If you’re here, what I’m about to say probably won’t be a surprise: Student loans are getting out-of-control.
Most likely, you’ve experienced this in your own life, which could explain how you found yourself on this blog.
You don’t have to look very hard to find the ugly statistics (but if you really want them, a well-updated and condensed resource that I’ve found online is over at Student Loan Hero). The one that jumped out at me the most when I saw it was this: There is almost $1.3 TRILLION of outstanding student loan debt?! I read that and thought, “Are you serious?”
You’d be forgiven for asking how we got here, because it’s a legitimate question. The answer lies somewhere in a web of partisan politics, higher-education cronyism, a largely uneducated public when it comes to personal finance, and a whole host of other issues. To dive into all of them is to open a can of worms, and it’s not something I’m interested in doing, at least not right now.
Instead, this site is less about the “How did we get here?” and more about the “How do we get out?” My wife and I hate our student loan debt. We think about it everyday. The majority of the financial decisions we make in our home aren’t made until we at least know the answer to the following question: How will this impact our student loans?
An even more important question is this: How will getting rid of our student loans impact our lives?
That’s what it’s all about. The sooner the loans are gone, the sooner we are free to move on with Life on our terms (whatever those terms may be).
As you’ve probably guessed from the name of this site, my wife and I are both healthcare professionals, a segment of the population that is increasingly burdened with stifling amounts of student loan debt. We are both in our early 30’s, we both have the title Dr. in front of our names, and we both graduated from our respective professional programs in 2011. When we did, we had a combined $450,000+ of student loans, and no real plan of how and when to pay it back.
And you know what? We weren’t all that worried about it. We did what a lot of our colleagues do and justified the loans by convincing ourselves they were just part of life after professional school.
I mean, we were doctors, right? A giant student loan burden was just something that came with going to professional school (at least that’s what we told ourselves). Plus, soon we’d be making big doctor-salaries to pay for those big Doctor School-loans, and they’d be gone in no time (again, that’s what we told ourselves).
Well, what we told ourselves turned out to be not so true. The common-sense thing we failed to grasp after 16 combined years of college and professional school was that $450,000 is actually a whole bunch of money, and paying that money back after it’s been loaned to you at 6-8% interest is not as easy as it sounds. It’s certainly not an amount that we had any right to be flippant about because we were going to be making “Doctor Salaries.”
Blame it on the overused excuse of not getting enough business education while on the healthcare track. Blame it on us for not paying more attention to our expenses in professional school or for not educating ourselves more on the true cost of a loan, and then taking steps to minimize those costs. Wherever the blame lies (my money is that it’s on us), the fact remains that in mid-2011 we had over $450k of student loan debt and no idea of the drag that said debt would put on our financial future.
Believe us, we know now. Getting married, starting a family, and watching your non-medical-field friends go on vacations, buy new toys, go out to eat when they want, and do all kinds of other fun and interesting stuff that you feel like you should be able to afford to do, but when you look at your bank account realize that you can’t afford to do, will wake you up in a hurry.
I should clarify here: Trying to keep up with the Joneses isn’t a habit one should get themselves into, and I don’t mean to imply that that’s our motivation for getting out of debt. I should also make a point that we don’t hang out with high rollers. What I’m really getting at is that we want to be in a financial place where we can go out to dinner with friends once or twice a month for $50 or $75 and not feel guilty about it, and we’re not there yet.
So this site is about our journey to get there. We still have a ways to go, and hopefully we can document our progress in a fashion that gives other high income professionals (and, really, anyone else) who are struggling with their own large amounts of student loan debt some encouragement that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that the debt can be paid off sooner than later. We’ve made some great strides in our own path to financial freedom (but let me reiterate, we have a long way to go), and have picked up some tips and tricks along the road that we think could be helpful to share.
At it’s core, this is a site about freeing up your hard-earned money from the chains of debt. Getting that done as fast as possible is going to be a focus, but we want to make sure we are making other financially prudent decisions along the way.
The goal is to get to that mythical place that you only hear about on money podcasts and the internet: Financial Freedom. We question whether such a place really exists, but the only way to know for sure is to try and get there ourselves.
We hope you’re ready to enjoy the ride with us. If you are, keep reading!