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How can I put this gently… I have a mountain of student debt and you know what? Around 25% of it is loan interest! Say what?! Yup, you read correctly…after making minimum payments for the past three years, I have an extra THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS of interest. I want to help you avoid this while you still can, so here is my story. I could do so much with that amount of money, it’s insane.
Here is what I could have done:
– Take off and travel the world
– Move into a better apartment
– Put a down payment on a house
– Buy/adopt a dog (or several)
– Take some kick a** vacations
– Treat myself to a full day at the spa
– Put that towards the principle of my loans!
This list goes on. I think you get the point. I’m pretty sure you have your own list of things you could do with the student loans that you owe.
I knew that I would have to pay back my undergraduate and graduate loans, but like many people, I did not factor in the ticking time bomb of interest. $57K was borrowed for my undergraduate loans and $40K for my graduate loans for a total of $97K.
With interest through school and three years of minimum payments, I am now at $121K of student debt. Somebody, please pass the tissues…
Let’s take a step back though. I don’t regret going to get my degrees. I did make mistakes along the way like losing paid credits due to transferring universities (a few times…).
Side note: if you are planning on doing a transfer, check those credits! You may be surprised at how many won’t transfer, even in the same state university system. It is also similar if you change majors (I did that too).
Anyways, I am still glad I went. I love wildlife and travel and I was able to go to South Africa a few times AND got college credit for it as internships!
I was able to:
– Study abroad for a week in Belize
– Study aboard in South Africa for 3 weeks
– Go on 3 more volunteer/internships in South Africa
– Spend 2 weeks of my year in the UK for grad school studying abroad in Kenya
All in all, I had a pretty amazing experience.
In my last year of undergrad, I decided I wanted to pursue my master’s degree in the UK. The tuition was similar to an out-of-state university but with only one year of living expenses. However, since it was so intensive, I couldn’t work on the side like I did during my undergrad.
During all this time my student loans were still accruing interest. If you are still in school while reading this or if you are still in your grace period: start making small payments NOW!
This was the biggest mistake that I made. I had jobs during my undergraduate degree and I should have put some money towards my loans every month, even if it only covered the interest.
Anyways…speeding back up…
It wasn’t until seeing $220 of my $300 private loan payment going to interest that it really hit me like a ton of bricks. The interest bomb had exploded! I needed to do something or I would be forever paying interest on these loans and not making progress on paying them off.
After getting back from the UK in August 2014 I quickly got a job as a veterinary assistant which I had done throughout my undergrad degree.
For 6 months I made decent money but I wasn’t putting anything extra towards my loans. I then, mistake or not, decided to pursue one of my dream jobs as a zookeeper which had horrible pay and no benefits.
After 6 months of that, I had to find something to start kick debts big ol’ butt. I was able to get a good paying job with awesome benefits that is not my dream job but it is still in the science field. I sit at a desk all day now which isn’t ideal, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
My First Big “Payoff”
In my first year of the job, my pretax income was $40K and post-tax/deductions take home was $26K. From that I was able to put $15K to the debt which paid off my car! I try to put whatever I can do debt. I even do some side hustles for a little extra money.
At the time of this posting, I am about halfway through my second year at this job and I have put $8K to my debt out of a take-home pay of about $12K so far.
My goal for this year was $13K but as I write this I am getting a raise in two weeks! I have taken another job within the department! My pretax is $50K!!! I will update this once I know how much that will translate to my take-home pay. I hope I can increase my debt goal to $15K this year.
What You Can Do
I hope you take all of this to heart. It has been hard to open up about my story and my interest ordeal but I really hope this helps at least 1 person realize that paying your loans should be a priority. Get out from underneath the pile of interest that your student loans continue to occur! You may also want to consider student loan refinancing.
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How are you dealing with student loan interest? Do you have high rates? Did you not start paying back when you should have or are you unable to make payments? Let me know in the comments.
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