As I go through this journey of achieving financial peace by getting out of debt, I will be sharing my story. It won’t be easy and it’s definitely daunting to put all of this out there, but my hope is that it will be life-changing for myself and others who may have a similar experience. Though I just started, I know it’s possible and my dream of being financially free is one day going to be a reality.
Kids, young people, and youth all over the world, please listen. I am begging you to read these words and take heed. Even if you don’t want to. Even if you have other plans. Even if you think I don’t know what I’m talking about. The choice you make concerning paying for college could mean the difference between being bound to student loans or the path of financial freedom during your 20’s.
I, too, was led astray. Perhaps those who were seeking to “help” me didn’t know any better or maybe, at the age of 19, I didn’t do enough research. I so badly wanted to go to college and “be out on my own” that the numbers didn’t terrify me so much as they do now. I figured I would get out of college, make money, and pay off my student loans. That’s how it works right?
Ha! If only. Student loan companies are fueled by the dreams and wishes of young people everywhere. It’s really a lovely thought but it is, unfortunately, not the truth. Here is a quick glance at some facts about student loan debt:
- Current U.S. student debt is at $1.2 trillion.
- $3,000 is accrued in student debt every second.
- Americans owe more in student loan debt than credit card debt.
- The majority of borrowers will still be paying back their loans well into their 30’s and maybe even longer.
- 2 in 5 student loan borrowers are delinquent within the first five years of entering repayment.
- Student loan debt is the most common form of increasing debt among 18 to 24-year olds.
- 65% of high-debt student loan borrowers were surprised or misunderstood aspects of their loans or the borrowing process.
So, there are the startlingly high numbers and statistics. It’s rather frightening if you ask me, especially that last one. The entire student loan process is basically designed to put you into debt. Between interest, the cost of living, and trying to make minimum payments, it can seem as if you and Sallie Mae will be BFF’s for life. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. And it shouldn’t. We, the consumers, have to wake up to this what is going on here. I, too, fell victim to the madness.
I truly wish I had waited. Or that I worked and attended part-time classes and paid as I went. Or even went to a community college for the first couple of years. However, what’s done is done and the only way to move forward is to come to terms with where you currently are. It isn’t a pretty picture. Trust me, there were some tears the first day after I sat down and made a plan to get out of debt. It’s ugly and messy. It might make you angry but that’s where you pull your motivation from. Here is some advice I can offer from my own experience:
- Don’t spend what you don’t have – This is one of the key points I hope to convey in this. College is a bit like a dreamland. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a great deal about life and myself, while forming powerful friendships in the process. However, I never fully felt as if it were preparing me for the real world. Sure, I held 2 jobs with full-time credits and was paying all my bills, but the student loan debt never seemed like something I would actually need to deal with. Work hard. Save up. And then go. Or would you rather end up in the same boat as the rest of us 37 million borrowers?
- Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships – I kick myself sometimes for not listening to my teachers for this one. I should have taken the time and put in the work to find scholarships, grants, and anything else that would have helped me. If you do decide to go to college, don’t be afraid of the work involved in searching for scholarships. It will be so worth it in the end.
- Do your research – Talk to others who have gone to college and find what worked for them. Go online. Make it a point to have those important conversations that could end up saving you in the long run. Perhaps college isn’t right for you. The world is constantly changing and we are pushing out degrees that we don’t have jobs for. Make sure you make the best decision for you.
- Attend community college – Don’t waste your time on the first two years of “general education” at some state or private school, especially if you are paying for it out of pocket. It isn’t worth it and the price tag difference can mean more money for you to put towards your degree down the road.
- Work! – Honestly, work like your life depends on it. I’ve held a job since I was 16 years old, and more often than not, multiple jobs at the same time. Work whenever you can if you are wanting to finance your future.
- Be a saver – That wasn’t me, at all. What young person “wants” to save? But, if it can mean paying for your education, I bet that would change your mind.(Even if it means living at home for longer than you had planned. :)) Don’t blow your money on clothes, things you don’t need, and heaven forbid, the bars once you’re old enough. Not worth it. At all. Zip.
It all comes down to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice.Sure, you could wait for some president to deem college “free” and pin everything on that, while your debt just keeps piling higher and higher. Or, you can kick it into gear, grab life by the reins, and take your financial future into your own hands. I’ll be choosing the second one because, at the end of the day, the best person possible to look out for me is me.
Looking forward to this financial journey with all of you that is sure to be filled with love, laughter, and perhaps a few tears. Happy Friday friends.