Welcome back to work, everyone! Oh yes, the day after Labor Day marks the beginning of a long slog to winter, complete with darkening days, chillier winds, and moodier moods at the office. I know you fine readers didn’t come here to get a bunch of negativity or anything, so consider it a dose of stoic awareness. With summer fading behind us, we can focus even more on financial freedom and buckle down! Ready to read about killing off those pesky student loans??
Today, I’m really excited to introduce Josh, a brand new FIRE blogger over at MoneyLifeWax.com. Josh has a neat story over at his site and I encourage you to have a look. Josh and his wife Lauren are punching hard at their debt and making smart moves to achieve a better financial life. Heck, anytime someone sells his truck for a more modest and money-wise car, I know he’s serious.
I hope you enjoy Josh’s guest post and check out his insightful new blog!
Student Loans Suck! But Action Equals Freedom
By Josh at MoneyLifeWax.com
Thanks for allowing me to guest post today. The personal finance / F.I.R.E. blogging community is truly special, as everyone aims to empower, educate and inspire others by sharing both what has worked and what has not!
Who am I?
Quick background on myself. My name is Josh and professionally I am a teacher, my wife a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT.) Currently, in addition to a few side hustles and a growing writing career, I am the originator of Money Life and The Whole Ball of Wax. A personal finance blog designed to help others G.O.O.D: Get Out of Debt!
We both spent undergrad at West Virginia University and pursued graduate degrees after; my Master’s at George Mason and her Doctorate at Elon University. A combined 15 years of schooling later and we had over $340,000 in student loans. Granted, we did not meet until 2012, by which point I had already chipped my loans down, while Lauren’s loans would continue to increase until she finished in the winter of 2014.
By age 27, I had been promoted into the Athletic Administration world, where I soon realized the extra money was not even enough to scratch the surface of our growing debt problem. We thought advancing our careers would be the ticket to paying off our debts and living a great life. Our first mistake.
With less time and only a tad more income, Lauren and I started reading up on financial literacy. It was like we had a whole new world bestowed on us. Words like MENTOR and DEBT FREE began to appeal to us. During the time leading up to our revival, I had already bought a truck that was costing $800 a month and a piece of real estate in addition to our home.
The truck was my second mistake. Already leveraged to the max, we started discussing how marriage might not be possible. Doing our best to keep up with those pesky Joneses, yet wondering how we were going to pay the bills at the end of each month, we decided action was needed. Great credit scores meant we could get loans, it was engraved in us that if you could afford the payment you could afford it. Third mistake.
Student Loans and Debt: Epiphany & Action
Working in public education for 9 years now, I began to question how schools were shoving college down students’ throats. I am by no means a hater of college, but knowing how much debt my wife took out, starting at age 18 to do something “she loved” (at 18 mind you) did not sit well.
The average graduate came out in 2016 with $37,000 in student loans. With almost zero financial literacy being taught in the formal education system, we had to learn on our own. So, that led us to our journey. We decided to G.O.O.D. and share with others how we did it. In 18 months, we knocked out $100,000 in debt while paying for a wedding, a car, and creating a four-month savings fund. By end of 2019, we will be debt free.
Student Loans: Steps to Get Out of Debt
In February of 2016 we decided enough was enough and we were going to take control. That is when our journey started, towards becoming financially independent and debt free! I had already sold my money pit of a truck a few months earlier, and got engaged. We read Mr. Money Mustache’s debt is an emergency post and got serious. In August of 2017 after the encouragement of some friends and family, I decided to share our journey to improve our finances and life, hence the Whole Ball of Wax blog!
February 2016 & Now:
|Debt||February 2016||Currently – September 2017|
|Josh’s Student Loan||$14,000||0|
|Josh’s Auto Loan||$7,000||0|
|Josh’s Personal Credit Line||$900||0|
|Lauren’s ESCI & Navient Loans||$13,500||0|
|Lauren’s Auto Loan||$6,000||0|
|Our Wedding Costs||$15,000||0|
|Lauren’s Undergrad (combined)||$92,433||$77,272|
|Lauren’s Grad School (3 Loans combined)||$155,511.26||$118,433.60|
What we did
Cash is King. We started actively seeking other ways to earn income. Between renting a room, renting the land we own, and working as independent contractors for an online marketing group we started bringing in over $1500 extra a month.
Created a budget. Some say go with no budget, some say go with a budget. I prefer the latter, and I personally love spreadsheets. Our budget was our checks and balance and with apps like Mint, tracking was simple. Monitoring our goals was made easy with a budget.
Read More. Reading is essential. Millionaire Next Door, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Slight Edge, and many more became part of our daily habits. Understanding that had we known more about money maybe we would have more; we became interested in financial literacy.
Our financial knowledge was limited to our parent’s financial knowledge, and that was not a good thing.
Open to Ideas. We are always open to learning more. This does not mean we act on everything we read, see or hear. But, in the process of reading up and finding other ways to make money, we became open to new ideas. Obviously, everyone has a different situation, but we owned a home which allowed us to use something relatively unknown to most called an acceleration HELOC (home equity line of credit) that has been a life-changer.
Lifestyle changes. Delaying gratification is extremely rewarding. It boils down to 100% behavior. We realized that we could not keep up with all of our friends and go to every birthday party, sporting event, wedding, vacation AND pay off our debt. It is what it is, and we’ve chosen to put a number of spendy activities on hiatus for a while. So far it has been well worth it. At our current rate, by our early 30s we’ll be debt free and owe less than 100,000 on our house. Shortly thereafter, we will have no mortgage, just in time for our first kid $$$.
We found super-star mentors
People throw the word “mentor” around too easily these days. Personally, I never ask for unsolicited advice, I am a fruit inspector. Never take advice from someone who does not have the proverbial fruit on the tree. I cringe when I hear people in financial destitution give other people financial advice.
When people ask me about investing I tell them “I have no clue:, and not pretend to know some magic formula. Broke coworkers telling their broke coworkers how to stay broke is what my financially independent friend/mentor calls it. He is 29, his wife 27 and they are retired.
They are our exclusive financial mentors. Our friends have helped Lauren and I (and several others) more than we could imagine. Having a mentor also holds us accountable! Find someone with the fruit on the tree to learn from.
One key quote I like to pass along that relates so well to our journey:
“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”