Our debt paydown plan

All photos from our most recent trip to Kauai


I have had a few questions from readers about our budget and how we prioritize debt repayment. Here is a snapshot of our current debt and plan:

A picture of our indebtedness

We are essentially doing a modified version of the Dave Ramsey debt snowball strategy. The lion’s share of our debt repayment effort is being funneled into my wife’s student loans (refinanced with a five year variable rate repayment through Sofi). We chose to refinance my student loan (also through Sofi) to a longer term (at the expense of a higher rate) so as to be able to pay more towards my wife’s loan and pay it off sooner. This was done for both psychological reasons (e.g. the sense of accomplishment that will come with paying off one set of our loans) and for more practical reasons – getting rid of one set of student loans significantly improves our cash flow/decreases our monthly mandatory expenditures.  Once her loan is paid off we will take a month or two and pay off our auto debt and then refinance my student loan to the lowest rate/shortest term possible.

So in about two years my wife’s student loan and my auto loan will be paid off, at which point we will use the money we were paying for her loan and the car loan to help pay down my student loan – to the tune of $13,000/month. In 2021 our only debt will be our mortgage.

We have gone back and forth about what to do with this extra $13,000/month once we only have a mortgage left. Dr. Cory Fawcett makes a compelling argument for paying off your mortgage as soon as possible in this scenario in his book The Doctor’s Guide to Eliminating Debt. I would tend to agree with him. It will only take us three years from that point to fully pay off our mortgage and be totally debt free – at age 40. Since we are very aggressive with our investments (100% equity) due to risk tolerance and our young age/career longevity, I view this equity as being the equivalent to the bond portion of a portfolio. Since we would only be 40 at this point, we would still have a decade or  more to aggressively fund our kids’ 529s and our brokerage account. If we decide to go part-time at this point it would be easy to do so given our monthly expenses would now be $17,000 per month less than they previously were.

In some sense there is probably no right answer as long as that money doesn’t get funneled into lifestyle expansion. In the same way that I believe we have good risk tolerance (this will surely be tested at some point by a bear market), we also are quite debt averse. This no doubt influences our decision making.

Even with this aggressive debt repayment plan we conservatively expect to have $2,500,000 in our various investment accounts by age 42 (assuming 6% returns, no increase in salary over this time). From that point on the asset side of our portfolio really starts to take off.



What are your thoughts on debt repayment vs. investing?


5 Replies to “Our debt paydown plan”

  1. Good for you guys to have a plan!

    We are playing the same game as you but in different leagues (2 quick examples: Your student loans were almost double ours, and your car payment is more than our mortgage! Guessing this has more to do with income than anything.).

    Looking forward to following your progress and cheering you on!

  2. My wife and I are also a dual-physician couple finishing our 4th year in practice. Starting to plan for a family so will look forward to your future posts on how you operate your household. We also practice in Canada – so marginally reduced student loan sizes, a whole different series of retirement account acronyms as well as the benefits of incorporating a small business for planning, although likely disappearing this year.

    You state you have adopted a “modified snowball” debt repayment strategy. I recognize this is based upon the positive psychology of getting loans off the balance sheet as rapidly as possible, math be damned. But when I look at your repayment priority it appears to be: student loan A, car loan, student loan B then Mortgage.

    A pure snowball would be: car loan–>A–>B–>mortgage and the “avalanche” method, paying highest interest first, would be B–>mortgage–>car–>A.

    Just asking for a little more rationale for the approach you have taken. Combined you have stable and excellent income, focused goals, realistic lifestyle expectations, a long runway to retirement and are through the high impact maternity/paternity years – you’ve won at each of these but I don’t follow your strategic decisions for this plan specifically.

    My takes:
    1. You have committed yourself to debt repayment as a priority (versus accelerated retirement savings) for the better part of the next 10 years. Many would argue that you’d be ahead by accumulating savings and subsequent investment income versus the relatively low interest rates you’re paying down. And now you’re paying your cheapest loan first.
    2. Usually debt snowball is setup for individuals with a lot of small loans – so in a series of months the number of loans on your balance sheet grows smaller. You’re a couple years away from the first being removed from yours – and the relief from its final payment a lot of nights and weekends on call away. Do the same benefits apply?
    3. Are there specific requirements of your loan refinancing that force you above the minimum payment for some loans versus the others?

    I don’t me to challenge you significantly but on the surface it appears that you’re less likely to achieve the benefits of snowball at the expense of paying more over time.

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