Deciding to become an orthodontist is an expensive commitment. We have already learned about Mike Meru (the first orthodontist to be highlighted for his outrageous student loan burden by the Wall Street Journal). Some interesting conclusions have been drawn from Mike’s student loans and Business Insider does a good job of explaining why dentists, doctors, and lawyers are no longer that rich in comparison to their tech or business counterparts. You can read the Business Insider article here.
Recently, another orthodontist called Dave Ramsey to talk about the cost of his education. You can watch the video by clicking on this link or clicking play below.
Dave Ramsey doesn’t offer good advice here. While he offers reasonable advice for most Americans, his reluctance to use one of the income-driven repayment plans to optimize this student’s cashflow is unfortunate. An orthodontist with a seven-figure student loan balance would benefit from Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE). Ignoring that REPAYE exists, and the benefit that the interest subsidy will have for this borrower is negligent.
This borrower is not necessarily doomed because orthodontists have excellent earning potential if they acquire or build a great practice. A reasonable strategy for this borrower would be to:
- Do not consolidate student loans (assuming all loans are direct).
- Enter REPAYE and take advantage of the interest subsidy.
- Spouse improves her income by pursuing a more lucrative position.
- Begin associating at multiple practices part-time, creating a flexible full-time schedule
- After 12-24 months of working full-time and building cash reserves, start searching for an ortho practice to acquire.
- After acquiring the practice, analyze cash flow and decide if it makes financial sense to begin paying down the student loan balance or if the most appropriate strategy is to pursue taxable forgiveness after 25 years.
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A lot of questions surround the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program since 99% of first-time applicants were denied forgiveness in late 2017 and early 2018. Since then, the program has been temporarily expanded and still has problems. You can learn more on NPR here.
The rules about who qualifies and what loans qualify for tax-free forgiveness after ten years of on-time payments are specific, and if you are working for an organization that allows you to pursue PSLF as a dentist, you should be very familiar with the nuances of the program. This week Travis Hornsby at Student Loan Planner, interviewed a married couple who successfully saw a large portion of their loans forgiven under the PSLF program. The episode is worth listening to if PSLF is an option for you. You can find the episode below:
While the program is far from perfect, and borrowers are still confused about its requirements, some people are receiving forgiveness – proof that the program is real and will likely work if you follow the rules.
Many students will be matriculating from dental schools and residencies over the next 2 months, and student loans will be on their minds. Developing a strategy to repay (or at least manage) your loans early is extremely important. If you want to calculated what your monthly payment will be under PAYE or REPAYE, follow the steps outlined in the post.
Recently, there was a post on the Dental Nachos Facebook Group about what schools a young pre-dental student should apply to. You might have seen it. In my opinion, any answer besides the cheapest school with a cap (I put the cap around 300k), is absurd advice to give to a student you know little about, and it perpetuates the problem.