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Student Loan Attack Plan

Like countless other college graduates, I have the burden of student loans bearing down on me. I have my Bachelors and Masters Degree in which I completed in the Spring of 2016. I’m responsible for paying back just over $35,000 and will have a monthly payment of $300/month for approximately 19 years. That’s a whopping $68,000 I will have paid before I’m finally debt free at the ripe old age of 45, which is about average I am fortunate as I know others are in a much worse position. We’ll be offering classes in the future that will help our readers create custom attack plans for any situation to take down their debt.

To provide some context, I’m not able to pay off a couple thousand dollars a month like my friend. I own a house, have two vehicle payments, and my first child to arrive in June this year. My wife and I are both school teachers so combined we make approximately $90,000/year before taxes.
To be clear, I’m an advocate for most people to college. Look for a post on this later. If it were not for these student loans, neither my wife nor I would’ve been able to receive a degree. And if it were not for our degrees, we would not be able to buy cars, houses, or afford children!

Here’s my game plan:

Once we began earning a consistent income, we did the smart thing and set a budget. But when we created our budget, we didn’t live within our means, we lived below our means. So we’ve been accumulating a surplus of roughly $500 every month that is going directly into savings. I recommend having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in your emergency savings before you can start using your extra cash. (Note: the minimum payment for all debts is included in monthly expenses.) After our savings reaches our preferred amount, it’s time to go toe to toe with my loans…

I have two options that have roughly the same total payoff amount, but one is much simpler than the other.

Half of my loans are federal and the other half is privatized. There are a total of six loans with all different interest rates. Strategy #1 would be to make the minimum payment plus my aforementioned excess of $500 every month. It’s often important to pay the loans with the highest interest rates first, but not always, in order to minimize the dreaded accruement. Strategy #2 is to refinance and take out a personal loan from a bank to pay off all of my student loans and have a single loan with a simple interest rate. There are two big catches with this, however. You have to have a good credit score to get a low rate and you will no longer be able to write off the interest on your federal taxes.

Making payments in the current system is difficult because I have to log in, mail, or call two different agencies and specify the fluctuating amount for all six loans every month. With a personal loan, I will be billed the exact same amount every month and can leave it on auto pay.

We have decided to take out a personal loan for $35,000 at 11% for a monthly payment of $761/month for five years. The total payoff will only be approximately $46,000! I will save over $22,000 and be debt free 14 years sooner than if I just made the minimum payments! You will have to do the math to find out which strategy is best for you, but we’ll talk more on that later. Here’s the good kind of principle to live by: If you sacrifice now and live below your means to pay off debt, it can save you thousands and thousands in the long run.

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You’re Debt to Me!

You’re Debt to Me!

Immediately after receiving my degree (and a few short years after that), I struggled to find full-time employment that would allow me to make a dent in the student loan debt I had accumulated during my four years in college. From odd job to odd job I never felt that I was in a comfortable enough financial position to pay off more than the minimum required monthly payment. Sound familiar?

01/08/2016 through 09/07/2017 $286.23 every month

Finally, in May of 2017 I decided to go a different route. Education. Specifically, teaching and coaching. I searched for opportunities near my hometown, realizing I could save a lot more money every month if I lived at home. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I discussed it with my parents, and they were more than willing to allow me to move back home if I could find a good position in the area. By the end of May, I had received multiple job offers (something I was not used to), and a few of them within 15 minutes of where I grew up. I realize this isn’t an option everyone in my situation has granted to them, but I was looking to get out from under this student loan debt FAST. So in June I signed my first contract, and in August I started my new career.

Now the funny thing about starting a new teaching job is that you actually work almost 2 full months before getting paid. But when the first direct deposit hit my bank account, September 29th, I set aside enough for an emergency fund, my monthly expenses, then put EVERYTHING remaining towards my student loans.

09/30/2017        $2,294.20

10/29/2017        $2,506.81

11/17/2017        $2,473.37

12/19/2017        $2,352.26

Those were my first “more than minimum” monthly payments. Finally, I started to see some real progress. On November 28th,  I also decided to make a small leap into the the stock market, putting $200 into a Betterment* account.

In January, I saw a slight increase in my paycheck. I put it all towards my student loans.

01/19/2018        $2,700.00

As of today, February 2nd, I have $11,611.24 remaining on my student loans. If everything goes according to plan (hahaha), I will have all my student loan debt erased by June.

I realize that my path has been a little out of the ordinary, but I didn’t want to spend the first ten years of my adult life paying for school. I decided to take extreme measures to make sure that didn’t happen. Being debt free is a mindset and you have to commit to it!

Stay tuned for more updates! The story continues.


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