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A very wise financial aid advisor once said, "Live like a student while you are a student so that you won't have to live like a student after you are a student." There is great wisdom in that statement.

The reality of optometry school however, is that most new graduates are graduating with a significant amount of debt. Speaking from experience, it is a lot less painful to borrow the money than it is to pay back that money. With that said, your school debt can be very doable if you plan appropriately.

Many students have expressed to me that one of their greatest concerns is finding a job that will enable them to begin a comfortable life, afford some of the extras or luxuries that they have dreamt of, and manage their debt successfully.

After I graduated, I too was very anxious about managing the expenses and overhead of my start up practice as well as managing all of my household expenses. I had a number of solo financial responsibilities, and many of which were expenditures that I never had as a student: rent, utilities, staff salaries, practice overhead, malpractice insurance, health insurance, and the unanticipated ill fortune of a car that needed a lot of repairs turning into massive money pit. To top it off, I realized that my student loans would be coming due which added another financial responsibility to the mix. For me, a budget was absolutely the key to managing my money well.


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It was a bit frustrating to graduate as a doctor with eight years of education and still not be able to spend money freely. As I'm sure many of you can relate, I felt that I deserved to be at a point where I was earning a good living free of the stresses that financial responsibilities create. Nonetheless, I disciplined myself to "think bigger and broader" and focus on the long-term gratification of where I would be financially five years down the road if I remained disciplined and avoided excessive spending my first year after graduation.

What I discovered was that putting myself on a budget really was not that bad. I decided to do fill in work rather than borrow additional money for living expenses. (Keep in mind, my practice was brand new and in its first year, so it provided absolutely no monies left over at the end of the month for a doctor's salary.) I figured what my income needed to be so that I could pay my bills every month, build up a small reserve fund for emergencies, and include a small cushion allowing for some extras.

There are a number of ways that you can set up your budget. In the beginning, I had no choice but to establish definite dollar amounts allotted for personal household overhead, practice overhead, and extras. After about six months of practice, I found that I was managing my debt quite well and was able to change my budget style. Discovering that I no longer had to work every weekend to make ends meet, I elected to continue to work every weekend but designated two weekends per month as my "mad money" or income that could be used for whatever I wanted. Trust me, this was a lot more gratifying than the allowance I was living off of for extras during the first six months of practice. Very quickly, I was able to get ahead and still occasionally indulge in luxuries or things that weren't necessities.

In retrospect, I am so glad that I was disciplined and stuck to my budget. That disciplined behavior over my finances has provided me with a tremendous amount of equity and assets over the last five years. In turn, my equity and assets has created greater borrowing power and stronger relationships with my banks.

Don't be stressed about your debt from your education. Your education is a tremendous annuity and your educational debt is the best investment you could make in your future. With planning and discipline you can manage your debt, build your business equity, and, yes, enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner than you might think.


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