Month: February 2014

Perspective

Student loan debt is a big deal in the U.S.  It seems like everyone has some.

The most recent numbers on outstanding student loan debt put it at $1,080,000,000,000. That’s $1.08 TRILLION dollars. With a T.

Of that $1.08 Trillion dollars, 11.5% of it is more than 90 days past due. That means $124,200,000,000 or $124 Billion (with a B) is either delinquent or in default.

I can’t comprehend those numbers. Can you? Those numbers are too large for me grasp.

To hit a little closer to home, I looked at the average student loan debt for the schools I’ve attended. The average student loan debt of those graduating from law school in my state is $104,000. That number does not include undergraduate/college debt. The average student loan debt in 2009 for my alma mater… an additional $27,500. 

So if I had the average level of student loan debt for my education, I’d be $131,500 in debt.

Wow. That’s a lot of debt.

Against $131,500 or even $104,000, it is really easy to minimize $45,000 worth of student loans. It is so easy that I caught myself doing it, over and over again.  I kept comparing myself to my classmates and the debt I thought they had.

I only have $45,000 of debt.

ONLY.

Has anyone ever told you that they had $45,000 of any other debt and the word only came to mind? If someone told me they only had $45k of credit card debt, I think I’d shake them and calmly ask , “WHAT DO YOU MEAN ONLY!??”

I’m really thankful that I’m in the position of (only) having $45k of loans, but I also don’t want to lose sight of where I want to be.

I want to be free of student loan debt. I want to see the world. It would be pretty cool to own a home someday. I want to fully fund my retirement accounts so I don’t have to work until I die.  I may even want to get a dog.

There are so many things that I want to do, and having student loans is only slowing me down.

To get there, I’m dropping ‘only’ from my vocabulary.

What about you? Have you rationalized your debt?

My $45,000 Story

My story of debt runs through a similar  vein as many PF bloggers.

I didn’t charge any trips, I didn’t go on a spending spree, and Thank Heavens I didn’t have a medical emergency!

What did I do, you ask?

I sat in a library. by myself. in silence. for 3 years.

How glamorous!

Like too many young adults these days, my debt is from student loans.

See, my $45,000 of debt is from law school.

Through my hard work and some good fortune, I received a three-year full-tuition scholarship. I was still responsible for living expenses, books, etc.  and I financed that entirely through federal student loans. Everything I spent was subject to 6.8 % interest, so I tried to live as small as possible. My loans covered all of law school, studying for the bar exam, and 6 months of unemployment.

$45,000 for a 3.5 year transformation into a professional. Not bad.

As I move forward and pay this back, being frugal isn’t my issue. My family and friends might even consider me too tight with money. I am a seasoned professional at denying myself every modern convenience. If I truly wanted to, I could live on ramen in the dark until this debt is paid off.

I don’t want to keep living that way.

My tight relationship with money started at a young age. My parents divorced when I was in diapers, leaving them both with essentially nothing. Things were hard for a while. My first money memory is of shopping at a secondhand clothing store as a child. My little sister kept asking my mom for more and more. I knew we didn’t have the money to cover what she wanted and what I had picked out, so I put all of my school clothes back. At 6 or 7 years old, I decided I could go without. I had clothes at home– they were all too big, and many were my brother’s hand-me-downs, but I could go without.

Things got better for both of my parents, but no matter how much money my family had, I never felt like I had a stable financial footing. I always feared that one or two wrong decisions would put me back where I was as a child.

Without.

I’ve never been comfortable spending money. I could always come up with reasons why I shouldn’t spend it. Some reasons were real, some were elaborate disaster fantasies. Regardless, I kept a tight grip on every last cent I could.

My original reaction to having debt was to DESTROY it, paying it off aggressively, leaving no room for error.  But what will I learn from that? Nothing, that’s what. I want to pay off my debt quickly. But I also want to deal with the money issues I developed during my childhood.

Through this blog, I want to become more comfortable with money. I want to overcome my monetary insecurities through building a solid foundation (emergency fund(s), sink funds, budgeting etc.) while also paying off my mountain of debt. I also wouldn’t mind saving some dollars for a vacation or two.

So instead of annihilating my debt, I’m just going to say Goodnight.

Goodnight Debt.

Debt Day: December 23, 2013

My holiday season felt different this year. It was different because my holidays included the dreaded Debt Day. After graduating in May and a 6-month grace period, my first student loan payment came due on Christmas Eve eve. Oh Joy!

I now face the reality of being $45,330.87 in debt.

Happy Holidays to me.

Scheduling that first payment hurt a little.

… or a lot.

On standard repayment (10 years), my first bill was $525.86. Ick.

I knew this day was coming. It was unavoidable. I took out student loans with my eyes wide open and now I have to pay them back.

Wish me luck.

Here I go.

Let’s do this.

-Kate