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5 Personal Finance Tips for Nurses

For nurses, managing debt from nursing school, saving for retirement and home ownership, investing in an advanced degree, and keeping an emergency fund in case of injury or illness may be important considerations that factor into personal finance management.

Published June 16, 2022

Personal finance refers to saving, investing, and budgeting your money. For nurses, managing debt from nursing school, saving for retirement and home ownership, investing in an advanced degree, and keeping an emergency fund in case of injury or illness may be important considerations that factor into personal finance management.

While saving money and simultaneously managing debt can be challenging, the good news is that nurse salaries are on the rise from a median salary of $77,330 for RNs and $117,670 for APRNs. Additionally, in comparison to other professional fields, practicing nurses can generally feel confident in their job security and the continued demand for their expertise and skillset independent of changes in the economy.

However, while the essential work of nursing comes with good compensation and relative job security, many nurses struggle with a significant amount of debt, especially those with advanced degrees. The median amount of student loan debt for APRNs is between $40,000-$55,000. For Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), who go through seven to eight years of education and training, it’s not uncommon to have between $150,000 to $200,000 in student loan debt. That amount of debt can feel overwhelming, but nurses can take control over their student loan debt by following a few personal finance tips.

5 personal finance tips for nurses

For many busy nurses, the major challenge of personal finance management focuses on paying down student loan debt while maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

1) Set good goals

Defining your goals is a critical first step for managing your personal finances well. Good goals are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based

Your goals can be short-term or long-term, and your short-term goals can often help you transition to longer-term ones. Examples of SMART goals might look like:

  • Pay off 25% of nursing school debt by [date]. Pay off 50% of nursing school debt by [date]. Pay off 100% of nursing school debt by [date].
  • Save $___ for a down payment on a home by [date].
  • Retire by age 60 with $______ in investments and $0 debt.

Try starting with 5 one-year goals, 3 five-year goals, and 2 retirement-oriented goals. Check in with your financial goals annually around tax time to make sure you’re keeping your priorities top-of-mind.

2) Create a budget

Making a realistic and sustainable monthly budget is key to getting a handle on your personal finances and reaching your goals. A good rule of thumb is to keep yourself accountable with a 50/30/20 budget, in which 50% of your income goes toward your needs (housing, food, and bills), 30% goes toward your wants (travel, entertainment), and 20% goes toward paying down debt, building your retirement, and other savings goals. Note that your minimum monthly debt payments are considered part of you ‘needs’ bucket. Watch this video to see how to build a 50/30/20 budget.

3) Tackle debt head on

After you’ve defined your goals and mapped out your monthly budget, now it’s time to create a strategy to pay down your debt and work on your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Several strategies for paying down student loans faster include:

  • Making a higher monthly payment. You can set your monthly auto-pay student loan payments at a slightly higher amount to help repay your student loans faster. Make sure you talk to your lender about how you want your extra payments applied.
  • Making a lump sum payment. If you find yourself with a sudden windfall or extra funds, you may consider making a one-time large payment to bring down your total debt. Again, let the servicer know you want to apply the payment to your balance. If you’re able to pay off the entire loan, talk to your loan servicer and get a payoff quote.
  • Consider refinancing. Depending on your credit score, you might be able qualify for a lower interest rate by refinancing to a private student loan. In some cases, this can be better than your rate with an existing federal loan. However, if you have federal student loans, be aware that refinancing to a private loan will remove access to certain benefits available to federal borrowers, including income-driven repayment plans, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, federal forbearance and deferment, and the current federal loan payment and interest pause. So, make sure you consider your options and weigh all the pros and cons.


Try our DTI calculator below to see how your debt and income stack up.

Debt-to-Income Calculator

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor for lenders considering if they will lend you money. Your DTI is calculated by dividing your total recurring monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. To estimate your DTI, enter your information below.

Itemize My Debt
Your DTI Ratio
Finance Savings

Add your information to the left to calculate.

4) Build an emergency fund

In the high-risk, high-stress field of nursing, it’s important to have an emergency fund for peace of mind. After you’ve created a budget and understand your monthly expenses, you should aim to save between three and six months’ worth of expenses in an easily accessible emergency savings fund. While more than half of Americans have less than 3 months of living expenses saved, you can take small steps to build out your emergency fund over time. To save yourself time, you can set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account into savings account on your pay day.

5) Start saving for retirement

Currently, the average age for nurses is 52, which means you may be planning for retirement sooner rather than later. No matter what age or what career stage you’re at, you have many retirement planning options available to you as a nurse. Depending on your employer, you may have access to different types of plans through work:

  • Federal government – Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
  • Public organization – 403(b)
  • State/local government – 457(b), 401(a), pension plans
  • Private – 401(k)

Additionally, you can use different types of Investment Retirement Accounts (IRAs) such as a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA to save for your retirement as well. It’s never too early to start thinking about your retirement savings, even if you only start with smaller contributions.

Planning for the future

Following these five tips for good management of personal finances can lead to a more positive outlook and help relieve the stress that comes with balancing an intense professional career and your finances. Whether your goals are retiring early, being debt free, or buying a home, you can achieve them by sticking to a consistent personal finance management plan.


Information and interactive calculators are made available to you as self-help tools for your independent use and are not intended to provide investment advice, legal, financial, or tax advice. We cannot and do not guarantee their applicability or accuracy in regard to your individual circumstances. All examples are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues. Calculators do not include the fees and restrictions that certain products may have. This calculator does not indicate whether you would qualify for a Laurel Road loan. Please visit the applicable banking product pages on laurelroad.com for specific terms and conditions.

In providing this information, neither Laurel Road or KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, financial, accounting, or legal advice.

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