Travel PT: New England Adventures

-By Whitney-
Timeline: March-September 2016

Our goal with moving to Massachusetts for work was to be able to explore the Northeast. We took full advantage of our nearly 6 months there and were able to see so much! Here’s an overview of our many adventures:



While in Massachusetts we lived at 2 different campgrounds (due to summer availability we had to move once). We got to experience living in two small towns: Middleboro and Mansfield. (Yes, experience, because seriously that’s a huge part of moving to new places, the little things!)

Boston, MA
We were able to go into Boston several times, including a weekend where we stayed overnight in the Copley Plaza hotel (very fancy) for free using credit card reward points. That weekend we did a lot of exploring, sightseeing, eating, and following the Freedom Trail (a red line that takes you through the historic sites in Boston). Other adventures included: going to a Boston Red Sox game with our co-workers; going to the Samuel Adams Brewery for a free tour & tasting, then riding a party trolley to nearby Doyle’s Cafe; meeting up with an old friend for a 4th of July cookout; going out downtown to some bars with co-workers to see the night life; and hiking at Blue Hills Reservation.

Foxboro, MA
Home to the New England Patriots, we explored “Patriot Place” which is a shopping center surrounding the stadium & saw the stadium itself. We did not make it to a game though. We went into Foxboro several times for dinner as it was close-by to our 2nd campground in Mansfield.

Cape Cod, MA
We took a day trip during the off-season while it was still cold to drive all the way to the end of Cape Cod to the last city which is called Provincetown (“P-town” for short) which is well known for its LGBTQ community & visitors. I loved P-town: it was such a cute, small, coastal town with beautiful views. Along the way we stopped at several of the beaches including Hyannis & the Cape Cod National Seashore. I wish we had gone in the summer because people say it’s pretty lively & the beaches are nice, but we sort of avoided it because everyone said the traffic was bad. It was in Hyannis that I enjoyed my first whole lobster!

Cambridge, MA
We went here one evening to explore & see Harvard. We also ate dinner & enjoyed a small local comedy club in the upstairs of a Chinese restaurant. We had a blast!

Plymouth, MA
We visited when it was still cold out, so we didn’t get to enjoy the beach too much, but we saw Plymouth Rock! My mom was also in town visiting & stayed in Plymouth.

Agawam, MA
In the summer we went to Six Flags New England, which I was super excited about because we love rollercoasters & amusement parks. However, we were not too impressed with this particular park due to the small amount of rides & large amount of people! Also, unfortunately, I ended up feeling a little rough on some of the rides, probably because I hadn’t been on any in a long time. We had fun though & they had a really awesome 400ft swing ride (apparently the tallest in the world): The New England Skyscreamer that was pretty amazing.

Salem MA
This was on my list of places I wanted to go so I could see “witch things”! My mom was in town visiting again during this trip (she missed us & I think she visited 3 times) & we were able to do a lot of sightseeing there. There was more to see than just witch things- it was a really nice little town near the water.

Onset Beach & Nantasket Beach, MA
On a couple of occasions Jared & I (and my mom on one of her visits!) went to Onset Beach, which was more of a bay/cove with calmer water, but we chose there because it was closer & less crowded. I also on one of my days off from work during our last week (working part time that week) went to popular Nantasket Beach to enjoy a beach day on my own.


Jaffrey, NH
When we first thought we’d only be in the Northeast 3 months, we were trying to cram a lot into one weekend. This particular weekend we tackled both hiking in New Hampshire and then driving up the coast of Maine. We hiked in Jaffrey, NH at Mount Monadnock, which offered beautiful 360 degree views. We went here in April, when the weather was pretty decent in the valley, but at the top it was very cold and windy!

Conway, NH
We made another trip to NH on a different weekend later in our stay (when we realized we had more time) to hike in The White Mountains. We originally wanted to either hike or drive up the famous Mount Washington (one of the tallest peaks on the East Coast & also one of the most dangerous). However, we decided we weren’t in good enough shape to tackle the 10 mile/8 hour hike, and I was a little concerned about the integrity of my 2004 Chevy Trailblazer to make it up the steep drive… not to mention my fear of heights! So ultimately we decided to do a smaller hike (Mount Willard), but still got to see some awesome views including Crawford’s Notch, several other mountain ranges and valleys, and even a moose!


Portland, ME & Beaches
This was our first trip to Maine, the same weekend we hiked Mount Monadnock in NH. We did a ton of driving that weekend! After having gone from MA to NH for the hike, we drove to the coast of Maine and stayed south of Portland in a small beach town, Wells. We went into Portland for dinner that night and enjoyed some lobster rolls and lobster bisque (gotta have the Maine lobster!). The next day we took the scenic route up US-1 and stopped at several of the Maine beaches and lighthouses including York (Cape Neddick), Ogunquit, Wells, and Old Orchard Beach. We went to Portland again during the day & had, yes, more lobster rolls. Portland was beautiful and historic, reminding me of historic Charleston, SC where I went to undergrad (I tend to compare a lot of places to there as you will see as you go down the list). Last, on the way home, we stopped off briefly in Portsmouth for some delicious Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream.

Bar Harbor, ME
This is an amazing, small island community off the coast of Northern Maine, almost to Canada. We’re so happy we made time to go here, which we originally would not have been able to without extending our contracts. We had heard wonderful things about its beauty, relaxation, the amazing seafood, and the awesome Acadia National Park located there, and it definitely lived up to the hype. We loved it so much that we have seriously talked about moving there one day. However, we did go during the summer & I’m not so convinced about the winters! But it was definitely top of the list of amazing places we’ve been. They have everything: a bustling little tourist part of town; a quiet residential area (which we got to experience by staying at a lovely Airbnb); mountains; trails; ocean views; and, of course, seafood!! I can’t say enough how much we loved Bar Harbor. But if you’re from Boston, it’s not Bar Harbor, it’s “Bah Habah.” Haha 🙂


New York City
Jared had never been to NYC, so that was definitely on our list while we were so close. We took the Amtrak from Providence RI to NYC which was a cool experience. The best part of our NYC trip was that we had another free hotel night to use at a Fairmont location, so we got to stay at the iconic Plaza Hotel, which if you’ve never heard of it is one of the nicest hotels in NYC & has been featured in many movies. It was very, very fancy and something we will never forget! While in NYC we did a lot of sight-seeing. We walked hundreds of blocks in our short stay there. We got to see Times Square lit up at night, the new World Trade Memorial, and went to a Broadway play- Les Miserables!


Montpelier, VT
This is the capital of Vermont, and it’s centrally located to a few great hikes, scenic byways, and some other great sites. So we decided to stay here (at another Airbnb) during our weekend visit to Vermont, and to our surprise it was a really tiny little town. We learned it’s the smallest state capital in the country!


Burlington, VT
We heard great things about Burlington, and even though it was a little out of the way of the hikes and sightseeing we had planned, I’m glad we made time to go here! We saw a beautiful sunset over Lake Champlain, and looking across the lake you can see the Adirondack Mountains of NY on the other side. Burlington was yet another cute little historic city that reminded me of Charleston SC (wonder if you went to the north first, and then to Charleston, if you would compare it the other way? ha).

Stowe, VT
This is a big ski area in the winter, but we were here in the summer to go hiking. We drove up a toll road toward Mt. Mansfield (the highest peak in Vermont), and then we hiked the rest of the way to the top. We were worried at first because it was so cloudy/foggy you couldn’t see a thing, but at the top it cleared up & we were able to see some of the best views we have witnessed so far on any of the hikes we have done (granted, we have only hiked on the East coast so far). It was near Stowe that we also visited the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory for a tour & tasting (after hiking of course 😉 )! We took the Scenic Route 100 Byway for part of our drive home to take in the gorgeous views of Vermont!


Newport, RI
Everyone kept telling us we had to go to Newport, and now we know why. It was a neat city on the water, with a beautiful rocky coastline. We walked the Cliff Walk which is a trail along the coast, which in some places requires climbing over boulders, and it passes behind many of the Newport Mansions. We didn’t go in any of the mansions, but we oogled them from outside. They also have a nice harbor front area that reminds me of… you guessed it: Charleston.

Providence, RI
My mom was along for this day trip as well (I think it was the same weekend as Salem MA- we were trying to squeeze a lot in!) We saw Brown University, ate at a little Italian deli with deep dish pizza in Federal Hill, and watched their arts and entertainment display on the river called Water Fire, where they light bon fires along the river at dusk.

During our last two weeks of work when we found ourselves with extra days off because we were working part time, and because it was Labor Day Weekend, we decided to take a trip up to Canada! Funny story though, it wasn’t until we passed through customs at the US/Canadian border that we realized 1. We wouldn’t have cell phone service, and 2. Everything would be written in French, ha! We had an interesting time finding our way around including reading street signs without GPS or Google! (Neither of us know a word of French!) Fortunately for us, many things are in English, most people speak English, and we could stop and use Wifi to gain some information to tide us over!

Quebec City
We had yet another free Fairmont hotel night to use from credit card rewards, which allowed us to stay at a beautiful castle-looking hotel in Quebec City called the Chateau Frontenac. We had a great time exploring Quebec City including historic Old Quebec, Ile de Orleans, Montmorency Falls, and The Citadelle de Quebec.

We also stayed a night at an Airbnb in Montreal and enjoyed walking around the modern parts as well as Old Montreal. We also hiked Mont St Hilliard near Montreal.


Upstate New York is sadly somewhere we did not explore. We drove through here when moving to & from Massachusetts from Virginia, and we were able to see some of its beauty. However, among all of our other adventures we never made time for going there. Afterwards we heard from many people how great it is & we regret not exploring it! We will someday!
New Jersey & Connecticut were two other states we did not hit during our Northeast explorations. I’ve been to New Jersey in the past, but Jared has not; and Connecticut  we drove through but didn’t really do anything there.

We would love to hear your feedback on our adventures, including any questions for us, comments on our experiences, and any recommendations for where we should go next time we find ourselves in the Northeast (or any other parts of the country for our future travels)! Please feel free to leave a comment below or send one of us a message! 🙂

Revisited: Seek Forgiveness or Pay off Your Student Loans Early?

*The information contained in this post is not meant to be specific for you or your situation and is not meant to be financial advice, as I am not licensed as a financial planner. Before making any decisions, I strongly recommend speaking to someone licensed in this area to consider your unique situation. My recommendation in this area would be Will Butler.

Disclaimer: From discussions that I have had on this subject in the past, I realize that this is a controversial topic. I have never been one to shy away from discussion on touchy subjects whether ethical or financial in nature. This post will be about the financial side of the decision that I have made.

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was regarding student loan repayment. This was about 10 months ago and it has been the second most popular post that I have written to date. This is not surprising considering the huge amount of outstanding student loan debt faced by many from rising tuition costs. If you have no idea about income based repayment options then it would probably be a good idea to go back and read my original post before you continue for some context. Since I wrote that post, I have continued to ponder the different options and research what is best for me financially in the long run. In the original post I concluded that the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) option was the best option in my situation and likely to be a very good option for others. Since then, I have discovered that there is an even better option available that I had completely dismissed previously.

The income driven repayment plan that I have determined is best for me financially at this point is the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan. This option was first introduced at the end of 2015 and at first glance it didn’t seem very enticing for those with graduate school debt, but upon further investigation, it is likely a very good option for most of us choosing between income driven repayment plans. Under the REPAYE option, your payment is set at 10% of your discretionary income which is the same as PAYE. Forgiveness for undergraduate loans occurs after 20 years, exactly like PAYE, but for graduate school loans, the remaining balance is not forgiven until 25 years of payments. The 25 year forgiveness is the reason that I didn’t initially consider this option fully since all of my loans are graduate loans. However, REPAYE has a very powerful benefit: half of all accumulated interest will be forgiven each month.

This is a huge benefit for those of us with income based payments that are less than our accumulating interest. Under the PAYE plan your balance would grow much more quickly in this situation due to the remaining interest being capitalized (added to the principle balance) at the end of each month. Let’s look at some easy example numbers to demonstrate this. If you have $100,000 in loan balance and your average interest rate is 10% and your monthly payment is $0/month based on your income, you would be accumulating $833.33 per month in interest that would be added directly onto your principle balance based on the PAYE plan. With REPAYE, this accumulated interest is cut in half and only $416.67/month would be added to your balance. The benefit will change based on your loan terms and your monthly payment, but for some this will be a blessing.

In this post I’m going to compare three different options for repayment, those being: Standard 10 year repayment, PAYE, and REPAYE. I’ll use the numbers for my personal situation and then also the numbers for a more average new grad who is taking a regular full time job. The reason my situation is different than many others is due to the tax free stipends involved in travel physical therapy. Because of these stipends, my adjusted gross income (how income based payments are determined) is not as high as it would be if I was working a full time permanent job.

Before I get to the numbers, I want to bring up some of the points from my last post that still apply.

  • There is a tax deduction based on the amount of interest you pay on your student loans up to $2,500 per year, even if you don’t itemize your return. This deduction is phased out if your AGI is above $80,000, but I don’t think that will ever happen for me based on 401k contributions reducing my AGI. You do not receive that full $2,500 back on your taxes, but will receive some percentage of it based on your income, likely somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%-25%. That means somewhere around $600 being returned to you each year on your taxes. $600 x 20 years = $12,000. If you choose the standard 10 year repayment, you total deduction will be less than half of that, due to paying less interest the last few years as your principle balance decreases.
  • There has been legislation proposed to no longer have the forgiven loan balance count as unearned income (meaning that you have to pay taxes on what’s forgiven), which would make loan forgiveness a much better option. There is no way to know if this will ever go through, but I would imagine there is at least a small chance over the next 20 years.
  • Investing the difference between what you would have spent on the standard 10 year repayment plan and your payment on an income based repayment plan can serve as a life insurance policy of sorts. The reason for this is that student loan debt is discharged upon death. Imagine that you put all of your money toward your loans and then pass away at the end of the 10 year repayment period. You wouldn’t have any assets to leave to your loved ones. On the other hand, imagine that you choose an income driven repayment option and invest your extra money and then pass away after 10 years. The remainder of the loans will be forgiven and all of your investments can be passed on to your heirs. This may not be a game changer for many but it is something to consider.

Alright, so all of the considerations above should make one lean in favor of an income based repayment plan, but let’s look at the numbers, first for someone in a situation like mine with a lower adjusted gross income ($50,000) and a starting loan balance of $97,000 at 6% interest:

Under both PAYE and REPAYE, monthly payments would be $218 (10% of discretionary income). For standard 10 year repayment, the payment would be $1077/month.

REPAYE: ~$112,000 paid total over a 25 year period. This includes $65,400 paid in monthly payments $218 * 12 * 25 = $65,400. At the end of the 25 year period a balance of $155,400 would be forgiven. Assuming a 30% tax rate on this forgiven amount, $155,400 *.3 = $46,620. This leads to the total amount paid, $65,400 + $46,620 = $112,020.

PAYE: ~$116,800 paid total over a 20 year period. This includes $52,320 paid in monthly payments $218 * 12 * 20 = $52,320. At the end of the 20 year period a balance of $214,900 would be forgiven. Assuming a 30% tax rate on this forgiven amount, $214,900 * .3 = $64,470. This leads to the total amount paid, $52,320 + $64,470 = $116,790

Standard 10 year repayment: ~$129,000 paid total over a 10 year period. $1,077 * 12 * 10 = $129,240.

In this scenario REPAYE is clearly the winner with PAYE in second and standard repayment in last place.

Now let’s look at a scenario with the same interest rate and loan balance but with an AGI of $70,000:

Under both PAYE and REPAYE, monthly payments would be $435 (10% of discretionary income). For standard 10 year repayment, the payment would be $1077/month.

REPAYE: ~$162,900 paid total over a 25 year period. This includes $130,500 paid in monthly payments $435 * 12 * 25 = $130,500. At the end of the 25 year period a balance of $107,900 would be forgiven. Assuming a 30% tax rate on this forgiven amount, $107,900 *.3 = $32,370. This leads to the total amount paid, $130,500 + $32,370 = $162,870.

PAYE: ~$140,100 paid total over a 20 year period. This includes $104,400 paid in monthly payments $435 * 12 * 20 = $104,400. At the end of the 20 year period a balance of $119,100 would be forgiven. Assuming a 30% tax rate on this forgiven amount, $119,100 * .3 = $35,730. This leads to the total amount paid, $104,400 + $35,730 = $140,130

Standard 10 year repayment: ~$129,000 paid total over a 10 year period. $1,077 * 12 * 10 = $129,240.

Uh oh, in this scenario we can see the impact that the extra five years of repayment has when the accumulating interest is less each month due to a higher monthly payment. This puts REPAYE in last, PAYE second, and standard 10 year repayment first. But not so fast, there is a very important factor that is not being accounted for here.

Monthly payments under any income based repayment plan are based on your adjusted gross income. Your adjusted gross income is reduced with eligible deductions such as 401k contributions ($18,000 maximum per year), traditional IRA contributions ($5,500 maximum per year) and HSA contributions ($3,350 maximum per year). This means that making smart decisions for your retirement will not only help you later in life but also will decrease your AGI and therefore your total amount paid on your loans when using an income driven repayment plan.

So if $70,000/year AGI leads to paying more overall when using an income driven repayment plan and $50,000/year AGI leads to a lower overall amount paid, you may be wondering where the cut off values are for this scenario. Well, I spent a long time trying to figure out how to display this in a graph (I’m not great with Excel) and here is what I came up with:


The Y axis is the total amount paid over the life of the loan. The X axis is yearly AGI. Keep in mind that these numbers are based on $97,000 in direct subsidized loans with an average interest rate of 6%.

Based on the graph for this scenario, if your AGI is below ~$52,500 you come out ahead with REPAYE. If it’s between ~$52,500 and ~$58,000 then PAYE is the best choice and if your AGI is above $58,000 then the standard 10 year repayment is the best option. That seems simple enough, but the total amount paid doesn’t tell the whole story. The reason for this is that with PAYE that amount is paid over 25 years, with PAYE it’s paid over 20 years and with the standard repayment it is paid over 10 years. In that 15 year period between the standard repayment finish date and the REPAYE finish date, the value of money will generally decrease by quite a bit. Historically, the dollar loses 35% of it’s spending power in an average 15 year period due to inflation. Trying to factor inflation into each payment over the 25 year period is way above my level of Excel prowess, but it would likely push these cut off numbers to the right by a decent amount making the argument for income driven repayment even better.

Now I’ve talked to a lot of other new grad physical therapists over the years and it seems that, unfortunately, $100,000 in student loans is on the low end of the spectrum. For that reason I made a graph for those with $150,000 in student loans at an average interest rate of 6% to see what the difference would be:


On this graph we can see where income driven repayment plans really shine. As total student loan debt increases, the argument for income based plan repayment plans becomes much better. If you have $150,000 in student loan debt at an average interest rate of 6%, you would have to have an AGI of well over $80,000 (factoring in inflation) in order to come out ahead by using the standard repayment option. Although the numbers are interesting to see, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that having high student loan debt makes income driven repayment a better option because these are the exact people for which these plans were made.

Alright so let’s try to wrap this all up and come to some sort of a conclusion.

From the very beginning of your career, you should be contributing a decent amount (likely 10-15% or more) of your income to tax advantaged accounts (401k, traditional IRA, HSA). This will not only allow you much more freedom later in life but also reduce your student loan payment and total amount paid under an income driven repayment plan. Putting $10,000 per year into a combination of a 401k and HSA can lead to a significant reduction in your AGI, which not only spares you in taxes at the end of the year but also reduces the total amount paid over the life of your loans ($20,000+ in some of the scenarios above). The higher your student loan balance, the more likely that an income driven repayment plan is the best option for you. The lower your AGI, the more likely an income driven repayment plan is the best option for you. Inflation has a significant impact on money over time, so paying $100,000 over a 25 year period is far from the same as paying $100,000 over a 10 year period. Tax deductions for payments made on student loan interest can lead to significant savings over a 20-25 year period which makes income driven repayment plans even more compelling. The tax rate I used for the forgiven balances in the examples above was 30%, but this will be different based on your situation. Personal preference should be a factor in your decision. I have talked to some people that are extremely debt adverse and although they may come out ahead with an income based option, it isn’t worth the psychological stress carrying the debt would cause for them over such a long time.

One last thing to note is that I did not account for any sort of yearly increase in pay in the calculations above. There are three reasons for this: first, because it is impossible to generalize a standard increase in pay because everyone’s career will be different. Second, because I have spoken to very few physical therapists that have worked 25 straight years full time. Most seem to transition to PRN or part time as they advance in their careers which will obviously mean a lower AGI later on, not higher. Third, because as your pay increases throughout your career, you should strive to keep expenses close to the same level and contribute the difference to tax advantaged investment accounts which would keep your AGI, and therefore your payments, at the same level.

I know this is a lengthy post, but this is not a simple topic. I get a lot of questions regarding student loans and I want this to be a resource for new grads that are lost. What is your opinion of standard repayment vs. income based repayment? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Progress to Financial Independence- January 2017

January started off awesome with a fun long weekend in Savannah, GA staying at a beautiful hotel for free. One week later we moved from Fayetteville to start our new jobs on the NC coast. Starting on the day we left Fayetteville, things went downhill quickly. On the morning we woke up to move, it was the coldest day of the winter in Fayetteville by far with a early morning temperature of about 18 degrees and temperatures in the 20s throughout the day. The water was frozen, the sewer hose was frozen, our tanks wouldn’t close because they were frozen, and the entire roof of the camper had a solid layer of ice on it. After we finally got everything unhooked and made it to our new campground on the coast, I went inside the camper to find that the ice on top of the slide had melted during the drive and soaked the carpet and floor in our living room/kitchen. When we went back outside to level the camper, the truck wouldn’t start. Keep in mind that the fifth wheel is still attached…

After about two hours of trying to clean up all the water inside, we went back out and tried to start the truck a few more times and it finally started. We leveled the camper and took the truck to get fuel hoping that the failure to start was just a fluke. It turned out that it wasn’t a fluke. The truck wouldn’t start at the gas station so we had to call a tow truck and wait for almost three hours for it to arrive. Since we had only been in town since that afternoon, we had no idea about repair shops in the area and it was a Sunday evening so everything was closed. The tow truck driver recommended a Ford dealership nearby and we agreed to have it towed there, we later found out that this was a mistake. When we got home the water at our campground site was also frozen so we had to go take showers in the bath house.

We started work the next morning but luckily our first day was orientation at the same location so we were able to get away with only driving one car. The dealership called us and said that the truck needed two new batteries and a fuel pump which would cost $900. We were a little upset about the cost but we didn’t have much choice so we agreed. Finally our water was restored when we got home from work that night which made things a little better.

Fast forward a couple of days and the dealership calls us and says that the truck is ready to be picked up. We went and got it, drove it about 15 minutes, turned it off, and then it wouldn’t start again. Doing the exact same things as before. It finally started again about two hours later and we took it straight back to the dealership. This time they told us that it would be $3,000 for a high pressure oil pump and a fuel injector. Luckily, with our jobs we were able to get advice on local mechanics from patients and decided to get a second opinion at a recommended locally owned shop. The mechanic told us that it only needed a new fuel injector and that it would cost $850. He fixed it and the truck has been running fine ever since.

All in all, the repairs ended up costing us about $2,000 and a week and a half of Whitney riding to work in the morning with a coworker and me picking her up in the evening. After a pretty rough first two weeks dealing with all the problems as well as trying to get used to new facilities and a terrible documentation system, things finally started to get better. The remainder of the month was great as we got more comfortable with our jobs and the new area. Eastern North Carolina is a beautiful place and somewhere that we are considering living once we finish traveling.

Financially, the truck put me behind on my savings goal for the month, but due to the stock market still surging higher and higher as well as receiving my 401k match for 2016, I actually beat my projection for the month. I’m still on track for hitting financial independence around July, 2020 which will be exactly five years after I started my career and less than three and a half years from now. Since my projection is based on higher expenses than my current level (due to anticipating higher costs later in life with children) I will actually be at a level that is able to sustain my current expenses in about a year and a half from now. Very exciting!