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Episode 4: Paying Down Debt From Nursing School With Jenna Lemberg

In this week's podcast episode, I'm talking to Jenna who is an RN. Jenna recently graduated with a masters in nursing with $150,000 in student loan debt. We're discussing the many different ways to pursue an RN degree today along with what to do about the student loans you could accumulate.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to sit down with Jenna and hear her story and plan for tackling her nursing student loan debt. A large number of nurses are eligible for student loan forgiveness. The issue is they just aren’t informed about the program or their options. If she could do it all over again, would Jenna pursue a Master’s in nursing? We discuss this and more in the episode!

In today's episode, you'll find out:

  • When you do and don't need an advanced degree to work in the nursing field
  • Is there a big difference between working at a non-for-profit hospitals and a private practice doctors office?
  • Should you file taxes as a married or unmarried couple when you have massive student loan debt?
  • When choosing a nursing school, what things should you look for?
  • What kind of doors does a Masters degree in Nursing open up for you?
  • What Jenna is doing to repay her student loans
  • How to qualify for student loan forgiveness as a nurse
  • Jenna's advice to someone who is pursuing nursing straight out of high school.
  • Advice for someone who already has a bachelors degree, but wants to make a career change into nursing

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Feeling helpless when it comes to your student loans?

Episode 4 Transcript

Travis Hornsby: I know and I've never heard of getting married spiritually before. It's an interesting point of view that you bring up because it does make you think of whether you really consider your loans in a vacuum or if you're really approaching your life as a whole and what your priorities are and whether those extra taxes are worth that peace of mind of your marriage that you would have.

Travis Hornsby: Welcome to another episode of The Student Loan planner podcast.

Nursing Student Loans

Travis Hornsby: I have Jenna with me today who is an R.N. and we're going to talk about everything nursing student loans, go through some of Jenny's student loan questions, and see what kind of hacks that we might be able to get for you if you're on the career to become a nurse or you are already a nurse. Welcome, Jenna. Great to have you on.

Jenna Lemberg: Thanks. Great to be here.

Nursing School Paths

Travis Hornsby: What I would like to do to kind of start off is just to ask you some questions about how does somebody come out owing a lot of money in student loans from becoming a nurse. You know. What's the path of education look like? You know a lot of people I think go get bachelor's degrees. Maybe there are some other programs for folks that want to go back to school. We'd love to just have you educate our audience on some of those different paths

Jenna: Long story short there's really a lot of different ways you can become an RN today. I guess I'll start by saying how I did it. So I received a bachelor's degree in something else. I studied public health in California and then I was looking into something a little more clinical and I was looking specifically for programs that were tailored for people who already had a bachelor's degree and I didn't I didn't want to just get another bachelors. I was looking kind of for something a little bit more advanced or more that would advance my own career. And so I was looking for a master's degrees mostly.

Jenna: Many schools across the country have kind of developed into offering those master's degrees specifically to recruit people who have already chosen another career and then would like to become nurses later on. And so it's kind of that personal or professional incentive that you would gain to get a master's degree instead of a second bachelor's which is less helpful I would say.

Jenna: So I did that. But there are lots of different ways it's still possible that you can go to a community college and get a two-year end degree and then just work as a bedside nurse. Ultimately it depends on your goal.

Travis: And what your path. Yeah.

Jenna: Because if you're interested in working bedside as a career you don't need an advanced degree, you don't technically even need a bachelor's degree, although many hospitals especially research institutions will kind of require you to go back and receive a bachelors if you don't already have one, and some of them will pay for you to go back to school and some won't. It's just kind of an agreed expectation that they'll have for you.

Masters and Bachelors Degree

Travis: So that makes sense. Are most masters programs for nursing two years after having the bachelors degree if you're coming from your background?

Jenna: Yeah more or less around two years.

Travis: Yeah yeah. So if they're programs as well did you become a nurse practitioner from having an unrelated bachelor's degree?

Jenna: Yes and some of them will allow you to do the core program and become an RN. You can work and then go back to school part-time and some of them are set up to be a pretty linear transition into just going back into school and becoming a nurse practitioner.

Jenna: You know schools like Vanderbilt have done that where you can go in without an R.N. license and then come out as a nurse practitioner.

Travis: OK so a couple of interesting things there about that conversation. If you go get a bachelor's degree like a BSN right that's the bachelor's degree for nursing.

Jenna: Yes.

Travis: OK. Well, I pass that test. So if you go get a bachelor's degree in nursing then your cost to that degree is going to be subject to the undergraduate limits on student loans. So for federal student loans, you can only take out like 30 something thousand dollars as a dependent student. And so you have very tight limits on what you're allowed to borrow. And also you can borrow more but the cost of that would be put on to like a Parent Plus Loan probably instead of doing like a private loan or something like that. So because of that limitation on the cost of the program with that loan limit, I think that the Bachelor's of Science in Nursing is going to have a lower price tag and it's going to be more affordable if people are dead sure that they want to be a nurse.

Travis: So that's interesting that you say that you kind of went to that career path after getting the bachelor's degree because master's degree programs and any graduate degree program is not really subject to those same loan limits. So when you go to a master's program they will give you that federal loan debt in your own name without having to involve a parent or anything like that. And they will put all of it either on the Stafford Loan program or also they will if you have additional funds that you need to borrow they'll make you sign up for the Grad PLUS loan program. So based off of your debt situation you know about a low six-figure amount of student loan debt because that's a master's degree program. You took it out. All I think from let's see what year were you in school Jenna?

Jenna: I was in school from 2016 to 2018. I graduated.

Travis: OK and you never took out any loans prior to 2016? And if you did already pay them off.

Jenna: No. They are all taken care of.

Travis: Yes. So as long as you never took out loans prior to October 2007 then you would have eligibility for all of the different repayment programs like Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn, Income Based Repayment. So that's good now with this interesting setup so you took it out and starting in 2016. So that also tells me that all of your loans are direct federal loans. Most likely is that right?

Jenna: I believe so. Yeah.

Travis: So we can figure that out. Who is your loan servicer?

Jenna: Oklahoma Student Loan Authority.

Travis: That's interesting so let's have you log in there and just double check that.

Jenna: One more thing I can say about them and since around the topic is that many schools will offer a traditional four year degree and that's just kind of like you would go to college like you went to study nursing, but there's also accelerated BSN'S and that can be for people who again already have a bachelor's degree and would like to kind of go into something else but didn't want to take the leap and turn it into a master's degree.

Jenna: So those do still exist and those are probably the most common way that someone who would pick nursing as a second career would become an RN.

Travis: OK. That makes sense. So what would you say it would be the percentage of nurses that are employed via a hospital system instead of saying like a private practice source you know some for-profit employer.

Jenna: I would imagine that most RN'S are employed by some health care institution like some kind of public institution of health care.

Jenna: But yeah I don't think that most people would work as a private practice.

Nurses and PSLF

Travis: Right. And if you look at physicians like a lot of physicians are sometimes employed by for-profit physician groups that are affiliated with hospital systems but usually, the nurses are always direct employees of those hospital systems when physicians are a non-qualifying setup. So I basically just ask that because I think that a lot of nurses don't really realize how eligible they are for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Travis: I think that a lot of nurses I mean maybe you can tell me some of that feedback like how many of your friends that you went to school with had an idea about how they were going to handle their loans when they got out of graduation.

Jenna: Very few.

Travis: A few.

Travis: Yeah. Well, the good news is that nurses would be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on average like the typical nurse would be eligible for it. Have you heard about any programs like, I think there's like a nurse corps program and you know there are some state specific programs. Does anybody ever talk to you about any of those?

Nurse Core

Jenna: Yes. Someone who had graduated a year before me in the same program just received it. They received nurse core I think it forgives up to 80% of your debt with a three-year commitment which is awesome.

Travis: Yeah. Tell me. Tell us more about that. If you have any details on that.

Jenna: Well I only I heard about it in a brief conversation but I know several people from the same program that graduated a year before me had applied and the only people that received it where are the people that were not married.

Travis: Interesting.

Jenna: Because they weren't paying too much in taxes and their income was too great to be considered because I know that it's need based you have to work at a what they call a critical shortage facility it's need based. So it's based on your the lower the income you have the more likely you are to be selected.

Travis: Yes. So I just went on their Web site. You just basically type in NRSA Nurse Core basically what she can do is sign up for emails to be notified when their application process opens and then you can read the application guidelines and then it says you know if you can get 85% of your loans wiped away with only like a three year commitment like you were saying then you should definitely look into that for sure. Right.

Travis: I mean that seems like a no brainer to at least see if you're eligible for that as an R.N. and if you're not eligible then you do have access to these some of these other programs that we're going to talk about. So let's see. Have you had a moment to log in and get access to the list of your loans there Jenna?

Jenna: Yeah.

Jenna's Loans

Travis: Okay. So what we're looking for is the title of your loans. So what kind of loans to have such say something like direct Stafford unsubsidized hopefully or some other name if you look at the loan details it looks like unsubsidized direct grad there's four of them. That's good. So they all say directly in the name right?

Jenna: Yes.

Typical Debt for Nursing Graduates

Travis: That's very important. So that means that all of your loans are eligible for all of the really good repayment programs PSLF. All that stuff basically. So what would you guess would be the range of debt that a nurse could come out with?

Travis: Like if you think about somebody who does a bachelors degree versus, a nontraditional student that does an accelerated bachelors versus somebody who does a masters like would you say it's maybe like $50,000-$200,000 or you know is it a different range than that what would you guess?

Jenna: It could be lower.Certainly. Many Of my co-workers really did the most they could do to conserve their funds. They lived close to home, they did an accelerated bachelors, and they saved a bunch before they went to school.

Jenna: So I know many that have less than $10,0000, and then I think about my friends who are starting a doctorate program in nursing and they can they'll probably end up with closer to $300,000.

Travis: So if you have that much debt then you desperately need a plan. Yes. So let's talk about your setup so we can kind of you know show how you might think about something like this. So a typical nurse's income is what would you say like $50,000 to $80,000 depending on how much extra shifts work you're doing.

Jenna: Yes. Yeah. And the market value depending across the country it varies pretty greatly.

Travis: So like in the northeast right as people make less money as nurses because it's more people want to live there or is it kind of a higher income area because the cost of living is higher?

Jenna: In the northeast, it probably reflects a slightly above average market pay throughout the nation.

Travis: OK. Because what we see a lot of times is that for a lot of graduate programs especially like the ones where you're like a physician or a dentist or something like that you'll see way lower salaries and places with a lot of saturation and a lot of people graduating that want to stay and remain in that area.

Travis: That's interesting that nursing it seems like is not as affected with those dynamics where you know you can still get a good job with the least of salary that kind of covers the higher cost of living in the Northeast.

Jenna: Yes exactly.

Not for Profit and Private Practice Salaries

Travis: Would you say that there's a big difference in salaries between not for profit hospitals and say like you know private practice doctors office or the salaries kind of kind of similar?

Jenna: Gosh I really have no idea I have no experience with anything that would be a private institution. I'd imagine that they probably take into consideration what everybody else would be paid as an RN throughout the country.

Travis: I would think that they would be kind of similar.

Jenna: Yeah.

Travis: Because as an RN. you're not an owner of the practice that you would work in.

Jenna: Right.

Travis: So you're gonna be an employee no matter where you work and as an employee, there is an absolute limit to how much you would get paid instead of being an owner based off of that guess. I would think that people would make say you make $60,000 or $65,000 a year plus benefits at a big employer. Maybe you would make an extra 5 with maybe fewer quality benefits probably at a small private practice. So I think a lot of nurses should really especially ones with really high debt loads should be very cognizant of how much that PSLF benefit is worth.

Travis: I call it like a phantom benefit because you don't really see it on your paycheck, but it is absolutely something that you are working towards and qualifying towards by working long term at a qualifying hospital employer. So something to really think about when you're trying to weigh you know what kind of job you would take right now if you want to kind of share a little bit about your setup Jenna. So you've got about $150,000 approximately of debt. Which is typical of somebody with a master's degree in nursing and then it's about 60 something thousand an income which is typical. And then a spouse that makes about the same amount. Is that right.?

Spouses and Student Loans

Jenna: He makes a little bit more but he's also not my spouse. So we don't file taxes together.

Travis: OK. Not yet right?

Travis: So this is actually a great opportunity to talk about this. So I do want to write this article about the conversations that you need to have if you owe a lot of student loans before you get married. I think that people who are going for PSLF could like particularly benefit from this conversation because I'm seeing a big spike in people who are choosing to become spiritually married instead of legally married. And Jenna maybe you could tell me after I explain this like if this is just a crazy idea or not but basically, the idea is you know you can have a wedding ceremony you can invite your friends family you can do all the wedding stuff have the preacher there whatever you want to do.

Travis: And if you do not turn in the certificate you're not legally married but you're basically spiritually married right? So There's no requirement to submit your documents to say that you're legally married after you hold a ceremony like that's not considered fraudulent or against the law or anything like that.

Jenna: Now it would cause some extra complications like you would need to meet with an attorney and do things like making sure you have like a power of attorney written up for both of you. So you have the equivalent of spousal right. Inheritance would have to be designated in a will specifically you know instead of just like the default. Which is like everything goes to your spouse. you know if you had kids like you'd have to think about that. So there are some things to think about. Luckily for you since you're eligible for Pay As You Earn you could go ahead and get married and file taxes separately to exclude your spouse's income. But that's not a free option. So you would have to pay extra taxes. Basically, you have to pay slightly higher taxes as a married couple filing separately than if you file jointly.

Travis: So the lowest cost path for you if you're just looking at your student loans which is a very narrow slice of your life is to not get legally married and just be spiritually married and to treat yourself as a single filer for your taxes. Because that way you can exclude your spouse's income if you were to get married. And I'm not seeing that they have any student loans right?

Jenna: Correct.

Travis: OK. So that's good. So what do you think about that strategy think that's just totally nuts? Or Do you think you would just get married regardless even if it was a higher cost to doing so?

Jenna: Idk. I've never heard Of getting married spiritually before. It's certainly something to consider.

Jenna: It's an interesting point of view that you bring up because it does make you think of whether you really consider your loans in a vacuum or if you're really approaching your whole life as a whole and what your priorities are and whether those extra taxes are worth kind of that peace of mind of your marriage that you would have.

Travis: Yeah. So here's an example right. If you did in your case filing jointly for your student loans then your payment would be almost a $1,000 a month including if you know your spouse's loans if you were to get married. Now if it was just you that payment would be about a roughly $400 a month.

Travis: So the cost of being married if you were to file your taxes jointly if you're doing you know an income-driven repayment option to get your loans forgiven that cost would be roughly $600 a month. It's about $7,200 a year. That's an obviously non-insignificant cost of being married right now. If you file taxes separately then you exclude your spouse's income on your repayment calculation if that spouse has no student debt. So if you do that then you will go back to that payment that you'd make if you were single.

Travis: The thing is is it's better to have two people filing single for taxes, than it is to have a couple that are married but filing separately because you typically will pay more taxes filing separately as a married couple but you will as two people filing single or two people filing jointly as a married couple. My guess in your case since your incomes are kind of similar is that your payment would be if you file taxes separately as a married couple. Probably like around a couple thousand bucks or less.

Travis: I don't think it would be giant because your incomes are somewhat similar. The tax penalties that I see that are very very large or when one person is making like $200,000 and the other person's a stay at home spouse. That's the cases where the tax penalties are really really high because they basically put the higher earning spouse up to an into a higher tax bracket. So that's something to think about. If it was me like I would say you know a couple of thousand bucks of extra taxes and a little bit of extra complication to file taxes separately and still do exactly what I want to do in my life. Like in terms of my personal life probably would be worth it or at least it's something to think about like yeah that's probably not too crazy to think about doing that.

Travis: Whereas if you were to get married and include your spouse's income then like $7,0000 cost would be something to be like you know maybe we're spiritually married for the ten years of PSLF and then maybe we turn in our marriage certificate at the very end.


Travis: You know just something to think about. So tell me about your retirement savings like how much do you know about retirement? How much are you doing currently? And just whatever you know about your 403 (b) plan.

Jenna: My 403 (b) plan, I haven't put in a time because I was waiting I started working in August and I wanted to get a good handle on how much specifically I should be taking home every two weeks and so I haven't set it up and I think there's an automatic 2%but I have been contributing to my brokerage accounts just because I was doing that anyway. But I know my 403 (b) plan is similar to a 401 k and my employer does matching up to I think like 6 or 10% on taxable income.

Travis: OK. OK, so that's good to tell you. You say you're doing a brokerage account. How much are you doing into that and what kind of account is that?

Jenna: I have two accounts there.

Jenna: I can tell you the specific names of them if you'd like but ultimately I contribute $200 per paycheck. So $100 respectively per paycheck in each account.

Travis: Awesome. So you have this condition called Good saver rights if that's a condition. I need a better term of that. But basically you're a fantastic saver and you have some very good financial habits so just the fact that you're putting money away and accounts for your future you have a car payment which is we always like to have people not have car payments but if it's at least not a time that you owe. That's exciting. If you have good cash savings. Those are all just really positive signals for someone's life. So that's good.

Travis: The nice part is I think that you can optimize this like even more. So in your case right you have this for 403 (b) plan you work in the northeast somewhere that has kind of a higher state income taxes right?

Jenna: Yes.

Travis: You have higher state income taxes you have federal income tax where you're probably just barely in the next level up a tax bracket. So say for example that you know a 22% federal tax bracket and you are in say like a 5% state income tax bracket. That's like 27% If you were to take into account the fact that you have loans you can also save money by lowering your taxable income. So that would put you at around almost like 40% in savings for you're putting into your 403 (b) plan. One thing for a nurse to think about is how do you put away as much as possible in your 403 (b) plan that you're working at through the hospital. I think that once you have the $10,000 in the bank what you have at least some level of savings set up for other things.

Travis: Then the next step is to really drastically increase those retirement account contributions. Looking at your loan situation assuming a perfect situation where you were putting away the maximum allowed into your 403 (b) plan you could reduce your taxable income quite a bit. On $150,000 in student loans your payment if you do something called the Pay As You Earn program could be as little as about $260 a month. That's in a perfect world based off of your $60,0000 income minus some savings for retirement.

Travis: So for 10 years imagine that you're paying around $250 to $400 a month and that qualifies you for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. So Jenna if you look at the results of that on just sort of the table summarizing things for you that I sent you the cost of this over 10 years for you in your case would be about like $35,000. So paying $35,0000 when you owe $150,000 one hundred fifty is a good deal wouldn't you say?

Jenna: I would so yeah.

PSLF Conversations Before Graduation

Travis: So the issue here is a lot of folks don't understand how the PSLF program works like I'm just like you said I'm assuming that your friends like you into nursing school with don't really know that much about this program I think. Is that fair?

Jenna: Yeah. We had several different lunchtime consults from different state repayment specifics for nurses like Nurse Core and states specific ones in Maryland and Virginia. But no one had ever really kind of presented. Public Service Loan Forgiveness before.

Travis: And that makes sense because this is a federal program that applies to 25% of the American workforce. So this is a very broad program that's available to a ton of people and I will say that if you only owe you know $50,000 of loans or something kind of smaller than one of those nursing type of state-specific programs could probably be super helpful because you know you might even pay less than what we're modeling here if you don't have a huge balance right?

Travis: But if you have a huge balance these funds for these programs are not unlimited. So if they have the option to go to somebody who owes $50,000 probably they're going to tend to go with one of those folks so they can give out awards to more awards to more people too. I would think.

Jenna: Definitely.

Travis: For that reason you know this is something that it's a very powerful program because it's not like you have to necessarily do anything special to get qualified for it besides working full time, for a not for profit hospital, for 10 years, while making payments under one of these income-driven repayment programs, like Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn, and you need to do that while paying on direct federal loans. That's one reason why I wanted to ask you what kind of loans you had? Because if you pay on direct federal loans then you can get PSLF credit. So for your setup do you have any payments yet that you've registered on these loans or now?

Jenna Repayment Options

Jenna: I have not made any payments on this yet.

Travis: OK. So for somebody like yourself who hasn't made any payments at what we're going to suggest is consolidating those loans and moving them over to Fed Loan servicing so you can get those on a PSLF eligible type of strategy. So you would have to put those loans into basically one of those income-driven plans and you would also have to certify your credit every year with your servicer with something called the PSLF certification form and that will allow you to get the 10 years of service that you're building a paper trail for towards forgiveness.

Travis: So kind of like a high level right. The marriage thing you can get married or you can not get married. Either one is fine but if you do get married then based off of everything that we've kind of seen it's probably best for you to file your taxes as a married filing separately couple for our listeners like this is a complex decision sometimes because there are different rules based on different states based off of the state where you live. Jenna this is something that is pretty easily done. There are other states that have different sets of rules called community property law and it causes things to be different. But luckily you don't have to worry about that.

Travis: So think about the importance of getting this set up right. Like what are some common things that you've heard about debt like people like experts talking about debt in general like what they say to do with it?

Other Debt Advice

Jenna: Just pay it off as quickly as possible.

Travis: Right. Has anybody ever told you that in relation to your nursing program?

Jenna: Not specifically for nursing but just people advising student debt in general or just debt. No one's ever said that directly to me before.

Travis: Yeah. So let's go at least so is the debt in general. The typical piece of advice is I'll just get rid of it. You'll be done in no time. You know you just have to buckle up cut your expenses live on rice and beans right. That's the typical advice.

Travis: So for nurses for a lot of nurses out there. That's like the worst advice ever. You know if you paid a dollar on your loans right you'd be paying a dollar. And if you're going to go for PSLF and like the balances is given tax-free. So you literally just paid a dollar on something that's going to be forgiven tax-free. So you just like literally wasted a 100% of what you paid in your case save the value of getting that forgiveness is like $150,000 just for kicks. Approximately if it was $150,000 you would split that up into 10 years and that's like getting $15,000 a year in basic salary after taxes. So $15,000 after taxes is like $20,000 before taxes.

Travis: Let's say you're making $70,000 all in at a hospital as a nurse. So in that case that we modeled like you would have to make $90,000 to have a private practice job be equivalent financially.

Jenna: Right.

Travis: I'm guessing that you might make a little more like we were talking about but I don't think you're gonna make $20,000 more working in private practice.

Jenna: Right.

Travis: The last little bit here. So you basically need to consolidate get everything set up. On pay as you earn. Be ready to file taxes separately get everything checked off for PSLF where you're sending on that certification form every year.

Nursing Profession Options

Travis: What would you say is the big discussion between nurses these days with where people are staying as RN's and just remaining RN's versus people who had a strong desire to become Nurse Practitioners. Like what is that career path look like? What are you seeing amongst your friends that are choosing to stay is an RN versus become a nurse practitioner.

Jenna: Nursing is such a vast profession.

Jenna: There's a lot more to it than bedside vs. nurse practitioner licensing there are a few different advanced practice roles you can go into.

Travis: Sure. What are some of those?

Jenna: Specifically if you wanted to go back to school traditionally with a master's degree in nursing. You would be able to work as a nurse practitioner, which depending on the state you live in you can prescribe, you can diagnose, oftentimes under the counseling of a physician just based on the state policies.

Jenna: But there's also a role called the clinical nurse specialist, and they are able to take a specific topic in nursing like cardiac nursing, oncology, or something like that and really provide education to more nurses and so that they're the ones really driving for research and really developing new protocols for hospitals.

Jenna: It's also an advanced practice role but it is not necessarily like patient facing so that exists and it's kind of a similar amount of education that's required with similar tuition and loans that you would require as well.

Jenna: Additionally you can get an executive doctorate which is more like management if you wanted to be a chief nursing officer. I think most research institutions will have that and that's kind of if you're more into health care administration from a nurse's perspective that's another degree you could receive. There's academic nursing which wasn't really a thing until the last 40 years or so. But it is certainly developed into big schools of nursing that with big reputations and they develop lots of specific research related to nursing. And most of those are doctorate level positions that require much more school.

Most Common Nursing Doctorate Level Degree

Travis: So would you what would you say is the most common doctorate level degree related to nursing? The practice of nursing. Would it be the DNP or is it something different?

Jenna: It would be the DNP. You can get either the DNP or Ph.D. and actually lots of research institutions that are hospitals are kind of maybe in the next decade or so kind of leaning towards a requirement of a DNP or at least a heavy suggestion.

Travis: OK. Yeah makes sense too. Yeah. Because I know for like other occupations like physical therapists they have to have the DBT.

Jenna: Right.

Returning to School

Travis: But for years practitioners like it's been a lot more of a slow move towards that. So would you say that folks that go back to get their nurse practitioner are most of these folks people who just want to make more money than a nurse would Or they want to be able to have more scope of what they do like maybe also maybe just share your personal experience like why being an RN makes you happy and fulfilled.

Nursing is a Unique Profession

Jenna: Nursing is a pretty unique profession and I don't think that most people consider it to just be their job. There are some nurses that may just show up for work just for the paycheck but the majority of people that I've met that talk would never even crossed their mind and it truly is like a way of life and you kind of practice outside of where you work as well and you kind of just have that mindset all the time and of a nurse of just being a helpful person that cares about the entire well-being of.

Jenna: A patient or your family or anything else. But for me it's appealing to have a larger scope of practice because your day to day work as a bedside hour end can be limiting in terms of what you can do for a person and you really just kind of have to adapt to the plan of care and that plan of care you might have a say in it but it's not really it's not up to you. That's I think is more appealing for people who would like to go on to have just a greater role in decision making for four patients plan of care.


Travis: So if you could advise somebody who's coming up who wants to be a nurse like maybe she's 18 years old high school senior getting ready to graduate give advice to her and then maybe you have a crew changer. You know he's been working on something that's not super related to nursing but he wants to go back and loves the flexibility of becoming a nurse wants to go back to get you know a nursing degree either as many already have a bachelor's degree let's say. What were the two paths look like for that person in terms of what you would recommend for them to try to keep costs down or get the best degree to become a nurse?

Travis: Like what would you suggest?

Jenna: For someone who's starting off right out of high school I would certainly recommend getting a bachelor's degree instead of doing it as soon as possible. Like if you would at a community college or something. The cost of a bachelor's degree is worth it. Absolutely in the sense that you will never have to return to school if you don't want to. It can be a terminal degree for a very successful and pretty lucrative career around the country. You can stay and you can even go up the clinical ladder in terms of more management positions with a BSN. It's certainly not restrictive in any way of what you can do as a nurse.

Jenna: I would not really say to anybody that a master's degree to work as a bedside nurse is necessary in any way.

Travis: Sure.

Jenna: I wouldn't recommend it just a habit. Looking back I don't regret the path that I took but I wouldn't recommend it either.

Cost of Education

Jenna: That I could have done it for a lot less money.

Travis: So for somebody listening out there. Your suggestion is to find the cheapest program possible and go there? Or what would you say?

Jenna: Well you want to make sure that the education that you're getting is an excellent one.

Jenna: You don't want to just learn the basics you want to learn it in the capacity of what nursing is evolving into as a profession.

Nursing Role Today

Jenna: It's a pretty ever changing atmosphere in terms of what nurses can and can't do and traditionally it was a pretty docile profession and it certainly is no longer and there's really a role in any aspect of health care for nurses and so you want to make sure that you understand that and you understand the changing role of nursing in today's age because it certainly doesn't look like anything that nursing used to be.

Jenna: In that sense education is truly important so I wouldn't say I would say no don't pick the cheapest option but do keep it in mind about your end goal and the thing about it is like you don't really know what your goals can be until you really see all of these options for nursing.

Jenna: You know I work in a very large hospital and  there's nurses in every corner of the hospital and they work in epidemiology, and they work in administration, and they just do all kinds of things and I going into nursing school I had no idea that those were options with a degree I was receiving.

Travis: That's really interesting.

Jenna: Ultimately those roles are not really attainable unless you do bedside nursing first because that really is it's the basics it's learning the skills it's learning the mindset it's just learning the profession and by bedside nursing I mean like caring for patients throughout the day on a shift that you do.

Travis: For sure. Well, so it sounds like since so many of these opportunities are at not for profit hospitals that if you're gonna go get advanced education it's super important to look at the note. The promissory note of the thing that you're signing to take on that debt to go to that program. Really. Another thing to think about too is if you're going to do like a part-time thing to not have to take out as much debt you might not actually have to do that. Like if the loan rules say that PSLF is an option when you're signing up for your loans.

Travis: Basically what you want to do is just look at the note you're signing to accept the debt and just see if this is public service loan forgiveness in there and if it does then you'd probably be better off having that schooling actually happen in a short window as possible and borrowing to fund all of that education and not going to work part-time while you're taking the educational path getting done quickly and then going back to work so you can get your PSLF credit started quicker.

Travis: I think that there are so many cool things that can happen for nurses that really understand all of the options out there that exist for nurses because of this public service loan program and it won't exist forever. I think that at some point it will be cut for future borrowers but for current borrowers, there are going to school. This is absolutely an option and you know Jenna like we were talking on our show here today.

Travis: It's gonna be an option that's going to be very very beneficial for you and basically cuts the cost of your nursing journey down from what it is currently to like the equivalent of like a cheap bachelor's degree. If everything works out the way we expect which is really kind of amazing isn't it.

403 (b)

Jenna: Yeah. It's awesome.

Travis: Is there a chance it doesn't work out the way we expect. Yes, it's a small chance. So, in that case, Jenna like putting aside that money in that brokerage account on top of your 403 (b). Like if you're already putting away as much as you can into your for 403 (b) then absolutely put money into a brokerage account and have that money be there just in case you need to throw a bunch of money at the debt.

Pay As You Earn

Jenna: I think the scariest part of just a Pay As You Earn kind of plan is having that much interest build up behind you.

Travis: Yeah that's absolutely the case. The issue here though is that that interest grows at a linear rate. So for example usually people with credit cards they're used to like compounding interest and for page one or any of these income-driven repayment programs the interest grows at a linear rate instead of a compounded rate thanks to the government program. All right. That means that you don't really have to worry that much about the interest as long as you have a high savings rate.

Nursing Personalities

Travis: So that would be the thing that I would say like if you're a nurse you're probably a pretty reasonable person right. Would you say that most of your nursing friends are like kind of relatively down to earth people or are they all like you know brand new cars and super expensive houses or something.

Jenna: No they're pretty reasonable.

Travis: Right. I mean like I feel like if you had to deal with like cleaning bodily fluids in some cases like you're probably like a fairly down to earth person. Because my my mom's a nurse and so it takes a different kind of personality. And so that's cool. We already have some of these natural frugal inclinations. So if you utilize the loan rules in the smartest way possible then you can do a ton of really cool things around growing your net worth and having your loans be managed in the most efficient way possible. So just a last little bit here for the show Jenna. If you had no student loans at all. How would that make you feel? What would you be doing with your life?

Life Without Student Loans

Jenna: If I had no student loans I would save a lot more and I would. I don't know I think it would allow you to kind of dictate your own personal life in a way that is not really attainable. You could go on more vacations, you could save. You could be more generous when you're giving gifts. It's just kind of something that wouldn't it chain you to your bank account necessarily.

Benefits of PSLF

Travis: Sure. So that's a fantastic segway to say that the only impact of your student loans should be like $250-$400 a month if you can swing that then all of those things that you talked about doing. If you can cut out expenses and other parts of your budget you can actually achieve every one of those things. Which is actually very exciting. So as long as you can swing that slight additional cost just take that off of your salary. Pretend you're making a little bit lower salary and then you can basically live like you don't have a lot of student loan debt and achieve all those things that you're talking about.

Travis: I'm very excited that you were on the show today. We really want to thank you Jenna. You know if you are in our end which has a lot of student loan debt you know obviously we do plans kind of like this that are very custom in detail. So just go to student loan planner/help to read more about those plans. I think that the exciting thing is that we're getting this information out there right Jenna. So you know more of the friends that you went to nursing school with and just more of your colleagues. There are probably hundreds of thousands of nurses out there that could benefit from public service loan forgiveness that are not currently benefiting simply because they don't understand the rules.

Travis: Right. Which is totally crazy. Thanks again for being on the show Jenna, and if you are an RN with student loans start saving money now.

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