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I’m Back In Debt Again

As you can probably tell from reading this blog, I’m pretty proud of how fast I paid off all of my student loans. It took me just 2.5 years to pay off all $87,000 worth of it. As a brief recap, I started my first job in the fall of 2013, started paying down my debt for real at the beginning of 2014, and paid off the last of my student loans in 2016. By the time I reached a $0 student loan balance, I hadn’t even been in the workforce for three years! In hindsight, that’s actually pretty astounding. There probably aren’t a ton of lawyers out there that are debt free three years out of law school.

With my recent marriage, however, it looks like I’m officially going right back into debt again in the form of my wife’s student loans. She graduated from dental school in 2014. Since then, she’s done a one-year hospital residency and is now currently in the middle of a three-year specialty residency. Needless to say, four years of dental school, four more years of post-dental school training, and no significant income since 2010 means that she’s sitting on a pretty high student loan balance. It’s a little bit over six figures at this point.

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My Student Loan Refinancing Experience

These days, student loans are pretty much a given for most young professionals. When I graduated law school back in 2013, I had a hugely negative net worth thanks to $87,000 worth of student loans that I had taken out. That doesn’t seem like all that much when you consider that the average law student today graduates with almost double that amount of debt. I think it’s a testament to just how normalized student loans have become when $87,000 can seem like nothing.

The thing that really stinks about student loans isn’t just the monthly payment. It’s the huge amount that you’re paying out each year towards interest. If you look at my own student loan history, you can see that I paid over $15,000 in interest over the life of the loan. And that’s with me paying off the loan in just two years!

One of the reasons we’re paying so much in interest is because of the high interest rates we’re given. Since anyone can get a student loan, the interest rates are higher than they should be for folks who are going into fields where they should hopefully make a decent income. Regular grad school loans clock in at a 6.8% interest rate these days. Grad plus loans come in at a whopping 7.9% interest rate. Those kind of interest rates are no joke…

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Paying Off Debt Is Never “Easy”

One thing that I absolutely HATE is when someone tells me that paying off debt is easy if you’re making a good salary. Maybe I take it too personally, but it feels like a knock on my accomplishment. After all, I paid off $87,000 worth of student loans, but I also had a good salary that allowed me to do it. Was it easier to do than if I had been making less? Of course. But it definitely wasn’t easy.

A recent headline I saw reminded me that a lot of people think paying off debt is just a walk in the park so long as you make a high enough income. Take a look:

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When Leaving Big Law, The Financial Struggle Shouldn’t Be Real

One of the maddening things about working in big law was seeing so many of my colleagues squandering the golden opportunity that they had in front of them. There aren’t a ton of situations in which a 25-year old can make six-figures a year right out of school with basically no prior work experience. For the vast majority of new big law associates, that first-year salary might be more money than they’ve made in all of their other previous working years combined.

That’s why it always bothered me when I saw my colleagues renting expensive, luxury apartments and talking about the hip, new, foodie restaurant they hit up over the weekend. It wasn’t the money they spent that bugged me the most. What really bugged me was how normal a lot of them treated their big law salary. To me, earning six figures a year at 26-years old was a huge deal! I’d never even made more than $20,000 in a year. The way I saw it, this money was a blessing. And it wasn’t meant to be squandered.

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Live Like A Student: Embrace Non-Traditional Ways Of Living

If you had to ask me what the single most important thing you can do for yourself financially when you finish school, my answer would always be to live like a student. It seems so obvious, and yet, despite being so obvious, very few people actually follow this advice.

I live in a college neighborhood, so I see a lot of college kids when I’m out and about. Sometimes, I like to think about how weird their living situations are compared to your typical middle-class American. Most of these college kids live in rundown houses, usually packing four or more people into a house. It’s not uncommon for people to share rooms or live in tiny bedrooms no bigger than a closet. When I’m out doing deliveries, I’ll sometimes make a delivery to a dorm and am reminded that, for at least a year, most college kids live and sleep in a tiny dorm room with a person they’ve never met before!

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