For us medical school grads, the debt burden is easily 10 times heavier. On average, we owe 180k as class of 2015.  image curtesy of

I will always remember how dreadful it seemed when I learned that my cost of attendance for 2010-2011 (first year of medical school) was about 90k… I’ve never made 90k a year prior to starting medical school (in fact, I still have not made 90k a year as a PGY2, 6 years after I started med school in 2010). I could not imagine borrowing 90k, only 8k of which was subsidized (interest free during med school), and rest came with 1-4% loan origination fee and 6.8% interest snow-ball starting day one of med school.

Along with this dread came one of my favorite memories of Mini Wise Money.

I was crying and complaining on the phone to my mom, feeling wronged by the fact that I had to get into so much debt to become a doc in the US, when the rest of the world pretty much made med school free appreciating what aspiring doctors already give up by embracing such an all-consuming and demanding career.

Then, the 2 year old Mini Wise Money, tried comforting me,

“Mommy, don’t be scared of monies. I am here. [MWM gave DWM a hug.] Don’t be scared of monies.”

Because of how expensive my medical school was, the day I started with nothing was March 2015, of internship year, when I was 30 years old.

I tried everything in my power, worked 7 jobs in college, 2 jobs in med school, to “start with nothing” at the age of 30; while my non-med friends already have a house, cars, fat retirement funds, kids college savings, annual family vacations to exotic places.

But I’m grateful to be starting at zero at 30, rather than 40, 50, or 60.

Here today to share one major reason why I was able to pay off my student loan within 1 year of graduating medical school.

Here’s my guest post on my financial mentor White Coat Investor’s blog, detailing how I minimized and delayed student loan interest.

Hope this helps!

Here is a flow chart that demonstrates how interest starting day 1 of medical school on the federal student loans we borrowed just for 1 semester of tuition snowballs… This is for the numerically inclined people, just so that every step of math is accounted for and the number I’m using has solid backing. Feel free to skip the flow chart if it’s dizzying. This flow chart itself warrants 2 posts to elaborate (which will be coming in the future…)

To summarize the chart:
15k borrowed on Day 1 of med school + loan origination fee + daily simple interest*
–> $17,816 @ graduation of medical school
–> deferred for 3 year residency
–> $21,756 @ when finishing 3 year residency
now imagine borrowing 15k every semester (3 times a year, totaling 12 times to finish medical school)
this is just tuition and fees… no living expenses. 
and the loan assumption is based on the cheapest (not grad plus) federal student loans.
*In my personal experience, there’s no subsidized loan anymore starting 2012. But a reader pointed out that he still had subsidized loan in 2013… Not sure if there is inter-school variation in federal loan offerings. Either way, during my first 2 years of medical school, there was a nominal amount of subsidized loans. It was up to 8k annually that I could borrow. The subsidized loans prevent 100% of the interest accrual during school and first 3 years out of school if one selects IBR payments. After PGY3, subsidized loans will receive 50% interest subsidy for negatively amortized portion of the loan like the unsub loans if one’s on REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn).

cc vs student loan


  • How did you pay for medical school aside from taking out student loans?
  • Did you work during medical school? Was working a plus or minus on your medical school academic performance?
  • If you are a med student (today or again), what would you do to minimize your student debt burden?
  • Do you think the credit card method is too risky? Why or why not?
  • Since you have the discipline and intelligence to make it into med school &/or survive med school, don’t you think you can apply 3% of your brain power to take advantage of credit card offers to help you build net worth?

please share your insights, questions, experiences below. We are here to help one another 🙂

The Day I Started with Nothing…

2 thoughts on “The Day I Started with Nothing…

  • May 18, 2016 at 11:44 am

    It’s amazing that you only borrowed $15k for medical school. Especially given how much your tuition was. Applaud you on that achievement. Looking back, would you have gone to a cheaper school if you had to make the decision over again?

    • May 18, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      i definitely borrowed more than 15k for med school, as it was 15k every semester, so 15k times 12… but it was charging tuition on credit cards that prevented the high origination fee and interest rate which can snowball debt like no tomorrow. YES YES YES, I would have attended the cheapest school possible. I would have applied everywhere outside of Cali and Harvard… I didn’t know better. I hope new pre-meds will be much more money wise than I was 😉


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