This Dentist’s Side Hustle Makes $10K/Month, But Not One Penny Goes Toward Extra Payments on his $420,000 Student Loan. Here’s Why

an image to accompany a story about paying off student loans. Courtesy of Jake Andersen
Getting married and having a child meant more household expenses for Jake Andersen. He opted to enroll in the REPAYE program, which will forgive the balance on his $420,000 in student loans after 25 years, and uses the freed-up income to take care of his family and grow their side business.
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Dentist Jake Andersen has a jaw-dropping $420,000 in student loan debt. That didn’t stop him from going part-time.

His side hustle, a 3D-printed bucket list board business called Whake Studios, which he runs with his wife Whitney, earns $10,000 a month in net profit, but he’s decided not to dedicate a single cent of the small business’ earnings toward payoff. It’s all part of a forgiveness-driven student debt management plan others could adopt to improve their present-day quality of life, he says. 

President Joe Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness announcement has made waves in the personal finance world. Last month, the administration indicated plans to cancel $10,000 of debt for borrowers who make under $125,000/year ($250,000 for couples who jointly file taxes). For Pell grant recipients, the forgiveness is $20,000.

For graduates who have higher loan burdens, the relief may feel like it barely makes a dent. Approximately 3.15 million student loan borrowers owe over $100,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Loan Portfolio. These Americans represent only 7% of total student loan borrowers, but their debt burden accounts for 38% of the $1.6 trillion in debt that is still outstanding.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness Dates to Remember: How and When Borrowers Need to Act

Andersen’s balancing act between managing debt and evolving his career is one you might want to explore as well. Here’s his financial plan of attack — and why he traded out drills for lasers to pursue financial independence.

Exhaust your Student Loan Repayment Options

When the Andersens found out they had a baby on the way, the dentist enrolled in the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Student Loan Repayment Plan, an income-based repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 10% of a borrower’s monthly income. If you’re enrolled in the REPAYE program and make all your payments on time, your remaining debt will be forgiven. Undergraduate debt becomes eligible for forgiveness after 20 years of on-time payments, and for professional school debt, the time period is 25 years. Only federal student loans are eligible.

REPAYE may be an option you want to consider, but it’s important to remember that you’ll owe income tax on any forgiven debts in the year they are forgiven. Be sure to set aside money each year so that the sudden income tax burden doesn’t come as a shock down the line.

Pro Tip

If you have a large personal expense on the horizon, set up automatic transfers to a high-yield savings account so that you don’t get caught with a huge bill later.

Andersen enrolled in REPAYE to initiate the forgiveness timeline, lower his payments, and free up money for his family and other household expenses. “The plan may change as our income grows, but it just feels like flushing money down the toilet if we pay more than minimum, so that is what works best for our situation right now,” he says.

Related: My Side Hustle Pays Me $4,300 a Month, But I’m Not Putting a Penny of It Towards My $208,000 Student Loan Debt. Here’s Why

Experiment with Different Passion Projects

Andersen’s appetite for side hustles existed before his dentistry career had even begun.

“Even when I was in dental school, I’d always been interested in doing my own thing,” he says. Andersen’s first foray into eCommerce was a website that promoted various toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash products. The site made Andersen passive income in the form of monetized affiliate links while he was still enrolled in dental school, and gave him baseline experience in online marketing.

Next, the dentist decided to try his luck at producing and selling a product of his own. Inspired by a trip to Thailand he took with classmates one summer between his years of dental school — most of which was spent laying around in hammocks, he says — he raised $17,000 on Kickstarter to launch his own line of hammocks. The business eventually found its groove, and he later sold the company at a small profit.

From Hammocks to Lasers

With the experience of owning one ecommerce business from start to finish under his belt, Andersen wanted to give it another whirl with a product that could be manufactured in-house. A patient had told him about at-home 3D printing machines that allow hobbyists to laser-cut whatever they want, creating an opportunity to manufacture bespoke products at scale from the comfort of your own home. After chatting with his wife about it, the couple decided to launch a new business with a very specific niche.

The couple founded Whake Studios, a 3D printing service that produces bucket list boards for various activities or project trackers, such as visiting all the national parks in America. By being able to program their own 3D printer, they can accept custom orders, and are able to produce all their inventory at home, keeping costs down. In 2021 the business made $200,000, $120,000 of which was net profit.

An example “bucket list board”, from the Andersens’ business Whake Studios. The couple use a 3D printer to manufacture inspirational boards, and also accept custom orders. Scaling the business has allowed Andersen to downshift into only practicing dentistry 1-2 days a week, freeing up more time to be with his family. (Credit: Whake Studios)

“She’s got a creative mind for the products,” Andersen says of his wife Whitney. He adds that it’s more fulfilling and rewarding to have a side hustle he can do with his spouse to spend time together while also creating extra income. Andersen now works in the dental office 1-2 days a week, and he and his wife spend another 40-60 hours/week growing Whake.

“There are things I like about being a dentist, and things I don’t like as much,” he says. “Starting a side hustle has enabled me to keep the aspects of dentistry I enjoy, like getting people out of pain and helping them gain confidence in their smile, and avoid the aspects that are less fun, such as dealing with insurance companies.”

Pursue the Lifestyle That Makes You Happy

Hearing that a doctor or other medical professional has a side hustle can raise some eyebrows, but Andersen says that’s part of the problem. He says the debt of professional training — along with the stigma around medical professionals having a portfolio career — can make many people feel like they’re painted into a corner with regard to their vocational options. “I think there’s a lot of social pressure and judgment that comes from people outside of our industry,” he says. 

Personal finance success looks different for everyone, and Andersen says he’s found a great combination of work that leverages the investments he’s made in his education and entrepreneurial pursuits that keep him and his wife feeling inspired.

“We’ve achieved an awesome work-life balance.”