Invest now or pay off debt?
I went to medical school, and now I have $70,000 in debt. I just started a three-year residency making about $50,000 a year, while my wife makes $40,000. The student loans represent our only debt. Do you think we should be paying this off or investing in a Roth IRA?
If I were in your shoes, I'd work on paying down the student loans. That means you may never be in a Roth, but there are other things you can invest in and grow wealth.
I realize this may not seem right mathematically, but I don't always make financial decisions based exclusively on math. Many times I do things based on changing money behaviors - stuff like paying off debts from smallest to largest because it actually works. Personal finance is 80 percent behavior, and only 20 percent head knowledge. So sometimes you have to go with what actually works best overall, in spite of what the technical math shows.
In your case, I think it's going to be very valuable to have no student loans by the time you complete your residency. With three years to go, and living on a $90,000 a year income, you can do it. Then, when you come through the other side as a full-fledge doctor, you'll have the great income and be sitting there debt-free. Not a bad place to be, right?
I understand the Roth seems like a pretty good idea right now, but my advice is to stick with becoming debt-free as quickly as possible. Once that's done, you and your wife will be able to invest, save, and build wealth like crazy!
Dave Ramsey is America's trusted voice on money and business. He's authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.