. Borrowers who previously had little control over their student loans can now choose what repayment plan works best for their financial future.

 

There is no “one-size fits all” answer. You need to know your options for managing your student loan debt. Whether you choose to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness or refinance your student loans is your decision. Understand that if you choose to pursue PSLF, there is a possibility you will not qualify. Remember, according to an analysis done by USA Today, only 1 percent of student loan borrowers who applied for the PSLF program have qualified. 

 

When deciding what path to take, consider what your financial goals are and what sets you up for the most success in the future. 

 

2 https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/091918FSAPostsNewReportstoFSADataCenter.html

 

Student Loan Refinancing 

Student loan refinancing has gained popularity within the last five years. Private companies are offering student loan refinancing as a way to make student loan debt more manageable. Many benefits can be achieved when qualified borrowers refinance their student loans. Most notably they can change repayment terms to fit their financial goals and lifestyle, and combine multiple federal and private loans into one single loan with a simple monthly payment, while likely reducing the amount paid over the life of their loans. 

 

The new interest rate provided is based upon a borrower’s credit history and credit score, in addition to other eligibility criteria, depending on the financial institution. Overall, refinancing student loans can have an impact on a borrower’s interest rate, repayment terms, and benefits. 

 

Interest Rates

When you take out federal studentloans, all borrowers receive the same interest rate on a given Federal Direct Loan. 

 

The federal government does not review a borrower’s or cosigner’s credit history or credit score. When you refinance your student loans, the private company will take a look over your credit history and credit score. The private student loan refinance company will also review additional information, like income. 

 

Many companies that refinance student loans will offer both variable and fixed rate loans. If you previously had a variable rate loan and qualify to refinance, you can select a fixed rate loan instead and vice versa.

 

Refinancing provides qualified borrowers the opportunity to make changes to existing student loan terms.

 

Repayent Terms & Cosigners

Federal student loans do not provide borrowers with an option regarding the repayment terms on the loan. Some federal loans provide a 10-year standard repayment plan, but other federal loans can span 25 to 30 years. When refinancing your student loans, you can select from the repayment terms offered by the company. Many companies offer repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years. 

 

Can you imagine paying off your student loan debt in five years? Many borrowers find that repaying their student loans faster has helped them to save money on interest. Having the ability to select repayment terms can allow borrowers the flexibility to reach other financial goals in their life. Generally, the repayment term selected will affect the interest rate on your new loan after you refinance.

 

If you took out a private loan for college, it is likely you may have needed a cosigner. When you refinance student loans, you could potentially remove the cosigner from the loan if you have established the necessary credit to take out a loan on your own. Removing a cosigner relieves the cosigner from the financial burden and responsibility of student loan debt and frees up the cosigner’s credit. Be prepared when refinancing your student loans in case there is a loss of benefits.

 

Loss of Benefits

Federal loans offer benefits for borrowers that may not be available through a private lender like a student loan refinance company. It’s imperative to read the guidelines and fully understand them before moving forward with refinancing your student loans. One of the biggest setbacks of student loan refinancing is that once you’ve refinanced your student loans through a private company, you no longer qualify for the PSLF Program.

 

When you refinance your federal student loan, the debt is paid off by the student loan refinance company, and a new loan is issued to you by the refinance company. Therefore, there is no federal student loan anymore. Since that loan is now paid off, there is no balance to forgive, and in turn, you cannot utilize PSLF. This is not the only drawback of refinancing.

 

Many student loan refinance companies offer different benefits regarding deferments or forbearances and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Benefits that may have been utilized while repaying your federal student loan may no longer be available through a private lender.

 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Student Loan Refinancing? Which is Right for You?

Now that you have an understanding of the options available to you as a healthcare professional, consider what makes the most financial sense for your situation.

 

Student loan refinancing may be a better option if you want to pay off your debt quickly since student loan refinancing allows you to change repayment terms and may have lower interest rates. Changing repayment terms can allow you to pay down your debt faster or even extend repayment. 

 

Another situation where refinancing may be a more attractive offer is if rates achieved by refinancing are lower than rates on your federal loan or your private loans. By achieving a lower interest rate, you will be paying less interest over time. If you are not planning on applying for PSLF for your federal loans, or you have private student loans that carry high-interest rates, you should look into the options available for refinancing student loans. 

 

However, by refinancing your federal student loans you will lose many benefits and protections available to federal student loan borrowers. Keeping your federal protections may be more beneficial than refinancing your student loans. 

 

Whether you choose to pursue PSLF or student loan refinance, you should be knowledgeable about the requirements and the pros and cons of each option. 

 

See How ELFI Can Help You Refinance Your Student Loans

 

 


 

 

Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments. 

Medical Match Day Finance Tips

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Congratulations you’ve worked hard been through multiple interviews and finally, your hard work has paid off! You’ve been matched and you’re getting ready for residency. It’s so exciting to jump into residency and see what having this career will really be like. You’ll have the ability to learn from experienced professionals in your field of interest. Getting yourself prepared for your residency can feel stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are some financial tips to help you get settled and make good choices for your future.

 

Set Up Loan Payments

Once you are done with school, you should start paying on student loans. Residency can take several years to complete. It’s likely that your residency isn’t paying you what a full-time position in your career will so all the medical school debt that’s accumulated, can be difficult to sort through. If you find yourself with a large amount of federal student loan debt, look into income-based repayment plans. We would recommend this as a temporary solution until you’ve completed your residency program.  This will assure that you’re making student loan payments towards your medical school debt, but that those payments are not impossible to complete. You may eventually qualify for public loan forgiveness on your federal student loans. If you qualify to get on an IBR plan in residency after completing the program you may only have a few years remaining.

 

 

If you also have private student loans there is no need to worry. Most private student loan lenders will work with you to offer some type of payment plan. You may want to consider refinancing your medical student loan debt. In order to qualify for student loan refinancing, you may need to add a cosigner due to income you’ll be making in your residency. Regardless of which route you chose, in the first few months after graduation, you’ll want to have your payment plan set up. Don’t let this task fall off your radar—in-school deferment ends shortly after graduation for most kinds of medical school debt.

 

How to Reduce Medical School Debt

 

 

Make a Budget

The average income for first-year medical residents is about $55,000, according to a recent report. That money may not go very far with your loan payments and other living expenses. It’s crucial to set your budget and stick to it. Many medical professionals suggest living with roommates, carpooling, using public transit, and setting a budget to keep other spending at a minimum.

 

 

Look Into Your Benefits

If you’re starting off pretty frugal until you get accustomed to your new budget, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about saving for the future. When it comes to saving for retirement, the sooner the better. Employer matches and retirement programs should be on your list of things to do early in your residency. Take advantage of match money for retirement if your employer offers it. Match money from your employer is free money! Don’t miss out on that opportunity, and check out the rest of your benefits while you’re at it. There are usually several perks and programs you can look into that might help make your transition to residency more comfortable.

 

Set Up Housing

Speaking of housing arrangements, there is conflicting advice on whether or not it makes sense to buy a home vs. renting while in residency. Since most residents spend long hours working and don’t have time for household maintenance or upkeep, buying a home can be a difficult choice. Plus knowing that you might not choose to live in the same place long term cause many experts to advise renting. Look at your unique situation and make sure you’re weighing all of these factors when you decide what to do for housing.

 

As far as finding somewhere to live, location will probably be top of your list. After working long hours and several days in a row, having a long commute is the last thing you want. If the area near your work is not cost-effective, look for ways to get connected with a good roommate or two. Research the area before you relocate and stick to your budget for housing costs so that you don’t end up being rent-poor or house-poor.

 

Practice Self-Care and Routine

Residency can be engrossing. You’re so involved in your work role and in living the life of a busy resident, that it’s not uncommon to let self-care fall by the wayside. Remember, you can’t care for others if you haven’t cared for yourself. Make sure you’re doing what you can to stick to healthy habits, even if there are days you’re low on sleep or not making the best food choices. Getting rest on your time off, enjoying your hobbies even in small doses, and exercising or meal planning can help make sure you’re cared for even with a busy schedule.

 

Enjoy your new life adventure!

 

Ways to Save on Student Loan Debt During Residency

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

Student Loan Refinancing: How To Avoid Predatory Lending

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No one wants to get scammed, but it can be hard to feel confident about whether you’re working with a reputable source or not. In an era when we have access to so many different options and there are countless financial entities available at our fingertips, there are definitely some things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up getting a raw deal.  It’s not uncommon if you’re interested in student loan refinancing, or have been approached by a company to want to see if they’re legit before you move forward. Here are some tips on how to avoid being a victim of predatory lending.

 

Check your sources.

It’s not uncommon to find random financing offers around the internet. Maybe you read about it on Reddit, saw a social media post, or even direct mail. Companies regularly send postcards and mailers to try to get your attention. The marketing material can look pretty convincing, too! Don’t let a slick landing page or a nice mailer fool you. You generally want to find suggestions from sources you trust, like a financial expert, or trusted online sources. A good resource would be the Better Business Bureau. You can see online complaints, information about the company, and all provided by an unbiased source. A second site that provides unbiased online reviews is Trustpilot. Websites with unbiased reviews and legitimate accreditation or backing can be an ideal source to verify credibility.

 

Never trust dishonest marketing.

It may sound extreme, but we’ve heard of examples where someone was approached by an entity that attempted to look like the government. These scare tactics are used frequently enough by scammy companies for one reason – they work. These companies use this scare tactic because when you think the government is trying to get in touch and you’re in trouble, you answer! These options work similarly to the IRS scams that are always happening with the IRS calling your phone, but in reality, the IRS doesn’t actually call anyone. If the company tried to look like a government program and later you find out they’re not, drop them. A legitimate company won’t send fake notices or use a misleading URL in order to get your business.

 

Listen to the old adage.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There’s a reason that this simple advice is so often passed down. Really amazing offers are rare. If something sounds like there’s no way they could offer you such incredible terms or that great of a deal, there is likely fine print that’s missing. Fact check the offer and look for comparable data. Your alarm bells should go off if you’re looking at a company whose reputation is dubious. This especially proves true if they’re claiming to get you unheard of service or savings.

 

Requirements to Refinance Student Loans

 

What do I owe you?

There are lots of scams across all kinds of industries. One of the most common is when a person tries to get you to pay something up front with the promise of services to come. Lending is no different. If you have to pay a fee or anything before you can see the offer, chances are that this is a scam. Companies often will offer to facilitate student loan discharge for someone with a permanent disability. The process of applying for student loan discharge if you have a qualifying disability is free. Any company offering to do it for a hefty up-front fee is scamming you!

 

Avoid anyone who is too aggressive.

Sometimes a company will aggressively pursue potential borrowers and push them to select a consolidation option that’s not in the borrower’s best financial interest. They might be a legitimate company but will leave out crucial details in order to sign you up. A good general rule of thumb is to be aware of the interest rate and terms. Understand how a lower payment can extend the life of your loans, thus increasing the overall amount due. Always get all the details, so you know the financial implications of your decision.

 

Give it a gut check.

Sometimes your intuition is your best tool. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to hit pause until you can find more information. Be wary of any company that’s asking for too much personal information before you are sure that they’re legit. Keep an eye out for things that just don’t seem right, like misspellings or a digital presence that seems fishy. You should never be faulted or made to feel bad for giving yourself time to look into the details and read everything over. If you feel like you’re being hurried through or your questions aren’t being answered stop and take a breather to do a gut check. All of your concerns should be addressed with ample information so that you feel confident about the process and decision. If that’s not what you’re experiencing, you should back away.

 

Use your village.

There are lots of reputable companies out there, and it’s pretty easy to find them by reading unbiased reviews. Do your research and continue learning more about how their process will help you. Use resources available to you to vet companies before you reach out. If you utilize the resources available to you, you’ll be less likely to encounter an unreputable company on the prowl.

You should never be badgered or threatened.

No reputable company is going to make threats against you or repeatedly harass you to sign up. As a consumer, you have certain protections and any company that violates these should be investigated. If you’re facing this treatment from any lender, would like to see more information on various types of financial products and your rights, visit the FDIC website.

 

 

Check Out Our Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Student Loan Debt & Medical Residency

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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.

Should I Open an HSA?

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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

Top Two Ways to Live Within Your Means: For Medical Residents

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Medical students, residents, physicians, and anyone looking to save money as they move up or along their prospective career ladder — it is time to heed these four words of advice: “Live like a resident.”

If you are familiar with The White Coat Investor, you’ve probably heard this sound advice repeatedly, but what does it mean? While primarily targeted at medical residents who are about to graduate from residency (and likewise move up substantially in pay scale), it is actually great advice for anyone who wishes to learn how to make a budget and live within it. If you are likely to receive a significant boost in income — whether now or in the near future — you should try to maintain a budget that falls in line with your previous — or lower — income. By learning to live modestly and well below your current earnings on a routine basis, you are more likely to have more money to spend in other ways, such as paying down student loans, paying off other debts, going on vacation, pursuing a hobby, retiring early, investing, and simply doing something just for the fun of it.

Creating a budget and reserving a portion of your earnings for future goals can help individuals, particularly medical residents, make the leap from low to high earnings in a manner that allows them to enjoy some of their hard-earned success both now and in the future.

#1 Live Modestly From the Start

Whether you are in residency or working in a short-term, lower-salary job, living modestly and within your means is an important habit to acquire. For medical residents, this means that you should not live like an attending physician when you are a resident. Do not be tempted to buy things you cannot currently afford  by spending as if you are already earning the wages associated with your future job title. Even though you know that you will likely be earning more in the near future, this style of spending is an easy way to accumulate debt, additional loans (car, home, personal), and possibly lower credit scores. Following this advice early, however, can help you set up great financial planning habits, such as paying off debts, saving for a retirement plan or investments, being able to go on vacation, and any other long-term financial goals that you may desire.

 

#2 Live a Modest Lifestyle After Climbing Your Career Ladder

Once you begin earning higher wage, whether you are now an attending physician or working in some other higher-earning profession, consider maintaining a modest lifestyle. Opting for a smaller house or a less expensive car, or simply continuing to maintain the budget that you followed in residency previous position, can help you achieve this goal. Why you should do this, however, is the best part. With a climbing income and fairly stable expenses, you will have more money coming in that going out, and therefore, more money to pay down student loans, to add to your blossoming retirement account, to invest, or to enjoy with your family. If you want to maintain your modest budget while experiencing more of what you are passionate about, consider setting aside more of your budget for this category. For example, if you want to travel the world, keep everything except travel expenses at your residency-level budget. If you have a growing family and need a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, consider relocating to an area that is less expensive, or cut back on expenses in other categories so that your mortgage does not consume too much of your extra capital. Regardless of your situation, there is a plan that can work for you.

While you are paying down your student loans in this phase, consider this potentially money-saving strategy — refinancing for a lower rate! Refinancing student loans (and consolidating multiple loans) into one loan, ideally with a lower rate, could help you save countless, hard-earned dollars. If you want to see how much you could save, check out our loan calculator or talk to a representative at Education Loan Finance.

Live for Today. Plan for Tomorrow

Physicians are often already accustomed to experiencing delayed gratification, having trained for years longer than most to ultimately obtain a higher income. Without their early working years to obtain and save wages, physicians who are in residency or just out of residency should take precautions to save and budget their income wisely. The bottom line is, “five times the pay doesn’t equal five times the lifestyle,” and while physicians eventually do typically make more money than many other professions, they also have more professional expenses (CMEs, professional licensing, and more), often higher overhead expenses, and higher student loans. Financially planning for these factors and formulating a well-informed way to maintain a modest budget, at least for the first few years after residency, can go a long way in securing a peaceful financial future.

5 Ways to Reduce Medical School Debt

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According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 2015-2016 figures show that U.S. medical students with medical school debt have, on average, $180,723 of medical school-related debt. This debt comes from public and private medical schools with median, four-year costs of $232,838 and $306,171, respectively. Medical school graduates, both those accepted or failing to find acceptance into a residency program, usually have a tough time repaying these loans, as yearly residency stipends (or income) are estimated to begin around $52,200 and end around $58,100 for the first and fourth years of residency. It is not until medical residents graduate from residency and move onto their first clinical or hospital job (usually as young as age 30) that they begin to earn what is considered traditional physician wages. However, along with these wages comes the ability — and requirement — to repay larger sums of their hefty student loan debts.

Unfortunately, student loan debt associated with a medical school will likely continue to rise, but there are ways to battle these ever-increasing costs, thereby ensuring that these hard-earned degrees remain a good investment and continue to attract quality applicants.

Expert Recommendations to Effectively Repay Medical School Loans:

  1. Apply the Sign-On Bonus Towards Loans

Many healthcare agencies, clinics, and hospitals offer physicians sign-on bonuses when hired. An easy way to significantly reduce medical school loan debt figures — and the associated interest — is to apply all or a good portion of this bonus towards student loan repayment. For instance, a lump sum of $25,000 could help reduce the interest amount as well as remove an entire year’s worth of loan payments. Keep in mind that some portion of the sign-on bonus may need to be used to pay for moving expenses (if separate moving expense coverages are not negotiated), any licensing or certification expenses, or simply saving for future tax payments.

 

  1. Consider the Practice Area/Negotiate Loan Repayment

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a number of states offer loan repayment programs when medical professional contracts to work in underserved areas — medically underserved or simply rural areas. With a variety of loan repayment opportunities available, it is important to look for a program that meets a physician’s geographic and service-oriented goals. For example, physicians who are interested in helping medically underserved areas, which may include larger cities, may want to look into programs such as the National Health Service Corps. On the other hand, physicians who are interested in practicing in a rural area should look into state-specific rural health partnerships, some which may offer a stipend (in addition to the residency income) during residency. To receive this extra income, without repayment, applicants must agree to work in an assigned area after residency and for a certain amount of time. Physicians aiming to work in other areas may still be able to negotiate some contractual form of loan repayment along with the sign-on bonus — just be sure to ask!

Learn More About Education Loan Finance for Business

 

  1. Join the Military for Residency or As a Practicing Physician

The Navy is known to offer its medical residents a four-year annual grant of $45,000, in addition to residency income. This grant, used each year during a four-year program, effectively pays off $180,000 in debt in a relatively short amount of time, especially when compared to medical residents in the civilian world. Additionally, the military pays a stipend of more than $2,000 a month (for 48 months) for living expenses on top of an average resident salary of $50,000 per year. In return for this financial assistance, physicians will owe service to the military, which may include 3-5 years of active duty and several years in the reserves.

For practicing physicians (those who have graduated from residency), the Navy offers significant sign-on bonuses ($220,000-$400,000), all of which depend on qualification, the physician’s specialty, and service requirements. For more information, review the details on the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP).

  1. Consider Student Loan Refinancing Programs

Holding multiple student loans, both private and federal, can be confusing and expensive. Refinancing medical school loans into one refinanced and consolidated loan offers a great opportunity to reduce interest rates, monthly payments, or terms. For the best offer from a lender such as Education Loan Finance, be sure to keep all forms of credit in good standing: make regular payments and never default on student loans. Furthermore, applicants with a higher credit score are more likely to be offered lower interest rates with the refinanced loan, thereby saving thousands over the life of the loan.

  1. Live Like a Resident

During residency years, physicians learn to live on very little. To quickly reduce and pay off medical school loans and gain financial independence, physicians should consider creating a budget that is more typical of a resident. Once a physician starts making significantly higher wages, if he or she continues to live on a resident’s budget — and with very little unnecessary expenses — he or she will likely be able to pay off medical school loans much faster, which means they can finally start saving for vacations, investments, and possibly [early] retirement.

 

Specialized to Work for You

The team of lenders at Education Loan Finance is specialized in working with college graduates who have accumulated higher amounts of debt – particularly medical professionals and physicians – to pursue advanced degrees. Education Loan Finance’s personal loan advisors will be happy to assist you in choosing a repayment plan that best aligns with your financial goals. Contact an Education Loan Finance representative today by calling 1-844-601-ELFI.

 

10 Facts About Student Loans That Will Save You Money