Debt doesn’t have to be Forever

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming chapter in my life: Recent Law Grad, No Student Loans.

It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. However, as I get closer to being debt free, I’ve found it more and more difficult to talk to others about it. Whenever loans come up with my law school friends (which happens all the time and not just because I’m focused on them), they are so buried in debt they can’t imagine being debt free. Usually, I can’t even get to a point where I could comfortably share my story before the conversation turns sour and the subject is changed.

I don’t know what to do with this. I want to celebrate my achievement, but I don’t want others to feel bad.  I want to show others that you can get out of student loan debt, but the excuses come faster than I can answer them. The conversation shifts so quickly into unrelateable worlds that I don’t know what to say.

For example:

My local bar association put out a survey recently about student loans. They wanted to know what you were paying each month, but not how much you owed. They wanted to know how your student loans were impacting your life, but not what you were doing about it. That bothered me. Are we all supposed to be suffering a hardship? I can’t be the only one standing up to my loans. I am genuinely curious to know how many people are accelerating their loans, so I asked a classmate what she thought. She didn’t really understand my question. She said her minimum payment should be $1400 on 10-year standard repayment. There was no room in her budget for anything at or above that. Instead of paying $1400, she’s on income-based and barely denting the interest. I suspect her overall balance is somewhere around $140,000.

With $140,000, she’s accepted that student loans are forever. Maybe they are for her. I can’t relate to her situation and she can’t relate to mine.

Having more than $100,000 in student loan debt isn’t abnormal in the law school graduate circle, but just because someone has that much, doesn’t mean that they can’t do anything about it. Yes, it will take sacrifice, but wouldn’t it be worth it? It can be done!

There isn’t an absence of people online paying off their law school debt early. At the high earning end of the spectrum, Mrs. DebtFreeJD is paying off $125,933.50 in the time it took to build the Empire State Building: 1 year and 45 days. In the middle, Natalie at The Finance Girl is tackling $206,000. She’s paying an extra $1,100 per month and has her debt down to $155,000. On the low (but growing!) end of the earning spectrum is Stephanie from SixFiguresUnder. Her husband graduated from law school in 2012 with $130,000 in student loans. They are down to $80,000 and hope to have it all paid off by the end of 2016.

For most, taking out student loans was the only way they could pay for law school. I get that. I wouldn’t have been able to go without them. However, just because the Government gives you up to 25 years to pay them back doesn’t mean you need to pay on them for that long. There are so many things you can do.

Student Loans don’t have to be forever.

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9 comments

  1. I only had $19K in loans to start, but then again, I’m not making a law salary (well, I might be close to Stephanie’s husband.) But even though in retrospect I could have made my payment process a bit easier on myself through using some of what I’ve learned about PF this year, one thing I did right was realize immediately that I wanted them gone ASAP, give myself an aggressive timeline (one year from graduation), and more or less combat lifestyle inflation with that in mind. I ended up paying 30% of my gross salary (probably closer to 50% of my net) in that 12-month period and could *easily* have spent that $$ on a newer car, more professional clothing, or a nicer/larger apartment and furniture. Or more massages 🙂 That’s a rambly way of saying I agree with you — either you want to ditch the debt or you don’t! Timelines are shorter or longer depending on salary/level of debt/area COL, but if you’re determined to do it it can nearly always be done.

    1. I didn’t realize you paid off your loans so quickly! That’s awesome! There are so many things that the money could be spent on! I guess I’d rather have that money later when I’m not paying mountains in interest!

  2. I didn’t realize you were also a law grad. I agree with you, talking about student loans with old classmates can be weird if you have a view of actually being debt free someday. Everyone has a different situation so their approach is different but overall the assumption is that loans will always be there. Right now my government loans aren’t my priority but I don’t intend to still be paying them back when I’m 50, not to mention being taxed on anything left over. So before I tackle my student loans I’m tackling a bunch of other debt first. I just finished paying off all my credit card debt today (huzahh!), my private bar loan is next and then my car loan. Fingers crossed starting in 2016 student loans will be my number one priority. Congrats on almost being done, I feel like you should make another degree/certificate that says no more student loans and hang it up next to your JD.

  3. It can be surreal when my law school classmates – some of whom literally make multiples of what I do – complain about debt. I am sympathetic (genuinely) because working at a BigLaw firm in a major metropolis really does come with its own set of hefty expenses, like a super expensive apartment, a social life that revolves around eating out, and it’s awfully awfully tough to even think about cooking at home when you are billing 3,000 hours a month.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Love your blog!
      Like the song says, Mo’ money, Mo’ Problems. It would be tough to prioritize debt when you are making a super high salary. It would be so tempting to outsource when time is such a precious resource.

  4. I can relate to this article in so many ways. My loan comes from two degrees, credit cards ( I didn’t plan right for paying it off), and my wonderful car ( I don’t mind that at all, years of taking the bus, this will be the greatest present I’ve given myself). Anyway, when my friend started getting her information about her loan, she was on the same mind set “Debt is Debt”. Just live with it. I couldn’t believe it. We just finished our Masters in Library Science one year apart and one of the few who qualify for the Public Loan Forgiveness and she doesn’t really care about paying it off. It boggled my mind, but I think her reasoning is if it doesn’t hurt her lifestyle or credit she doesn’t have to worry about. Even though she lives frugally, I still feel that getting out of my life will ease my state of mind.

    1. Public Loan Forgiveness is one of the rare situations where I could understand not paying off your loans. If its true Forgiveness, there isn’t a downside for carrying the debt for 10 years. If I was in that situation, I’d pay the lowest minimum payment I could and invest the excess. But that’s all a big gamble if you don’t work in a PSLF eligible position for 10 years. Lots to think about!

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