By Albert “Ace” Goerig, D.D.S., M.S.
Most endodontists do not know the real cost of student loans. When you look at these loans closely, you realize that for every $10,000 you borrow, you will pay $50,000 to $100,000 in interest, which does nothing to pay back the loan. These loans cannot be written off in bankruptcy. There are rumors going around that sooner or later the government will forgive these loans, so the rumor mill suggests that it makes sense not to pay them off. In most cases this is all false and is just another tactic by the banks and the government to keep you in debt longer so they can keep getting this staggering high interest on their loan.
Interest rates for dental school loans can average anywhere from 6% to 8% per year. Look at an actual $300,000 dental school loan with an interest rate of 7.9% over 30 years, for which the doctor pays $2,180 per month. During the first year of repayment, only $2,556 goes to principal and $23,609 goes to interest. ($23,609/2,556 X 100% = 924% real interest rate.) The doctor must earn around $30,000 and pay tax on those earnings, to cover that amount of interest each year. This is more than 1,000% interest.
In this example, by making one additional principal payment of $2,766 that year, you will eliminate (save) $23,399 in interest that you will never have to earn and give the bank, allowing you to make over 1000% return on your money. This is a no-brainer. Where else can you get 1000% return on your money guaranteed, without risk?
All endodontists who have student loans must focus on paying off this debt quickly—especially those who are paying high interest rates. If you could invest an additional $3,888 per month in your loan payments, your payment would be $6,068 and you would pay the loan off completely in five years, thus saving $420,835, or about $550,000 before taxes. This is the best deal ever.
By comparison: If you decided not to accelerate your payments to pay off the loan in five years, then during that five years you would pay $130,825 and only $15,054 would go to pay off the original loan amount. Effectively, even after 5 years, you would be almost as in debt as you were at the start of the loan.
To see how much you really are paying in interest and get the numbers go to https://www.drcalculator.com/mortgage/old/. Then divide the principal by the interest and multiply by 100% to see your true interest rate that year.
Steps to Get Rid of Your Dental School Loans Rapidly
- Just because they will give you a student loan, it does not mean you must take all of it. Remember, for every dollar you borrow you will initially have to pay back five to ten. Get a part-time job instead and borrow as little as you need.
- Once you graduate from residency, refinance your loan at a lower interest rate as soon as it becomes possible. Go to “Refinance your student loan” in the free resources on www.endomastery.com to find a link to compare different lenders. Here’s a chart that shows how much could be saved by refinancing our example $300,000 loan at 7.9%:
Over 30 Years
Note: When you refinance your loan, the difference between what you would have paid each month (at the old rate) and your new payment each month (at the new rate) should be used to make extra principal payments so the debt is paid faster and you save even more.
- Live like a student until all your school loans are paid off. If you do not live like a student until your debt free, you will most likely be living like a student when you are retired. The best investment you can make after graduation is to pay off school loans. Do this before you save in any other investment scheme. Why invest in a 5% or 6% market return when you can invest in yourself for a 100% return without risk or tax consequences?
- Become clinically efficient. The average endodontists says they can complete a treatment in an hour which means in a 9-hour day they should be doing nine treatments. But the average endodontist only completes three to four cases per day. Clinical efficiency has little to do with clinical technique and all to do with having a well-trained team to support your practice growth. If you are working as an associate make sure you are working for a doctor that can do six to eight cases a day and mentor you. Remember, it is more about how patients are scheduled then the specific clinical technique you use.
- If you are an office owner, every extra treatment you do each day will increase your net take home pay by $250,000. If you are an associate earning 40% of collection, every treatment you do each day is an extra $100,000 in income. By doing two more treatments per day, you would have an extra $200,000 before taxes to pay off your school loans. This will not take long for you to eliminate your school loan debt.
I worked with a young owner doctor just three years out of his program who increased the number of cases each day by 4—giving him an extra $1,000,000 per year before taxes. He did not change his technique, but it was all about office efficiency, scheduling and team leadership. He eliminated his $2.2 million of debt (school loans, practice purchase, mortgage, practice building and automobiles) in three-and-a-half years. Isn’t endodontics great?
- Commit to paying your school loans off in five years or less. You and your spouse should create a game plan for getting out of debt, which will give you freedom and choices so you can more fully enjoy your relationship. Until you are debt-free, don’t worry about getting expensive cars and homes that cause so much financial stress in your relationships.
Dr. Albert “Ace” Goerig is an AAE Life member and cofounder of Endo Mastery. To learn more, visit www.endomastery.com.