What to do with your finances during dental school

Wondering what you can do with your money even while you don’t have any? Here are some ideas of what you can do while in dental school to set yourself up for financial success.

  1. Learn to live on budget. This should be especially easy since your budget is probably quite small. You want to develop good spending habits as soon as possible. Once you begin working and get your first paycheck, it’s going to feel like you can buy whatever you want but you can’t and shouldn’t. You should get in the habit today of keeping track of every dollar and only spending money when you know exactly where it’s coming from. You can also begin preparing a budget for when you begin your career. If you would like to see a mock budget for a new dentist, I have made one available here.
  2. Educate yourself. It’s good you’re reading this blog because you have to work kind of hard to learn about personal finance. Much of the industry is driven by product distribution (insurance, mutual funds, etc.) and sometimes that makes it tough to navigate marketing v. education. Once you graduate, you are going to make decisions about several things:
    1. Where to live
    2. Signing a contract
    3. How to repay half a million dollars in student loans
    4. Coming off of your parent’s health insurance
    5. Getting your own car insurance
    6. Buying a home
    7. Getting disability and malpractice insurance
    8. Being an independent contractor (and possibly having to incorporate)

Many of these decisions need to be made within months of graduating and all of this is happening in the midst of you being alone with, and responsible for, your patients for the first time. If you leave dental school with no knowledge whatsoever, you are going to have a hard time getting things set up correctly. You are also setting yourself up for a very stressful situation. Try to learn as much as you can.

  1. Saving for retirement probably doesn’t need to be a primary goal. I often get asked if students/residents should save for retirement. In your first year or two of practice, your primary goal is going to be saving 3-6 months’ worth of expenses which typically amounts to $15-30k. If you have extra cash, it might be a good idea to just park it in a savings account to give yourself as much flexibility as possible when you graduate dental school. Who knows where you will need to move or how long it will take to find a job? If your money is in a retirement account, you could be taxed and penalized if you access that money.
  2. For the same reason, you may not want to pay down your student debt while still enrolled in school or residency. This is a little tougher to say because everyone’s situation is unique. But if you have $5,000 in savings, take it all out to pay down your loans and then have an emergency, you could end up putting everything on a credit card and paying double the interest rate. So it’s probably a good idea to have some money in savings and make a decision about what to pay off once you have a job.
  3. Borrow and spend as little as possible. I’ve met students who have a vague understanding of student loan forgiveness and think that they should borrow as much as possible because it’s all going to get forgiven. While forgiveness is a real thing in certain circumstances, this is a terrible idea. Primarily because it creates really bad habits and ideas about spending money. If you can be disciplined in dental school, that will carry over when you graduate. And the reverse is typically true. Do the best you can to be disciplined.
  4. Get involved in ASDA. (No, they didn’t pay me to say that). I have worked with hundreds of dentists, including many who have served in ASDA leadership, and I have noticed that ASDA-involved graduates tend to be better prepared for entering their career and particularly practice ownership. ASDA does a great job of working to expose its members to a variety of topics that aren’t covered in the dental school curriculum but are still vital to being a successful dentist.

Good luck. As always, contact me if you have any questions.

~Ryan Schulte, financial advisor

Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS).OSJ: 750 B Street #2740 San Diego, CA 92101 ,612-746-2200. Securities products and advisory services offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. WestPac Wealth Partners, LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. CA Insurance Lic. #0F03557 | Guardian and its subsidiaries do not endorse or have any direct or indirect responsibility with respect to this activity | This material contains the current opinions of Ryan Schulte but not necessarily those of Guardian or its subsidiaries and such opinions are subject to change without notice.
Pinpoint  #2017-34848 Exp. 01/18


Ryan Schulte

Ryan Schulte is a financial advisor who focuses his practice on Dentists. He works with young dental professionals that are transitioning in their careers and helps them manage their student loans, understand the insurances they need and how to design them, how to investment money without speculating and gambling, what it means to be an independent contractor and a business owner, understand their tax situations and a variety of other issues unique to dentists. Ryan lives in the mountains near Yosemite with his wife and 5 boys on 4 acres that they affectionately refer to as the “The Schulte Farm.” Ryan serves on a community development council dedicated to redeveloping an industrial zone in Madera County. He also coaches little league and enjoys hiking, brewing beer, playing softball and soccer. His contact info can be found at

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing very useful post i enjoyed your blog reading !! Must Read it………

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