Debt changes your life.
It chips away at your income, and it limits the things you’re able to do.
For recent pharmacy grads, the problem is particularly daunting: the average pharmacy student graduates with $160,000 of debt.
Over the course of 10 years, that debt will demand a $1,700 monthly payment, and it will cost more than $50,000 in interest. The resulting $213,000 payoff equals the price of a home in some areas of America.
Sadly, we don’t often recognize the negative impact of debt until we’re out from under it. Pharmacists’ lives are full of trips they can’t take and things they can’t buy because they’re bogged down in monthly payments.
The other problem is that people who have achieved financial freedom hesitate to share their own stories for fear of sounding like they’re bragging.
I’m taking that chance because I’ve worked myself out of a financial crisis, and I understand the freedom of living without debt. My wife and I committed to live like residents to pay off our $200,000 in debt, and our lives are completely different as a result.
It’s a little like people who share weight loss stories: If you’re already at your desired weight, it’s possible to be happy for a friend who achieves success. If, however, you’re fighting the same battle, it’s easy to feel defeated or resentful at the news.
The problem is that we mistakenly believe that we aren’t capable of paying off debt. We assume that people who accomplish such a large feat had financial help; that they got a windfall of money from somewhere; or that their situation wasn’t nearly as dire as our own.
I’m telling you that it’s possible.
It’s hard, but it’s possible, and the payoff (pun intended) is enormous.
Choose a Student Loan Goal
When you’re trying to do something challenging, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing it.
Goals give people a sense of purpose. They help us maintain our motivation and measure our progress.
When your motivation dwindles, remind yourself why you’re working to get out of debt.
During the early years of our marriage, my wife and I had multiple demands on our finances. Though we had committed to live off of one paycheck and use the other to pay off debt, I was often tempted to use the second check for other things like unexpected expenses.
In those moments, my wife reminded me of our “why.” We wanted the freedom to travel anywhere in the world, and to donate to charities that are important to us.
Goals also improve our morale, especially as we begin to see the fruits of our efforts.
As with the weight loss metaphor, early success motivates us to continue working.
Fully Live Your Pharmacist Salary
Pharmacists frequently tell me that they feel like they’ve missed out on opportunities because of their financial burdens: opportunities to travel or try new things.
The problem is particularly acute for those who have families.
The truth is that debt traps us. It doesn’t just keep us from things, it also shackles us to our jobs.
Once you’ve paid off your debt, you’ll truly experience your pharmacist salary for the first time. You’ll earn money that you can spend however you see fit, and you’ll be in control of your financial future.
My wife and I paid off our debt by living like residents, and even now we haven’t significantly changed our way of living. We can’t immediately afford everything we want or need, but we can usually afford them pretty quickly.
When our washer and dryer went out at the same time, we allocated funds, and we were able to replace them without using a credit card. We did the same thing when our dishwasher broke down immediately after.
Eliminating our debt has increased our buying power and allowed us to seize opportunities to travel and do other things we enjoy. We are able to do things faster and make better financial decisions because we have the means to pay for the things we need.
Understand your student loan options
Many of us are hesitant to discuss our finances with other people.
Money is a personal topic anyway. Debt feels almost taboo, so we navigate our finances alone, and we resign ourselves to living with debt.
We continue to resent the people who free themselves from it, and we accept the belief that our situation is just too hard.
You aren’t alone in this. You aren’t alone in your financial burdens, and you aren’t alone in your work to eliminate them.
One of the easiest first steps is to explore ways to make your loans easier to manage. Just as you understand aspects of pharmacy that your customers don’t understand, there are financial experts who understand aspects of student loans that you don’t understand.
I recently took a course in student loan management from my friends at Your Financial Pharmacist, and reviewed the whole thing in a blog post. The course was a great primer to discover options for becoming financially independent.
The course addresses strategies you may not even be aware of and helps you find the approach that best fits your situation. If you have any student loan debt at all, check out my review of the course to see how much it can save you over the life of your loans.
Debt absolutely changes your life.
I know from experience that getting out of debt changes your life, too.
Which one sounds better to you?
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.