In SUPER exciting news: I PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOANS LAST MONTH!!!!!!!!
A few weeks later, I got this automated email from my servicer, Navient, asking if I’d share my experience about how I paid off my student loans with others — of course, with a hefty side of signing away rights to my story to Navient.
“Would you be willing to share your success story with borrowers who are currently repaying their student loans?”
Why yes, yes I would. Navient here you are.
My story is: I went and earned money any way I could to pay off the loans, because not paying them is not an option.
But first, Navient, as you know I defaulted on those loans.
I had so little money, or access to money, when I graduated I was doing medical testing studies and I didn’t know I could create any kind of loan plan around my total lack of income. You didn’t make it clear, and I didn’t know I could advocate for myself with federal loans. You called my mom, even though she wasn’t a cosigner, a lot. That’s illegal, but you did it. I definitely fucked up by ignoring and defaulting, though, and so even though I was super freaked out, after two years I did what had to be done to get on track.
In order to remediate my loans, I left a city and community I loved and took a job in NYC. There, my boss spent about an hour each day criticizing me personally in her office and I left in tears often – but thanks to the remediation plan I’d made to get right with Navient, I stayed until I’d gotten my loans in order, since I learned you only get one chance to remediate, and I’d already accrued additional thousands of dollars in collections fees that were adding to my debt and interest burden.
That’s how a lot of people pay off their loans, Navient: working jobs that grind us down. That’s the real story.
Once the biggest chokehold of remediating defaulted loans was off me and I could access IBR and accessible payment plans, I began freelancing so I could build a career I wanted. In the meantime I took all kinds of jobs. We can glorify it as a being on a hustle, or we could call it an urgent response to scarcity: either way, I did something really smart, Navient.
Whatever I paid you, I also paid myself.
I made a commitment that whatever amount my loan payment was would also go into a savings account, and after a year of that I opened a SEP IRA and began doing the same but into retirement savings.
After a few more years, once I got a career together I could have paid my loans off quickly, but since I knew I’d earn more money investing my money than paying your interest, I paid myself first by putting more money into IRAs and interest-bearing savings. When the recession hit in 2009 and I was laid off and on unemployment for a year, I was never living large but I was fine and you got paid. Sure, the payment plan we set up meant I wasn’t covering interest and you were capitalizing on the misfortune of a generation, but we stayed right according to the payment plan.
When it was time for me to go to graduate school, Navient, I did not deepen our relationship. Since we were 8 years into our loan servicing relationship, I knew how brutal you could be and had no interest in getting more loans. I’d begun to watch you, Navient, put many friends deep into debt, requiring payments that far outstripped mine. The level of loans you were giving, in collusion with expensive programs colleges offered frankly terrified me. I said no.
Because I’d been saving my butt off, when I received a small inheritance of $11,000 I was able to choose to spend it on affordable public education (CUNY!!) and paid cash for school as I went part-time while working a job, so I did not need loans. The one, small inheritance I expect to get in life I was able to leverage because it did not represent my only nest egg. I’d already saved $11k while paying my loans.
Working and studying was an exhausting three years but when I was done, since I’d also been making loan payments along the way, I had less debt than when I started, and more work opportunity. That’s when I knew we’d part ways soon.
Because of this sustainable design to my personal economics, I was able to take a lower-paying job that I loved, where I learned tons and did work supporting the tech needs of grassroots organizations and nonprofits. I have been able to transition that into a professional career that’s satisfying, interesting, and materially useful. I’m paid more than anyone in my family. I am accruing savings, retirement, and investments.
I’m not sharing my story for Navient: I share it for the REST of you, who are paying off loans — and for you who are considering loans. I had a manageable amount of loans at a low interest rate, which allowed me to pay myself while I was paying my loans down and choose lower-paying, interesting jobs that lead to a sustainable career I like. That should not be a privilege, but it is.
That opportunity window is closing for young people who need loans to get an education. And education is key to escaping generational poverty and low wages, since people with a Bachelors’ degree make on average $23,874 more annually than those without [cite].
While 25% of graduate students emerge with no loans, for the other 3 in 4 who choose loans to support their education and life dreams, I have this advice:
- Take a few loans as possible. Try starting at a cheap community college and transfer to a four-year school to save thousands of dollars. Choose the best public school you can access.
- Pay at least the interest whenever possible, even while in school. When unpaid interest gets added to your amount owed (that’s capitalized interest), loans balloon quickly.
- SAY NO TO PRIVATE LOANS if there is any way in hell you can avoid them. You think Navient and Sallie Mae and the like are harsh? Private loans are straight-up cruel.
If you want to read more about loans or learn more about debt, check out: