What Does $250,000 in Debt Mean?

I made the mistake recently of estimating how much debt I will have when I graduate from medical school. Once I crunched the numbers (repeating a couple times just to be sure), I looked at the sum and had one thought- seriously?

So… the number was about $250,000. This was not surprising. I had a vague idea I would owe this much. But after really making the effort to estimate that number it became much more real to me. The Dark Knight

That sort of debt is difficult to conceptualize. Right now the numbers are just numbers. I see them, and they register in my brain, but what do they really mean? What does six figures in debt mean for me?

Right now my debt has very little impact on my life. The numbers are worrisome but I do not have to worry about paying anything now or in the near future. The only way it interferes with my life is if I think about it. And then it makes me a little anxious.

Why the anxiety? Because even with a salary that puts me in the top 5% of wage earners in the United States, $250,000 in debt will take a long time to pay back.

That debt hanging over me as I think about my future work as a physician feels like a burden, like a lack of freedom. Let’s say an opportunity presents itself to work three months internationally. Will I have to pass it up because I won’t be able to afford the loan payments while I travel?

Will this debt influence my specialty decision? Because it is very much a reality that making twice as much means I can pay off my debt twice as quickly. Is it crazy to consider this when choosing the type of medicine I want to practice?

What does it mean for medical students and medicine in general? How will other students act facing the same situation?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to these questions. What do you think?

4 thoughts on “What Does $250,000 in Debt Mean?”

  1. SCARY. But to me, also, worth it. Seems like the debt stays in proportion with your future income — most people have much less debt, but also much less income. And if this is the career and lifestyle of your dreams, the price is right. I’m flirting with starting med school (at 29 years old and with a family, no less…) and I believe the overall fulfillment and satisfaction of knowing your calling and finding your place in the professional world outweighs the fear and constriction of paying back the means that got you there. If you stay relatively humble with your other needs — home, vehicle, etc. — then the monthly payments will feel more reasonable in proportion to your paycheck.

  2. I agree. I’m hopeful that frugal living will help us pay off the debt in a relatively short amount of time.

    Good luck in your decision regarding med school! It’s a long road but I’ve met plenty of people that started later than 29 and they seem happy.

  3. The U.S. Army Medical Department can help take away the worry of how you’ll pay for school. The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program is available to qualifying students who wish to earn professional degrees from accredited medical, dental, optometry, veterinary, psychiatric nurse practitioner, clinical or counseling psychology programs. We will pay 100 percent of your tuition, plus we will also pay for required books, equipment and most academic fees. Qualifying medical and dental students are also eligible to receive a $20,000 sign-on bonus.As you attend school, you’ll receive a monthly stipend of more than $2,000. During breaks, you’ll receive officer’s pay while you train as part of our health care team. Contact me if you live in the state of Washington or Oregon. If you live in a different state go the website and find the nearest medical recruiter nearest you. Good Luck.

    CPT Buckelew
    Vancouver, WA

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