Author Topic: Lasik with student loans?  (Read 8220 times)

Fuzz

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Lasik with student loans?
« on: October 14, 2013, 11:16:00 PM »
About my situation.

I'm 30 and owe approximately $55K on student loans at 6.55 percent. I make 55K a year. I have the potential/expectation to be making 75K within 9-12 months. Typically folks in my career track earn more later in their careers. We'll see. I have minimal retirement savings, about $1K in a 401K. My job is stable so I'm not too worried about draining an emergency fund for a month or two.

I have $4500 in cash at the bank and could get Lasik for $3900. I don't have any CC debt.

Since graduating from grad school 2.5 years ago, I've put about 37 to 39 percent of my after tax income toward student loans (around $40K, of which $15K went to interest). Lots of cheap meals and cheap rent. I know many of other mustachians do better, but this feels pretty good to me. I realize that I have a really freaking long way to go toward FI, but I get in these patterns of thinking about big picture labor market trends, and graduating in a recession, and doing better than a lot of my grad school peers, yet much worse than some, and worse than my parents, and then I get angry and then I realize that anger doesn't do anything for me, anyway, I digress. It's a loop. All I'm saying is that I'm trying to balance working toward FI, but I realized that for me, living like my debt is a house on fire emergency is bad for my mental health.

I figure I spend around $400 to $600 a year on glasses and contacts. I "need" both because I work at a computer and can't wear contacts all day. I ski 40-50 days a year (not mustachian, but I live in a ski town) and hike all summer (hella mustachian), so I wear a sunglasses too a fair amount. Last time I wore contacts I got an eye infection. So I figure Lasik would pay for itself in 6-9 years, and last for another 15-20 before I needed reading glasses (according to the optometrist, everyone needs reading glasses). Plus there is the convenience/pleasure factor. Also, I think there are some favorable tax consequences to doing this now, assuming I can count my insurance premiums, Lasik, and ER visit as medical expenses in excess of 7 percent of my adjusted gross income. So maybe there is a couple hundred dollars in tax savings there. I'm not counting on it.

I'm leaning toward doing it because it would be more convenient, and isn't a horrible idea financially. I'm also optimistic about my earning potential in the next year or so, so I'm OK with taking a break from prioritizing student loans and spending on my present self, so long as it's not completely stupid. This seems like something I can rationalize as an investment.

Any thoughts from the mustachioed horde?
 

dragoncar

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2013, 11:24:33 PM »
I'm not sure I buy the "pays for itself in 6-9 years" part.  You need contacts why?  Can't you wear prescription sunglasses or am I missing something?

I fully admit that I don't wear glasses or contacts, so I don't understand all the costs involved.

However, $400-600 sounds like an absurd amount to spend in that category.  I'd love to hear from other sight-challenged mustachians to see what their visual budget is.

Anyways, my answer is no for two reasons:

1) You don't seem to have a very high savings rate.  Once you are making more money, and saving more, then go for it.  But right now, it's almost all the money you've saved.  You need an emergency fund.

2) Lasik is temporary.  Eventually you will need more Lasik.  And with current technologies, I understand that you can only do it 2-3 times before there is too much scar tissue to continue.  In other words, the longer you delay your first lasik, the better off you are in the long run.


arebelspy

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2013, 11:27:44 PM »
Assuming your numbers are right, and you will save 400-600 annually (though that is a big spread, one number is 50% more than the other!), we'll say $500 on $3900 spent, that's an ROI of 12.8%.

Worth it (again, assuming your numbers are correct), depending on how long it will last (no, it's not a permanent fix - but assuming you're fairly young since you only graduated a few years ago, it should be worth it).

However you should also check and see if the company will finance the LASIK for less than the student loan interest rate.
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Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2013, 11:35:02 PM »
Can you adjust the way you buy contacts for more savings?  Like going to the eyewear equivalent of Costco?  I don't know much about this stuff. 

If Lasik was permanent, I would say "yes, definitely." 

N

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 12:30:37 AM »
my husband wears contacts, a year supply of disposable (2 weeks) lenses cost approx 100$ buying online
an eye exam at costco is 45$ a year.
he has a pair of bifocal glasses that we bought several years ago, iirc, they were 400$, they are surely at least 5 yrs old at this point and still fine. he wears them at night.

the pair of glasses I bought this year from zennioptical.com was 65$ and that is because I have such a strong scrip I need the special lenses. My daughters glasses were 15$.

they do sunglasses there as well.

you may want to research your costs on contacts and glasses.

my SIL had lasik. one eye was fine, but the other didnt take. they tried   a second time. didnt take. she still has to wear glasses for the bad eye.
lasik isnt foolproof.

EK

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 09:02:33 AM »
With your debt, the LASIK is not worth it.  You are currently overpaying for glasses and contacts.  Instead of worrying about LASIK, figure out how to get your glasses and contacts cheaper.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2013, 09:19:13 AM »
I will address the Laser eye surgery.  I got mine almost three years ago.  I went to one of the top eye centers in the country and paid over $1000 less than (I believe I paid $2300) what you are budgeting.  Why?  Because I went to a research eye center and inquired about their studies.  Now normally, I don't recommend medical studies, but this is different.  I was deemed a good candidate for one of their trials and was given the surgery at cost.  The study was comparing the efficacy and comfort of two numbing drops that were both approved and in use in eye centers all over the country.  I had one drop put in one eye and another drop put in the other.  Then I gave them a pain scale of any discomfort before, during, and after the procedure.  They kept me there an extra 45 minutes after the surgery to get another comparison.  That's it.  Some other studies were running at the time including doing one eye with a "custom" laser and the other with the "manual" laser.  They both had really good outcomes.  If there is a top research center near you, I would see if you are a candidate for their medical trials.  I'm super happy with my outcome.

Another thought is whether you could increase your Flexible Spending account to pay for your surgery.  I used two accounts for mine, one that was going to expire by the end of the year, and another that would not expire.  I only paid around $300 out of pocket.

Lastly, I would consider PRK instead of Lasik.  If you are skiing 50 days of the year, you may want to look into the advantages of PRK.  Also, if you have any dry eye issues.  The recovery is longer, but it was the best option for me.   It's not a very scientific sampling, but every doctor/nurse I talked to in the center had PRK instead of Lasik.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 09:21:32 AM by Mrs. Green'stache »

Argyle

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2013, 09:22:27 AM »
I believe 40 is the average age for people starting to need reading glasses.  So factor that into your calculations -- it won't be 15-20 years before you need them, on average, more like 10 years.

footenote

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2013, 11:01:09 AM »

4alpacas

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2013, 12:29:08 PM »
Not worth it.  You have $55k in loans. 

I agree with earlier posters that mention you're overpaying from your glasses and contacts. 

If you're interested in saving money on your contacts, I would recommend using your prescription to purchase contacts online.  I shop around.  I usually buy from VisionDirect because I can get cash back by clicking through FatWallet and money to spend on drugstore.com (where I buy my sunscreen).  If VisionDirect isn't the lowest price, you can get a price match (which is price match + 3%).  I would also recommend looking for coupon codes on Fatwallet.  I can usually find one for 20% off.  I also buy a full year supply at once to get the most money back through rebates (and to qualify for free shipping). 

There are similar ways to save money on glasses, but I don't know if you care. 

RootofGood

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2013, 12:49:11 PM »
Totally worth it given your lifestyle.  I did it almost 10 years ago.  Paid $3000 or so ($2000 after passing the cost through my FSA).  Went from 20/400 (not being able to count fingers held at arms length) to 20/20.  10 years later, I have finally started to have a little less than 20/20, mostly at night or when my eyes are fatigued.  Still a long way from needing to wear glasses for nearsightedness. 

I think I would give up a pinky toe to have the lasik.  That's got to be worth at least $3000. 

Shop around - the price seems a little high.  I thought the price had dropped in the last decade due to the laser beam machines getting cheaper.

Oh, I guess I would have to ask how blind you are.  I might not have done it if I was 20/60 or 20/100.  But when you can't see more than 16" from your face without glasses, it interferes with daily life in my experience.  And if you lose a contact or your glasses, you are screwed.  Did that on a beach trip once and spent the last 2 days listening to sounds and speaking to multicolored blurs that I assume concealed the faces of people that I traveled to the beach with. 

secondcor521

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2013, 12:50:55 PM »
I dunno.  Sounds to me like you want to spend money to make yourself feel better about your debt.  Not a good choice IMHO regardless of the magnitude.

I dispute that your job is stable.  Unless you have an employment contract (and it's doubtful you do, since those seem to be just for high-level executives), in your shoes I would have at least 3 months of savings in an e-fund and then save up for Lasik on top of that.

Over the last five years, I've spent $184.18 on eye care, which was for one pair of eye glasses three years ago.  I work in front of a computer all day also and just wear my glasses.  I do find that the anti-glare coating and high-index lenses are worth it (I'm -7.5 diopters or so, so very nearsighted).  I haven't skied much lately, but if I go skiing I can wear contacts just for the day.  Even if you're doing daily wear, I would be surprised if 40-50 pairs of contacts adds up to that much, but maybe so.

Honestly, it seems like you're rationalizing your purchase.  We all do it and it's totally normal, but I don't think you do yourself any service by trying to argue that it's an investment.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 12:56:37 PM by secondcor521 »

MsSindy

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2013, 01:26:08 PM »
Dude, you have $55k in debt!!  It doesn't matter that it is Student Loan debt, it's still debt!  Don't gloss over this fact - you also don't have much in savings.

You can rationalize any purchase, it doesn't make it right (or wrong, for that matter).  You may want to look at this in totality of your spending habits.  Meaning, if you're awesome in every other category and you think this is the one thing that will keep you sane as you plug along, then that's something only you can decide - if I was that far in debt....I dunno know.

And yes, you're spending far too much on glasses/contacts.

Deano

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2013, 03:31:52 PM »
Well, I have a similar situation to this person, just without the debt. Contact lenses/glasses can be frustrating for sure, I ride/ski/run and it's annoying. That being said, my contact lenses are cheap (maybe 100 a year) and I only wear them when doing the aforementioned activities. Glasses, every 2 years I get 340 towards a pair (basically pays for a new pair). My prescription is too strong for rx sport sunglasses, but if yours is not (lets say -2 to -3 range?) then that is a good option as well. If you have a plan you may get some money as well, look at that, or just buy decent quality in a "classic" frame....they can last many years.


cosmie

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2013, 05:42:46 PM »
I fully admit that I don't wear glasses or contacts, so I don't understand all the costs involved.

However, $400-600 sounds like an absurd amount to spend in that category.  I'd love to hear from other sight-challenged mustachians to see what their visual budget is.
It's on the higher end, but it's not unreasonable - particularly if he's purchasing both glasses and contacts and has multiple issues like near/farsighted and astigmatism. Based on Fuzz's $3,900 estimate for Lasik, I'd presume he does have an astigmatism, as it should be a good $1,000-$1,500 cheaper otherwise. I don't regularly get contacts anymore, but when I did my costs were at the upper end of that range:

$150 - Eye Exam (glasses and contacts fitting). Contact prescriptions are usually only valid for 1 year, so this is a recurring expense. I see an ophthalmologist (an MD) due to family history of adult-onset blindness; could probably be halved with an optometrist. But it will still probably be ~$70, since most places charge separately for glasses exams and contact exams.
$175 - Glasses. My eyes haven't settled, so I need an updated prescription every 12-18 months. With both an astigmatism and nearsightedness, I generally opt for the lense upgrades secondcor521 mentioned. Night driving is unbearable otherwise.
$240 - Contacts. My toric contacts cost $60/box (6 month supply) from Sam's Club, so 4 boxes are needed per year.
$20 - Contact Upkeep stuff. Holder, fluid, eye drops, etc.

That brings it up to $585, which is the high end of his estimate. The only way I see it being more is if you throw in sunglasses (or Transition lenses), designer frames, bifocals, etc.


Hey Fuzz, could you provide any more details about your vision issues? On first inspection, everyone appears to assume you've overinflated/unoptimized your annual costs and so the ROI is off. But based on your expenses and Lasik estimate, I'm going to presume you've got can't-do-anything-without-glasses vision? If so, I'd say go for it! I'm in the same boat as RootofGood in that I can't see a foot away from me without corrective lenses. As such, I plan to get Lasik or PRK as soon as my vision settles; any other debts be damned. The lifestyle improvement alone, not just the cost savings, would be worth it.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 05:44:29 PM by cosmie »

Daleth

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2013, 06:04:29 PM »
Assuming your numbers are right, and you will save 400-600 annually (though that is a big spread, one number is 50% more than the other!), we'll say $500 on $3900 spent, that's an ROI of 12.8%.

Worth it (again, assuming your numbers are correct), depending on how long it will last (no, it's not a permanent fix - but assuming you're fairly young since you only graduated a few years ago, it should be worth it).

However you should also check and see if the company will finance the LASIK for less than the student loan interest rate.

If you want to finance Lasik for less than the student loan rate, get a Discover card. I got one recently because they were having a promo where everything--not just cash advances, but PURCHASES--was at 0% for the first 14 months.

StarryC

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2013, 06:11:49 PM »
What is your goal? 

This isn't necessary.  It would delay the pay off of your loans and your retirement date.  Maybe by 6 months to a year at the most. 

It sounds like your glasses/contacts situation is causing you pain, potentially damaging your eyes with infection, and preventing you from doing other things you enjoy.  Even if financially it isn't an investment, it can still be a fine decision. 

Maybe the way to deal with it in your mind is to finance the surgery at 0% for 6 months- a year (which I think you will probably be offered) and then try to cut other expenses to make the payments, or, even better, cut other expenses to save up for the surgery for 6 months to a year.  It sounds like you aren't cutting other expenses hard (groceries, gas, utilities, etc.)  I would avoid emptying your emergency fund for 2 reasons.  1) You never know when there will be an emergency.  2) Mentally, using the emergency fund money for a non emergency sets a bad mental/ emotional precedent. 

Fuzz

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2013, 06:23:18 PM »
So I'm negative 4.5 and negative 4.75, I think. I can't drive or read a sign without glasses. I have a mild astigmatism in one eye. My eyes have gotten worse over the years.

I actually got evaluated at a Lasik place and they quoted me $3900 after the exam.  I don't think they said I was paying more because of the astigmatism, but maybe that's the case. 

I probably could go much cheaper on my contacts. I'm out right now and I haven't been evaluated for 2 years, so I'll need to get an eval to get the glasses. The last pair of contacts I wore was from a box I'd had for a while (I figured they didn't go bad), and I got an eye infection after wearing them. They just seem like a bit of a hassle, so I am weighing the convenience factor somewhat.

Thanks for all the thoughts guys. I'm still thinking this through.

Oh, BTW, I generally like to have $3000 in an e-fund. If I lost my job, I'd move in with my mom and spend 0 dollars on most things until I got another job. I'd work part time. I have access to all those 0% credit cards too. There is an MMM post about whether you actually need a huge e-fund, and I figure as long as I have the student loans, then I'm I better off saving/paying those down. It's my risk-reward calculator.

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Re: Lasik with student loans?
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2013, 04:19:43 AM »
I was in a similar situation last April when I got Lasik, only I'm 10 years older. Being able to distinguish which 10 year old at the Water Park is my nephew this past summer -- priceless.

But pay cash. Or do the six month 0% CareCredit deal (if it is available).

Not mustachian perhaps, but a serious upswing in the lifestyle category....