When you take out student loans you are investing in your future, but sometimes the future doesn’t feel so bright when you can feel the weight of your student debt hanging over your shoulders. For those of you in the medical field, you know this feeling. The class of 2018 owed, on average, $196,520 per graduate– repayment plans for loans of that size can take up to 30 years. Fortunately, these debts can be managed with a little knowledge and preparation.

Start Your Loan Payments ASAP

We strongly recommend making headway on your repayments as soon as possible. Many medical school graduates opt for forbearance during their residencies because they want to save some spending money in the moment, but interest will continue to accrue during that forbearance period. Instead, switch to an income-based repayment plan during your residency. You’ll be able to make smaller loan payments, determined as a percentage of your monthly income. Just remember to restructure your repayment plan after residency– 10% of your discretionary income will look a lot bigger when your salary rises from $60,000 to $160,000 (or more).

Consider Loan Forgiveness or Refinancing

You may want to consider seeking loan forgiveness. With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, doctors willing to work in the public sector or underserved areas for a certain period of time are granted loan forgiveness as compensation. This is a particularly attractive option if you’re dealing with a high debt-to-income ratio. Conversely, if you have job security and a low debt-to-income ratio you should look into refinancing your loans. If you have job security and a higher income you are a lower risk to loan providers and you can renegotiate lower interest rates. 

Pair all of this advice with a smart budget and some thrifty spending and hopefully those beastly student loans you amassed in medical school will feel a little less intimidating and a little more manageable.