Today I had to face reality….it’s payback time. 4 years since completing medical school, my wife got that dreaded call today. “Doctor….pay up!”
I remember sitting in my financial counselor’s office 8 years ago. “Just think of these loans as an investment into your future.” That was one of the most common lines I got. Another common one was “Oh, you’ll be a doctor, paying these back will be nothing for you.” Those quotes among others always sat in the back of my head so I never worried about paying loans back. Honestly, it was just some nebulous thing to me. I comprehended that loans were a real entity. To me it was something like a fairy tale and I figured that one day the loans would just disappear. Oh was I wrong!
Now that I am on the other side of the loans (the paying back side as opposed to the receiving side) I certainly have a different take on things. Although I am very satisfied with the medical schools both my wife and I went to, my advice to premeds has changed from “just go where you’ll be happy and don’t worry about the money” to “which school will be cheapest for you, no matter what school you go to, you’ll get out what you put in”. I know this sounds rather harsh. “How dare Dr. Dale tell us not to be happy!!!”. I assure you that is not what I am saying. The truth of the matter is that when considering your happiness, you have little to no idea how happy you will be in medical school until you start. Medical School is an entirely different ball game from college. While you still have tons of fun, you’re expected to also do something called studying. There are tests, anatomy labs, and national exams that will bring more stress on you than you may have ever experienced. There is more to conisder in choosing a medical school than happiness! Do consider the cost, the type of teaching curriculum that best fits you, and the average scores the school gets on national exams. Now, in the end, you’ll get through it all in one piece and probably with a smile on your face, but that smile just might be wiped away 8 yrs later when it’s payback time.
My payback time has arrived. The smile was wiped off my face for a good 30 minutes this afternoon as I discussed our payment plan. What I once thought was a nebulous and ambiguous loan number has now materialized. As I spoke with the loan collector a few things ran through my mind: 1) This is why everyone wants to go into the high paying fields and as long as loans are this high, Obamacare or not, the health care system will be in a jam; 2) Did they tell me I’d end up owing this much??? and finally 3) Can I get a loan to payback my loans?
To conclude, I urge all premeds and medical students to be savvy with your finances. Don’t take out extra loans to keep up with the Jones during medical school. And finally, what I have to keep reminding myself of; it’s just money, don’t be a slave to it. (Matthew 6:24).