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Your Checklist, Resources, and Tools

SECTION 1: The Early Years: Pre-Med and Medical School

Chapter 1: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

  • Set annual calendar reminder for October 1st to submit FAFSA

  • Create an FSA ID for both students and parents

  • You can fill out your FAFSA online, or download the MyStudentAid app for mobile devices for Apple products and Google Android products

  • If you are a male and 25 years or younger, you must be registered with the Selective Service to eligible for financial aid. You can register or verify your status on their website

  • Get Title IV Institution Codes for each of the schools you are applying to that you will need on the FAFSA

  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool option in the application to save time filling out your FAFSA 

  • Use the FAFSA forecaster tool to estimate how much financial aid you will qualify for


Chapter 2: Federal vs. Private Loans

  • Review the pros and cons of private and federal student loans before selecting a loan

  • Ask the following questions when applying for a private loan:

  •  Can I make pre-payments without being charged a penalty?

  •  Can I pay off my loan early without penalty?

  •  Is the interest rate variable or fixed?

  •  What are the options to defer loans during times of financial hardship?

  • Can I defer payments until after graduation?


Chapter 3: Scholarships and Grants

  • Choose medical school scholarships to apply for, such as the list compiled by Fastweb or the list gathered by

  • Since scholarships and grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, add a calendar reminder on the deadlines for the scholarships you plan to apply for

  • Run a search online for local community foundations and businesses that offer scholarships

  • Set up a meeting with your academic counselor or financial aid office to discuss local scholarship opportunities


Chapter 4: Medicine and The Military

  • If you’re interested in learning more about practicing medicine in the military, check out these links to help you get started for the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, or U.S. Navy

  • Speak with a colleague or peer that has first-hand experience practicing medicine in the military. If you do not know anyone directly, LinkedIn is full of military physicians happy to answer your questions


Chapter 5: Working Through School

  • Select the work-study option on the FAFSA application to be eligible for federally subsidized work-study income

  • When comparing a work-study position with another job, make sure to calculate the tax savings of 7.3% offered by many work-study jobs

  • Consider applying for a job while in school that offers tuition assistance


Chapter 6: Application & Interview Costs

  • Find the closest MCAT testing location to you

  • Verify whether you qualify for AAMC’s fee assistance program

  • Ask whether interviewing for medical school remotely is an option to potentially save thousands of dollars

  • Avoid using a high-interest credit card to pay for interview-related costs if you are unable to pay the balance off within one payment cycle

  • Start saving for interviews now by setting up a recurring auto-transfer from your checking to a savings account


Chapter 7: Questions to Consider When Going into Debt

  • Know what your expected income will be and compare it to those of other specialties.

  • Calculate your total student debt.  To estimate future debt not yet incurred, you can use the Tuition and Student Fees Report to estimate both undergraduate and medical school debt

  • Assess future income by using the Medscape Physician Compensation Report  

  • Calculate your debt-to-income ratio to evaluate how much of a burden your debt will be in the future

SECTION 2: Residency

Chapter 8: Student Debt Repayment Options

  • If you’re considering private loans, make sure you understand the terms, especially around prepayment policies, early payoff penalties, and options for deferment during times of financial hardship

  • Utilize the loan simulator to explore your repayment plan options

  • Make small payments on your loans in residency. This will not only reduce your debt over time by tens of thousands of dollars but can count towards your forgiveness program


Chapter 9: Consolidating/Refinancing Your Student Loans

  • When you start residency, review the pros and cons of consolidating your loans. If you are going to consolidate, early in residency is the ideal time to do so

  • Use the consolidation calculator created by to explore your options

  • Contact the Federal Student Loan Support Center to answer any questions regarding a federal direct consolidation loan at 1-800-557-7394


Chapter 10: Student Debt Forgiveness Programs

  • If you are participating in PSLF, verify that your residency program or employer is a qualified 501c(3) tax-exempt non-profit or public institution

  • Confirm that your student loans are eligible for PSLF, and if they are not eligible, consider consolidating into a direct federal loan that is eligible

  • Certify that your loan payments qualify for PSLF every year by filling out the annual certification form

  • Utilize an online PSLF calculator to explore repayment options with PSLF in mind. We like the calculator

  • See if your state offers additional student loan forgiveness programs

  • When applying for jobs after residency, find out if your employer offers student debt payment assistance or student loan forgiveness

  • Start making qualified payments towards PSLF early in residency


Chapter 11: Work After Residency & Contract Negotiation

  • Set a calendar reminder to start your job search 6 months before you finish residency

  • Reach out to your peers from medical school and residency about job vacancies

  • If you have a particular position, group, or hospital in mind, reach out to their HR/recruiting office directly before reaching out to a recruiter

  • Utilize a recruiter to explore other potential opportunities

  • Consider countering on your initial job offer at least once

  • Hire a lawyer to review your employment contract

  • Look into completing a billing course after residency


Chapter 12: Your First Paycheck After Residency

  • Create an updated set of goals after residency

    • Determine what percentage of your income will go towards your retirement goals

    • Automate bank transfers to build your emergency fund and meet your savings goals

    • Create a debt management strategy to pay off student debt

    • Create a budget to support your goals


SECTION 3: Setting Yourself up for Success

Chapter 13: Financial Advisors

  • Consider a fee-only fiduciary advisor to support your goals. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors website is a good place to find local advisors

  • Understand how the financial advisor will charge you for their services

  • Use our list of questions in the chapter to get you started during financial advisor interviews

  • When interviewing an advisor, make sure they are easy to understand and patient with your questions. If not, find another advisor


Chapter 14: Budgeting

  • Start a free trial of Mint, YNAB, or another budgeting tool of your choice

  • Connect your accounts to help the system categorize your spending

  • Calculate your financial net worth

  • Create a recurring calendar reminder to open your budgeting app and review your expenses

  • Keep an eye on your miscellaneous expenses and set a limit on them


Chapter 15: Saving

  • Determine how much you will save every month for emergencies

  • Create an emergency fund with 3 months’ worth of expenses

  • Open a high-yield savings accounts to hold your emergency fund

  • Automate your savings by contacting your HR department and having a percentage of your paycheck go directly to your savings account

  • If you struggle to contribute regularly to a savings account, consider using a micro-investing app like Acorns to automate your savings and investing


Chapter 16: Banking

  • Search your bank statement for bank fees. If your bank charges overdraft fees, maintenance fees, monthly service fees, and other fees, drop them like a bad habit. They don’t deserve your business. Consider an online bank like Ally, Discover Bank, or Capital One 360


Chapter 17: Credit Cards

  • Ask yourself whether you can pay off an expense within one billing cycle before using your credit card

  • Research The Points Guy as a good resource for comparing rewards on credit cards


Chapter 18: Buying, Renting, and Home Loans

  • Decide whether you are going to rent or buy. Here are links to two of the calculators we like, built by Zillow and the New York Times that will help you make the decision to rent or buy a property

  • Limit your mortgage payment to 25% or less of your monthly gross income

  • Set a calendar reminder for when PMI should be paid off and contact the mortgage company to have it removed

  • Create a savings account for the down payment on a home

  • Get your free credit report from

  • Get an estimated credit score for free from Credit Karma or Credit Sesame

  • Get a pre-approval for a mortgage before house-hunting

  • Negotiate with two lenders up until the rate is locked and the underwriting process has been completed

  • If you’re considering buying points on your mortgage, use an online calculator to help make the decision

  • Trulia has an easy-to-use mortgage calculator that will include all the fees you can expect


 SECTION 4: Investing for Your Future

Chapter 19: What I’ve Learned After 20 Years of Investing

  • Diversify your investments. Make sure that your trading accounts include funds with a large number of holdings across different markets

  • Adopt a general buy-and-hold strategy. Short-term trading will increase your taxes, increase associated fees, and increase your risk on investments

  • Keep it simple. This can be accomplished with a few well-diversified funds


Chapter 21: Retirement Accounts

  • Calculate how much you need for retirement. Use retirement calculators like the SmartAsset calculator. We also like NerdWallet’s calculator (Chapter 29)

  • Contribute enough to your retirement account to get your employer’s match (Chapter )

    • Calculate how much you need to contribute to take full advantage of employer match

    • Understand your vesting period

  • Inspect the fees (expense ratios) on the funds you are considering investing in


Chapter 22: Roth & Traditional IRAs

  • Review whether you are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA

  • Determine whether you qualify for a tax deduction with a traditional IRA. Although anyone can contribute, not everyone is eligible for the tax deduction

  • Review our section on questions to ask to help determine whether a Roth or traditional IRA is a better fit for you

  • If you’re not eligible for Roth and not eligible for tax deductions with a traditional IRA, consider a backdoor IRA  

  • Review the pro-rata rule when performing a backdoor conversion

Chapter 23: Index Funds

  • Review the SPIVA Scorecard for 2020 before considering an active trading strategy

  • Review low-cost index funds to add to your retirement and investment accounts

Chapter 24: Health Savings Accounts (HSA) & Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

  • Check with your HR department on whether HSA and FSA accounts are available through your employer

  • If you choose to open an HSA, verify whether you are enrolled in a qualifying high-deductible health insurance plan

Chapter 25: Asset Allocation

  • Take Vanguard’s risk questionnaire to help you choose an allocation model based on your risk profile

  • Review your current asset allocation mix by logging into your online retirement portal. If you own multiple accounts in different places, consider summarizing them in an excel sheet or using an app like Personal Capital to bring together a full picture of all your accounts


Chapter 26: Rebalancing Your Portfolio

  • Many 401(k)s offer an auto rebalancing feature. Review your plan and activate the feature

  • Your methods of rebalancing can either be based on time or a set threshold. Review a strategy and then stick with it

  • Create calendar reminders to check in with your portfolio to review for rebalancing purposes


 Chapter 27: Saving for Your Children

  • Explore the plans within your state of residence for possible tax deductions

  • Compare 529 plans on Vanguard’s website

  • Set up a 529 plan with monthly auto withdrawals


Chapter 28: Introduction to Taxes

  • Take a long-term approach to investments (more than 1 year)

  • Avoid capital gains taxes when selling your home

  • Understand the concept of step-up in basis for transferring property

  • Utilize tax-advantaged accounts for retirement

  • Consider forming a business for liability protection, additional retirement options, and business tax deductions


SECTION 5: Protecting What You’ve Earned


Chapter 30: Sheltering Your Assets

  • If you’re starting a business or have rental properties, you can register an LLC to protect your assets. Legal Zoom is one option to streamline the setup

  • If you’re employed, make an effort to understand your malpractice insurance. Do you have an occurrence policy or a claims-made policy?

  • When searching for malpractice insurance, consider using an independent broker who is not financially incentivized to push you towards a particular policy or company

  • Narrow your conversations to brokers that specialize in medical malpractice insurance. You’ll want to find a highly rated reputable company that can be verified with AM Best, the world’s largest credit rating agency


Chapter 31: Estate Planning

  • Discuss with your family how to access your important documents

  • Review packages offered by a local estate attorney as well as an online service like Legal Zoom to compare what would be appropriate for you at this stage of your career

  • Make sure you have assigned beneficiaries for retirement accounts, life insurance, and disability policies, allowing these policies to avoid probate


Chapter 32: Life Insurance

  • Get a health screening to get a quote for life insurance

  • Compare different policies from websites like Policygenius, and HealthIQ that are third-party, independent broker sites

  • Check an insurance company’s credit ratings at S&P Global or AM Best to make sure they are reputable and credible

  • Find out what the policy is regarding late payments

  • Set up autopay to avoid late payments

  • Ask about discounts offered such as prepayments on premiums


Chapter 33: Disability & Umbrella Insurance

  • Check your employer’s coverage. Do they offer short-term and long-term coverage?

  • Calculate the amount needed on your policy by looking at your budget and expenses. Shoot for 60 to 70% of your after-tax income if your family relies on your income primarily, and less if your partner brings in a substantial income

  • Compare the insurance policies you have available to you through school, residency, or your employer with that of an independent online broker with options from several companies. The same companies that provide life insurance quotes will also provide disability insurance. Websites like PolicyGenius, HealthIQ, and LeverageRX, are a few options to explore

  • Explore insurance options while you are in medical school or residency. Most universities offer group long-term disability insurance.

  • You can reach out to an independent online broker to see what they can offer in comparison. In residency, you should be offered guaranteed insurance coverage while in training.  

  • If you purchase a private policy in medical school or residency, make sure you have the option to increase your disability benefits in the future without having to undergo a physical examination



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