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Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine

Expenses and Financial Aid Home

Financial Wellness

Your financial life is comprised of many components including personal budgeting, money management, credit, borrowing, debt management, and a host of others.  While each individual has a unique financial life, we often see similar concepts and strategies that serve as the cornerstones in healthy financial lives.

This section is dedicated to providing sound financial literacy and debt management education that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is not intended to replace the one-on-one, personalized meetings which are structured with individual circumstances and goals in mind.  This virtual financial literacy hub should serve as a readily available supplement to the Office of Student Finance. 
This section focuses on common personal finance topics that help build a sound financial life.  Click on a topic below to learn more about it.

This section covers topics central to managing debt. Click on a topic below to learn more about what debt really is and what to do about it


Have a plan

Knowing where your income goes and allocating for fixed expenses, variable expenses, and savings provides a solid foundation for financial wellness.  Budgeting and money management does not begin when you land your first paying job - it begins right now. 

The cost of attendance should serve as the framework for your budget from year to year, but should also be considered your upper limit.  The goal is to budget for less:

  • Search for an apartment off campus where your monthly rent will be less than what is included in the cost of attendance
  • Try to eat out less often.  Consistently buying groceries will be cheaper than going out to eat.

Buy unperishable items in bulk.  The cost of a warehouse store membership is negligible in light of your future savings.     

Budgeting 101 (AMA Article)
How to Build a Budget ( video)
Budgeting Ideas and Tips (AAMC FIRST)
Budgeting Basics: Managing Your Money During the Lean Years (AAMC FIRST)
How to Create and Maintain a Budget (
Interactive Monthly Budget Worksheet (AAMC FIRST budget development tool)

Saving and Banking

Save money, bank smart!

It’s never too early to start to save and no amount is too little.  Similar to budgeting, establishing good saving habits at a young age will stay with you for the rest of your life.  If you do not have a savings account, open one today.  Be sure to shop around and find one that does not require a minimum balance.  Once you’ve opened your account, make small contributions whenever you can.

Banking and Managing Your Accounts (SALT Article)
Banking 101 (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog)
Building an Emergency Fund ( video)
30 Money Saving Tips for Students (

Credit Cards and Credit

Credit cards can be extremely helpful if used responsibly.  The best way to build personal credit is through use of credit cards.  The way that you use, treat, and repay your credit accounts is reflected on your credit report.  Lenders will rely on your credit report to determine if you are creditworthy from now until the day you stop borrowing money.

You should be aware of what is on your credit report and check it regularly (3-4 times per year) to ensure it is accurate.  If errors are found, be sure take the necessary steps to address them immediately.  To learn more about your credit report and to access your free credit report, visit the FDIC website.  You are entitled to review your credit report annually.

Credit Cards

Credit vs. Debit Cards (SALT article)

Taking Control of Credit Card Debt (AAMC FIRST)

Understanding Credit Card Interest ( website)

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and Effective APR (The Khan Academy video)

Credit Score

Unexpected Things That Lower Your Credit Score ( video)
Borrowing 101: An Introduction to Credit (AAMC FIRST)
Know the Credit Score (SALT article)
Reading Your Credit Report (SALT article)
Your Credit Score (AAMC Article)

Loans and Borrowing

If you take nothing else away from this section, remember to borrow only what you need and nothing more.  It may be tempting to borrow more money than what is necessary to cover your educational expenses, but remember that you are required to pay this money back.

The money that you borrow or have borrowed (student loans, mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc.) carries with you.  Until the debt is paid off, it will be used to calculate your debt-to-income ratio which is a factor lenders use to make determinations on how much you can borrow.  Although this may not be a concern while borrowing to fund your education, it will be later in life when you are making larger purchases (home, car, etc).

Borrowing Wisely (AAMC Webinar)
Loan Interest Rates (FSA Website)
Choosing a Loan That’s Right For You  (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau article)
The Total Cost of Borrowing 
What is a Master Promissory Note (MPN) 
AAMC Monthly Payment Estimator  (Federal Direct Loans)
Direct Loans 101  (AAMC article)
Stafford Loans (Federal Student Aid website – U.S. Department of Education)
Student Loans ( website)
Finding Your Loans

The Federal vs. Private Loan Debate

Alternative (private) loans are offered through various private lenders.  These loans are issued by banks or credit unions and should be used as a last resort.  Terms and conditions differ from loans that are backed by the Federal government.  Below are some of the major differences:

  • Interests rates are generally higher and variable
  • Interest and/or payments are not always deferred while you are enrolled in school
  • Deferment and forbearance options may differ or be nonexistent - something to consider when beginning residency training
  • Large origination or general fees may be associated with borrowing
  • Repayment terms are often less favorable than federal loans
  • Loans are not eligible for consolidation, Income Based or Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

Comparing Federal and Private Student Loans (U.S. Department of Education)

Federal vs. Private Education Loans  (Investopedia article)

Why Federal Loans are Better Than Private Loans 

When Private Loans are a Good Idea

Purchases - Large and Small

In medical school, borrowers must determine what expenses - large and small - are absolutely necessary.  The links below shine some light on the topic, but for the best advice, consult the Office of Student Finance.  We can help you make decisions based on your personal financial situation.   

Steps for Making a Big Purchase (AAMC FIRST)
Car Loan Payoff Calculator  (SALT interactive tool)
10 Reasons Why Residents Should Not Buy a House  

Economics, Earnings and Compensation

If you search the internet for the “economics of becoming a doctor,” proceed with caution.  On one hand, you will come across opinion pieces and horror stories written by residents, physicians in practice and economists all weighing in from various platforms.  On the other hand, you will find some very valuable and interesting information.  Either way, make sure you understand the source and/or the reasons motivating the author or organization.  Identify credible sources, speak to faculty, consult the Offices of Student Affairs and Student Finance, and factor in your own personal circumstances.    

The Value of an M.D. Degree (AAMC FIRST video)
The Economics of Residency (AAMC FIRST video)         
The Economics of Becoming a Doctor (entire AAMC FIRST video series)
Physician Compensation Report (Medscape report)
AAMC Survey of Resident/Fellow Stipends and Benefits (AAMC website)
Physician Specialty Data Report (AAMC report)
Center for Workforce Studies (AAMC website)
Why is My Paycheck Smaller Than I Expected? (SALT article)
Tax Deductions Introduction (The Khan Academy video)
Calculating Federal Taxes and Take Home Pay (The Khan Academy video)


When borrowing money, very rarely will you do so without incurring interest. Interest makes lending worthwhile to the lender. Interest rates are critical in understanding the total cost of what you’ve borrowed.  Remember that if you borrow money, you will pay back the principal PLUS all accrued and capitalized interest.  

Everything You Need to Know About Student Loan Interest Rates (SALT article) 
Understanding Interest (Fedloan Servicing)  
Introduction to Interest (The Khan Academy video)
Understanding the Time Value of Money ( website)
Interest Rates 101 (The Motley Fool website)
Interest Rates (U.S. Department of Education)
Loan Calculator ( website)

Financial Planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future financial goals.  During your 3rd and 4th years of medical school, the Office of Student Finance will host group sessions dedicated to your financial future as you prepare to transition into residency. 

3-Step Plan to Map Your Financial Future (SALT article) 
Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals (SALT article) 
The Wealth Affect ( video)
Getting Married During Medical School or Residency (AAMC FIRST)
Education Tax Incentives (AAMC article)
What is a Mortgage? ( video)
Introduction to Mortgage Loans (The Khan Academy video)
The Complete Guide to Retirement Planning for 20-Somethings ( website)
Investing Basics ( website)
Personal Finance Center ( website)
401(k)s (The Khan Academy video)

Tips for Medical Students

Now is the time to cut back on frivolous spending.  When you’re a student, there is no constant stream of income (student loans are not income) – but there will be soon.  Until then, get through medical school and wait until there is some positive cash flow before you start purchasing unnecessary items. 

It has long been referred to as the “latte factor” – the amount of money that you can save if you discontinue buying exotic $5 coffees every day and brew your coffee at home. The reason this example is so widely and frequently used is that it is true!  Take a look:

Days / year


Business days / year (avg.)


Class days / year (avg. med student)


Cost for coffee


Total cost for coffee (business days @ 1 a day)


Total cost for coffee (class days @ 1 a day)


Cost for brewing at home

Coffee pot (one-time expense)




Travel mug


Total cost


Savings (business days)


Savings (class days)


That amounts to your annual interest payment on a $20,000 loan at 6.5% over 10 years (and over the life of the loan, that is roughly $7,150 to $8,450).  The moral of this exercise is that the costs add up over time.

While this example is the most common, it is not limited to your coffee.  Small savings, compounded daily, really add up quick.  Start cutting unnecessary expenses now to ensure you are able to manage your debt tomorrow. 

Have an Emergency Fund

It is wise to have a little bit of money set aside for an emergency.  This may be more difficult to do when a student, but important nonetheless.  Even something as small as $500 set aside for emergencies will allow for peace of mind in the event that something unfortunate takes place (medical, auto, etc.).

Unforeseen Emergencies and Financial Needs – What to Do? (AAMC article)

Live a Student’s Lifestyle

In order to put yourself in the best possible financial position when you graduate from medical school, live like a student now.  What makes this difficult is the fact that you will find yourself surrounded by your peers, who have not chosen to pursue medicine, bringing home a paycheck – in most cases for the first time – and are eager to spend.  Resist the urge to run with the pack and live within your means.  Doing this while you are in residency will also help prevent the accumulation of non-education related debt.   

Sales, Coupons, Discounts

To expand upon the “student’s lifestyle” idea from above, take advantage of sales, coupons, and discounts.  The internet is an excellent resource when it comes to discovering deals and discounts.  The effort and time required to find the deals will surely pay off over the long haul.  Use the Google shopping tool to start as it offers competitor price comparisons on almost any item you can think of.  Get into the habit of comparing prices and performing your due diligence when buying.  This will come in handy later on in life when you're ready for larger purchases - e.g. house, car, etc.

The sites below offer coupons for some popular nationwide retailers.  Discounts vary among retailers but every dollar counts!



Long Island Coupon


Living Social

Understanding Debt

Know Before You Owe

Debt is not always bad, however, not managing your debt or having an excessive amount of certain debt can prove detrimental.   How you borrow money, and more importantly how you pay it back, is what creditors use when deciding whether or not to lend you more.  This is how you establish credit score.  Your credit score will impact the cost to finance larger purchases - such as a car or a home.  It is important to understand which debt can help you and which can harm you.
The two primary types of debt are unsecured and secured debt.  Simply put, secured debt is tied to some source of equity, such as a car loan or mortgage loan.  In the event of default, the lender can ultimately take back, or repossess, the source of equity (car, home, etc.) to help offset their losses.  This is the reason that interest rates are somewhat lower with these loans.  The lower the risk for the lender, the lower the interest rate will be.

Unsecured debt is not tied to any physical or tangible item.  Credit card debt is usually considered unsecured; therefore, what you purchase on credit cannot be repossessed by the lender.  In the event of default, the credit card company can pursue legal action to garnish wages.  Interest rates that accompany unsecured debt are higher, meaning the borrower will pay more over time.

Credit cards are extremely beneficial when handled appropriately.  They should be used with caution, especially while you are a student.  It is wise to ensure that you have eliminated all credit card debt before you begin your medical education.  Unlike education loans, monthly credit card payments are not deferred while you are a student.  If managed poorly, credit cards damage your credit, thereby jeopardizing your ability to obtain loans in the future. 

Student loans would fall under the category of unsecured debt since no one is able to take back your education in the case of delinquency or default.  For more details on the consequences associated with defaulting on your student loan, visit the website.

Education Debt

Know What You Owe

If you have clicked on this topic, chances are that you have taken out a student loan.  This section covers broader education debt topics.  If you are interested in learning more about repaying your loans, visit our section on loan repayment.

Education Debt Manager (AAMC FIRST PDF)
Education Debt Management for Graduating Medical Students (AAMC FIRST PDF)
Student Loans: Paying Off Your Debt Faster ( website)
Saving For Retirement vs. Paying Off Student Loans: How to Do Both ( website)
How Long Will it Take to Pay Off My Student Loan ( calculator)

It is important to know exactly what you owe and to whom.  The following link will take to you the Federal Student Aid’s National Student Loan Data System where you will be able to access the central database and review any outstanding Federal student loans.   

Personal Debt

One key strategy in managing student loan debt is ensuring that your monthly income is not tied up in credit card and other forms of consumer debt.

The Most Effective Way to Eliminate Debt ( video)
Debt Reduction Planner (CNN Money’s interactive calculator) 
How to Eliminate Credit Card Debt ( website)
9 Ways to Pay Off Debt (The Motley Fool website)
How to Pay off Credit Card Debt (wikiHow article)
Debt Management ( website)

Grace, Deferment, and Forbearance

These terms are mentioned often in financial aid offices across the nation but do you know what they really mean?

What’s a Grace Period (U.S. Department of Education)
Grace, Deferment and Forbearance (AAMC FIRST)


Loan Repayment

You’ve borrowed money to fund your education.  Now what?  Time to pay it back.  We’ve organized this section into subsections for ease of navigation but please take the time to explore each topic in detail. 

Organizing Your Loan Information

Debt Management Relies on Good Record-Keeping (AAMC FIRST)
Medloans®Organizer and Calculator (MLOC) (AAMC FIRST)
Finding Your Loans (AAMC FIRST webcast)
National Student Loan Data System (U.S. Department of Education website)


Strategies for Repaying Private Student Loans (AAMC FIRST video)

Strategies for Paying Off Student Loans ( website)

Creating Your Education Loan Repayment Strategy (Access Group website)

Repayment Options

Repayment Plans (U.S. Department of Education)
Should You Postpone Your Student Loan Payments? (SALT article)
Can You Afford to Make Payments During Residency? (AAMC FIRST video)
Repayment Plans Compared (AAMC chart)

Loan Repayment Programs

Repayment Assistance Through Forgiveness, Scholarships, or Service (AAMC FIRST website)
Loan Repayment, Forgiveness and Scholarship Programs by U.S. State (AAMC website)
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (U.S. Department of Education)
National Health Service Corps (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website)
NHSC: Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs (AAMC FIRST)
National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website)


Consolidating Your Loans (AAMC FIRST)
Loan Consolidation Calculator ( website)
Consolidating Your Federal Loans (U.S. Department of Education)

Loan Forgiveness

Occasionally, students will qualify for loan forgiveness.  Unlike loan repayment, loan forgiveness is when the lender forgives all, or a portion, of what has been borrowed.  Pay close attention to eligibility and service requirements – by doing so, you can determine if loan forgiveness is right for you.  

Steps to Follow for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (AAMC FIRST)
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (AAMC FIRST website)
Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge (U.S. Department of Education