Why and How We’re Destroying Our Student Debt

Why and How We’re Destroying Our Student Debt

The Why

First, let me say we are not anti-debt. We have a mortgage and a construction loan and a business loan, which we are paying down with variable degrees of aggressiveness.

So why are our student loans different?

1. Our student loans are not going away any other way than us paying them off or me dying. We can’t sell them. They are not going to be worth more if we hang onto them. We can’t even get rid of them if we file for bankruptcy.

2. They cost us several thousand dollars every month (at their peak). Now we’re down to about $1,000/mo. That payment is completely inflexible unless we want to default or otherwise damage our credit. Since our killer high credit scores let us do everything from traveling for free to owning vacation/rental properties, anything but credit-friendly behavior is not an option for us.

3. It’s a guaranteed return. There are almost no places we can put our money that have a guaranteed return, especially in the short term. Our real estate holdings may or may not be worth more next year. The stock market will do what it does. But we’re losing money on our loan interest tomorrow and the next day and the next FOR SURE no matter what.

4. We don’t trust anyone to give us “loan forgiveness” in 10-30 years, and more importantly we don’t want it. We agreed to take on these loans. We agreed to pay them back, and we will. Even if we were interested in loan forgiveness, we’ve already heard one too many stories about people who thought they qualified who were in the end denied forgiveness on their remaining (sometimes larger) loan balances.

5. Our student loans annoy us. All other factors aside, we are incredibly tired of hearing about the student loan crisis and we’re tired of being a part of it.

6. We like a challenge.

Hiker looking up at mountains
The best routes are rarely the easy ones.

The How

After a couple years of making our mandatory monthly loan payments, occasionally making an additional larger payment, and messing around with refinancing options, we decided we were ready to be done.

Here’s what we did:

1. We went all-in. We started throwing thousands of dollars every month at our loans AFTER taxes and BEFORE we had a chance to spend it on anything else. We set monthly payment goals, and we did everything we could to hit those. This was always in addition to our business loan payments, mortgage payments, emergency and retirement fund contributions, etc. Some months this meant we were putting well over $10k just toward student debt.

2. We got creative with travel and adventure. These things are part of who we are, but we wanted to do them within the confines of our new goal. We learned how to travel-hack. We flew all over the country on points. We took friends and family up on offers to visit and stay with them. We went backpacking in the amazing National Parks near us and bought season ski passes to our local mountain. We were still having a blast (and never felt deprived at all), but it was all incredibly inexpensive.

Hiker on mountain top
Conquering our mountain of student debt: not easy, but so worth it.

The inevitable result of the above two actions was that:

3. We started questioning the norm in more areas than just student debt. We became acutely aware of the Young Professional Script that’s out there, and we decided not to follow it. Because we were already doing things so differently with our student loans and with our travel adventures, we felt we could do things differently in lots of areas. We didn’t upgrade our cars just because they got older or because our family doubled in size. We didn’t buy a giant new home just because we got approved for over half a million dollars with 3% down – in fact, we kept renting a very modest house. We didn’t buy a separate phone for our grade-schooler just because he got old enough to occasionally be away from us. We spent less than $350 getting ready for our baby. We started biking to work and school and biking to do errands. We signed up for endurance races and spent our free time training. We were doing things our own way, and we soon realized we were having just as much fun with life as anyone else.

Current student loan update: loans are scheduled to be paid off in the fall of 2018 – five years after graduation.

Loan payoff receipt for $11k payment.
Another “loan group” bites the dust. Booyah!!!

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