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Presented by Wesley Botto

Jane (35) and Ryan (32) Kaplan have been married for a little over a year, and live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jane is a physician who just got her first job as an attending, and has a base salary of $400,000 annually. As she is starting her new position, it seems like a laundry list of financial decisions cropped up overnight, and they’re not sure where to begin.

One of their major concerns is that, since getting her new job, Jane and Ryan have been considering buying a home. Together, they decided that they’re interested in buying a home that offers more room for growth. They’d love to start a family in the next year or two, and they know their current space won’t cut it.

They’ve been diligent savers over the past year and while Jane was in residency. They have $50,000 in a savings account in case of emergencies, or for a house down payment. However, they also have close to $200,000 in student loan debt and their monthly loan payments might make it challenging to afford their dream home.

Jane is also trying to navigate her new employee benefits. She bought disability insurance as a resident, but she wasn’t making nearly as much as she is now. She’s wanted to make sure that her current coverage would be enough to protect them if something should happen to her. Jane’s new job also provides her with retirement planning options. The hospital sponsors a 403(b) and a 457, and she’s not sure which is the right option for her unique retirement timeline.

They decided to book a call with the Botto Financial team to get organized and create a plan to achieve their goals. We have highlighted the “key questions to answer” in each section. These represent the important questions that we helped our clients answer with confidence.

Making a Plan

Reviewing their situation, it was clear to both Mark and Wes that the Kaplans have a lot of exciting goals and changes on the horizon. Going through a growth period like this can be stressful, but by prioritizing their goals and making a plan, they’ll be able to stay on track financially while living a fulfilling life.

Key questions to answer:

  • Are we on the right track?

  • Is there anything that we are missing?

Lifestyle

One of the biggest questions that the Kaplans need to ask themselves is what they want their lifestyle to look like once Jane starts her attending position. Many people have an increase in spending when their income increases as an attending. If the Kaplans can choose a couple of areas to splurge in then keep the rest of their lifestyle similar to what it’s been throughout Jane’s residency and fellowship through the first year at the hospital, they’ll be able to make a lot of progress toward their other financial goals.

For example, if the Kaplans decide they can afford to hold off on purchasing a new home for 6-12 months, they’ll be much more likely to make headway on their debt, and build a larger down payment for their dream home.

Key questions to answer:

  • How can we live wisely with our increased income while still enjoying the fruits of our labor?

Debt Repayment

Having a game plan for their student loans is going to be a critical part of the Kaplans’ journey. They’ll need to take a closer look at their student loans to determine whether they are public or private, and what interest rates are attached to each loan.

Private loans often come with a higher interest rate, while public loans may have lower interest rates and can be eligible for PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness). It’s in the Kaplans’ best interest to build a debt repayment plan that prioritizes their high-interest, private loans first.

Once their repayment plan is outlined, they need to decide how they want to fund their debt repayment. One option is to keep their cost of living where it is and to use Jane’s increased salary to knock out their debt. Another option is to slightly increase their cost of living now, but look for other ways to increase their family’s cash flow.

This might mean either or both of them choose to moonlight for a while to bring in extra money that goes toward their loans until they’re paid in full. However they decide to pay off their loans, there is a significant benefit to them understanding the timeline and knowing when they will be finished with their student loans.

Key questions to answer:

  • Should we refinance our loans, or should we take advantage of PSLF?

  • If we do use PSLF, then should we have a backup plan if the government does not fulfill their obligation to pay off our debt?

  • Should we accelerate the payoff of our student loans, or should we make minimum payments and invest the rest?

  • Will we ever pay off our loans?! 

Understanding Jane’s Benefits

The Botto Financial team also encouraged the Kaplans to take a closer look at Jane’s new employee benefits – starting with her disability insurance. Jane’s disability insurance from residency likely isn’t enough coverage now that she has a new position. If the hospital where she works offers disability insurance coverage, should she use the optional increase in the group coverage, or buy more individual coverage? Should she buy enough coverage to fully cover her income or just to cover her family’s living expenses?

Her new employer also offers two different kinds of retirement plans – a 403(b) and a 457 plan. Employer-sponsored 403(b) plans are usually offered to employees of private nonprofits or government workers. They’re similar to a 401(k) in that they’re a defined-contribution plan that allows plan participants to contribute tax-deferred money to their retirement savings. There are some important things to know about the 457 plan before starting contributions, does it make sense to max out both plans?

It’s important to take advantage of the employer-match with their 403(b). This match can typically be up to 6% of Jane’s salary – which is a great way to boost retirement savings!

Key questions to answer:

  • Should we purchase the optional group disability insurance through Jane’s employer?

  • How much disability coverage do we actually need?

  • Should we invest in the 403(b), 457, or both? Which funds should we invest in?

  • How much should we invest in the 403(b) and/or 457 plans?

Sound Familiar?

New physicians have so many incredible opportunities available to them, and it can be overwhelming to navigate them all simultaneously. The good news is that, with the help of Botto Financial, the Kaplans were able to have their questions answered, prioritize their goals, evaluate their spending, create a debt payment plan, and leverage Jane’s new employee benefits.

The preceding case study is provided for illustrative purposes only and may not be representative of the experience of other clients. Every situation is different and actual performance and results will vary. This case study does not constitute a recommendation as to the suitability of any investment for any person or persons having circumstances similar to those portrayed. Please consult a financial advisor regarding your individual situation. Past performance does not guarantee future results. 

Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, a Registered Investment Adviser

Wesley Botto is a financial advisor located at Cornerstone Financial Group. He offers advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 513.924.3350 ext.18, at wesley@cfgconnect.com or 4565 East Galbraith Road, Suite B Cincinnati, OH 45236

If you’re a physician early on in your career and have questions about your finances, download our free PDF Guide toward Financial Freedom: