Do You Know the Answers to These 8 Common Financial Questions? We Do!

We understand—the years after optometry school are an important time to set yourself up for financial success. Maybe you need to pay off your loans, maybe you are looking to optimize your savings, or maybe you are considering the best credit card options. No matter what, it is important to be financially stable.

Easier said than done.

At the AOA, we offer a number of resources to help doctors of optometry make sense of an increasingly complicated financial environment. No matter if finance isn’t your forte or you are just looking to brush up on your knowledge of all things money, let’s look at some common questions optometrists are asking, and some additional resources, vetted by us, that you can turn to for additional support.

  1. Does checking my credit score cause it to lower?

When it comes to checking your credit score there are two different types of checks that may occurhard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries occur when you apply for loans, mortgages, and credit cards and may lower your score by a few points. This is because frequently applying for credit could signal an unstable financial situation, thus causing the credit reporting bureaus to lower your score. But not to worry—the drop is not much if you are applying for credit responsibly, and over time these points will return.

Soft inquiries occur when you check your credit score as part of a background check or you check it yourself as part of your annual credit report, or using an online service like CreditKarma. None of these actions affect your credit and are good tools to use regularly to check your score.

Further resources:,, are three common, secure, and free websites you can use to check your estimated credit score. They even provide tips on how to improve it.

  1. What are some strategies for paying off my student loans?

The best way to pay off loans is pretty obvious—look for ways you can put more of your money every month toward your loans by trimming your budget. All loans have minimum monthly payments, but if you find yourself able to pay more than the required amount, you should, as you will save money on interest in the long run.

Further resources: Loan Payment Calculator, and Articlecan help you assess which loan repayment strategy will work best for you.

  1. What’s the difference between an IRA and a Roth IRA?

IRAs are a popular retirement account, and unlike a 401(k) that is set up through your employer, IRAs are controlled directly by you. There are a few differences between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, and which is best for you depends on your needs. AOAExcel Endorsed Business Partner AXA offers more information here.

Both Traditional and Roth IRAs provide tax breaks to those who contribute to them. The difference comes, however, in when you get to claim them. Contributions to a Traditional IRA are tax-deductible for the year you make the contribution; when you withdraw in retirement, the money is taxed at normal income tax rates. Roth IRAs provide no tax break for contributions, but earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free. So, with Traditional IRAs, you avoid taxes when you put the money in. With Roth IRAs, you avoid taxes when you take it out in retirement. Which one to choose generally involves estimating what tax bracket you will be in when you retire, and if it makes more sense to be taxed then (Traditional IRA) or now (Roth IRA).

Further resources: Retirement Planning for AOA Members through AOAExcel is offered by AXA, one of the largest retirement plan providers in the world.

  1. Should I refinance my loans?

If it saves you money, then yes! The point of refinancing is to get a lower interest rate, which would mean more of your money is going to pay the actual loan and less to interest payments. Plus, when you refinance you can get one consolidated loan with a single monthly payment, making things simpler to manage.

Further resources:COMING SOON!Loan Consolidation through AOAExcel, with special interest rate offers for AOA members. Check here for updates!

  1. How much of an emergency fund should I have saved?

An important part of being financially stable is planning for the unexpected. From new car batteries to health issues and other expenses, it is important to save money so that you are covered in case any unexpected expenses crop up. But, how much is a good emergency fund?

Like most things in the financial world there is no set number. Instead the right answer depends on your specific situation. Generally, financial experts suggest saving three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses, and at minimum you should have at least two weeks’ pay set aside.

Further resources:Use this Emergency Fund Calculator from NerdWallet, a popular blog covering all things money.

  1. How can I save money while paying off loans?

Saving versus paying off loans seems to be a continuous challenge. You can’t pay off your loans without saving money, but it will cost you more in the long run if you don’t start paying off your loans! It can be difficult to feel financially stable when you are working toward two conflicting goals, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Leverage your savings potential: If your employer offers a 401(k) match, contribute the maximum to get the most out of the program. This “free money” goes right into your retirement savings. Additionally, sign up for any discounts you can get from your financial institutions. For example, many offer a discount if you use automatic payments.
  • Prioritize your highest interest debt: Eliminating these as quickly as possible will save you interest payments in the long run.
  • Use your peers for motivation: If you are the type to be motivated by a little competition, then lean on your friends for support. Work with family and friends to turn small milestones into a game. It is always easier to conquer your goals together.

Further resources:The Finance and Business section of OptometryStudents.comhas resources relevant for graduates and young ODs as well as students. is an AOA website with helpful content, all written by students, for students and young doctors of optometry.

  1. How do I choose the right credit card?

There are a lot of credit cards available to you. It is important that you apply for a card that offers you the best overall value. Look closely at the differences and don’t be afraid to ask around. Different credit cards offer different benefits, like:

  • Travel Rewards: Some cards contribute frequent flyer points for every dollar you spend.
  • Cashback Rewards: Instantly save a certain percentage off every purchase in the form of cash back at the end of the month.
  • Other Perks: Many credit cards offer other valuable benefits like extended warranties, reduced prices on car rentals, special bonus categories for extra points/cashback, and more.

Further,a resource mentioned earlier, has a popular section of credit card reviews, helping you make an informed decision.

  1. Is there someone who can help me manage my finances, even though I’m still getting started?

If all of this finance talk is still confusing, a certified financial planner (or CFP) can help. A CFP can help you reach your personal financial goals. They can also assist with estate planning, retirement planning, investment planning, tax planning and much more. Even those with relatively low savings and modest income can benefit from a CFP.

Further resources:Find a CFP at,the official website of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

Not only does an AOA Membership give you access to resources to help you meet your financial goals, you will also be supporting our efforts in advocacy, have access to clinical tools and resources, and helping us improve the public’s awareness and perception of optometry.You belong here. Join us today.

Please Note: The general educational information provided by the American Optometric Association (AOA), which contains information such as universal methods of student loan refinancing and other credit score information, does not constitute and shall not be construed as professional financial advice. The AOA is not a financial adviser.. The information in this website and the links provided are for general information only and should not be taken as constituting professional advice from the website owner - the AOA. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the website information relates to your unique circumstances. The AOA is not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information provided directly or indirectly, by use of this website.

August 29, 2017

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