The Orthodontist with $1 million in Student Loans

Let’s switch gears and talk about money for a bit.  Has anyone else heard about the orthodontist with $1 million in student loan debt?  You can read the Newser article here  or the Market Watch article here.  This just makes me sick a little.  This person makes $225,000 a year and yet only pays $1,500 to his student loan, which doesn’t even cover interest.  At the rate he is going, his loan will balloon to over $2 million, which I think he intends to get forgiven after 20 years of paying it.

Wow, talk about irresponsibility.  Many of us have been accountable to our debts and to our student loans.  It’s unfair for someone to rack up that much student loans and not be held accountable for paying it off.  I mean sure, I could’ve studied abroad to get that college ‘experience’ but I chose not to because I couldn’t afford it.  I also chose not to go back to grad school because I learned from my undergrad how hard paying off $20,000 can be especially on an entry level salary.  I’ve had to make sacrifices to pay off my debts like many others before me.  Of course my debt wasn’t $1 million dollars, but this man makes $225,000 a year which he could very well pay off if he and his wife live within their means like most people do.  He chose to go to an expensive private school and at least he is making well over what many of us makes.  This man needs to own up to his mistakes and take responsibility for his actions.

Ways he can pay more back by cutting back:

  1. Don’t drive a used Tesla.  Get a cheaper car.
  2. Limit eating out.
  3. Down-size your living space.  Rent a one bedroom.
  4. Pack your lunch.
  5. Cut cable.
  6. Do staycations.
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Simple Tricks to Save Some Money

 

Our PG&E bill in December.
  1. Don’t put on the heat until it’s absolutely freezing.  We got through several winters just by layering, going under blankets, and keeping our curtains open during the day to naturally warm up our place.  Our highest heating bill was $39.76, which was actually our last bill.
  2. Ditch cable and go for Netflix, Prime, or for sports enthusiasts, get Sling TV.  These are all options that are a fraction of the cost of cable.
  3. Bring a packed lunch to work, and stop eating out.  Not cooking your own food is a budget killer.
  4. Just drink water.  Not only is it healthier, it’s cheaper than soft drinks, sports drinks, or flavored teas.
  5. Make your own coffee at home or drink the office coffee.
  6. At one point, I didn’t wear makeup for two years just to save money to put towards debt.
  7. I also started cutting my own hair and giving myself manicures and pedicures.
  8. My husband and I stopped going to the movie theaters, and if we do go, we go to the very first showing, which costs $9.50 versus $13.50.
  9. Don’t get caught up in FOMO. Everyone is different.  There’s just no need to keep up with your friends, neighbors, or co-workers.  You will eventually get there.  It may not be today, but you will.  You don’t need the new Iphone 10.
  10. Don’t upgrade your digs until you’re out of debt or have saved enough for a down payment on a house.  Upgrading to a luxury apartment complex because you want to treat yourself or because you want to experience living in such a place just eats up your chance to save, and will make paying off debt longer.
  11. Hang dry some of your clothes.  If you live in an apartment like we do, we bought some drying racks and hang dry at least one load.  This saves us $60 per year. Not a whole lot of savings, but if you’re in debt, every penny counts.

Blogs that Inspired Me to Debt Freedom

When I was knee deep in debt, I read countless personal finance sites and ‘get out of debt’ blogs in search of inspiration to help me towards debt freedom.  My favorites are:

  1. Six Figures Under.  A mother documents her family’s journey in getting out of $130,000 in student loan debt.  They were living in her in-law’s basement before buying a home after paying off their debt.
  2. Frugalwoods.  Although this couple was not in debt when I started reading their blog, their frugal lifestyle was inspiring to read about.  They were able to purchase their homestead out in Vermont, and currently living their dream life.
  3. Financial Samurai.  Sam shares a great deal of his own knowledge on personal finance.  He started out as frugal and a super saver who eventually retired from investment banking to become a fulltime blogger.
  4. And Then We Saved.  Anna, the main blogger, got me into cutting my own hair because she was doing it to save money.  Her site also inspired me to stop making unnecessary purchases, which I still do today even though I’m debt free.
  5. Dailyworth.  Dailyworth is a personal finance site targeted towards women.  They put out a good amount of content for daily inspiration.  I still look at this site from time to time.
  6. Learnvest.  Similar to Dailyworth, Learnvest also puts out a good amount of content for daily inspiration.

4 Strategies Used to Become Debt Free

As I’ve mentioned in my first blog post, I’m not the best example of someone who got rid of debt right away.  I didn’t have laser focus like others who tackle debt in a matter of six months to two years.  I took 10 years.  However when I got serious, it took 6 years to get rid of everything.  I admit I probably could’ve done it in four, but I’d probably also be divorced.

So how did I get rid of my debt?  What exactly did I do?

Many things. I read lots of blogs on personal finance, frugality, and other people’s debt stories.  I took all the info that I liked and then applied them to my own debt journey.  Everyone is different and often with varying tolerances to how far they can go with certain debt reducing strategies.  In my personal journey, I did the following:

  1. I got frugal for as long as I could hold out.  To stay motivated, I constantly read debt journey blogs.  What did I choose to do? No cable TV, only Netflix, layered in the winter to save on electricity, bought food on sale, and limited eating out or going to the movie theaters.
  2. I made a budget and stuck to it.  In my opinion, this is probably the most important thing to do because without a budget, it’s easy to overspend.
  3. I became minimal and reused things often.  If I didn’t need something right away, I held off buying it like clothing, which I held off doing for 2 years.
  4. I sacrificed my social life.  I definitely lost friendships because of turning down kid birthday party invites, baby showers, and dinner parties.  Unfortunately, this happens, but it’s a sacrifice to make for financial freedom.

 

My Debt Story

My debt journey is probably not the most inspiring.  I didn’t have gazelle intensity, and it took me 10 years to pay off $50,000.  So what exactly happened?

Well…life happened.

The recession struck in 2008, which was a year after I graduated college.  I wasn’t fortunate to have parents finance my education so I graduated with $20,000 in student loans.  In my first year out of school, I paid off $6,000.  However, because of the recession, my hours at work got reduced to 24 hours a week, which then led to minimum student loan repayment stretching out to about two and a half years.

Then life happened again, and I got engaged.

Rather than paying down debt, I started saving for my wedding.  Because when you’re young and only 25, planning for a wedding is more exciting then anything else.  And in the midst of wedding planning, I also moved to a new apartment which was 30 miles away from my job at the time.  My 10 year old car was also approaching its 200,000 mileage marker, so I did what any reasonable millennial would do and bought a new car.

When I totaled everything up, it was shocking to see how much debt I had to pay.  It was $50,000 comprising of student loans, a new car payment, credit cards, dental debt, and a timeshare loan.  It definitely lit a fire from under me because my first year of marriage was devoted to debt reduction.  I went from being $50,000 in the hole to $36,000.  Then by the second year I was just above $27,000, and then $17,000 by the third year.  By the fourth year, my husband and I got burnt out so I still had $11,000 left to pay.  Eventually I paid off my car one year earlier than the 5 year loan term that I had, and what remained left was the timeshare loan.  With such a high interest rate on the timeshare loan and because frugal fatigue had set in, I didn’t pay the timeshare off until 2 years later.

It is a sigh of relief.  It feels good being debt free and not shackled to anymore payments.  I am so much happier, less stressed out, and now willing to take on more risks with my career and the next chapters of life.