Lessons: A Personal Look Into My Student Debt

I graduated in 2016 with a debt higher than the national average of $30k and no knowledge of how to manage my finances. And ironically, also studying and working in the financial world. Right out of college, I did the “brave” thing and moved to a new state and was basically living on my own. It was what I wanted. I wanted to be an adult – independent and ready to venture the career world. Instead, that put me greater into debt. I never missed a payment, lived below my means by having a roommate and finding the least expensive ways to enjoy my weekend. But what was really killing my debt even further into the ground was the interest I had little knowledge about. I paid the minimum and figured I had done my due diligence by covering my basics.

Fast forward 3 years later and I have honestly only paid a third of what was due, and that was only because I ended up moving back in with my parents. After living almost two years in Seattle, I realized this California girl had missed her friends and family, and lifestyle really in LA – still, with no real knowledge of what I was doing to my debt by only paying the minimum. Moving back in, I decided to create a budget and finally opened my statements to see what was left on student debt. After two years of making a monthly payment, I was naive to believe that a good chunk had been removed from my debt. Instead, I was struck with shock. Straight up shock. I had barely made a dent and realized I would be paying them off until my mid to late thirties if I continued keeping my head out of my finances (or even retirement because let’s be honest, I was not smart with my money). I then struck a deal with my parents that my “rent” would be redirected to my student debt lender to help pay off a good portion. If I continue this trend, I am now on track to pay off my loans within the next few years. I understand life obstacles can come in, but I am much more aware of how much I will need to pay or how to use a bonus or raises until I am finally in the clear.

Although, I am in a pretty good place to pay off my loans, I still find myself thinking about how it is affecting me all the time. I want to one day move out of my parents home, but with the minimum that is still due on my loans, I would probably not be able to pay off loans while paying rent and other life necessities. I also want to continue my education but this also affects the programs I am looking into – are they in-state vs out of state costs? Do they have an accelerated program to save on costs? Will my job cover a portion? Will it even be worth it?

So many questions for a decision already made – I’m making my way down that graduate path regardless of the costs.

My main way of dealing with my student debt today is ultimately chewing up the fear of the what the number will be and learning all I could about how I can best pay it off – and faster. Education in finances has brought me a long way from the girl who was happy covering simply the basics. And budgeting. Lots and lots of budgeting. I know I still have a long way to go, and although I wish I had started sooner, I am content knowing I am doing all I can do to have a much more sound future.

And in terms of motivation. Keep living. Travel, Go out, Enjoy the experiences. Just because you are tied to this financial constraint, you are still human and thankfully I am a place that allows me to “treat myself” while I am still young.

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