AmBux here! My financial time warp begins back in the 90’s when I was taught that college was a requirement to a worthwhile life. I was largely clueless about scholarships and grants and didn’t have amazing grades. (There was a time when I didn’t do homework as a form of rebellion.) I went with the flow and took out student loans to put myself through school. Looking back on this time, there are several decisions I would make differently. One transfer and 170 hours later, I graduated with a business degree and $50k in debt. Luckily, I had a great job lined up.
After a couple of working years, I wanted to move forward in my career, and thought an MBA would propel me to the stars! My employer covered tuition, so price wasn’t a factor that I paid attention to. One year into the program, I received an exciting job offer with a startup company that didn’t cover tuition. “No big deal,” I thought, “I will use my bonuses to pay for the rest of school. In the meantime, I will take out loans to cover the cash flow crunch.” I didn’t even calculate how much the rest of the program would cost! When I totaled up my student loans in 2007, I was SHOCKED that I owed a whopping $90k!
I was paying more in student loans than I was paying in rent. It was painful to face the situation that I created. One time I thought of my student loan payments as paying child support for my brain! I’m not sure if helped or was a way to numb my feelings about paying so much month after month.
Over the next 10 years, a lot of life happened – I fell in love and married a wonderful lady. She also had a significant amount of student debt and we combined our finances. We made many small improvements along the way but neither of us was ready to face our massive level of debt. Finally, in 2016, that changed – we took Financial Peace University for the second time. I found a debt snowball calculator and plugged our $110k of debt into it. I enthusiastically shouted, “Look, if we really focus on this, we could be free in as little as two years!”
As a team, we’ve been able to build momentum and celebrate our wins together. This initiative has brought us closer. “Sallie Mae, you will not defeat us!” (Wasn’t “Sallie Mae” more fun than “Navient”?) The debt calculator showed the best-case scenario – we’ve had a few surprises to prioritize and work into our budget, but we’ve rolled with it and continue to move forward. Once you are on this journey, you can’t imagine not striving towards freedom from debt. It’s amazing when you lose your blinders to how much mindlessness is costing you now and into the future.
I hope my story motivates you to take inventory on how much debt you owe and take action towards paying it off. Don’t lose years not facing your debt. And also don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes – everyone makes them and we are all learning!