Every six months, I write down all of my debts, which are primarily student loans and for the last few years, I’ve been pretty satisfied with the progress I’ve made. Only for the past 18 months have I actually been able to get ahead of my debts and with everything now being paid on time (including monthly payments on two student loans that are in collection status) I am no longer adding to this number, rather subtracting.
But even though I’m doing a great job of making my 20+ payments a month, I’m slowly becoming worn down with the whole process. When I graduated college, I had a total debt load of roughly $185,000. In three years after graduation (and the five years during college), the debt had amassed to roughly $250,000 as I wasn’t making payments and interest rates were in the double digits on most private student loans. Having to resort to a few more unsecured lines of credit I kept myself afloat with a mediocre $30,000 a year job but was falling further and further behind. Now that I’m ahead and reducing the amount of debt I owe by about 5% each year (again, only for a year + so far) I see that for the next 20 years … this is my life.
And I’m not happy about it. I still don’t know why I chose a private $45,000 a year school where I earned a small partial scholarship instead of a state school like Rutgers where I would have gone for free but that awful awful decision has changed my life for longer than I thought it would. It was just fake money in college and now it’s real.
You might be wondering how a guy like me was able to obtain credit after say, $125,000 of those college loans, especially when I didn’t have a credit history before hand (and don’t have a cosigner on any of my loans) and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you. A couple of them toward the end took a good amount of sweet talking over the phone and when I look back, I suppose I wish I had been declined and just asked my parents for help but I was hell bent on doing this independently. So where can I go from here?
Well I have no choice but to put my head down and keep doing what I’m doing. Debt sucks, especially when you know there’s nothing you can do, outside of winning the lottery I suppose to make this process go any faster. I already work 12 hour days, have a girlfriend who supports half of the living expenses and a great job that earns a very decent paycheck. But the worst thing I can to is let this debt beat me down. Once that happens, I’ll start making stupid mistakes again and the last few years of progress will be flushed right down the toilet.
If you find yourself in a similar position, hang in there. Try and keep updates on the total amount of your debt and stay positive, even if the total debt is only going down slowly. Attitude and moral doesn’t show in your budget but it has a lot more to do with personal finance than you might think. Keep your sights on short term goals and when you hit them set some more because you’ve got a long road ahead.
Published or updated April 3, 2013.