Like anyone else with a problem, I didn’t realize I was in trouble until I hit rock bottom. No, I’m not an alcoholic (I think?), nor do I have a coke addiction, although honestly at this point, either one of those might be easier and less expensive to get out of. Unfortunately, my problem is a financial one, which I discovered the harsh reality of when completing my student loan exit counseling.
I knew I had student debt. I attended a private undergraduate university which was only partially paid for by my parents and scholarships. On top of this, after my standard four years, I was stuck taking a handful of classes part-time out-of-pocket to complete a major I’d changed a couple of times. After this, I went back to graduate school – while my base tuition was paid for, I took out four semester’s worth of living expenses, occasionally requesting increases for additional summer coursework and a down payment on a new (to me) car when mine finally bit the dust. All of this to say, I knew that I had some student loans before completing my exit counseling. But once I logged on to see the actual total, I was shook.
Roughly the cost of what my parents paid for their first house in 1991. A Tesla Model S. A business franchise. A year in Europe. A Cartier watch. Weddings 1, 2, and 3. The current outstanding balance on my student loans will hit six figures by the time payments are due, and to say I’m panicked would be an understatement. If I had to guess before checking the total, I would have thought that under no circumstances did my loan total exceed $50,000. Apparently, that was terribly, terribly wrong. I’m entering a fairly lucrative field with high opportunities for income growth, but this number still absolutely horrified me.
Based on my current precarious financial situation, I knew I would have to select an income-based repayment plan, keeping my initial student loan payments under $500/month. I learned, however, that over the estimated 217 months it’ll take for me to repay the costs of two pieces of paper (that’s 18 years, people), I’ll add another $50k to my final total thanks to interest rates. After discovering I was already six figures in debt, I’ll be damned if I pay an additional 50% of that amount through my unborn children’s early teenage years. This leaves me with one option: learn personal finance and get out of debt.
The race against the clock is officially on: I have a six month grace period to secure a full-time job, negotiate my salary, decrease my current expenditures and additional debt, and increase my income before mid-December when payments begin. Unlike the features you read on Business Insider and Forbes, I won’t be retiring with $4 million at age 28 to travel the world; instead, I’m going to be digging myself out of a hole before I get buried in it.
Join me over the next few months as I build up my financial literacy, start making a dent in this debt, and learn how to live with the financial weight of a single-family home in the ‘burbs without actually owning a single-family home in the ‘burbs on my shoulders. You can expect the next installment of “Getting Out Of Debt” as soon as I stop crying over my personal finances and scraping old ramen out of restaurant trash bins for dinner. .