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Advice on taking out student debt in late 30s/40s

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Vince411, 05.15.14.

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  1. Vince411

    Vince411

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    I'm a non-trad doing post-bac work. I am truly enjoying math and science courses. I'm 30 and have a law degree working in public sector and am considering going back to school in about 5 years when my remaining student debt (about 50k) will be forgiven under the PSLF program. I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on whether it would be wise to take out more student loans at that point to go to med school assuming I have competitive stats etc. etc.? I've read that the PSLF program may be capped. Is there anyone else out there who is in there late 30's/40's who took on substantial student loans? What are your plans to pay it off? Wouldn't med school loans stay with me until I was about 70 or 80??? Is it worth it? I do have a sincere interest in medicine and the sciences, but realize that it might be too late in the game for me to change careers.
    Thanks for any advice.
     
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  3. sazerac

    sazerac rye sense of humor 2+ Year Member

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    "Would it be worth it" is a very personal decision. How do you measure worth?

    When we've run the numbers before in this forum, the point of no return is typically age 40. Matriculate before then, and you will gain financially vs staying in your existing career. Matriculate after age 40 and you would have ended up with more money by keeping the old career. But to some of us, the opportunity to practice medicine is a reward in and of itself.

    Once you are in your mid 30s and beyond, issues like lifestyle, job satisfaction, and family impact are as significant as the financials and student loans.

    Short answer: if you want to be a doctor, 35 is a perfectly good time to enter med school.
     
  4. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

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    A very important aspect of becoming a premed is understanding whether you'll be competitive for public or well-endowed med schools, which will keep your debt lower, or whether you'll have to do fairly silly things to get accepted as I did, which makes the debt load much much much more painful. Your undergrad GPA is likely your financial fate.

    PSLF is just one of the repayment plans. Managing a heavy student loan burden isn't going to be the biggest financial concern with starting practice in your 40's. Not even with the $250k debt load that is the new normal.

    The biggest concern is going to be your retirement savings. You'll go a decade without being able to put anything away. If you have a healthy nest egg now, that helps.

    When I became a premed at 38, working into my 70's seemed completely reasonable. Not so much, now that I've shadowed older docs who start conking out around noon, and those are the rare ones who were able to stay healthy. You'll want to be very honest with how you perceive the health and mental status of your parents & grandparents at the age you expect to still work.

    My point: consider what you require to have the choice to keep working after 65. I suggest that med school isn't worth it if you find you have no choice but to keep working after 65. Run some projections on that.

    Best of luck to you.
     
    Gauss44, gyngyn, sockit and 1 other person like this.
  5. Vince411

    Vince411

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    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I'm not sure how med schools work, but do public institutions provide any serious scholarships or are those limited to only a few students who have killer MCAT scores?
     
  6. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

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    I don't know how the institutional aid breakdown looks for public/private.

    Anecdotally, an over-40 SDN poster got a full ride at a Texas public school about 5 years ago.

    My med school (newer, public, poorer, no endowment) offers one free ride scholarship and a bunch of smaller ones, some merit-based, some need-based. If you look at some med school websites you can sometimes find a list of the scholarships available.

    If you're interested in primary care you may have access to state/fed scholarships. And the military is still a viable option over 30.

    I keep hearing about private practice job contracts including loan repayment, but it's really hard to quantify this. I could see a large thriving practice throwing $100k at a new hire now and then, but not $250k.
     
  7. Being

    Being

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    It seems like a waste to delay med school by 5 years simply to avoid paying a 50k debt. Assume you make 100k/year in post-tax dollars as an attending: you're effectively giving up 450k with this choice. If it's necessary to factor in interest on that 50k while in med school and residency, figure you end up paying 100k or even 150k to get rid of it - still makes more sense to start asap.

    If it's going to take you 2-3 years to finish your post-bac, it starts to make more sense to delay if interest will accrue on that 50k during med school (I'm not sure if it would, though?). Things are also different if you're making 6 figures currently and saving/investing a lot, and you simply chose not to pay that debt because it has a low interest rate or something.

    Am I missing something here?
     
    Last edited: 05.15.14
  8. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

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    Good point on not delaying over $50k remaining student debt, I agree.
     
  9. Vince411

    Vince411

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    Good thoughts, I've kicked the idea around, but it will take 2-3 years to finish my post-bac work because I'm doing it part-time while working full time and at that point my wife should be done with her PA program. Currently I make about 68k and will max out at about 70k in my public-sector job and interest would accrue on all but a small portion of the debt as it is unsubsidized.
     
  10. abn632

    abn632 2+ Year Member

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    I will be attending a SMP in addition to med school. My undergraduate student loans are not yet paid off. I fully expect to graduate from med school at the age of 41 with approximately $380,000 in student loan debt. Since my plan (for now) is family medicine, I understand that my earning potential will be significantly lower than many other specialties. I plan on returning to the military (as a reservist) and having them pay back $250,000 worth of my student loans. In addition, I plan to work in an underserved area and will focus on areas that provide significant tax benefits and/or student loan repayment. It will not be easy, but I doubt that I will be destitute, though it might mean that I drive my Camry for a few more years.
     

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