Today’s Debt Story comes from OthalaFehu from www.othalafehu.com
How did you get the debt?
I escaped Undergraduate with no debt thanks to the US Government and several jobs on campus, but Law School is a whole different animal. Averaging $20,000/year for 3 years when I went (1997-2000). Plus they don’t want you to work an outside job for at least the first year.
I racked up over $100,000 and then I doubled down my marrying my wife, who was a year ahead of me in law school, we left with over $220,000 in non-dischargeable debt.
What made you want to get rid of the debt?
Having that much red ink hanging over you in a like an albatross around your neck. I always used to say if was like having a mortgage but a mortgage that did not come with any house.
You have to factor that kind of debt into any life decisions and it constantly holds you back, it needed to die.
How long did it take you to pay it all off?
17 years. At First we used a great strategy. We did not consolidate the myriad of smaller private loans. We targeted them one at a time throwing extra money at them and picking them off one by one. A few years later we were down to 2 big government loans. We owed $730/month on government loans that were locked in at 3.0% and 3.5%. Because these rates were pretty good, we just made our monthly payments for years.
We came into a pile of money when we sold a paid off inherited house earlier this year and used the proceeds to finally eliminate all of our law school debt.
What resources did you use to help pay off the debt?
Well, I do believe our strategy of targeting the smaller loans and not opting to roll them in with our larger loans is attributable to Dave Ramsey. Although I was unaware of this at the time. Automatic payments also shaved 0.25% point off of our rates through an offer with our Loan Holders.
What were the challenges that you faced?
I often say to people, ‘it is not about the size of the debt, but about your debt management’. We lived our lives as if that $730/month was not even in the budget. Setting up automated payments also helps to resist the temptation to spend that allocated money elsewhere.
How did this affect your marriage/family?
I always joke that my wife came with a reverse dowry. But luckily, we both view debt the same way. While we resigned ourselves to its undesirable presence, we kept our heads down and dutifully paid it off.
What were you doing for a living?
We are both lawyers, but also government lawyers. Steady jobs with good pay, but not the big bucks that makes for paying off school in a couple of years.
How did it feel once it was paid off?
I am only just now starting to feel relief. It was with us for so long, it just seemed like it would always be there. I have not yet felt that extra weight in our purse at the end of the month, nor will I. In true FIRE fashion, I will send that extra $730 right to the next problem debt area (ie mortgages).
What are some practical tips you can share with people looking to pay off their debt?
Don’t freak out, debt is nowadays a normal part of life. It is a car payment (just no car), treat it as such. As you come into unexpected money, seriously considered paying off your debt. Being debt free is a life changer (I think). Read more about how to deal with student loans or feeling overwhelmed by debt.