Retirement Planning is always a complex process, but it presents some unique challenges for doctors and dentists. Although many of the basic principles remain the same for retirees from any industry, doctors and dentists often start saving later in life because of lengthy educational requirements, and they also tend to have significant student loan debt. These factors mean you’ll need to take special care in your financial planning so that you can enjoy the life you want for yourself while you’re still working, as well as set yourself up for the retirement of your dreams.
Here are four tips that help ensure doctors and dentists properly plan for retirement:
Tip #1: Pay Your Student Loans Strategically
Once you begin practicing and start earning real money, it’s tempting to throw extra payments at your student loan debt in order to dispense with it as quickly as possible. After all, it can often feel like an albatross around your neck. Before you start down this path, however, it’s important to step back and determine whether other strategies might be more financially savvy. For instance, you might qualify for a refinancing offer that lowers your interest rate, or maybe public service work qualifies you for loan forgiveness. These are important details to consider before you start paying more than your monthly loan payment.
Once you’ve reduced your student loan debt load in any way possible, you can begin thinking about your repayment strategy. Two popular methods are referred to as snowball and avalanche. In the snowball debt payment method, you make your minimum loan payment on all your debts, then put any extra money toward your loan with the smallest balance. The idea is that you can pay down the smallest debt quickly and gain momentum and confidence to tackle the remaining debts. In the avalanche method, rather than working to pay your lowest balance off first, your strategy is to pay the debt with the highest interest rate first, and so on. Although there is less opportunity for a quick win with this method, it’s likely to save you the most money in the end.
Tip #2: Don’t Neglect Your Savings
When you’ve decided on a debt payment strategy, it’s easy to want to go all-in and put all your extra money toward debt service. However, this is a mistake. It is crucial to begin saving and investing as soon as possible so that you can take full advantage of compound interest to build your retirement nest egg. It can be especially damaging to neglect your savings if you have loans with low-interest rates. Think about it: You could actually earn more in interest on your investments than you would save by overpaying on a loan with a low-interest rate. So, it’s important to consider details like this in your overall strategy.
As you begin saving, don’t rely on a simple savings account. Instead, look into tax-advantaged options like a 401(k) or 403(b), which may be available through your work. These types of accounts help you to save for retirement most efficiently and effectively. You might also look into the advantages of an IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA or Solo 401k if you have a side gig where you earn extra income. These tax-advantaged plans offer an additional way for you to save if you are involved in a practice, partnership, or have self-employment income.
Tip #3: Protect Your Income
To achieve your professional goals, you have made significant investments of both time and money in your education. Though you may have sizable loans, you also have an income-earning ability that will be your greatest financial asset. That’s why it is of the utmost importance to get the right insurance to protect your income. Disability income insurance is probably the most important type of insurance to consider early on in your career. Look into disability insurance plans that are specifically designed for doctors and dentists, and which offer you flexibility and protection should you become disabled and unable to perform your job.
Tip #4: Don’t Go It Alone
You have sacrificed quite a bit to achieve your professional goals, and it’s common to want to celebrate by spending your money freely. Go ahead! Just make certain you work with a financial advisor who can help you ensure the decisions you make today won’t negatively impact the goals you want to achieve tomorrow. Financial advisors help you build a financial strategy that balances your money and life priorities and utilizes all of the tools in your toolbox to your best advantage.
How We Can Help
If you’re a doctor or dentist and you’d like professional guidance on your retirement planning strategy, let’s begin a conversation today. We offer physician-focused solutions and a commitment to excellence that can help you align your goals and values with a smart financial plan. Together, we can help you build a life and a retirement filled with purpose and meaning.