How to Pay Off 145K in Pharmacy Student Loans

In ways I admire people who have no trouble carrying debt, because I despise being in debt. Unfortunately it took me about 6 or 7 years of undergrad and pharmacy school to figure that out, and in that time frame I accumulated nearly 145,000 dollars in debt.  Pharmacy student loans have felt like a black cloud in my life, but I try to look at the good in every situation.   What can paying off student loans teach you?

  1. Define a dream versus a goal.  If your plan is waiting for a distant relative to die and leave you a million in the bank, you will be disappointed and have wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about it.  Trust me, thoughts like this have crossed my mind.  Dreams mean nothing without action behind them.  Start with the end in mind.  Setting a long term goal and short term targets along the way helped me get excited and focused on a way forward.  Write out a plan and take control.
  2. Discipline. No, we are not going out to eat tonight was something I had to tell myself and negotiate with my family.
  3. Revenue, Taxes and Expenses.  Our family Pre-Tax income ranged from the upper 90’s/year to the 140K range throughout this 7 year period.  Expenses went up with children, and don’t forget about taxes!
  4. Sacrifice.  To those who say you can’t live without a smart phone, you are wrong.  Call me what you will, but I have never owned a smart phone in my life.  There were certainly times of discomfort and near embarrassment because of this fact, but it saved our family in the neighborhood of $100-200/mo.  We also lived in a modest home and drove vehicles 8-10+ years old.  I picked up extra hours as well as started a side business.
  5. What really matters.  As I have gained more life experience, I have accumulated a greater appreciation for what really matters.  If you have ever had a sick child, friend, or other family member, you understand how much you would give up for health.  While my financial health felt pretty ill for a while, my family has overall been blessed with incredible physical health.
  6. Control.  Your car breaks down, the washer quits, or wallet gets stolen are all things that are out of your control.  Do your best to take action and fix the situation.  Expect the unexpected and recognize the only thing in life you can control is your actions.
  7. Financial Freedom.  Freedom is a great word.  Money is not everything, but what money can do is provide you more freedom to live a happier, more fulfilling life.
  8. Interest sucks.  My parents talk about interest rates in the “teens” and I can’t even imagine that. On 100,000 dollars, at a 5% rate, you will pay about $417/month.  Take that same 100K at a 10% interest rate and you will pay $833/mo in interest alone. I realized how lucky I was to have a 4% interest rate.

I’m not going to lie, I am pretty excited to get a smart phone 🙂 What’s your student loan story?


  1. John

    “Story”? You mean “Stories,” I’m sure. My favorite three:

    1) Broke up with a girl who just didn’t care to understand what you so affectionately call “sacrifice.”
    2) Two years post-residency at a position where the biggest perk was ‘Work from Home.’
    3) Two Words: “Private Loans.” uggghhh.

  2. pat donohoo

    great article

    • Eric Christianson

      Thanks pat

  3. Nicole

    My student loan monthly payment is more than my monthly house mortgage ! Loans have weighed heavily on my mind too. Things to consider when thinking about how to spend a paycheck (in no specific order): Tax benefits from paying mortgage interest have far outweighed my student loan tax benefits. In other words (in my experience), the 20k in student loan interest I paid last year didn’t impact my tax return amount, but the 8k in mortgage interest I paid — changed me from owing the IRS to actually getting money back!
    Retirement is important to consider early. The money set aside/invest now is more important than the money you invest in the future. I put 25% of each paycheck into my investments and adjust to keep in mind the annual cap.
    I pay extra money towards my student loans when I can. If I make payments twice a month, one of those payments goes 100% towards the principal. Even if it’s $25, I consider it a win.
    It’s not hard to continue living as a student if that’s all you’ve really ever known. So living slightly above student status is a luxury. I’d love to go on fancy trips or buy a really cool watch….it’s hard to not give in when coworkers have so many neat toys and travel the world. In the end, I have my health and family and I will (hopefully) be better off in the future (financially). Just food for thought. Maybe others do it differently…

  4. A.T. Pharm.D. BCPS

    Education is the best form of investment that no one should defer because of the outrageous tuition fees associated with it. As an immigrant with no asset of any form, except literally the clothes I wore I had no choice but to obtain a huge student loan to cover for my higher education. As a part time employee making below minimum wage my income was barely enough to meet the expenses required for one to live and breath. Nonetheless, been cognizant of the sacrifices that come along with achieving a lifelong dream accumulation of a debt was the least of my concerns. For one, aside from its financial rewards, the loan, in a subtle way, had opened for an opportunity to gain a lifetime reward I wouldn’t trade for anything: knowledge.
    Thus, my advise to those in a similar situation as I was and want to pursue advanced education but reluctant to do so because of high cost is to never ever put your lifelong dream on “pause” for even a second for fear or concern on how you’ll be able to pay it back. Once determined to purse a degree of your choice, your next priority should be dealing on steps that must be taken to overcome certain unforeseeable challenges ahead and to excel academically.

  5. quimicosoy

    I am a male just graduated from pharmacy school. And owe 220.000 dollars. My solution is this:

    1-Will live with my mom until I pay everything. She owns apartment, we pay 220 dollars a month in rent with 1000 bucks a year for taxes…Overall in a year is like 30.000, with food and living frugal. If I send most of my income to student loan. I might be free in 5-6 years.
    2-No girlfriend
    3-No babies

  6. Whitney

    The best feeling in the world was when I got my letter that my loans were now completely payed off last December. I had about ~130,000 in debt after pharmacy school. I have been out of school 8 years now. I couldn’t stomach paying 3X what I borrowed over the course of 30 years. Making a bank richer and being enslaved to that loan payment. We payed it down by eating a lot of oatmeal, not buying new cars or a new big nice house right away. We got a modest home 3 years ago. It was a priority to pay them down. Now I’m going to pay off the rest of our house…much in the same way. It would have been payed off sooner but I went part-time when my daughter was born. You can do it!! A few years of modest living is so worth it and now all I make now is bonus.

  7. Jimmy Puckett

    This is horrible, but my loans are still being deferred 3 years after graduation. I’ve finally realized the concept of net worth, and the fact that I’ll never be able to get a pharmacy franchise with a negative net worth. With a few deft financial maneuvers I’ll hopefully be able to start knocking them down (highest interest first of course) shortly.

  8. Fm

    Total debt accumulated in school: 131k
    Degrees: 3 in total
    Remaining debt to pay: 28k
    Have been working full time in community pharmacy for 10 years.
    Lots of discipline and careful planning were needed to pay down debt and to also live my life. Life goals that’s have been accomplished in this 10 year span included saving a downpayment for a home, investing in RRSPs (401k equiv), getting married, building a modest efficient home, a few trips down south, paying off 2 vehicles and driving then for as long as possible.

    Finally seeing the light now as loans are slowly being paid off. Can’t wait until the day I can say my loans are paid off. Loans are needed for those of us not enough to have parents that can assist. Seeing loans as a tool to get to where you want is the key to maintain a displicined approach to paying down loans.

    Yes, times may get tough at certain points. Even as pharmacists we encounter companies cutting back with reduced overlap or stressful conditions. Do yourself a favour and stand up for safe pharmacy working conditions and help to potentially reduce stressful working conditions. Don’t be afraid of change and believe in your skills. This will get you through any amount of stress cause by student loans. Remember to make smart decisions for yourself and be disciplined in getting rid of your debts!


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Written By Eric Christianson

July 31, 2016

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