The world expects doctors to live a certain way. Now that you made it through medical school and are trying to gain traction in your career, you may feel the pressure on you. Where is that shiny new car? Where is that sprawling estate? You haven’t been to the Maldives yet? What the world doesn’t see are the crippling student loans, the burden of malpractice insurance, the jungle of managed care obstacles, or the overhead in starting a practice.
It’s understandable that some doctors, therefore, fall prey to credit card debt. With your profession, you will have no shortage of credit card offers knocking at your door. To be clear, credit cards are not bad. They help you build credit, protect your purchases, and provide convenience. What is not good are the fees that accrue on balances. This is lost money. There is no tax benefit. There is no gain. You are simply paying a company to feed your habit of overextending yourself.
But there is help available. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are simple steps to get out of credit card debt.
Beware of eager helpers. There are many companies willing to help you manage your credit card debt. Some can be helpful; others are looking for their cut of the deal. Some companies even encourage you to stop paying credit card bills to provide leverage on settlement negotiation. This is a bad idea because it can hurt your credit—which will cost you when you try to apply for a loan or mortgage later. After realizing that there is a lot that can go wrong when partnering with a debt-relief company, you may want to try things on your own to start.
Be your own advocate. It costs you absolutely nothing except time to call your credit card company and negotiate with them. You have the potential to be a very good customer for them and they may be willing to help you by lowering your rates or erasing a late fee or two. You may even be able to negotiate down the lump sum you owe.
Reach out to a credit counseling agency. The US Department of Justice has a list of approved credit counselors that can help you develop a budget and put strategies in place to get you debt free. Sometimes just having a coach in your corner or an accountability task master can give you the strength you need to dig your way out.