Two of Student Loan Planner’s consultants – Justin Harvey and Lauryn Williams – are each married to a physician. Harvey’s marriage to an anesthesiologist has given him unique insight into the challenges and demands of residency.
Williams’ physician husband is done with residency and has been practicing for five years as a radiation oncologist.
When one spouse is a physician, the marriage has its highs and lows and its own unique financial trajectory. They both have had to figure out how to balance a relationship and family life with a physician spouse, and they’re sharing their best advice.
Why physicians shouldn’t ignore student loan debt
Student Loan Planner has long-since recognized the emotional and mental impact of student loan debt.
As a physician, a degree of compartmentalization happens as a survival mechanism. “You have so much of your brain space and emotional energy dedicated to your vocation of medicine,” said Harvey.
“Things that would really be the biggest thing – like hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that’s getting higher every day as the interest piles up – you have to not think about it so you can get through your shift or residency.”
Williams hears the same message from physicians. They often wait until after they’ve finished residency to reach out for a consultation with Student Loan Planner. But physicians don’t realize they could be making big mistakes by ignoring their debt during residency.
Specifically, by waiting, they may be missing out on valuable payments that could qualify for forgiveness during their residency years.
“What I’d love to encourage physicians to do is to deal with them once on the front-end,” said Williams. “I understand that you have to compartmentalize, but you don’t want to do so at the risk of maybe missing out on something that is really going to help you, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.”
Anesthesiologists and student loan debt
In addition to his work at Student Loan Planner, Harvey runs a financial planning firm with a focus on anesthesiologists and pain doctors. There’s a specific strategy to repay student loans when you become an anesthesiologist, and it depends on your career path.
“Anesthesia is about a 50/50 split between physicians who go into academic medicine and ones who go into big or small private groups,” said Harvey. “And that’s obviously a dividing line for PSLF purposes.”
When you’re considering PSLF or taxable forgiveness, you must understand the local options in different parts of the country where you’ll be practicing anesthesia. Some cities or regions are dominated by one type of group or another.
“You may find you’re doing great for PSLF and you go to another part of the country and the practices you’re most excited about are private practices,” said Harvey. This will be a real problem for you because private practice employment doesn’t qualify for PSLF.
Refinancing physician student loans
Student Loan Planner puts a significant emphasis on federal student loans and repayment plans. Federal plans are complicated and difficult to understand – and with 11 repayment plans to choose from, it’s tough to know which is the right one for you.
But sometimes, refinancing your federal loans into private loans and paying them off makes the most sense.
Even if you don’t qualify for PSLF and the math says that waiting 20 or 25 years for taxable forgiveness will save you the most money, sometimes you want to get that debt off your plate.
For example, high-income earning physicians might spend an extra $100,000 to pay off their student loans, but it could get them out of debt up to three or more years earlier.
Your mental health is an essential consideration in your repayment strategy. “If you cannot get over the fact that you’re carrying this debt and it’s just following you around like a ball and chain, peace of mind is a very important thing, and it is frequently worth paying for,” said Williams.
As a consultant, “you can’t underestimate the power or the importance of asking your client ‘how do you feel about this,’” said Williams.
Physicians face unique challenges
Physicians give themselves to their work with such intensity, passion, and compassion. It creates a unique skill set to serve people well. The financial burden you must take on to provide those services to the public is significant.
“To all the physicians out there – thank you for all you do,” said Williams.
“We want to provide every resource that we possibly can to make this road – this journey for you as positive and optimistic and uplifting and financially feasible as we possibly can,” said Harvey.
If you’re looking for a student loan plan, book a consult with one of our consultants. They’ll craft a repayment strategy to fit your individual circumstances to ease your student loan debt anxiety.