Author Topic: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!  (Read 5504 times)

In the hole

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Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« on: September 14, 2014, 09:18:05 AM »
Just checked up on my student loans today: 150K in debt so far, with two years of medical school to go.

I find myself paradoxically with less motivation to be frugal the further in debt I become. Every cup of coffee and lunch I buy at the cafeteria does add to the total, but all it does is increase my debt from one number I can't even fathom to a different number i can't fathom. The rational part of me does realize that that coffee is being bought at 6.8% interest that I won't be able to even start paying down for another 6 years, but mostly my perspective has become "what's another dollar?". I even started paying for cable this year ($18/month through the football season at least.)

I felt like the "your debt is an emergency" article really spoke to me, but my debt is an emergency that's going to continue unabated for the next decade or so at the very least, and to be honest I can already feel my frugality muscles fatiguing. Any of you guys in med school or residency have any advice on how to stay the course?

BeardedLady

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2014, 10:39:29 AM »
Having graduated optometry school with $115K of student loan debt, I know how easy it is to get into that mindset even when you should know better. As a doctor, you know that you will be an intern with a crappy salary followed by a resident with a slightly less crappy salary for quite some time before you can really tackle that giant pile of debt. Depending on what specialty you decide to pursue, maybe even tack on a few more years for additional training. The fact is, being an MD is not set up for the fast track of FIRE as well as some other professions. You will have a delayed start to the income potential of your career on top of starting in the hole. Now that I have gotten through all the whining, let's move on to the more optimistic part of this post.

This is a completely psychological problem that can be overcome. You know logically that your hair is on fire and that every small purchase DOES make a difference, but you have not been able to separate your logical abilities from emotions caused by the oppressive black hole of debt. You had "a lot of debt" before that last coffee, and you still have "a lot of debt" after, no change psychologically. At the 2-year point, you are in the darkest spot of the tunnel, but there is a light at the end. You have to keep the short-term financial goal of keeping debt to a minimum in mind with every purchase so your long-term goals of financial independence can be achieved sooner. Track your spending to see just how much damage you are doing with each coffee (or other frivolous purchase). Make yourself a budget if you haven't already, and if you can't quit "cold turkey," include a small amount of spending money for yourself for a month or two. If you drink fancy coffee beverages every day, cut down to 1 per week at first. (But you really should try to quit "cold turkey" if at all possible. Your hair is on fire, after all!)

You probably went into medicine for reasons other than the money, so think about your life and career goals along with your financial goals. How will reaching your financial goals faster help you in your other endeavors? That's what it's really all about in the end. Good luck!


mcneally

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2014, 11:39:04 AM »
Any of you guys in med school or residency have any advice on how to stay the course?

I'm not in med school, but I have some advice...don't worry about being frugal to the point that many/most people here are. Your real earning years are several years off, but spending a few extra $k/ year during your years of med school/ residency is going to push back your FI date by a few MONTHS. I would think that this part of your life kind of sucks (working very long hours) and if cafeteria lunches and cable makes it more comfortable for you, go for it.

After residency, you're looking at what, $150k minimum salary? If you remain reasonable then, you're looking at maybe 3 years to get student loans paid off and another 5-10 to FI. I assume you wouldn't subject yourself to med school and residency if you didn't want to doctor at least that long.

If frugality is more a principled thing that makes you feel good about yourself, whatever floats your boat. 
« Last Edit: September 14, 2014, 12:01:22 PM by mcneally »

plank

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2014, 11:50:07 AM »
Also not a doctor, but I would work backwards.  Come up with an ambitious, but realistic debt total you would finish med school with then draw up a monthly budget that allows you to end up there.  It's not ideal, but it keeps your sanity and keeps your spending in check.

Just my 2 cents.

DFJD

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2014, 06:11:46 PM »
I'm not a doctor - I'm a lawyer - but I know what it means to have a stressful and demanding job.  I'm also paying back large law school loans right now, and so I'm finally living with the consequences of the choices (good and bad) I made during law school.

Here's what I'd say: when I find myself spending $$ on stupid stuff (now or in law school) it's usually because I'm worn out.  The frugality muscles are tired because I'M TIRED - I've worked too hard, my brain's fried, and so I buy an expensive coffee. Or a nice dinner.  Or whatever. 

The solution for me is: get some more sleep, stay away from the computer for a bit, spend some time lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, and otherwise just genuinely decompress and give the noggin a rest.  Rinse and repeat.  Frugality muscle (and everything else) are usually better for it. 

LowER

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2014, 06:57:39 PM »
Doc here, 10 years out.  Salaries for docs are only going to go down.  I sympathize with your generation greatly - unprecedented debt going into ever-reducing income.

YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!!

And it isn't going to get magically better any time soon.

I understand the work-and-read-into-delirious exhaustion mindset and how that can translate into "I deserve _____ because I have worked so much harder than anyone I've ever heard of and I still drive the worst car, have the worst _____ AND HAVE NO LIFE, while everyone else you know is whooping it up.

You have given up the best years of your life, though less so than before the work hour limits.

You will always have a comfortable income, with outrageous debt, and will do fine if you can not do the typical stupid doctor things: huge house, country club, private schools, new cars, super stupid alternative "killer" investments, etc.

Get frugal.  Stay frugal.  Stay frugal.  Stay frugal. Stay frugal.  One house, one spouse.  And you will do very well, but if you intend to live like the historical rich doctor, you will work and be broke for your entire life.

I am near the peak of my earning capacity as a subspecialist (and not far from the top earners in medicine) and only adhered to the above advice in recent years, and get most of my clothes from Goodwill, never eat out, basic cable (working on get rid of this), have no debt except mortgage, 10 and 12 year old cars that we intend to drive for another 10, small house, haircuts at home, no Starbucks, no car washes, no airplane vacations, Charlies bulk clothes washer soap, to just mention a very few of the new standard of living adjustments that are now second nature.

My advice: suck it up now and/or suck it up later.  And I say that with the greatest sympathy.

Left

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2014, 07:19:39 PM »
I've worked out the "med school" math for myself back when I was in college, and my sister is now doing her residency, math worked out like how I did it. It's nice having an actual person to compare it with, but that said MY math didn't work with my sister's plans which is why she is now a doctor (resident) and I'm not.

Getting out of college at 25 (a few years later than "average" but meh) and making only 50k/year, I've found that I can be FI by 40 (45 in my case since I want an extra 500k as a buffer) while only working 40 hours a week. As you know med school is "working" more than 40 hours a week (if you counted hours put into school) and residency is definitely more than 40 hours a week (60-80 on average). So if I worked 60+ hours for 5-8 years, I could retire at age 38 or 40 with the buffer I wanted instead of 45. This is how I worked out  the math. My sisters case is that if she finished residency and will make at least 150k/year but she lived like she did in residency (paid at 60k/year) she could FI within 8-10 years after paying off her loans and she would also be age 40. But if she did this, she would only have a working career for 8-10 years. Does she plan on being a "real" (as in done with all schooling/training) doctor for just that short of a time? No, she didn't spend 20+ years (from 1st grade to finish) just to work 8-10 years of her life. As such, she doesn't care to FI/ER and so she plans to save slowly until "retirement" at 60 and in the mean time live on her full $150k (minus taxes/savings). She plans to "enjoy" being a doctor while spending the money that comes with it and she'll still have her $millions at 60.

Anyways, not sure how you'll plan to get rid of loans (10 year public service forgiveness/army/etc), but you'd be able to pay it off quickly if you live the first few years like you were still in residency instead of spending money like the "average" doctor. I mean residency pay isn't that little, it's still 50-60k/year which is better than the national average per family. Even if you don't plan to retire early, get to FI by 40 and you can focus on your practice and not have to "rely" on seeing as many patients just to make monthly payments for your lifestyle.

edit: @above, I don't believe in the "I worked harder for  _____ years and deserve to spend more" mentailty, tell that to the minimum wage workers, they work no less hard than doctors but will never make as much to spend... and based on this, doctors should consider themselves lucky and should learn to save the excess, but it doesn't happen for most
« Last Edit: September 14, 2014, 07:25:18 PM by eyem »

Abe

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2014, 08:09:59 PM »
Surgery resident here. I agree with LowER completely. You will earn a lot, but not enough to be partying on a yacht. If you keep a resident/med student lifestyle after residency, you will be completely fine regardless of amount of debt.

LowER

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2014, 08:41:50 PM »
edit: @above, I don't believe in the "I worked harder for  _____ years and deserve to spend more" mentailty, tell that to the minimum wage workers, they work no less hard than doctors but will never make as much to spend... and based on this, doctors should consider themselves lucky and should learn to save the excess, but it doesn't happen for most

I paid for every bit of my post high school education, and much of that was by doing minimum wage, or close, jobs that I poured a lot of sweat, blood, and tears into, and I can assure you that the emotional and physical and friendship and familial tolls were exponentially more challenging on the doctor side of the equation, and they still are.  Saying that minimum wage workers work no less hard than doctors is magical thinking make believe, no thinking involved.

Please let us know how your sister feels about this particular opinion of yours.

I do agree with you that doctors should consider themselves lucky and should learn to save the excess, and I agree with the rest of post as well. 
« Last Edit: September 14, 2014, 08:44:38 PM by LowER »

FuckRx

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2014, 10:38:19 PM »

6 years out family doc here making 350k working about 50 hours a week and would make about 275k working 40 hours. I don't believe that student loan debt for med school is an emergency. I will tell you that the mental energy you need to expend to just get through med school is so much that you won't have much to exercise those frugality muscles. but once you are out it will come back if you had it. if you never had it like yours truly well then it takes a few years, a few hummers, rolex, movado's and leather bullshit to sort it out.

i love being a doctor and i'd do it for a lot less but don't tell anyone. i never expected or cared to make this much. so stay focused on how much you love it and stick with only what you love. if a family doc can make what i can make you can imagine what other specialties can. it's actually a sad reflection of our society that doctors make this much but that's my humble and irrelevant opinion. it should certainly drive us to dedicate our FIRE years to giving back with our skills. enough about the moral stuff. here comes one of my shitty analogies: if you bought a business for 300-500k and it made you 250k+ a year would that be a good business to buy? i've owned a business before and i'd say yes. so you are investing in a business, you aren't leasing a hummer that you gonna guzzle around to impress nobody.

hope you end up loving everything as much as some of us did. enjoy the years after med school, it gets only better.

mcneally

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2014, 11:02:54 PM »
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« Last Edit: September 14, 2014, 11:29:24 PM by mcneally »

HopetoFIRE

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2014, 12:28:02 AM »
I agree with what LowER said.  I really feel for the new medical school grads who are racking up to $300k for 4 year of med school and come out owing all that with a 6% interest.  I would have no clue how to pay it back.  With that said, it's hard to tell you exactly what kind of urgency you should feel with your debt.  How much is your tuition?  If you are paying $60k a year for tuition, then there may not be much you can do about your debt.  If you are paying $30k for tuition, what are you doing with the rest of the money?  It may be time for you to track where your money is going.  Also, what specialty you are going to go in to?  If radiology, less worry.  If primary care, probably need to get that debt in more control.

I am also in primary care making really good money (see FuckRX's post).  However, I can't say that it is the typical salary, so I would not hang your hat on that.  In order to make that much, you would need to see more than the average number of patient and work more than average numbers of hours.  You are constantly worried about how many patients you need to see per day and whether or not it will keep going (because like I said, it is not a typical salary).  You will still make good money even if you earn the average salary, no doubt.  However, owing $300k when you are done is a huge amount of money!  I owed ~$150k, paying $700/mo over 25 years at 1.625%  I'm dragging it on as long as possible due to the low interest rate.  If you owe $300k (plus interest that will accrue in residency) at 6% over 10 years, that is how much?  $3500/mo?  Yikes!  If you are a primary care physician earning $150k a year, you will get $8-9k per month post tax?  That's a huge percentage of your salary going to debt.  What if you have kids, a mortgage, etc?  That is limiting your cashflow by quite a bit. 

I also have to disagree with eyem.  Sure there are people who work harder physically or more than doctors do and not earn as much.  However, I can't say that I didn't work harder than a lot of people who earn minimum wage.  My sister did not go to med school and does not earn what I make.  She definitely did not work as hard as I did to get where she is.  I do count my blessings that I have the ability to make good money and am trying to save as much as I can though.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2014, 12:32:53 AM by HopetoFIRE »

ragnathor

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2014, 12:34:18 PM »

6 years out family doc here making 350k working about 50 hours a week and would make about 275k working 40 hours. I don't believe that student loan debt for med school is an emergency. I will tell you that the mental energy you need to expend to just get through med school is so much that you won't have much to exercise those frugality muscles. but once you are out it will come back if you had it. if you never had it like yours truly well then it takes a few years, a few hummers, rolex, movado's and leather bullshit to sort it out.


Congrats to FuckRx on your financial success as a family doc, but I think you are the exception at 350k, not the norm. I would caution against anyone expecting to make that kind of money unless you are planning to do a surgical sub-specialty. I'm an anesthesia resident here. Expected average salary is well below that and continuing to drop.

Future projections are difficult and I encourage you to assume you are going to make the low-end of your chosen specialty, especially with healthcare changing as it is. This way you are not set up for disappointment in terms of your  goals for FIRE and will have a pleasant surprise if your salary is greater than expected. As others have said, if you can refrain from buying the mansion house, boat, and fancy car you will be way ahead of 90%+ of your colleagues financially regardless of what specialty you choose. A few extra cups of coffee and eating out here and there make a difference, but they are much less significant the long run.

Try to make the most of your time. Medical school/residency is a long road so go see friends, travel when you can (if that's your thing), and stay in shape even if it costs a few extra dollars. It's a long road and too many think of it as a sacrifice, try to enjoy the journey.

Fuzz

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2014, 09:30:21 PM »
I'm not a doctor - I'm a lawyer - but I know what it means to have a stressful and demanding job.  I'm also paying back large law school loans right now, and so I'm finally living with the consequences of the choices (good and bad) I made during law school.

Here's what I'd say: when I find myself spending $$ on stupid stuff (now or in law school) it's usually because I'm worn out.  The frugality muscles are tired because I'M TIRED - I've worked too hard, my brain's fried, and so I buy an expensive coffee. Or a nice dinner.  Or whatever. 

The solution for me is: get some more sleep, stay away from the computer for a bit, spend some time lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, and otherwise just genuinely decompress and give the noggin a rest.  Rinse and repeat.  Frugality muscle (and everything else) are usually better for it.

This. I'm also a JD. When I get tired or hungry my willpower goes. The book Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney has a lot of data to back this up.

If you can get through the next couple years, I wouldn't beat yourself up too much over whether you pack that lunch or buy it in the cafeteria. Be strategic about where you spend your brain juice.

DrSweden

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2014, 10:53:19 PM »
Surgery resident here. I agree with LowER completely. You will earn a lot, but not enough to be partying on a yacht. If you keep a resident/med student lifestyle after residency, you will be completely fine regardless of amount of debt.

There you have it! I am a resident in psychiatry. All around me there are colleagues who spend everything they make. The salary increases from intern to resident to specialist. Keep your spendings low, save the most. You don't need to go skiing x 3 during the winter. Sail during the summer and go to weekend trips for shopping. Instead save, invest and your student loan won't be a problem for you. In 10 years you will be FI. Then you will work in the hospital because you want to and don't really have to follow every crazy direction they give you. That is my plan and it is going to be sweet. Since I love what I do I have no plan to stop working, I like helping people with mental diseases and getting paid good money doing it.

Abe

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Re: Med school is sapping my frugality drive, help!
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2014, 08:15:27 PM »
I'm rotating with one of the senior surgeons at our hospital system, and he pretty much does what he wants. Since he doesn't have to deal with nonsense and paperwork (us residents do it gladly just to learn from him), he loves his job. That's the best scenario, and seeing how we drive the same (old) car, I'm sure he can retire tomorrow if he so desired.