Being a doctor is hard work. Many of you work long hours and deal with complicated issues that, in some cases, can mean the difference between life and death. However, the career of a physician can be incredibly rewarding despite the challenges, but over time the stress can build to a point that is very hard to recover from.
The stress many doc's face comes not only at work, but also at home, and one of the biggest sources of stress for many is their debt. In this blog we discuss five reasons why paying off your debt can actually lead to better physical, emotional, and career health.
Debt is powerful. Sometimes so powerful it takes control of our lives. Don't believe us? Take a few months off paying your debt and you'll quickly see the control it has over your life! One of the greatest outcomes of us paying off our debt is the freedom it has given us to live our lives as we choose to, not as we have to. The great thing about being free of debt is that it gives you options. Freedom from debt allows you to say "yes" to the things you want to say yes to and "no" to the things you want to say no to. You may believe you have options because of your big salary, but eventually debt catches up to you and can take control of your life.
Recent surveys show that nearly 70% of Americans are stressed over their finances, which, ironically is about the same percentage who are living paycheck-to-paycheck in America. Debt has the power to control our emotions, but the great thing is we have to ability to control our debt!
Reason #1: You'll feel better physically.
In a study by the Society of Occupational Medicine, debt had a score of 82/100 for men and 86/100 for women on their Life Events Inventory (a ranking of psychosocial stress). Stress can lead to all sorts of negative health issues such as cardiovascular disease, allergies, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Paying off debt can lead to actually feeling better. Hopefully you've experienced these good feelings as you begin to pay down debt. We've never met anyone who's told us they've felt worse after they paid off debt, but we know many who say a burden has been lifted once the debt is gone. That burden, like extra pounds on your body, can lead to physical problems if you don't deal with it.
Reason #2 You'll feel better emotionally.
Getting rid of your debt helps not only physically, but also on an emotional level. Financial stress has a strong emotional impact because for many it is always in their mind. Have you ever asked any of these questions:
How am I ever going to pay off all this debt?
Will I ever be able to (fill in the blank with whatever you want to do in the future)?
Debt has the power to take over our emotions and turn our heads into a mindfield where every step has the possibility of being an explosion with emotional shrapnel.
Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine argues, “Ongoing financial stress translates to chronic stress which can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, back pain, stomach ulcers, etc.,” According to Dr. Saltz, paying off your debt removes the fear and stress associated with it.
This stress can not only lead to health problems, but also to taking on additional work to make ends meet that can lead to career burnout, and putting patients at risk by being cared for by an overworked physician.
Reason #3 Your career and life will be much richer with no debt.
Debt gets in the way of many career and life goals. Maybe you want to start your own practice, move to another area of the country, buy a house, give more to the organizations you care deeply about. Whatever the career or life ambition might be debt kills your ability to do what you want to do in life.
We are evidence of the freedom that comes from being debt-free. Jana works fewer hours by choice and Scott has nearly eliminated the need to travel and be away from the family because of not having the burden of debt obligations. Both of us have the option to say "yes" to many new opportunities if we want to pursue them, but the freedom that comes with being able to pick and choose what we want to do is one of the greatest blessings of being out of debt.
Reason #4 Your marriage will improve.
Debt can kill a marriage! According to a 2018 Couples & Money Study by Fidelity, 46 percent of couples concerned about debt agree that money is the biggest challenge in their relationship compared to 16 percent of couples not concerned about debt.
When you struggle with your finances it will lead to fights with your spouse - guaranteed! Have you ever met a couple who was deeply in debt and didn't fight about money? Sure, maybe once they decided to do something about their debt the fighting slowed down, but most couples struggling financially will end up fighting about money every month when there's more month to go than money to cover it.
When you have no money because of your debt you will fight about how to use the money you do have, and what tends to happen is each of you will critique the other's use of your limited funds and that will lead to arguments. Getting out of debt can save a marriage.
Reason #5 Getting out of debt can lead to staying out of debt.
When you get out of debt for many something magical happens. The new designer bag doesn't seem to be as alluring as it used to be. The new 100" TV that was just released doesn't temp you to make an impulse buy just to impress your buddies who come over to watch football on the weekends. Stuff starts to lose its appeal.
We're not saying that once you get out of debt you'll never be tempted to buy nice things or take fancy vacations. Getting out of debt will actually allow you to do more of both of those. However, the appeal for doing these types of things may be less because you'll be spending cash to do them, and something happens in our minds when we pay for things with cash - we actually start to think before we buy!
Find your own reasons.
There are many other reasons why getting out of debt is good for your life, and perhaps you might consider listing them on a sheet of paper and putting it somewhere you'll see it each day to remind you why you're sacrificing in the short-term to win later on when you're debt-free.
You can do this! You have the ability to delay gratification, and that's one of the biggest challenges you may face when getting out of debt. While the world around you is buying big cars and houses and living a life of luxury (nearly all of it on credit) you start to feel like you are being left behind.
The truth is you are actually ahead of those digging themselves deeper into debt.
You are passing them each day you decide to continue on the debt-free journey, and eventually, if you want to, you'll be able to buy the things they have with cash.
The choice is yours. Decide today you've had enough. Plant the seed of delayed gratification in your mind, and it will blossom into something beautiful that will never die if you stay the course in living the debt-free life.