How This Doctor Paid Off Nearly $300K in Student Loans

 October 3, 2020
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Originally published October 9, 2018.

Before he could become a successful periodontist, Jeff Anzalone had to spend nine years in dental school and residencies. Altogether, his time in higher education left him with close to $300,000 in student loans. Despite this daunting figure, Anzalone was able to pay off his debt in just six years.

Here’s the story of how he was able to pay off his medical school loans ahead of schedule, along with some of the strategies he used to do it:

Dealing with medical school loans as a broke, jobless new doctor

Despite graduating with massive debt, Anzalone wasn’t initially worried about how to pay back his dental school loans.

My student debt “never did bother me,” Anzalone said. “I had been promised a good job, so I knew I could pay it back.” He was referring to an invitation he’d received to become a partner in a dental group in his hometown.

“I thought, ‘All doctors are wealthy,’” added Anzalone. He figured that since other doctors deal with the same debt, he didn’t have anything to worry about.

But days before his graduation, bad news flipped Anzalone’s financial world upside down: The dental group decided not to bring him on as a partner.

In seconds, he plunged from a setup for success into a sea of unknowns. He and his wife, who’d just welcomed their first child, were worse than broke: Between student debt and a new mortgage, they were $435,000 in the hole.

“I had a pile of student loan debt, a two-month-old, no patients and no clue how to run a practice,” he said.

Turning it around: Paying off debt and building a successful practice

Anzalone found a new arrangement sharing an office space with an experienced endodontist and founded his own practice. He went from having no work to being able to establish and build a business of his own. As his practice grew, so did his income.

After dealing with the stress of student debt and having no way to repay it, the Anzalones were feeling motivated to wipe those student loans out.

“My mindset shifted,” Anzalone said. “I’d been preoccupied with all the things I could get, and I switched to being more focused on getting rid of my student loans as fast as I could.”

Along with paying off his debt, Anzalone shared his journey and strategies on his personal finance site, Debt-Free Doctor, to help others with similar student loan struggles.

The Debt-Free Doctor’s 5 tips to pay off medical school loans

Anzalone focused on building his practice (and income) while getting serious about knocking out his student debt. With intense effort, he was able to pay off nearly $300,000 in student loans within six years.

After paying off the student debt, the mortgage was next, and the Anzalones were completely debt-free within 11 years after he started his practice.

Here’s his advice to anyone who wants to get their medical degree, then get out of debt as quickly as possible.

1. Limit borrowing
2. Consider refinancing medical school debt
3. Keep living expenses in check
4. Pay extra on student loans every month
5. Balance student debt repayment with other goals

1. Limit borrowing

Anzalone acknowledges that one of the best strategies to get out of student debt is to never get into it in the first place. Looking back, his biggest regret was borrowing so much for school.

Students should look for ways to pay for medical school besides just taking out student loans.

“I should have definitely been more proactive with my student debt, looked into scholarships and grants, and applied for those to really limit the amount that I had to borrow,” Anzalone said.

Even after graduating, you still might have options. Repayment assistance and student loan forgiveness programs for doctors can be another smart way to deal with student debt.

2. Consider refinancing medical school debt

During his first year of repaying student loans, Anzalone decided to refinance this debt to get a lower rate. Most of his student loan rates were in the 5% to 7% range, and just the interest charges on a nearly $300,000 balance would have been well over $1,000 per month.

After refinancing student loans, Anzalone’s new rates were more in the neighborhood of 3%, cutting his interest charges by about half. This freed up more money that he could then turn around and use to pay off his student loans even faster.

If you’re interested in refinancing your student debt, you can use our student loan refinancing calculator to see how much of a difference this move could make. Be careful to look at the pros and cons of refinancing, especially if you have federal loans.

3. Keep living expenses in check

Frugal living was a huge part of the Anzalones’ get-out-of-debt strategy.

“We just decided not to borrow any more money, always pay cash for everything and live within our means,” he said. “Compared to the other doctors in our area, our standard of living is lower – but I wouldn’t change it.”

While starting a medical career can mean finally earning the larger paychecks you’ve been looking forward to, don’t let that change the way you live, Anzalone advised.

“If you will just buckle down for three to five years after you get out of school, continue living like that, and take all your money and throw it at your loans — you’ll be so far ahead of the game,” he said.

4. Pay extra on student loans every month

For the “throw money at your loans” side of the strategy, Anzalone decided to follow the debt snowball strategy.

“I bought a whiteboard and listed all my loans, from [the loan with the smallest balance] to biggest,” he said. “Then I targeted the smallest and threw everything I could at it each month.”

With an affordable lifestyle already in place and a decent income as a doctor, Anzalone began making large extra payments on his student debt. These started as $1,000 to $2,000 each month, and later were as high as $7,000.

5. Balance student debt repayment with other goals

Lastly, don’t let student debt eclipse all your other financial goals. While getting out of debt can have big payoffs, it’s important to balance this against working toward other important financial achievements, too.

For the first year after founding his practice, for instance, Anzalone focused on saving up a 20% down payment for his home so that he could refinance his interest-only mortgage into a traditional home loan.

And even after this goal was met, he made it a point to continue to invest while paying off debt.

“It would have been faster if I’d had taken the Dave Ramsey route by stopping all investing until paying off consumer debt,” Anzalone acknowledged. But he wanted to make sure he was also building wealth and saving for retirement, too. “This way, I wouldn’t miss out much with compound interest.”

Although Anzalone made student loan repayment a priority, he didn’t neglect his other financial goals. For more on striking a balance, check out these tips on how to save for retirement while you’re paying off student loans.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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1.74% – 7.99%4Undergrad
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1.89% – 5.90%5Undergrad
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1.74% – 7.99%6Undergrad
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2.05% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.86% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

& Graduate

Visit PenFed

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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 4, 2022.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Apr 22, 2021 and may increase after consummation.

4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.

6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 8 years/96 monthly payments, 12 years/144 monthly payments or 15 years/180 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed rates range from 3.29% to 5.43% APR. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed APR: Fixed rates will not change during the term. This rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.