Thursday, January 19, 2012

In The Mail

Most of the time I like checking the mail. I always have hopes that today will be the day that some money will find it's way into my hands. It's possible! I don't even mind getting bills in the mail because I love the process of paying bills and budgeting, most days. I dislike getting junk mail. It feels like a waste of energy, I walked all the way outside in the bitter cold for this?

And then there is mail that I despise above all other: anything from Sallie Mae is bad news. I know that it isn't Sallie Mae's fault that I despise her (funny how that institution has a female name), but she is on the top of my list for all time worst items received in the mail. Maybe I should send them the award.

It is with hesitation and despair that I open the envelope. I know that whatever lies inside will 1) upset the DrH almost as much as it will me, 2) will require hours to fix, if it can be fixed, and 3) will probably come with a price.

Here is an excerpt from the letter with my interpretation of what this letter really says in parenthesis:

Dr. DrH:

Thank you for the opportunity to service your student loan (since when have we really provided adequate service? We make you call our center in another country with representatives who don't speak English and who are not familiar with your training. We know it takes you hours and that we send you to unknown extensions... we have to have some fun) and invest (we like to call you our cash cow, a little insider joke. That's right! We are going to make a BANK off you and all your other doctor friends. You think you are so great and that you have it so hard right now, PAY UP, maybe you shouldn't have gone to medical school) in your potential (you expect me to feel bad for you because why? You are going to be a rich doctor don't talk to me about your little problems). The payment terms for your loan(s) listed below have changed (you thought this was all worked out, sucker, but we like to keep our debtors on edge and under our control. You will never be done with us). Here is your updated payment schedule (have I upset you now? Good, my job here is done!)

They are asking for another $100 a month starting in February, and then it will go to $166.82 next year. We will be in the middle of Fellowship still and this is only for 1 of the dozen or so loans they service for us. Three of which we have been paying on for a year to the tune of $230 a month. Now it will be $330!

Have I mentioned that we started this whole journey under the assumption that ALL our medical school loans would be deferred during residency. Guess what? They aren't. My dear sweet friends who are in long residencies (and by long, I mean anything over 4 years) BEWARE!!!! Apparently, not all loans can be deferred for the same amount of time depending on whether they are Federal Subsidized, Unsubsidized, or Private. Some can be deferred indefinitely, some cannot. We obviously have some that cannot be deferred past 4 years and 6 months from graduation of medical school.

I do not like the fact that we had to borrow money for medical school. But who can actually afford to pay for it. I suppose it you finished undergrad and then went to work in a high paying job for the next 5-10 years and saved up $250,000 you could pay for it. Assuming you didn't get married, have children, or do anything other than save every dollar than came your way. Or maybe you have wealthy parents with an extra quarter million dollars that they don't need. I would love to meet someone who actually paid their way through medical school without help from a parent, grandparent, or student loans. I don't think they exist! We are left with no options but to finance a medical education that continues to get more expensive and yet doesn't offer the salaries and respect it once did.

And we are the lucky ones. We were in medical school (2001-2006) when student loan rates were reasonably low. The one I am looking at right now is at 2.75%. Friends of ours have the same loan with rates now above 5%. The student loan companies are setting all medical students up for personal financial ruin before they even make a dollar in their profession.

Perhaps what bothers me most about receiving these letters asking for more of our money that we don't have, is that the money we send doesn't even move the principal balance. That's right. We just got our tax statement from Sallie Mae and this year we have paid $2,370.89 in interest and that is exactly the amount we have sent them. Our principal balance is untouched, and has probably increased because the unpaid interest, which I am sure there was some, has been capitalized. I am in no mood to find out by how much, but I will!

If by some miracle a tragic mistake has been made in their system and it is determined that we do not need to make payments I will retract my statements. We know how likely that will be.


  1. I feel your pain, but the good news is that you will be able to pay them off..eventually. My husband did his fellowship in '97 and we were finally able to pay off a his student loans a couple of years ago (including the loan from his parents). There are better times ahead! My mother-in-law likes to remind us of the times my husband was (now, you have to say this with a cute southern accent like hers) "working his bee-hind off an' didn' have a pot ta piss 'n". Hang in there!

  2. feel for ya! I want to barf every time I think about having to start paying back loans. I just don't get why there can't be some deal worked out so we don't have to pay back once ALL of the training is done. Including fellowship.

  3. Ugh.
    Student loans.
    I don't know what else to say.


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