Budgeting for New Nurses

Budgeting as a New Nurse

The member’s experience below is not a typical member representation. While their story is extraordinary and inspirational, not all members should expect the same results.

When Jennifer S. clocked in on her first day of work as a nurse at a major hospital in the South, she remembers thinking, “I’ve got this.” And she did. Nursing school had prepared her well for working in the emergency room.

She felt less confident about navigating her finances, however. Jennifer had to figure out how to balance her living expenses and long-term goals with $40,000 in nursing student loans—while earning $25 an hour.

She cooked meals at home and kept her expenses low. Jennifer also created a monthly nursing budget to help organize her finances. “I saw that I should start saving a little extra during the second half of the month, when I usually had leftover money, in case I needed it for the next month’s bills,” she says.

In addition, Jennifer discovered ways she could make extra money. Consider this nursing budget example: She switched to overnight shifts making an additional $7,000 a year. When a hurricane hit her state, she worked around the clock at the hospital for a week—and earned roughly $6,000, which she put toward a down payment on a home. The hospital paid her an extra $14 per hour during the early days of the pandemic. And she routinely picked up per diem and travel assignments.

Why You Need a Nursing Budget

It’s an interesting time to be a nurse. On one hand, staffing shortages and burnout worsened during the pandemic. The rising cost of higher education, including how to pay for nursing school, has resulted in a growing number of students graduating with debt. According to the latest figures from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), roughly 70% of nurses take out loans to pay for school, and the median student loan debt is between $40,000 and $55,000.

On the plus side, nurses have some leverage. The profession is in such high demand right now that some hospitals are offering incentives like sign-on bonuses, relocation costs, and student loan repayments.

And in general, nurses can earn a good salary. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for a registered nurse in 2021 is $77,600. The median income for a licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse is $48,070. The median income for a nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner– fields that typically require a master’s degree–is $123,780 per year. Nurses who are willing and able to take on additional shifts, work overnight, or accept lucrative travel assignments stand to make even more.

If you’re a new nurse who is figuring out your finances, a nursing budget is a good place to start. But there are other steps to take as well. Here’s how to make the most of the money you earn to achieve your financial goals.

Recommended: Budgeting as a New Doctor

Watch Your Spending

With different ways to supplement your income as a nurse, it can be easy to give in to overspending. “When I was doing travel assignments, I just kept working,” Jennifer says. “At the time, I didn’t realize it would stop, so I didn’t think to save as much as I could have.”

In fact, lifestyle creep can be a common pitfall, especially when you start earning more money, says Brian Walsh, CFP, senior manager, financial planning for SoFi. Spending more on nonessentials as your income rises can potentially wreak havoc on your savings goals and financial health. That’s why budgeting for nurses is so important.

While you’re starting to establish your spending habits, Walsh recommends using cash or a debit card for purchases. Automate your finances whenever possible by doing things like pre-scheduling bill payments.

Develop Your Savings Strategy

A sound savings plan can help you make progress toward your short- and long-term goals and provide a sense of security. Walsh suggests nurses set aside 20% of their income for retirement and other savings, like building up an emergency fund that can cover three to six months’ worth of your total living expenses. He recommends placing it in an easy-to-access vehicle, like money market funds, short-term bonds, CDs, or a high-yield savings account. The remaining 80% of your income should go toward lifestyle expenses, including monthly student loan payments.

Jennifer found success by adopting a set-it-and-forget-it approach to saving. “Whenever I worked a per diem shift, I got in the habit of putting $100 or $200 of every check into a savings account,” she says. Before long, she had a decent-sized nest egg and peace of mind.

Explore Different Investments

One simple way to build up savings is to contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan, if one is available to you, and tap into a matching funds program. There’s a limit to how much you can contribute annually to one of these plans. In 2022, the amount is $20,500; if you’re 50 or older, you can contribute up to an additional $6,500, for a total of $27,000.

If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, there are other ways to save for the future. “Start by figuring out what your targeted savings goal is,” Walsh says. If you’re going to save a few thousand dollars, you can consider a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. Both can offer tax advantages.

Contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, and no taxes are due until you withdraw the money. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars; your money grows tax-free and you don’t pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. However, there are limits on how much you can contribute each year and on your income.

But ideally, Walsh says, you’re saving more than a few thousand dollars for retirement. If that’s the case, then a Simplified Employee Pension IRA (SEP IRA) may be worth considering. “Depending on how your employment status is set up, a SEP IRA could be a very good vehicle because the total contributions can be just like they are with an employer-sponsored plan, but you control how much to contribute, up to a limit,” he says. What’s more, contributions are tax-deductible, and you won’t pay taxes on growth until you withdraw the money when you retire.

Another option is a health savings account (HSA), which may be available if you have a high deductible health plan. HSAs provide a triple tax benefit: contributions reduce taxable income, earnings are tax-free, and money used for qualified medical expenses is also tax-free.

Depending on your financial goals, you may also want to consider after-tax brokerage accounts. They offer no tax benefits but give you the flexibility to withdraw money at any time without being taxed or penalized.

Recommended: Exploring Different Types of Investments

Take Control of Your Student Loans

Chances are, you have different priorities competing for a piece of your paycheck, and nursing school loans are one of them. You may need to start repaying loans six months after graduation, and options vary based on the type of loan you have.

If you have federal loans and need extra help making payments, for example, you can look into a loan forgiveness program or an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, which can lower monthly payments for eligible borrowers based on their income and household size. If you’re struggling to make payments, you may qualify for a student loan deferment or a forbearance. Both options temporarily suspend your payments, but interest will continue to accrue and add to your total balance.

You should also be aware that the Biden administration’s new federal student loan forgiveness plan extends the pause on federal loan payments through December 31, 2022. In addition, the program cancels up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals who make less than $125,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples) and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who qualify.

Chipping away at a student loan debt can feel overwhelming. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a couple of different approaches you may want to consider. With the avalanche approach, you prioritize debt repayment based on interest rate, from highest to lowest. With the snowball approach, you pay off the smallest balance first and then work your way up to the highest balance.

While both have their benefits, Walsh says he often sees greater success with the snowball approach. “Most people should start with paying off the smallest balance first because then they’ll see progress, and progress leads to persistence,” he explains. But, he adds, the right approach is the one you can stick with.

Consider Whether Student Loan Refinancing Is Right For You

When you refinance, a private lender pays off your existing loans and issues you a new loan. This combines all of your loans into a single monthly bill, potentially reduces your monthly payments, and may give you a chance to lock in a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying. A quarter of a percentage point difference in an interest rate could translate into meaningful savings if you have a big loan balance, Walsh points out.

Still, refinancing your student loans may not be right for everyone. By choosing to refinance federal student loans, you could lose access to benefits and protections, like the current pause on payment and interest or federal loan forgiveness plans. Be sure to weigh all the options and decide what makes sense for you.

The Takeaway

Nursing can be a rewarding career, with flexibility and opportunities to add to your income. However, as a new nurse, you are likely trying to stretch your paycheck to cover student loan debt and everyday expenses. Fortunately, by using a few smart strategies, you can start to pay down your loans—and save for the future.

If refinancing your student loans is one of the strategies you’re considering, SoFi can help. When you refinance with SoFi, you get benefits like flexible terms. And with our medical professional refinancing, you may be able to qualify for special low rates for nurses.

Find out more about SoFi’s medical professional school refinancing for nurses and other healthcare workers today.


Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Budgeting for Residents

Budgeting as a New Resident

The member’s experience below is not a typical member representation. While their story is extraordinary and inspirational, not all members should expect the same results.

As a resident, Dr. Saira Z. worked in one of the most expensive places in the country—the New York City area. Besides managing the high cost of living on a residency budget, Saira was also paying back loans from medical school.

Figuring out how to stretch her $65,000 a year medical resident’s salary wasn’t easy, even after she got married. She and her husband tried to be as frugal as possible. When they took stock of their spending, however, they found places to cut back.

The couple drew up a budget to help them stay the course through Saira’s three-year residency and when her medical fellowship salary dipped. It also allowed them to set good habits that still serve them well. Saira and her husband are now expecting twins, and she’ll be joining a private practice on the East Coast.

As Saira learned, residency can test your finances. While you’re finally drawing an income—the average annual salary of a first-year resident is around $60,000, according to 2021 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges—a residency budget needs to cover a lot. Your medical school finances likely include considerable student loan debt. The median medical school debt for the class of 2021 is $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, which doesn’t include undergraduate student loans, credit card balances or other debt.

Having a financial plan is a way to make the most of your income and set up for the future. These tips for budgeting for residents may help you get started.

Identify Your Biggest Budget Busters

A budget can serve a variety of purposes. It can help you make progress toward your savings goals, adopt healthier spending habits, and pay down debt. It can even allow you to spot the biggest drains on your money so you can look for ways to curb spending.

For Saira and her husband, meals out with friends were a top budget buster. But they had no idea that was the case until they reviewed their finances. “You don’t realize eating out is such a huge expense until after the fact,” Saira says. As a result, the couple decided to temporarily stop going to restaurants, which allowed them to put that money into their savings.

Build Your Financial Foundation

Budgeting for medical residents should include working on your financial foundation, says Brian Walsh, CFP, senior manager, financial planning for SoFi. “These foundational pieces are so critical to establish,” Walsh says. “Then, once you get that big paycheck, it will be much easier to sock away 25% or more of your income toward retirement.”

Here are a few steps he recommends:

•  Pay off “bad debt.” Walsh defines “bad debt” as anything that accelerates consumption and comes with a high interest rate (such as credit cards).

•  Build up an emergency fund. This stash of cash should cover three to six months’ worth of your total living expenses and be placed in an easy-to-access place, like money market funds, short-term bonds, CDs or a high-yield savings account.

•  Protect your income. There are two types of protection you may want to consider. Disability insurance covers a portion of your income in the event you’re unable to work due to an injury or illness. Monthly premium amounts vary, but generally, the younger and healthier you are, the less expensive the policy. You may also want to consider purchasing a life insurance policy if other people depend on your income.

Recommended: Short Term vs. Long Term Disability Insurance

Start Saving for the Future

Next, Walsh suggests putting any leftover funds into retirement. Over time, as your emergency fund grows and “bad debt” diminishes, you’ll be able to put more money into retirement.

One simple way to build up savings now is to contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan, if one is available, and tap into any matching funds program. There’s a limit to how much you can contribute annually to either plan. In 2022, the amount is $20,500; if you’re 50 or older, you can contribute up to an additional $6,500, for a total of $27,000.

There are other investment vehicles Walsh suggests exploring if you have additional money to save, don’t have access to a 401(k) or 403(b), or simply prefer to have more control over your money. These include an individual retirement account (IRA), such as a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, both of which can offer tax advantages.

Contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax deductible, and no taxes are due until you withdraw the money. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars; your money grows tax-free and you don’t pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. However, there are limits on how much you can contribute each year and on your income.

Another option is a health savings account (HSA), which may be available if you have a high deductible health plan. HSAs provide a triple tax benefit: Contributions reduce taxable income, earnings are tax-free, and money used for qualified medical expenses is also tax-free.

Recommended: Budgeting as a New Doctor

Come Up With a Plan to Pay Student Loan Debt

As a resident, you have several priorities competing for a piece of your paycheck: lifestyle expenses, long-term savings goals, and medical student loan debt. Loan repayment typically starts six months after graduation, and options vary based on the type of loan you have.

If you have federal loans and need extra help making payments, for example, you can explore a loan forgiveness program or an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, which can lower monthly payments for eligible borrowers based on their income and household size. You also have the option to postpone payments during residency, but the interest will continue to accrue and add to your total balance.

Additionally, the Biden administration’s new federal student loan forgiveness plan extends the pause on federal loan payments through December 31, 2022. The program also cancels up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those who make less than $125,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples) and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who qualify.

Your medical student loan debt may feel overwhelming, but there are a couple of ways to consider tackling it. With the avalanche approach, you prioritize debt repayment based on interest rate, from highest to lowest. With the snowball approach, you pay off the smallest balance first and then work your way up to the highest balance.

While the right approach is the one you’ll stick with, Walsh often sees greater success with the snowball approach. “Most people should start with paying off the smallest balance first because then they’ll see progress, and progress leads to persistence,” he says.

Find Out If Refinancing Is Right for You

You may want to consider refinancing your student loans as part of your repayment strategy. When you refinance, your existing loans are paid off and you get one new loan. You may be able to get a lower interest rate, which could potentially reduce your monthly payments. Some lenders, including SoFi, also provide benefits for residents and other medical professionals.

Though the refinancing process is fairly straightforward, “People overestimate the amount of work it takes to refinance and underestimate the benefits,” Wash says. A quarter of a percentage point difference in an interest rate might seem small, but if you have a big loan balance, it could save you quite a bit.

However, refinancing may not be right for everyone. By refinancing federal student loans, you could lose access to benefits and protections, such as the current pause on payment and interest or federal loan forgiveness plans. Your best bet is to weigh all of your options and decide what makes the most sense for your situation.

The Takeaway

After years of medical school, you’re finally starting to make some money. But you also likely have a lot of student loan debt that you need to start paying back during your residency. Having a solid plan for repaying your loans, and using a few key strategies to start saving money for your future, can help position you for long-term financial success.

If part of that plan includes refinancing your student loans, SoFi can help. With our medical professional refinancing, you may be able to qualify for special rates of 2.49 – 8.24% APR if you have a loan balance of more than $150,000.

You can also reduce your monthly payments to as low as $100 during residency and fellowship, for up to four years.

Find out more about medical loan refinancing with SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/Andrei Orlov
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Budgeting as a New Dentist

Budgeting as a New Dentist

The member’s experience below is not a typical member representation. While their story is extraordinary and inspirational, not all members should expect the same results.

If you’re a new dentist, you have plenty of reasons to smile about your profession. You can start practicing soon after completing dental school, and you stand to earn a healthy salary right off the bat. The average entry-level dentist earns $122,232 a year, according to data from PayScale, and the median wage for all dentists in the U.S. is $163,220.

At the same time, you also need to figure out how to pay for dental school, and that includes paying off your student loans. According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), only 17% of 2021 dental school graduates reported having no student loan debt. Those who do have loans are likely to owe a lot. New dentists in 2021 have an average student loan debt of $301,583. By comparison, the median debt for new doctors in 2021 is $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That’s where budgeting for dentists comes into the equation.

How Budgeting Helps

Starting a career with a six-figure loan debt may feel overwhelming, but budgeting for dentists can help. In fact, now is an ideal time to establish your saving and investing strategies, says Brian Walsh, CFP, senior manager, financial planning for SoFi. “When you’re right out of school and your lifestyle is already lean, you can more easily build a pay-yourself-first mentality without making any drastic adjustments,” he explains. “It’s significantly easier to do it at this point instead of when you have a house, a car, and a family and then need to start making cuts.”

Here are some strategies to help you create your budget and plan for the future.

Protect Your Income

With its repetitive motions and constrained work area, dentistry can be physically taxing work, especially on the back and joints. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists have a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled. To mitigate your risk, you may want to consider disability insurance, which covers a percentage of your income if you become unable to work due to an illness or injury.

If you purchased a policy during dental school, you have the option to increase your coverage now that you’re making more. If you don’t have a policy, you can buy one as part of a group plan or as an individual. Find out if your employer offers it as part of your benefits package; some do. Monthly premium amounts vary, but in general, the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper the policy.

Recommended: Budgeting as a New Doctor

Don’t Overspend

Dropping a bundle on meals out? Clicking “add to cart” more frequently? Enjoy your hard-earned income, but don’t go overboard on splurges.

To help focus on where you put your money, consider prioritizing your financial goals—saving for a home, for example, or paying off your debt. This is an important strategy in budgeting for dentists. Walsh also recommends that early-career professionals use cash or debit cards for purchases to build up good spending habits, and automate their finances whenever possible. For example, pre-schedule your bill payments and set up automatic contributions to your retirement account.

Kick-Start a Savings Plan

Tackling student loans is likely a top priority for you right now, but just as important is creating a savings plan.

Walsh recommends early-career dentists set aside 30% of their income for savings. Of that, 25% should be for retirement and 5% for other savings, like building an emergency fund that can tide you over for three to six months. The remaining 70% of your income should go toward expenses, including monthly dental school loan payments.

The sooner you start saving and investing, the sooner you can enjoy compound growth, which is when your money grows faster over time. That’s because the interest you earn on what you save or invest increases your principal, which earns you even more interest.

You may even want to consider buying a dental practice at some point, so that’s another reason budgeting for dentists makes sense.

Explore Different Ways to Invest

As a high earner, you may need to do more with your money than max out your 401(k) or 403(b), though you should do that, too. Walsh suggests new dentists leverage a combination of different investments. This strategy, called diversification, can help shield you from risk. Here are some types of investments to consider:

•  A health savings account (HSA), which provides a triple tax benefit. Contributions reduce taxable income, earnings are tax-free, and money used for medical expenses is also tax-free.

•  An individual retirement account (IRA), like a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, can offer tax advantages. Contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax deductible, and no taxes are due until you withdraw the money. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars; your money grows tax-free and you don’t pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. However, there are limits on how much you can contribute each year and on your income.

•  A Simplified Employee Pension IRA (SEP IRA) can be a good option if you’re a solo practitioner. “Total contributions can be just like those with an employer-sponsored plan, but you control how much to contribute, up to a limit,” Walsh says. Contributions are tax-deductible, and you don’t pay taxes on growth until you withdraw the money when you retire.

•  After-tax brokerage accounts offer no tax benefits but give you the flexibility to withdraw money at any time without being taxed or penalized.

Two investments to consider bypassing are variable annuities and whole life insurance. Neither is a suitable way to build wealth, Walsh says.

Whatever your strategy, keep in mind that there may be fees associated with investing in certain funds. Those can add up over time, Walsh points out.

Determine a Student Loan Repayment Strategy

New dentists have a reputation for repaying their debt in a timely manner, according to the ADEA. And because they tend to start earning money more quickly than other health care professionals, they’re often better positioned to tackle loan repayments more aggressively.

But your repayment strategy will depend on a number of factors. To start, consider the types of student loans you have. Federal loans have safety nets you can explore, like loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which can lower monthly payments for eligible borrowers based on their income and household size.

In addition, the Biden administration’s new federal student loan forgiveness plan cancels up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals who make less than $125,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples) and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who qualify. The plan also extended the pause on federal student loan repayments through December 31, 2022.

Once you’ve assessed the programs and plans you’re eligible for, figure out your goals for your loans. Do you need to keep monthly payments low, even if that means paying more in interest over time? Or are you able to make higher monthly payments now so that you pay less in the long run?

There are two approaches to paying down debt. With the avalanche approach, you prioritize debt repayment based on interest rate, from highest to lowest. With the snowball methos approach, you pay off the smallest balance first and work your way up to the highest balance.

While both have their benefits, Walsh often sees greater success with the snowball approach. “Most people should start with paying off the smallest balance first because then they’ll see progress, and progress leads to persistence,” he says. But, as he points out, the right approach is the one you’ll stick with.

Consider Your Refinancing Options

Paying down debt has long-term benefits, like lowering your debt-to-income ratio and boosting your credit score. In order to help do this, you may want to include refinancing your student loans in your student loan repayment strategy.

When you refinance, a private lender pays off your existing loans and issues you a new loan. This gives you a chance to lock in a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying and combine all of your loans into a single monthly bill, which can be easier to manage. Some lenders, including SoFi, also provide benefits for new dentists.

The refinancing process is straightforward, yet some common misconceptions persist, Walsh says. “People overestimate the amount of work it takes to refinance and underestimate the benefits,” he says. A quarter of a percentage point difference in an interest rate may seem inconsequential, for instance, but if you have a big loan balance, it could save you thousands of dollars.

That said, refinancing may not be right for everyone. If you refinance federal student loans, for instance, you may lose access to benefits and protections, like the current pause on payment and federal repayment and forgiveness plans. Consider all your options and decide what makes sense for you and your financial goals.

The Takeaway

Dentistry can be a rewarding career with the potential to earn a healthy salary right from the start. However, you’re likely to have a significant loan debt when you graduate from dental school. Fortunately, balancing your goals with some smart saving, investing, and loan repayment strategies can help you get your finances on firm footing.

If refinancing your student loans is one of the financial strategies you’re considering, SoFi can help. With our medical professional refinancing, you may qualify for special rates of 2.49 – 8.24% APR if you have a loan balance of more than $150,000.

Learn more about SoFi’s dental school loan refinancing and lock in your rate.


Photo credit: iStock/5second
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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Budgeting as a New Doctor

Budgeting as a New Doctor

The member’s experience below is not a typical member representation. While their story is extraordinary and inspirational, not all members should expect the same results.

Dr. Christine M. has always been goal-oriented about her finances. That approach worked well when she decided to become a doctor. She stretched an annual salary of $55,000 during her five years as a resident and fellow. Once she became a new doctor in private practice on the East Coast, she made paying down her medical school loans her top priority. By being frugal, she was able to pay them off in three years.

The road to becoming a doctor is long — 11 years at a minimum — and the average cost of medical school is expensive. The median medical school debt for the class of 2021 is $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. And that’s not counting undergraduate student loans, credit card balances, or other debt.

But the hard work can pay off. A doctor’s median annual salary is around $208,000. That’s a significant increase from the $60,000 average annual salary a first-year resident earns.

If you’re a doctor, the beginning of your career marks a new phase of your earning power. It’s also a prime opportunity to get yourself on sound financial footing, including paying off your medical school loans. That’s why budgeting for doctors is so important. These strategies could help you reach your financial goals.

Resist the Urge to Start Spending Right Away

After years of hard work and sacrifice, you may be tempted to treat yourself. But don’t go wild. “I think lifestyle creep is the biggest danger we see [among new doctors],” says Brian Walsh, CFP, senior manager, financial planning for SoFi. Leveling up early in your career doesn’t just potentially wreak havoc on your savings and financial health, it can also negatively impact the way you spend.

To establish good spending habits, use a cash or debit card for purchases, Walsh suggests. Also, automate your finances whenever possible. For instance, pre-schedule your bill payments and set up automatic contributions to your retirement account.

You may also need to practice extra self-control, adds Christine. Because she was thrifty, she was able to triple her loan payments to $4,500 a month. She also made extra payments whenever she could. “You just have to keep reminding yourself what your priorities are because it’s easy to want more,” she says.

Get Serious About Savings

As a new doctor, you may not start your career until you’re in your thirties, which puts you behind the curve on saving for long-term goals. The good news: earning a higher income can help you make up for lost time.

When it comes to budgeting for doctors, Walsh advises early-career physicians to set aside 30% of their income for savings. Of that, 25% should be for retirement and 5% for other savings, like starting an emergency fund that can tide you over for three to six months. The remaining 70% of your income should go toward expenses, including monthly medical school loan payments.

The sooner you start saving and investing, the sooner you can enjoy compound growth, which is when your money grows faster over time. That’s because the interest you earn on what you save or invest increases your principal, which earns you even more interest.

Consider Different Investments

For investing in retirement savings, you may need to think beyond maxing out your 401(k) or 403(b), though you should do that as well. Walsh suggests new doctors tap into a combination of different investment vehicles. This strategy, known as diversification, can help protect you from risk. Here are some vehicles to consider:

•  A health savings account (HSA), which provides a triple tax benefit. Contributions reduce taxable income, earnings are tax-free, and money used for medical expenses is also tax-free.

•  An individual retirement account (IRA), like a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, can offer tax advantages. Contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, and no taxes are due until you withdraw the money. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars; your money grows tax-free and you don’t pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. However, there are limits on how much you can contribute each year and on your income.

•   After-tax brokerage accounts, which offer no tax benefits but give you the flexibility to withdraw money at any time without being taxed or penalized.

Two options to consider bypassing are variable annuities and whole life insurance. Walsh says they aren’t suitable ways to build wealth.

Regardless of the strategy you choose, keep in mind that there may be fees associated with investing in certain funds, which Walsh points out can add up over time.

Protect Your Income

There are a variety of insurances available to physicians, and disability insurance is one worth considering in your budgeting for doctors plan. It covers a percentage of your income should you become unable to work due to an injury or illness. If you didn’t purchase a policy during your residency or fellowship, you can buy one as part of a group plan or as an individual. Check to see if it’s a perk offered by your employer–Christine’s practice, for example, includes a disability plan as part of its benefits package. Monthly premium amounts vary, but in general, the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper the policy.

Recommended: Short Term vs. Long Term Disability Insurance

Develop a Plan to Repay Student Loans

No matter how much you owe, having the right repayment strategy can help ensure your monthly payments are manageable and your financial health is protected.

To start, consider the types of student loans you have. Federal loans have safety nets you can explore, like loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which can lower monthly payments for eligible borrowers based on their income and household size.

In addition, the Biden administration’s new federal student loan forgiveness plan cancels up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals who make less than $125,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples) and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who qualify. The plan also extended the pause on federal student loan repayments through December 31, 2022.

Once you’ve assessed the programs and plans you’re eligible for, determine your goals for your loans. Do you need to keep monthly payments low, even if that means paying more in interest over time? Or are you able to make higher monthly payments now so that you pay less in the long run?

Two approaches to paying down debt are called the avalanche and the snowball. With the avalanche approach, you prioritize debt repayment based on interest rate, from highest to lowest. With the snowball method approach, you pay off the smallest balance first and then work your way up to the highest balance.

While both have their benefits, Walsh often sees greater success with the snowball approach. “Most people should start with paying off the smallest balance first because then they’ll see progress, and progress leads to persistence,” he says. But, as he points out, the right approach is the one you’ll stick with.

Explore Your Refinancing Options

Besides freeing up funds each month, paying down debt has long-term benefits, like boosting your credit score and lowering your debt-to-income ratio. In order to help do this, you may want to include refinancing in your student loan repayment strategy.

When you refinance, a private lender pays off your existing loans and issues you a new loan. This gives you a chance to lock in a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying and combine all of your loans into a single monthly bill. Some lenders, including SoFi, also provide benefits for new doctors.

Though the refinancing process is fairly straightforward, some common misconceptions persist, Walsh says. “People overestimate the amount of work it takes to refinance and underestimate the benefits,” he says. A quarter of a percentage point difference in an interest rate may seem inconsequential, for instance, but if you have a big loan balance, it could save you thousands of dollars.

That said, refinancing your student loans may not be right for everyone. If you refinance federal student loans, for instance, you may lose access to benefits and protections, such as the current pause on payment and federal repayment and forgiveness plans. Weigh all the options and decide what makes sense for you and your financial goals.

The Takeaway

As a new doctor, you stand to earn a six-figure salary once you complete medical school and residency. But you’re likely also saddled with a six-figure student loan debt. Learning new strategies for saving and investing your money, and coming up with a smart plan to pay back your student loans, can help you dig out of debt and save for your future.

If you decide that student loan refinancing might be right for you, SoFi can help. Our medical professional refinancing offers special rates of 2.49 – 8.24% APR for doctors who have a loan balance of more than $150,000.

Explore medical school loan refinancing with SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/Ivan Pantic
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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Guide to Filing Your Taxes for the First Time

Guide to Filing Your Taxes for the First Time

Filing taxes can be a stressful experience, especially if it’s your first time. But unfortunately, it’s unavoidable for almost every American. In fact, Benjamin Franklin (rather bleakly) once said that the only things certain in this world are death and taxes — and he wasn’t wrong.

Fortunately, those new to the big April deadline don’t need to stress. If you’re a first-time tax filer with a complex situation, you might benefit from paid online services or a tax professional. But otherwise, you’ll find a wealth of free information, including right here.

So are you filing for the first time? Read on for an in-depth guide that covers the ins and outs of how to do taxes for the first time, including:

•   What you need to file taxes

•   Where you can file your taxes

•   How can you pay your taxes

•   Tips for first-time tax filers

•   Mistakes to avoid when filing your taxes

What Do You Need to File Your Taxes?

If this is your first time filing, it’s a good idea to gather everything you need before you sit down at a computer or with an accountant. Here’s what you’ll need:

•   Social Security number: If you aren’t sure, ask your parents or legal guardians. Once you start filing taxes, it’s a good idea for you to keep your Social Security card and other important documents, like your birth certificate, instead of leaving them at your parents’ house.

•   Wage and income information: For most first-time filers, this will simply be a W-2 form from your employer.

◦   If you did any freelance or contacted work, you should receive 1099 forms from each entity that paid you.

◦   If you have a bank account or investments that earned interest, and you will have received forms for those, typically a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV.

•   Documentation for tax credits and deductions: When doing your taxes for the first time at a young age, it is unlikely that you will qualify for many tax credits and deductions, if any at all. And because the standard deduction has increased significantly over the years, you will likely take the standard deduction (instead of itemized), for which you won’t need any documentation.

◦   If you’re a student, also look for the form 1098-T from your school, which details tuition payments you have made and funds received (such as grants), to help you identify whether you are eligible for any deductions. In addition, be aware that some college scholarships or grants may be considered taxable income.

•   Bank account info: If you expect to receive a refund and want the money electronically deposited into your bank account, you need to have your account number and routing number at the ready. If you owe money, you can pay from your bank account, a credit or debit card, or a paper check or money order.

The IRS also advises checking with parents before filing to see if they are claiming you as a dependent.

Recommended: What to Do If You’re Missing Tax Documents

Where Can You Fill Out Your Taxes?

When learning how to do taxes for the first time, one big question is exactly where to get this done. The IRS allows you to fill out your taxes in several ways, either by paper or electronically.

Filing Online

You can file online directly through the IRS website with a tool called IRS Free File . And if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $73,000 or less, the IRS even offers free guided tax preparation. Even if you brought in more than $73,000, the IRS makes all its tax forms available for e-file free of charge.

However, navigating tax forms can be overwhelming. Purchased tax software comes with educational resources and interactive platforms that prompt you for the correct information. Using tax software could help filers avoid math errors and find deductions and tax credits they may not have otherwise known about.

As a filer, it’s up to you to research popular tax software solutions (such as TurboTax, H&R Block, Tax Slayer, and TaxAct) and find the option that suits you best.

Filing Manually

The old method of filing by hand with pen and paper is still possible, but the IRS discourages this. Their main “How to File” page bears a bright yellow alert at the top notifying filers that returns filed on paper can take six or more months to process.

Because pen and paper can lead to more errors, it is a good idea for first-time and veteran filers to utilize free or purchased online software or even a tax professional.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take for the IRS to Mail Tax Refund Checks?

Filing With a Professional

Tax professionals can file manually and online, but the IRS encourages all accountants to utilize the online option. For a speedy return and fewer errors, most tax professionals will likely file electronically for you.

As a first-time filer, your tax situation will not likely be complex enough to warrant a tax professional. But as your finances become more complicated — with investments, real estate, small business ownership, and more — a tax accountant may make sense.

Another benefit of working with an accountant can be their training and knowledge. A professional may be able to help you find (legal) ways to pay less taxes.

How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

When filing taxes for the first time, there’s a good chance you will not owe anything; in fact, Uncle Sam probably owes you money.

In the event that you do owe the government money, however, you have multiple options for paying your taxes:

•   Direct Pay: The amount owed will be debited from a checking or savings account.

•   Credit or debit card: You can pay your outstanding tax balance with a debit or credit card online. This is a nice option if you have cash back rewards, but you will typically be paying a high interest rate if you carry a balance.

•   Check or money order: The IRS still accepts checks in the mail, as well as money orders.

•   Installment agreement: If you cannot afford your tax bill all at once, you can use the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool to apply for an installment plan.

Recommended: Can You Use a Personal Loan to Pay Taxes?

Filing Tips for First-Timers

Feeling nervous about doing taxes for the first time? Here are some tips for making the experience less painful:

Watching Your Income

To determine if you need to file, you can watch your income throughout the year. Once you pass a certain threshold, you will be required to file. This filing threshold can vary depending on your situation, so you’ll need to check out the IRS filing requirements .

If you know that you will make enough money to pay taxes, it’s a good idea to ensure your employer is withholding the proper amount of money from each paycheck for federal, state, city, and even school district taxes. If you believe your employer is not withholding enough (or is withholding too much), the IRS recommends filling out a Form W-4 to change your withholding.

Recommended: What Tax Bracket Am I In?

Gathering All Necessary Documents

Tax documents will start arriving in the mail or digitally early in the new year, typically near the end of January or in early February. As these documents come in, it’s wise to store them in a safe place, like a manila folder in a fire safe or an encrypted folder on your computer. When it’s time to file, you’ll be able to access all your tax forms quickly and easily, rather than hunting all over for them.

If your tax situation is more complex — for instance, if you are self-employed, receive student loans, or make charitable donations — it’s a good idea to hold on to relevant forms throughout the year. Self-employed individuals, for example, may want to save receipts for business expenses incurred throughout the year.

Recommended: Tax Deductions for Freelancers

Learning About Potential Credits

When filing taxes for the first time, you may not be eligible for many tax credits. Tax preparation software, a tax professional, or even the IRS’s guided filing tool may be able to help you find out which credits you qualify for.

Before filing on your own, it could be wise to review the IRS list of tax credits for individuals to see if any apply to you.

Learning About Potential Deductions

Similarly, most first-time filers will want to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing because it may offer the larger discount. However, the IRS does offer itemized deductions for things like student loan interest and work expenses, if you are self-employed.

You can familiarize yourself with these IRS deductions before filing to determine if itemizing deductions is right for you.

Recommended: Tax Deductions for College Students

Understanding Deadlines

Tax Day in the United States is April 15, but if that date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the tax deadline moves out to the next business day. In recent years, the IRS had adjusted Tax Day in light of the pandemic, but the organization has since moved back to its traditional schedule.

If you owe estimated taxes each quarter (say, if you are self-employed), you will need to pay taxes four times a year. Working with a tax accountant may be in your best interest. Members of the Armed Forces may have special rules governing the due date of their taxes.

Individuals can also apply for a tax extension; this extends the due date of filing, but not the due date of payment. That means you might get a six-month extension to file the paperwork, but if you have not paid what you owe by April 15, you could be subject to late penalties.

Do You Need to File Taxes Every Year?

Not everyone is required to file tax returns every year. It all comes down to your unique tax situation and how much you earned. However, if you earn income throughout the year, there is a good chance you will need to file. It’s a good idea to review the IRS filing requirements or speak with an accountant if you are not sure.

Tax Filing Mistakes to Avoid

Working with tax preparation software or an accountant can help avoid some common mistakes when filing taxes, but familiarizing yourself with some of the most common errors can be helpful, no matter how you’re filing:

•   Forgetting about state and city. We often think about federal income taxes, but your city and state (and maybe even school district) could also have their own taxes that you are required to pay.

•   Not filing. Income thresholds can change each year. It’s always a good idea to check whether you are required to file taxes for a given year even if you didn’t have to for the previous year.

•   Not checking with parents. If you are filing taxes for the first time, your parents are likely used to claiming you as a dependent. Talking with them about dependent status before filing could be a smart move.

•   Filing without all your forms. Getting taxes over with early can relieve a lot of stress (and means you can get your tax refund early), but if you have any tax form stragglers, like a 1099, that appear in the mail after you’ve completed your taxes, you might land in trouble with the IRS.

•   Entering in the wrong info. Tax preparation is not something to speed through. Even though e-filing helps avoid simple pen-and-paper mistakes, it’s still possible to incorrectly enter things like your birth date or Social Security number. Slow and steady — with lots of double- and triple-checking — wins the race.

Banking With SoFi

The fastest way to get a tax refund is a direct deposit into your bank account. If you’re a first-time filer looking to get a bank account online ahead of your refund, consider the SoFi Checking and Savings account. It lets you spend and save in one convenient place, and when you open an account with direct deposit, you’ll earn a hyper competitive 2.00% APY and pay no fees, which can help your money grow faster. What’s more, eligible accounts can get paycheck access up to two days early.

Give your tax refund a good home. Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

What happens if you make an error on your taxes?

As soon as you realize you have made a mistake on your taxes, you can amend it with Form 1040-X or by calling the IRS at 800-829-1040. In general, the IRS does not consider mistakes to be tax fraud, though you may end up paying late penalties. If you have intentionally made errors and the IRS catches you, you could be charged with a tax crime.

How much income do I need to make in order to pay taxes?

The amount of income that you need to make to pay taxes can fluctuate each year and depends on your filing status (single; head of household; married, filing jointly; married, filing separately; qualifying widow/widower). For the most recent tax season, a single filer under 65 needed to make $12,550 or more to file.

What is the deadline for filing taxes?

In general, the tax deadline in the U.S. is April 15. If this date falls on a weekend or legal holiday, the deadline shifts to the next business day. Members of the military may have special rules affecting their deadline, and self-employed individuals typically must pay quarterly estimated taxes throughout the year.

How can I avoid tax scams?

The best way to avoid tax scams is to educate yourself on what they look like. The most common tax scams are email phishing scams and phone scams. Remember that the IRS will never email you requesting personal or financial information. If a phone call feels suspicious, review the IRS site on this subject and note all the things that the IRS will not do over the phone, including threatening legal action or leaving pre-recorded, urgent messages.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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