As I mentioned recently, I’m in the midst of an aggressive debt payoff marathon. I’ve paid off a significant amount so far (nearly $10,000) but unfortunately, I have many times that amount to go.
The vast majority of our debt is my husband’s medical school loans, which are in the high $300,000 range. However, we also have student loan debt from two master’s degrees and some undergraduate loan debt. All together, our debt totals above half a million dollars.
I’ll pause while your heart palpitations slow down. Don’t worry; it’s my debt, not yours. You can breathe again. 😉
Medical School Debt is Crippling
According to the Association of American Medical Collages, the average medical school student graduates with about $180,000 of medical school debt. Add in the expense of going to a private school (and a foreign school) and having two children along the way, and my husband’s debt far exceeds that.
Most people don’t realize how expensive it is to go to medical school these days and that there are so many extra costs, like paying for very expensive board exams and the extremely high cost of applying to residency programs.
Sometimes even medical students themselves think all of these high numbers aren’t that big of a deal because doctors will eventually make high incomes. The debt becomes normalized as part of the process, which is dangerous because even with a high income, this level of debt is hard to conquer.
That said, I’m not scared of our debt load because I’m very aware of all of the risks but also the rewards. Sometimes I get weighed down by the amount of interest that accrues each day on that high amount, but I know I’m on the right track and paying off much more debt each month than our peers.
I also kind of geek out over working on our debt spreadsheet. I love the feeling of knocking it down one little bit at a time. I actually think it’s fun to do budgets and figure out just how much I can pay it down. Aside from the fact that I delight in challenges and enjoy working on our finances, here’s another big reason why I don’t mind his six figure debt:
His Debt is My Debt
We talked about what a surprise debt can sometimes be for a newly married couple on Frugal Rules recently, and I’m going to add to that conversation. My husband and I believe that any debt we have or any money we earn is ours together. We have all joint accounts, and although it’s just his name is on his debt, I still treat it as though it’s my responsibility too.
After all, we agreed together that he would apply to medical school. We knew the costs ahead of time, and we sat down and did worst case scenario projections when it came to salary and debt repayment. The numbers still came out on the side of going to medical school, so we went for it.
I use “we” a lot when I talk about his medical school journey, because although he went through the absolutely brutal education process by himself, it took both of us fighting through it together to ensure he did well, had everything he needed to succeed, and matched into a residency program.
While he studied late into the night, I sat next to him growing my freelance writing business. While he studied for his board exams, I took on extra work to pay for the $800 fees to sign up for the tests. While he spent 12 hours in the hospital every day during his third year of medical school, I spent my time working and growing his residency application fund to a whopping $6,000 so he could apply to as many residency programs as he wanted. I even cash flowed a study abroad trip for him so he could go to India for three weeks and work in a hospital over there.
As you can see, medical school was a joint journey and now debt repayment is a joint journey. While I tend to manage and handle our day to day finances, we still make big decisions together when it comes to our finances.
Where to Go From Here
My husband graduated from medical school last month and secured a residency spot in a surgical specialty that will earn a high income once he finishes. Although he has four more years of training to go, he is finally getting paid, even if it’s a small resident’s salary.
We are happy to be at this stage in the journey, and although the work is still intense for him, we both have high hopes for our future.
I won’t pretend like we got along perfectly the past five years while he finished medical school or that we agree on every financial decision. The truth is that there were many highs and lows the past few years and many times we had to take our very stressful circumstances day by day if not hour by hour.
All that hard work paid off. The small business I started while sitting next to him all those nights while he studied now earns a six figure income, and he’ll be earning a six figure income too in just a few short years.
With our incomes combined and our determination to get rid of debt and build our wealth, I estimate we will pay off a half a million dollars worth of debt in approximately 5-7 years, and the best part is that we’ll be able to say we did it together.
How do you feel about paying off your debt? What has your journey been like? Do you have student loan or medical school debt that you’re trying to pay off? What’s your strategy? How do you stay positive and focused on the end goal?