Make Real Cents
Have you seen those “priceless” MasterCard commercials? The ones that highlight sentimental moments like “seeing her smile” or “watching their first steps” are “priceless,” then end with “but for everything else there’s MasterCard.” That’s how I felt the day I walked across the stage to get my degree- priceless. It was the lights, the sounds, the crowd, the cheering, everything about that moment was straight out of a MasterCard commercial except the degree; apparently, that’s the “everything else” part MasterCard is referring to.
Unlike the commercials, as subjective as this may seem, education in America is not priceless. We all know it comes with a hefty price tag, ten years of repayment, and some interest on the side, just like having an actual MasterCard.
According to some research conducted by Financial Health Network, graduates in the United States owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. To make matters worse, Financial Health Network shows that a whopping 63% of community college students are living paycheck to paycheck. A 2015 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that money is the leading cause of stress among Americans. So it’s no wonder why 57%, according to Financial Health Network, of all Americans are struggling with Financial Health.
When I think back to my college days, getting good grades was the last thing on my mind. I was always stressed about money, from struggling to pay for books to worrying about how I would pay rent and for food, my financial health was constantly one beat away from flat lining. I worked full-time and went to school full-time (interned, worked at a nursing home, cable company, insurance place as an admin, etc), but somehow I always found myself coming up short when the bills were due. I’ll never forget crying in my professor’s office when she asked why I never brought my required textbook to class. I broke down and explained that I was so broke my roommates sometimes helped me out with food so trying to find extra money for books just wasn’t in my cards. To make matters worse, my mom had been in the hospital and I didn’t want to put any more stress on her by telling her about my situation- I was flat broke in a city with no support and over 1,000 miles from home. My professor then proceeded to hand me her copy of the textbook and told me to bring it back at the end of the semester. My grades suffered because the pressure to pay bills triumphed my WANT to be the best student that I could be. The money stress I was under made it increasingly hard to focus on the end goal- getting my degree.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? It’s crazy to think that we spend, on average, four years of our lives acquiring and investing in something that will take us another ten years to pay off, if we’re lucky.
So how do we take our lives back and improve our financial health? Simple: Rebel
Kind of like Katniss in the Hunger Games, the time is now, the atmosphere is right, its time to destroy your student loans once and for all. Good financial health starts with being proactive and getting rebellious with your finances. And there is no better day than today, which happens to be #FinHealthMatters day (April 25th!), to start.
5 Rebellious Student Loan Acts
1. Getting organized and figuring out how much you owe ASAP.
The longer you dwell in chaos and hide behind the excuse of feeling overwhelmed, the more money you’re putting in lenders pockets through interest.
Create a list of all of the loans you have, from smallest to largest, and include the following:
- Lender’s name(s)
- Lender’s contact info
- Amount of debt outstanding
- Interest rate
- Monthly minimum
- Due Date
- Repayment Plan Duration (how many months/years)
Once you have all this info in one place, cross reference your credit report (you can pull it for free on creditkarma.com) to make sure you haven’t missed any. Also, ensure each lender has your current address on file. If they don’t, give them a call and get it updated ASAP! Then figure out a way you are going to slay it (debt snowball- small to largest loan vs debt avalanche- prioritizing your loans based on interest).
They say that the devil is in the detail and that’s where many lenders like to hide the things that will hurt you the most. For example, knowing when you’re expected to start paying your loan back. Repayment terms can sometimes be different for private and federal loans. If you have a private loan, repayment may begin immediately upon graduation or if your status changes from a full to a part-time student.
“Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that somewhere, in some way, you are justified.” -Albert Camus, French Philosopher
Remember this — You are more than just a cog in a machine or a blade of grass drifting in the wind, so you owe it to yourself to attack your debt with everything in your arsenal. Your #FinHealthMatters, don’t let your precious time here on Earth be consumed with paying back debt and constantly being under stress.
2. Getting on a budget and paying more than the minimum!
The longer you take to rebel, the more money you’re allowing companies to take from your future. You can pay thousands of dollars extra in interest over the course of a loan if you are not careful. You’re playing right into the student loan companies hands if you are only paying the minimums and sticking to the payment plan that they provided you. According to an article published by credible.com, the total interest paid for a $30k federal direct loan with 6% interest over the course of the loan would be $9,967. Student loan companies are literally making thousands of dollars extra from you whereas you are missing out on thousands of precious compounding interest by not investing money because you’re busy paying it all back.
My minimum monthly payment on my last student loan is $150.00 a month. Here is a screenshot of my most recent payment history to give you an example of what I mean when I say pay more than the minimum. By sticking to a budget, getting angry about my debt, and committed to this debt-free journey I paid a total of $1,675 last month towards my student loan. Getting on a written budget, single handily, turned my finances around and has helped me pay of $47,000 of debt in 2.5 years.
Fight back against the Navients, NelNets, & Sallie Maes of the world by getting on a written budget. Once you get a budget in place, figure out ways to squeeze out all the extra money that you can, and use that to pay more than just the bare minimum monthly payment. Even if all you can do to start is $5 or $10 more, a rebellion isn’t started on by just doing the bare minimum.
“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes the rebellion.” -Frederick Douglass
We are living in an era where student loan debt has now surpassed the credit card debt in America. According to a report by Student Loan Hero, the average student loan debt for a graduate in 2016 was $37,172. How do you expect to start life on the right foot when your hands are tied up with debt?
3. Not acquiring any more debt.
The fastest way to pay down debt is NOT to acquire any more. In a society that inundates us with ads left and right, not following the rest of the sheep is a rebellious act within itself. Rebelling also includes not being a sheep and doing what sheep do AKA acquiring all the other “normal” debt — credit cards, car loans, etc. One of the most rebellious things you can do right now is to reject the status quo!
“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is [hu]man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” — Oscar Wilde
If you can’t pay cash while you are trying to pay down your student loans, that probably means you don’t need it. Getting your life back from debt requires a certain level of sacrifice a lot of normal people are not willing to give. Remember, don’t be normal, be rebellious instead.
4. Getting your income up to pay down debt faster.
Consider a side hustle to tackle your debts faster; it may be just one of those necessary evils you have to consider temporarily. The reality of the matter is that your income might not be that great and it may take you a lifetime to pay off your debt with what you currently bring in. The list of side hustles and part-time gigs is endless but here are just a few ideas:
- Driving for Uber or Lyft
- Working for Instacrat
- Teaching kids overseas via VIPKID
- Delivering Pizza
- Part-time retail work
- Opening an Esty shop
- Selling stuff on eBay
- Dog Walking/ Pet Sitting
- Helping local businesses with their SEO
The average repayment in America takes 10 years; however, some financial experts are saying many Americans are taking twice as long as that to pay off their loans. That is an insane amount of time, 20+ years to be under the thumb of someone else (student loan corporations) or chained to a job you hate because of debt. It’s time to get creative and stretch yourself a little so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner rather than later.
“What is a rebel? A man who says no.” – Albert Camus
5. Having a sense of urgency and staying consistent.
The best thing you can do to support your rebellion is to stay the course and stay consistent. Develop a sense of urgency and hone into your “why.” Why is a MUST and not WANT to get your loans paid off as soon as possible? Maybe it’s because you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired or finally want to start enjoying life. Whatever your reason, hold on to that, and let it carry you through to the finish line.
I’ve been on a journey to becoming debt free for almost 2 and a half years now. I didn’t get into debt overnight, so I don’t expect to get out of it that easily. I’ve paid off $47,000 and have $10,000 left to go until I am completely debt free and I can honestly say consistency is key. Have patience, stay consistent, understand your “why,” and buckle down for the long haul.
Implementing any 1 of the 5 acts can help change your current financial situation, however, doing all five can help jumpstart the revolution you may need. Your #FinHealthMatters.
“Rebelling against a system that was set up to profit from our demise is the greatest and most pivotal action one can take to insight change.” -Carmen Perez, Make Real Cents
This blog post originally appeared April 25, 2018 on Make Real Cents as a part of Financial Health Network’s #FinHealthMatters Day. To learn more about FinHealthMatters from Financial Health Network, sign up here.
*All views and endorsements expressed in this blog entry are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsements of Financial Health Network.