Should I Pay Down My Student Debt Before Purchasing a Practice?
Nothing resonates more with recent college graduates than the talk of possibly wiping away student debt. Even though this might be a talking point of our current administration, it does bring up a question that newly graduated veterinarians worry about if they want to own their own veterinary practice. Should I pay down my student debt first? Or should I purchase a practice and then have two debts?
Your own gut reflex will say, “Uh, no way…more debt is crazy when I’m already so far underwater.” However, it is usually advantageous in the long run. If the dream of owning your own business is on your vision board, then it makes financial sense to move ahead with securing a business loan early in your career, even with a large amount of student debt.
Each person’s financial position will be unique. However, here are some items to consider:
Will it be harder to get a bank loan with a lot of student debt? Although not necessarily harder, the amount you can borrow will be determined by the amount of your student debt and your history of making regular and timely payments. Consistent payments and not skipping any repayments on your student loan will show the bank that you are reliable in your financial commitments. Although it’s tempting to splurge on extravagant items, keep your finances in check during this time and keep making regular payments. Banks like to see that you have a stable financial history and are not high-risk.
Which has the higher interest rate, the student loan or business loan? Whichever loan has the higher interest rate, is the loan you will want to pay down first. This might seem obvious but check with your lender for your student loan because they often don’t have harsh penalties if you lower your payment. Go back and recalculate what the minimum student loan payment is and take the difference you had been paying and use that towards your new business loan, hence paying the more expensive loan sooner.
Buying a turn-key practice or one that needs some work. Look for a veterinary practice that is undervalued, has potential, and is located in a good area. Most buyers want a turn-key solution when purchasing a practice. But there are a few diamonds in the ruff. The advantage is you will secure a loan for less money on an underperforming practice and with some work, you can turn it into a polished gem which is a great investment.
Building equity. You will earn equity in your business if you purchase a practice, rather than remaining an associate. As an owner, your earning potential is far greater, often outpacing the associate salary from the day you purchase a veterinary practice. If you purchase a practice where you own the real estate, then you would also increase your bottom line when you are ready to retire and transition.
You haven’t missed the boat of owning your own veterinary practice when you have a large amount of student debt, but you will want to be business savvy on how you should proceed.