This is $170,000 of student loan debt.

John Cook
John Cook
Aug 6, 2018 · 4 min read
You can’t make this up.

Hi, my name is John and I have $170,000 of student loan debt. I’m one of the 44 million Americans that in aggregate owe $1.5 trillion dollars of student loan debt. I graduated in 2016 with an MBA and in 2008 with a BS in Computer Science. At the risk of being flamed or turned into a meme on Reddit, i’ve decided to write about my student loan debt pay-off journey and what it’s like to be educated but broke.

All of my friends have student loan debt. All of them. It’s shocking and hopeless. Student loan debt has become the norm for many 20 to 40 somethings and the idea of living a life without the burden of Sallie Mae or the US Department of Education is laughable. Even talking about an accelerated pay off schedule brings up the snickers and the ‘yeah but we live in California‘ statements. For a long time, I was part of this group: educated, motivated, dual-income-no-kid couples achieving economic success, who drove nice (leased) cars, while living in rented apartments or lofts that consumed 40% of their post-tax income. Spending alot but saving very little.

My friends and colleagues jokingly called this slice of society the educated but broke. It wasn’t well into my early 30s and $170,000 dollars of student loan debt later, did I realize that I was one of them. I’ve decided to share my story to encourage an open discussion on not only the quantity of debt college graduates have, but how to solve it. The topic of student loans has been a social pariah, a faux pas, something we avoid talking about. This makes no sense, there is a 1 in 7 chance that the person you’re talking with has student loan debt. When we expand this figure to include all types of debt, there is an 80% chance that your neighbor, colleague, boss or friend is suffering from the same financial hardship as you. My financial hardship, according to the US Department of Education is as follows:

I will show you that whether you have $5,000, $50,000 or $150,000 (or higher) of student loan debt, it is possible to pay it off without joining the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program extending payments to 30 years via IBR. But to achieve this, it will require sacrifice, a detailed budget, and alot of cash. I currently work in sales and prior to this role spent about 10 years in management consulting, where I started my career. Using my sources of income and side hustles, I’ve created a repayment schedule of 21 months which consumes anywhere from 20% to 70% of my post-tax income. I’ll post all of my loan payments, monthly budgets, and financial analysis, all for your consumption.

Update July 2020:

This article was originally written July 2018. As of July 2020 I am free of the shackles of student loan debt. Details here:

This story is published in Educated & Broke — a publication dedicated to helping you fight student loan and consumer debt by providing real-life, practical advice.

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