Irony: My student loans taught me to save and build wealth

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“In order to get on the road to financial independence I had to dig a hole first”

2007-2012/2013

I have always read about people identifying themselves as natural spenders vs. savers and that changing this was difficult. 

I am a recovering spender and this is my story. 

#YOLO was at the height of popularity. It was 2012/2013, I was 22 and Taylor Swifts’ s “22” had been released. My spending days were at its height too, I was working but I spent nearly every penny on (now that I look back) stupid things. 

I had positive net worth but I was still living paycheck to paycheck. Initially, the only budgeting skills I had was to not spend more than what I earned. So, I followed that rule through my undergraduate career, which took me 6 years to complete because I was steering clear of any student debt. I graduated undergrad in 2013 with no debt, thanks to scholarships and working full-time. You can read more about how you can graduate debt-free here.

Sometime during my undergraduate I began learning to budget using Excel Spreadsheets. I had been successfully using Excel to calculate my GPA for years. So, I translated those skills into creating a basic budget which would help me in my first job out of college. I was making a decent amount of money, more than in the hospitality industry, and I needed to figure out how to pay for graduate school. 

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2014-2015

This is the year everything changed, in April I found out that I was accepted to the best university in the world: Oxford. I was working as a sales representative and I was looking for an opportunity to continue my education. So, the problem now was finding funding to go to graduate school. 

In the end I did not find enough scholarships to cover it but I decided to take out student loans to pay it.

The budgeting skills I had learned were eagerly applied. Especially since I did not want to have a massive student loan. Interestingly enough, by attending school in Europe, I ended up saving over 50% than if I remained in the U.S. to complete the same degree. This is because the time to earn a Master’s degree in the U.S. is longer than in the U.K., so that means double the tuition, living expenses, etc.  

“I kept that feeling, that urgency, to pay it down and build my wealth.”

2016 - Present

After finishing my Master’s I returned to the U.S. and was promptly hired at a bank. It was here I really began focusing on budgeting, saving, and repaying my student loan.

At some point in 2016, I realized how much I hated this loan. It was when I realized how little of my payments were actually going to the principal. More than half of my monthly payment was going to just interest. That realization woke something up in me that I never felt. It was like waking up from a dream into a harsh reality. I was livid, so I projected that emotion into become financially independent and to pay off this beast.

That first year I reached a milestone of saving my first $1000.00. I was elated to reach this goal. I had also paid down nearly $10k of my student loan. 

Since then, I have been focusing on building my net worth through investments and paying down this debt. Without this debt looming over my head, I doubt I would ever learned to successfully do any of this.

I have kept that feeling, that urgency, to pay it down and build wealth. I could wait for no one, I have to do it myself.

This year alone, I am on track to not only reach positive net worth by Dec 31 but I will have increased it by over $23k in one year alone. This is a HUGE amount. Never could I have done it without a budget and giving every cent I have a job, even if it is as a buffer in my checking account.

My student loans are an ironic blessing in disguise

Do not get me wrong, I do not advocate getting a student loan unless you must. It is a shame that in order to get on the road to financial independence I had to dig a hole first. 

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