Millennials, quit whining, I paid off $90,000 in student loans because I SAVE. It's not that hard. I make coffee at home, walk instead of Uber, shop sales, watch Hulu with ads and had my parents pay off my loans because I'm daddy's special boy.
Obviously, that's sarcasm, no one gets Hulu with ads. No, but seriously - unfortunately I don't come from rich parents so the debt was all my own. Shout out to Andrew Nadeau for inspiring the intro with his viral tweet.
After finishing school in 2010, I was left with $90,000 in debt. Was the engineering degree worth the money? Tough to say. The education itself was not worth it. Sitting in a lecture hall listening to an old guy teaching subjects that I have zero interest in doesn't work for me. Yes, engineering classes were interesting. But why do I need to take a western civilization course, read the Iliad, or learn differential equations. Plus I wasn't actually learning these things. I was taking 20 credits a semester. I had immense pressure to pass these classes that has no meaning to my career. I was memorizing all these things so I could pass a test and then I would forget it. It's a terrible system. We need a system that works for everyone, not just some cookie cutter garbage that we pay thousands of dollars for that doesn't do anything for us. Plus we can literally google anything nowadays. In fact, everything I have learned has been from the field and researching on google.
Sorry, I tend to rant about things that bother me. You'll get used to that. But, I am realistic. Without the degree, the career in engineering field and the salary that comes with it would not be possible. Does that make it worth it? Who knows? It's a matter of perspective.
Back to the point of the story - I'm $90,000 in debt. What do I do? I was already working full time so I just started making the minimum monthly payments. No one taught me otherwise, so that's just what i do. Meanwhile, I continued to live in my little innocent bubble thinking the world is wonderful. But, after about a year, my monthly payments went up... by a lot. Why? Turns out the loans were at a variable interest rate. The four loans initially had an interest rate around 5.5%, but the lender decided to take advantage of spiking rates and locked my loans in at nearly 9%. Four and a half percent higher, raising my monthly payments by over $300. My little innocent bubble was popped and my pockets were empty.
Naturally, I began hating the world and started researching loans and interest rates. Yes, I know I should have done this before I took out the loans but I was a gullible 18 year old with no experience. Shit happens, we learn from it and we share our experiences in the hopes we can help others. Hello, thanks for reading by the way. Anyway, after researching, I consolidated my four loans into a single fixed-rate loan with an interest rate of 5.25%. That brought my payments back down to reality, but still quite expensive on my salary at the time.
After my ass healed from the sodomy, I set out to pay off the loans as quickly as I could. I was still living at home so I was able to save most of my money. And as any engineer would, I set up a budgeting spreadsheet (you can get a free copy of our budget template here when you sign up for our newsletter). In the sheet, I tracked my monthly income, expenses/bills and total savings. I then allocated the savings based on percentages. I would put 25% into my savings account, 25% went towards the principal on the loans, and 50% went to my investment brokerage.
Now, you may ask why only 25%. A few reasons. First, that allocation essentially amounted to a second payment every month exclusively towards the principal. Second, I could make a higher return on the stock market than I would paying off a 5% interest. We were just recovering from the recession so I was averaging 30% returns at the time. You can see my entire investing story here. So while paying off the student loans was a priority, I thought this route was best.
After moving out of my parents place in 2014, my lifestyle has remained the same. So as my salary has increased over the years, I have kept expenses minimal. A common problem in society is keeping up with Joneses; buying a bigger house, a newer car, fancy clothes, etc. Luckily, I resisted that urge and have been able to increase my savings rate over the years. So, while the allocation percentage has remained the same, more money has been going to the loans every year.
In 2020, I set a goal to pay off the remainder of the loan. I could have continued with the plan and the loan would have been paid off in another 3 years or so, but I wanted to get rid of the debt once and for all. I had around $29,000 remaining at the start of the year. I crunched the numbers and if I was able to put $2,500 a month towards the loan, I could pay off the loan by December. It would be tight, but if I could reach the goal it would be a huge accomplishment.
I hit the monthly goal in both January and February. Then March struck. If you don't remember last year, I don't blame you for blacking it out of your life, but let me refresh your memory. There was a pandemic and the whole world was locked in their houses starting in March. Now, from the outside - terrible, feel horrible for everyone who got sick or passed away due to the virus. But selfishly, I enjoyed last year. I spent more time with my wife, I did things I normally wouldn't have the time to do and I was able to save a ton of money.
No commuting. No eating out. No excess spending. It was great. We even started making coffee at home. Now I'm not a fan of the people who say millennials can't buy a home because they drink Starbucks everyday. Those people can go fuck themselves. My $4 drink isn't going to suddenly make housing affordable Barbara. But, for my wife and I, it was our biggest expense outside of bills. We were both buying two iced coffees a day (at minimum), which in NYC is $4.25 a pop. I didn't really mind at the time because it was being accounted for in my budget, but the lockdown allowed me to take a closer look at spending.
So, I googled coffee makers and read all the Amazon reviews; I became a coffee maker connoisseur over night. After my exhaustive research, pour over coffee was deemed the best (feel free to debate me and I will unleash my extensive coffee knowledge on you). We wound up buying a fancy pour over kettle and a nice big fancy pour over coffee pot. Sounds expensive right? It was a bit pricey, but after I did a cost analysis I realized the payback was 2 weeks! Two fucking weeks! It was a no brainer. But I digress...
The moral of that story was thanks to the lockdown and my ability to save even more than usual, I was able to pay off the loans by September. Setting out with a goal and crushing it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Not to mention that I no longer has this debt hanging over my head. I felt a new sense of freedom, and perhaps it even led to me writing this blog. Hmm, interesting how that works.
TL;DR - I set up a budget early on and allocated a percentage of my monthly savings towards the principal on the loans. Did this for 9 years. COVID struck in 2020, savings rate increased and I was able to completely pay off the loans.
Thank you for reading!
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