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Breaking Down My Student Loans

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I spent some time digging into my student loans this past week as I create a plan of action. I appreciate everyone’s feedback on my post regarding beginning to pay towards debt again. And I understand the advice to just put the payments in a separate account since technically no payments are due. But I have decided that with steady work, a very comfortable EF and my drive to get out of debt, I am going to make payments.

Unlike other bloggers before me, I’ve never really looked at my loans. Or broken them down. But this past week, I did some digging. And boy, what I found shamed me.

First off, all my student loans are my grad school. I was able to graduate with my Bachelors with no debt thanks to my parents, grandparents, lots of scholarships (thanks mom, for making me write 8,000,000 essays) and my own working and saving from the time I was 15 and able to get my first job.

When I got ready to go to grad school, I was debt free other than a very reasonable car payment and working full time. I SHOULD have just paid for school. I could have afforded it. But no, I was introduced to the world of FAFSA and make some stupid decisions! I was completely ignorant of the student loan world at the time.

But here I am…

I completed my Masters in 2004, it took 2-3 years. And cost me $30K in student loan debt and the since accrued interest. If I had to do it again, I would still get my masters but I would have paid for it out of pocket and maybe gone a bit more slowly as a result.

I got married 9 months before I graduated and got pregnant with Princess 1 month after I graduated. We moved to Virginia from Texas the day after I graduated. (Thanks to my parents and all my siblings who came to my graduation and then helped us load the moving truck.)

I digress.

Status of My Loans

Loan 1 Loan 2
Original Balance $21,750 $17,000
Subsidy Status Unsubsidized Subsidized
Interest Rate 2.875% 2.875%
Outstanding Balance (4/30/2020) $19,758 $14,129

Now I have to be honest here, which I realize is going to make me seem even more ignorant and stupid. But I have NO CLUE how my schooling for those years cost $38,000. I don’t know if I ever looked at the bills. Or what. I completed several semesters at local community colleges before applying to the grad school program. Then, I attended the grad school program full time for 2 years. I was working full time making $40ishK per year.

I can’t remember how I paid for the community colleges, I’m guessing they are part of the loans. I do remember being excited when I would get the “extra” back in the form of a check after my tuition was paid when I was in the graduate program. And I do remember blowing some of that money, especially after I go married. But an extra $30K in two-ish years? Yikes.

And that wasn’t even my greatest source of shame as I looked at these loans.

I graduated in the fall of 2003 with my Masters degree…17 years later…and I’ve only paid off $5,000 of the original $38,000. Shame overwhelms me as I look back at that. I have blown so much money, made some many terrible decisions.

And I can’t say why.

It has been so easy to just push this debt to the side. To pay minimums or take advantage of forbearance.

But no more…

To be continued (since this turned out why longer than I anticipated.)


12 Comments

  • Reply angie |

    So I guess there is no chance you signed up for REPAYE all these years that it’s been offered? And you still expect to pay these off the old fashioned way?

    You would have been at least 5 years in to 25 year payoff at this point. Even 0$ payments qualify as a payment if that’s what it’s calculated to be according to your income. So much wasted time and interest. Such a shame.

  • Reply Cynthia |

    If you add up the payments you have made so far on the student loans, you’ll find that it’s far more than the $5000 you’ve paid off due to the interest. I hope you will remember the feeling you’re feeling right now the next time you are tempted to pay for something on credit or buy something that you can’t afford outright. Sorry to be a downer but there’s no such thing as a free lunch or free money. You will pay a lot for that “extra” money.

  • Reply Jen |

    I just can’t fathom why anyone would stick their head in the sand about their student loans, and yet so many do.

    My graduate education was approximately $40,000, plus about $15,000 in undergraduate debt. I understood from day 1 that I was responsible for that. I knew the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Even though I was a graduate student making next to nothing, every month I paid off the interest accrual on my unsubsidized loans so my balance wouldn’t grow larger before I graduated. I always returned overpayments, even though there were times I really could have used the money.

    When it came time for repayment, I sat down with calculators to determine which option was the best, and if consolidating was worth it (it was for me, but not for everyone). Could I pay everything in 10, or did I need to take the 20 year option? Did I want standard payments, or was IBR or graduated better? (20 year standard plan if you’re curious. I ended up paying them off early). No one told me to do any of this. The only things I knew going in were to not take money you don’t need andthat the faster you pay off a loan, the less you pay.

    • Reply Jen |

      Rambling aside, point being that a lot of people aren’t taught how to handle money. It seems a prevalent problem with student loans that people like to plead ignorance. There does come a point in your life where you have to make a point of teaching yourself how to do the life skills that you aren’t taught.

      You can’t go back and change what you’ve already done. You can only move forward. So now it’s time to sit down, learn about it, and stop hiding from the loans. No excuses.

  • Reply Cynthia |

    Unfortunately this is not terribly uncommon with student loans (or debt in general). I’m glad you are able to look at the numbers now. I’m not saying this in a mean way, but this is why readers have been telling you to stop all trips, ‘negligible’ expenses, buying kids extras etc. A few years of really plowing through these, even a few bucks here or there, would have made a tremendous difference on the compound interest. Hopefully this is a lesson learned and you can see that people aren’t always trying to criticize you or say you or your kids don’t deserve something. Often we have seen friends or loved ones go down some hard roads and genuinely want to help others avoid some painful mistakes. If you are comfortable maybe it’s something you can discuss with your college aged children so history doesn’t repeat itself.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    You can ‘t fix what has already been done. Just learn from your mistakes. No more minimums, no more forbearance unless there is absolutely no choice because you have no income. The best gift you can give your kids is the gift of knowing that you will be financially capable of taking care of yourself as you age. This is my opinion but in my opinion you need to create a “retirement fund” and cover this and this debt over everything even if that means forgoing some of your wants.

  • Reply Deborah Adamski |

    Hi Hope,
    I read often but hardly ever respond to bloggers. I have my graduate loan also and graduated in 2017 with my MSN. My loan balance at the time of graduation was 25,000 and the payments were 251 a month. It has taken two and ahalf years and the balance has dropped down to 9,475.06 and will hopefully be done within a year.

    It can be done. I make payments every two weeks. I pay as much as possible towards the prinicple of the student loan after I send out the mortgage payment. It takes a lot of commitment on my part to become debt free as I came from a long line of folks who could not manage money. I found Dave Ramsey in 2013 and it has taken me this long to get to my final debt! I have a very small EF of 3500 that stays in the savings account and we do not touch it for anything.

    You can start paying doen your loans. I have been paying extra towards the principle even while in forbearance due working any extra hours at my job that are offered to me. I am married with three children at home. It can be done. I am glad that you finally looked at the balances and are aware of the effects of not paying on a regular basis. While I understand the urges that come with wants verses needs I am known for times of going with needs often due to the limited one income that I have to support a family of five.

    You can do this! Start looking at those loans and make a plan to get the snowball started.

  • Reply Deborah Adamski |

    Hope,

    I graduated with my MSN and a 25 thousand dollar student loan in 2017. I have been using Dave Ramsey’s snowball method since 2013 to get our debt paid off. This loan is my last debt to tackle before we start our 3 to 6 months of savings.

    I pay religiously every two weeks on my graduate loan. The minimum payment is 251 a month. I pay that every two weeks since I graduated and add what ever spare cash I have left over from the budget every two weeks. The balance is down to 9,475.06 and I am hoping it will be paid off with in a year or less.

    I have three children and married with just my income to support the family. We have our regular house hold bills. We have zero car payment (both vehicles are paid off and have been for years). I was able to assist my two daughters with their community college tuition (I made too much to qualify for any assistance from FASFA other than student loans) and they graduated with no student loans. My daughters drive our paid off vehicles because I will not finance one for them. We are going to save up for a new to them (used in good condition) vehicle when the time is right.

    My family has been where you currently are (other than being homeless). We have struggled for many years in our early marriage with debt and poor spending habits. It’s finally been since 2013 that we are secure in our future, have a small retirement (67 K) from my 403 B at work. I have a roth IRA in addition to my own 403B, and a savings account with 3,500 in it for emergencies. While it is not much this is better than we were in our younger years. I still fund my 403 B, my savings account, and my roth IRA every two weeks.

    You can do this. It takes time, patience, and a desire to address any needs before wants. Folks want to see you succeed.

  • Reply Sara |

    You can do this, Hope! Just paying attention to your loans helps a ton. Slow and steady, you’ll make a difference.

  • Reply Ellen |

    Your schooling did not cost you $38k. What you borrowed was $38k. This is a good thing to keep in mind seeing that Princess is not too far away from college. Only borrow what you need. That “extra” check that they sent you, was not extra money. You qualify for a certain amount per term. If you don’t use the full amount you can either take the check, or tell them that you only want to borrow what is needed. This happened with my brother. He got that check and called me wondering what it was for. I told him to not cash it, contact the school’s financial aid office and find out how he could give that money back.
    Now that you have opened your eyes to your student loan debt and how much the interest has cost you, do something about it. Seriously. Choose an extra amount above your minimum due and pay it monthly. My brother graduated in May of 2017 with a little over $30k in student loans. He pays $150 more than the minimum payment and he can choose which of his loans he wants to put the money towards. He has like 7 or 8 smaller loans. Each with a different interest rate. He called me to see if he should still make payments during this time. I told him yes to keep going! Take advantage of the no interest. His balance is now around $18k. it can be done. You just need will power.

So, what do you think ?