How to be a Financially Successful Pharmacist after GraduationOctober 10, 2018
Pharmacy school teaches you most everything you need to know about being a pharmacist, but most don’t teach you about personal finance. If you’re like a lot of pharmacy grads, you’ve probably dug yourself into a bit of a hole. That’s okay. Now what you need is a plan to get back out. For some people, that’s figuring out how to get out of debt as fast as possible. For others, it’s a slow but steady plan to get there. Just as in pharmacology, what’s right for some people isn’t for others. Your plan will depend on your circumstances, but the important thing is not to let it overwhelm you. You’ve finished your educational journey, now it’s time to move on to the next chapter.
After graduation – set a realistic goal.
Getting to where you want to be financially is attainable, but you have to define what that is. Is it to be out of debt in 3 years? Refinance student loans? Save for a house? Make sure you have enough money for an emergency? Or some combination of all of those? All great and worthy goals, but if you don’t define a goal, you won’t know the things you need to do to attain it.
Assessing your situation.
Even if you know your goal, you can’t get there unless you know where you’re starting. You need to assess your debts and any assets you may have. The average pharmacy grad has nearly $160,000 in student loan debt. Quite often they also have credit card debt. If this is you, it’s okay. You may even have a car loan. You just need to know, that all debt is not equal and the best way to prioritize is to look at your interest rates to determine which ones you should try and pay down first. Consider using a debt pay down method like the debt snowball method.
If you’re carrying credit card debt, that’s probably your highest priority. Typically credit card interest rates are between 15 and 20%, but they can go even higher. If you’re holding any significant balance with that kind of rate, making minimum payments will essentially have you paying the balance until the end of time. Even though your student loan balance is higher, it doesn’t make sense to pay beyond the minimum payment until your credit card debt is in control.
If you have multiple credit cards, figure out which one has the highest interest rate and start paying more there first. You may even be able to transfer to another lower interest card you have. Establish how much you’re going to pay over the minimum, say $500 or $1,000 and stick to it. It’s probably not wise to open a new card now, but as you pay down your cards you may notice special offers from the cards you have. You might see things like 0%APR for 12 months on balance transfers. Read the fine print, and if it’s good, do it. It can really speed up the process and save you a lot of money. If you have good credit, consider getting a Personal Loan to pay off your credit card balances. A Personal Loan will usually come with a lower interest rate than you had been paying with the credit cards.
Refinance your student loans from pharmacy school.
One of your best bets to improve your financial situation both in the short- and long-term is to refinance your student loans. Many student loans carry an interest rate around 5.8% While much lower than the average credit card, it’s a number you may be able to reduce several percentage points which can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Another thing refinancing can do is adjust your loan term. We’ll look at two general approaches that should help you decide what might work best for you.
Option 1: As fast as possible.
If you’re starting from a pretty good place financially and you’re not carrying a lot of other debt you may want to just knock out your student loans as quickly as you can. This approach would likely mean refinancing to a shorter term, say 5 years. The lower interest rate could save you money as will the shorter term, but it also means you’ll pay it off a lot sooner. This also means you might have a hefty payment every month. Though hefty, this monthly payment will knock out the balance accrued by interest faster, so you pay down more on the principal balance of the loan. This may mean a lot of scrimping and saving. Brown bag lunches and making do with what you have for now, but if you’re in a position to make it work without putting too much of a burden on yourself then this can set you up to be in a very good place financially and much faster than if you didn’t refinance.
Option 2: Slow and steady
A lot of us don’t have the luxury to do a shorter-term loan, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t take advantage of refinancing your student loan debt. It will still save you lots of money in the long run. And refinancing to say a 10-year loan can give your budget a little more breathing room. You may even be able to lower your monthly payments to give yourself a little more cash to pay off your credit cards or to save for an emergency.
Don’t skimp on retirement savings!
When you’re starting your pharmacy career it may be tempting to forego things like your 401K to have more money in your paycheck. This is a bad idea for many reasons. You want to establish your retirement savings right away. What you contribute in your 20s and 30s becomes much more valuable to you in your 40s and 50s. It’s just a habit you want to start early and not wish you had later.
Enjoy the ride.
Don’t stress over finances. Worrying will get you nowhere, but a plan can take you anywhere you want to go. Concentrate on getting your career going and stick to your financial plan and you’ll soon see the results you want.