Dear Diana: I've been an associate dentist for about three years now. When I first began my career, inflation wasn't on my radar, and I was happy with my financial situation. One mantra that has helped me show fortitude during challenges is "prevention is better than a cure." Now that the cost of everything is rising, I want to revisit my finances to adapt to the new reality. What do I need to know about loans and rising interest rates? — A Warrior, Not a Worrier
Dear Warrior: Preparing yourself for the future is a very smart move, and inflation can be a cause for concern, but there are several ways to protect yourself. As the government adjusts the federal funds rate, banks follow suit to amend their lending rates. Let's dive into some measures you can take to mitigate the added expenses that rising interest rates can create:
Adapt the debt snowball approach
List all the debts you have. The debt snowball method is a debt-reduction strategy that helps you focus on paying off your small debts first before moving on to larger ones. Make sure you are paying your small and high-interest-rate debt first, as that will help you save those extra dollars for your other loans. You can also consolidate your high-interest debts into a loan that has a lower interest rate.
Pay more than required
The best way to ensure you’re managing your debt in a rising-rate environment is by making higher payments that pay down your principal faster. This can save you on interest over time. Cut down on your expenses, if possible, and apply those savings toward your loan payments.
Know your loan type: variable rate or fixed rate?
Beware of the type of loan you currently have or are planning to take. A fixed interest rate has the same interest rate for the entirety of the borrowing period, whereas a variable interest rate changes with fluctuations in the market. Your banker can advise you as to which loan structure is in your best interest. Do ask about refinancing options if you have a variable-rate term loan.
Keep your financing options open
There are several lenders out there, so do your homework and shop around for a competitive interest rate. Remember that a best rate might mask benefits available at a slightly increased rate, such as the ability to obtain 100% financing. Find a lender with expertise working with health care professionals. It’s their job to know the market and help advise you as to your financing options.
Diana Talpa works with privately held companies to consistently deliver innovative, industry-specific financing and cash management solutions to meet their diverse needs. As a vice president in commercial banking at BMO, she leverages her background in business valuations, financial analysis and commercial credit underwriting to add value, foster long-lasting relationships and — above all — help dentists realize their vision for practice success.