3 People, 1 Big Student Loan Debt: My Make-Ends-Meet Plan

Colleen Oakley

A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.

In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.

To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, three people in different professions have given us a glimpse at their situations—specifically, how the debt is impacting their lives and how they plan to pay the money back. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.

amyDr. Amy Vlachakis, 31, Dentist

Graduated: 2007
How Much I Borrowed: $150,000
What I Still Owe: $91,000

Although $150,000 is a lot of money to borrow, I didn’t really stress about it when I took out the government loans. In dental school, you don’t have time for a job, and borrowing money—unless you’re independently wealthy—is the way to afford it.

For four and a half years after I graduated, I worked as a dentist, making about $150,000 to $200,000 a year—10% of which I used to pay down my student loans each month. Then I decided to open my own practice in 2012, so I had to put my loans on deferment because I knew that I wouldn’t have the extra money to cover my school loans, along with the ones that I had to take out for over $400,000 to start the business.

Right now, I’m only paying the interest that’s accruing each month on my student loans (I have two different ones, with interest rates of 2.3% and 4.3%). Getting them both off the books is ideal, but I don’t stress about it—I know that I’ll be able to pay more as my business grows, hopefully within the next year.

RELATED: 7 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Own Business

I know several other dentists who have done the same thing—and one of them didn’t pay anything but interest for about two years. I myself feel very lucky to have been able to open my own practice. And the fact that I was able to defer my student loans is an amazing advantage that has helped to minimize my stress levels when it comes to the bills relating to my business. Of course, it would be nice not to have so much debt, but it hasn’t held me back from pursuing my dreams.

What Katie Says: It’s impressive that Amy has only been out of school for six years, and she’s already paid off about 40% of her student loans. Waiting a few years to start her own practice was probably a good call because she was able to make some serious headway paying them back. The one thing that I would recommend, since she’s now deferred her loans, is to set a deadline or a trigger for when she’ll resume paying—perhaps when her practice becomes profitable.

  • Guest

    What kills me is that all of these people have interest rates below 20% — what about the rest of us, who took out student loans 5-6 years later, who are dealing with interest rates of 7% or more?? I also have a friend who took out over $100k for her undergraduate degree, and is bringing in less than $40k per year. If I were to do a poll of my college friends, I’d say that her case is more the norm than the people you’ve featured here.

    • Carrie

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to relate to most of these articles because most of the people featured make more than fifty grand. My debt is around $90,000 from
      undergraduate/graduate school loans and I make just a little over $20,000 a year. My payments are ~$250 and I’m on an income based repayment plan. I know so many people, myself included, who would love to be making $30,000, let alone $50,000.

      • Regina

        Are these all federal loans? How are the interest rates so low still? I mean my private is pretty low but if it were this it be amazing.

        • guest

          I was wondering the same thing! I have a large amount of private loans, which are my main problem.

        • Carrie

          Mine are a mix of private and federal and the interest rates vary. For the private they range from 4.75% to 7.25%. I have one federal unsubsidized loan that is 2.11%, which is a result of the special direct consolidation loan that was offered last summer through the Department of Ed. The rest of my federal loans are consolidated with an interest rate of 6.625%. I graduated last year and the people in the article have been out of school for six years or more, so interest rates were probably lower when they were in school and/or they could have also qualified for the special consolidation loan program if they applied. It would have been nice if the article clarified how their interest rates were so low.

          • Vikki Karan

            Carrie, hi, Vikki (Victoria) from the article here. I consolidated my Fed loans as soon as I graduated in 2004. I did a deal with a friend for a locked in rate of 7% for my highest interest rate private loan. The rest of private loans are with Sallie Mae and the rates may just be so low because of when I took them out.

        • Vikki Karan

          HI Regina, it is Vikki (Victoria) from the piece. About 100K of my loans were fed and the other 100K private. I locked in my rates.

          • vcgal2003

            I have a similar debt load to you. Almost $100K federal consolidation loans, and $100K private loans. My federal loans are okay, since I’m on IBR and can qualify for public service loan forgiveness in a few years. But my private loans are another matter. I was assured I could have a 30-year repayment plan when I took out the loans when I started college, but after grad school and my deferments ended, they told me that a 15-year repayment plan was my only option. Now my monthly private loan payment is like a rent or mortgage payment (plus I have the federal loan payments) without any options for finding a payment plan that better fits my income and budget (I don’t make as much as you do). How did you manage your private loans?

          • Vikki Karan

            Hi, I consolidated what I could with Sallie Mae. For one of them, when it hit 12%, I made a contract up with a friend where I pay her 7% fixed interest with the same 30 year plan I had and she gave me the money to pay off that loan with Sallie Mae. So now I pay her the $142.55 a month rather than Sallie Mae and she makes 7% fixed interest on her investment. Our deal includes a no pre-payment penalty provision.

    • Shari March

      Ditto here.

  • Lauren

    What kills me is that all of these people have interest rates below
    2% — what about the rest of us, who took out student loans 5-6 years
    later, who are dealing with interest rates of 7% or more?? I also have a
    friend who took out over $100k for her undergraduate degree, and is
    bringing in less than $40k per year. If I were to do a poll of my
    college friends, I’d say that her case is more the norm than the people
    you’ve featured here.

    • guest

      Why would people spend $100k to make less than $40k? I still do not understand this. My husband makes $65k a year with no degree or loans.

      • Don’t be so judgemental

        Not everyone is that fortunate. If everyone were able to have that situation happen, colleges wouldn’t exist…and we’d have doctors doing invasive procedures on us without ever going through school. I don’t think that everyone needs to go to college, but specific careers do require formal education. Would your husband be able to perform an open heart surgery on my sister? Probably not, because that requires knowledge and practice that is currently only obtained by going to college. On the other hand, people who spend a lot of money to go to college and get a generic degree like business, communication, art, history, theology, etc….in some cases, yes maybe they should explore all options of getting into a job without a degree.

        • guest

          I’m not saying that everyone shouldn’t get an education. Personally, I have two masters (and $0 student loans). I highly doubt that colleges would cease to exist if people didn’t get degrees that they could afford, but you may lose some of the private colleges that charge a ton and will accept anyone with a check. Currently there are too many people with degrees than there are jobs for people with degrees, especially in some fields. This causes a lot of people to have a ridiculous amount of student loan debt that they will spend most of their life trying to pay off because they won’t be able to get a job that pays enough to recoup their investment.

          Most people who are bringing in less than $40k a year do not require a $100k degree to do what they are doing. Someone performing open heart surgery on your sister would probably be paid more than $40k a year.

          • 2cents

            Actually, where I work to be a secretary you must have a bachelor’s and they ask for a master’s. I have a friend that does glorified data entry.and they no longer hire anyone without a bachelor’s. Most people without degrees are not making 65k unless they are a union construction worker/plumber/carpenter, etc.

            And many people making 40k diid need that degree. Teachers at Catholic schools, social workers for example. And just because you make 40k now doesn’t mean that person always will. I a curious as to what you do that made your 3 degrees worth all that money. You have no loans but most people can get a bachelors and 2 masters for free.

          • guest

            There are plenty of secretarial positions available to those without degrees, and I’ve never met anyone whose goal was to use their degree to be a secretary. Many people with a degree are not making $65k either. In addition to what you mentioned, there are retail managers, restaurant workers, public servants, manufacturers, and plenty of other options for making a decent salary for people if they’re willing to work hard to advance their careers.

            I did get my Accounting and Business Administration masters for “free” as I took a professional job with an employer who offered to pay for them if I committed to working for them for 2 years after graduation. I probably wouldn’t have gotten them if I had to pay for them out of pocket, and I certainly wouldn’t have racked up $100k of debt for them.

          • 2cents

            I never said all secretarial positions needed degrees though it is seen more and more. What I did say was my work made them necessary so there is no taking a secretary job to get your foot in the door here.

          • guest

            I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood your point. It was presented as a reply to one of my posts, so I thought it was somehow related to the points I was discussing.

          • guest

            Also, you can work in religious schools as a teacher without a degree and you can work in a public welfare environment as an aide without a degree, although both are easier to obtain with a degree. To be an actual social worker, you do need a degree, but it really is the very lowest paying career that requires a degree… this is why I specified with the word most instead of all.

          • 2cents

            I assume by religious you mean Jewish, Catholic or Friends schools. I live in a major city and all those schools require a degree, it is not optional.

          • guest

            Yes, if you choose a small sampling of schools in your area, they might require a degree for employment, but not all religious schools require a degree to be a teacher there and in many places there is no stipulation preventing someone without a degree from being employed as a teacher there. Just because your employer or your local school has a degree requirement doesn’t mean there aren’t similar jobs without the same requirement elsewhere.

  • Lillie

    I can’t believe some of these stories. I finished undergrad with $100,000 of student loan debt and am not enrolled in the 30 year plan. My salary is $43,000 a year pre-tax. My monthly loan payment is usually between $1,100 and $1,500 a month. Every one of the people in these stories is making more money than me, but managing much smaller loan payments. Clearly paying off student loans is not a priority for any of them.

    • Amanda

      Thank you Lillie! I completely agree, I am in the EXACT same situation as you. Hang in there!

      • Treading Water

        Seriously, The people profiled here would be considered silly whiners if it weren’t for the fact that they were profiled by LearnVest. LearnVest writers, I blame you for showcasing people who need financial planners and not advice on how to keep food on the table. One of your subjects was starting a business and put her loans on deferment! Seriously? That is ridiculous, morally murky and a solid reason for why people who aren’t lawyers, physicians or engineers are paying such a high price for their choice to take student loans. I am paying my loans. I rob Peter to pay Paul every month. I have a BFA and a MS. I am going to be paying for them until I die.

        • Blame the Engineers!

          Yeah, it’s definitely the engineers fault that people who got into an absurd amount of debt for a Fine Arts degree will never be able to pay it off.

        • LeeLee

          Yeah, it’s totally absurd that a financial planning provider would target an audience who would pay for financial planning. I mean, why wouldn’t they spend all their time working pro bono for people who would never pay for their services?

          I don’t think I would consider putting loans on deferment as being immoral. Typically (unless it is a federally subsidized loan) the person who does so accrues interest and therefore pays more in the long run. It’s a choice to be made that does have risks, but I would only consider it immoral if the person never intends on paying the loan.

    • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

      I have less than half the debt you have, but I am in the same boat income wise, I feel for you!

  • Danielle

    These people all make a ton of money. What about people like me, a teacher in SD, where yes, the cost of living is less than NY and other states, but our income is 51st in the nation..how am I supposed to pay of students loans like that?

    • GulfGirl


    • LeeLee

      I’m thinking that you probably should have considered that before taking out those student loans.

      • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

        unhelpful comment is unhelpful

        • LeeLee

          You’re right. It was pretty unhelpful. I have difficulty finding something helpful to say when someone plays the Victim card for the situation brought about by their own life choices and complains that someone else has more money because they made different life choices.

          I’ve already recommended to someone else that they work extra jobs, but I got a thumbs down vote on that one, so I’m guessing people don’t find that to be a helpful comment either. The only other thing I can think of is for her to look into options that repay parts of your loans for teaching in a low income area.

          • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

            I have considered getting a second job myself, but realistically I would never be able to spend time with my dog and bf, or have time to pursue my hobbies and to me, that just seems like a nightmare of an existence. I would rather budget a little bit more and enjoy at home dinners than be constantly working.

          • LeeLee

            It’s all about choices, priorities, and sacrifices. That’s why I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for people who are unhappy with their financial situation when it’s a result of the choices they make. It’s perfectly ok if people choose not to go to a cheaper school or work a different career or a second job. To you, free time is much more important than being debt free and to the original commenter it is more important to be a teacher with the education she got and live in SD. I respect everyone’s right to their own decisions, but I’m totally turned off when people act like the logical consequences are unfair.

          • Junie

            It doesn’t sound like you have any respect for people who make different choices than you, LeeLee. How “logical” are consequences when you can’t predict the future? Or do you have a crystal ball that tells you exactly how much return on investment you’ll be getting and how markets and the economic climate will behave? If so please let us all in on your secret.

          • jamasian

            I must agree with LeeLee on these points. My best friend and I are living overseas and missing out on some friendship and worthwhile relationships right now, but we will be debt free after 3 graduation (meaning next year). It sucks to “miss out on life” but unless I was certain of death tomorrow, I wouldn’t waste time not being able to live comfortably.

            To us, comfortable means having kids when we can afford either our chosen or their chosen extra curriculars without worrying about the cost. Helping them with homework because we have so much time and don’t need second jobs. Going on family vacations and actually enjoying them without regrets. Visiting each other and family at the drop of a dime without having to repay 16.99% of that dime each year.

            We may have spent money foolishly before, but we are very clear now.

          • LeeLee

            My mantra is always “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow, but plan like you’re going to live forever.” So, I always try to balance my hard work and my fun time. Sometimes I work a little extra, but in turn I get to spend 4 weeks every year on an awesome vacation with my husband.

          • Jamasian

            Living overseas is amazing. I also have plenty of vacation time. (As does my friend.) We’ve always wanted to try life abroad so when opportunity knocked we decided to open the door.
            That is a great quote and I try to remember it too.

          • Junie

            You’re perfect and have made no mistakes ever and will never make any mistakes! Congrats on achieving what no one in the world ever has!

          • Junie

            Hi LeeLee, I think you are too quick to call someone out on “the Victim Card” (I call this “playing the ‘Playing the Victim Card’ card”). A person being open and honest about the difficulty of their situation, regardless of how they got there, does not mean they think themselves a victim. It means their life is damn hard and they wanna talk about it and contribute to a conversation about difficult situations. No problem there. If you don’t wanna hear a little whine why don’t you just not read comments. It’s a quick lesson if you read the Internet at all.

          • Lissa17

            1. Sometimes, you spend 8 years in school and expect to make more money, only to have research funding take major cuts and leave you with a $24k/year (pre-tax) position, with 3x that much in student debt.
            2. Sometimes, you can’t get hired for a second job because you’re overqualified/your primary job is unpredictable.
            3. Sometimes, the only loan you could get for school was variable interest. Signing up for 4.75% seemed like a reasonable thing to do, until it jumped to 9.87% and stayed there.

            Some of us planned as carefully as our means made possible, with very little guidance, and we are still struggling.

      • Regina

        Well, when you are 17-21 you don’t think about it like that. Sad but true. Should we all put off having kids and buying a house because of a mistake we made in our teens?

        • LeeLee

          Yes, you should. If you make a decision, you are responsible for the outcome of that decision. It’s very sad that someone might have to delay what they want because they spent tens of thousands of dollars of someone else’s money, but all choices have consequences. It’s not like there aren’t a million tools on the internet to help
          people figure out how much schooling they can afford. And it’s not like
          community colleges and state colleges don’t exist. Many are just upset
          if they don’t get the exact kind of school, job, home, life, etc that
          they want.

          Someone going into a collegiate setting should have the cognitive skills to be able to understand how a loan works. If you are old enough to be able to sign for a loan, you are old enough to understand the ramifications of it if you REALLY want to.

          • Camika Lopez

            Totally agree with Leelee. If you sign the line you pay the fine. Life isn’t fair; but to flake out on what you owe is not right. I have no student debt, but an undergrad and Masters working on another Masters…but I joined the military been to places away from family and friends and yes I would do it again. Someone always has to pay the price……

    • Danielle

      My sister is going to be a teacher and she is in the same situation. She knows she won’t be paid much but she really has a passion for teaching.
      If teaching is really what you want to do and you want to remain in SD than can you look into an extra job on the side? People are willing to pay a lot of money for tutoring, college prep, essay proofing, or even general babysitting, cleaning, mowing lawns. Also, my mom is a teacher and she receives pay bumps for taking more classes and eventually receiving her masters. I realize you don’t want more debt but there are scholarships and grants available for that if you do chose to take a few more credits.

      • skt

        Look up the public service forgiveness program. It’s on the dept of education website and can help with her loans.

        • Danielle

          Thank you so much skt! I will definitely share that with her!!

  • Tiffany

    Wow. These people are extremely lucky. I make $37K a year and pay $900 a month in student loans.

    • Sara

      Same here! I make roughly $35,000 a year and pay almost $800/month in student loans. I also work a second job to buffer my income but I’m not sure how long I can sustain working two jobs.

      • Tiffany


  • BD

    I appreciate their willingness to share their story. It’s hard to put all your debt out there. Like Shane said, professionals who are supposed to making a lot are not supposed to raise this issue but it is a huge one for a lot of doctors, lawyers, dentists, and vets. I like that learnvest add real advice that others can use. Great Article

    • LeeLee

      I agree. What’s more is that these people are probably paying significantly more in taxes because of their salaries and the inability to deduct their loan interest from their taxes. They also are probably expected to spend more to “look the part” in a professional setting.

      • Vikki Karan

        Thanks LeeLee. This is Vikki (Victoria) from the article. It is super scary putting my truth out there. However, I believe in living an honest open life and I thought the benefit people could get from sharing my story outweighed the fear and risk.

    • Vikki Karan

      Thanks BD. This is Vikki (Victoria) from the article. It is super scary putting my truth out there. However, I believe in living an honest open life and I thought the benefit people could get from sharing my story outweighed the fear and risk.

  • Guest

    I started with about $28,000 in student loans in 2011. Currently I owe between $16,000-17,000. Each month I put as much money I have leftover to the loans which usually range between $600 to $1,200 while I contribute 7% to retirement. I hope to have my loans paid off by the end of next year.

  • GulfGirl

    I paid off $60,000 of student loan debt in LESS THAN TWO YEARS on a crappy salary by working in the Arabian Gulf and another income tax free country. In the Gulf, my living expenses were almost 100% paid, and now I am free. I HIGHLY recommend this path if you are able to secure a job there in your field. Next step: moving back and saving for a house.

    • GulfGirl

      I would like to add that I clicked on this article because I am STILL traumatized by my former student debt and still have thoughts like, “I can’t believe I’m debt free!”. Student debt in the US is truly terrifying. Nothing like even UK or Canada.

    • rubymer

      Don’t you still have to pay taxes as a USA citizen? What field do you work in?

      • GulfGirl

        Only if you make over $93,000 a year which I most certainly do not. I work in highered/arts/culture etc. generally.

  • klnst3

    How about you give us an article about how the rest of us, who aren’t making well over $50k a year, are tackling their debt?? Or how we should be tackling our debt? I can say I have roughly $110-$120k in loans, and I make less than $40k a year. I’m not using my undergrad degree at all, and I’m BARELY using my masters degree. I was one of those students who though I wanted one career, but found out after a couple years in the industry that it wasn’t for me. Going back for a more general masters degree seemed like the right thing to do at the time… but looking back, I feel like it might have been wasted money.
    Can’t you give us an article about people like me who have no idea how to handle their debt, other than consolidation loans and income based repayment plans??

    • LeeLee

      Get more jobs. If you pick up an extra job or two and put them straight towards your loans, you’ll knock it down significantly.

      On a side note, there should be more education given to high schoolers on the ROI of a degree. I don’t understand how someone can rack up $120k in student loans as an investment to make less than $40k.

      • 2cents

        You are right, when you are 18 you go to college and take a loan not realizing that is means years of payments and what percent of an income those payments will be. I also blame the colleges and businesses in general. My place will not hire a secretary without a bachelors. They prefer, and do get, people with masters. Colleges have become diploma mills and companies know they can ask for degrees even when not necessary because so many people have the degrees.

        • LeeLee

          I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect an 18 year old who is college bound to understand simple math, but it sounds like a lot of kids are not taking the initiative to figure it out. In that case, there should be more financial education for high school students.

          I don’t so much blame colleges or business as I do the students, parents, and society in general. For my parents’ generation, a degree was the key to success, and I feel that most of my generation was pushed into college thinking that it equated to a great paycheck for life. Unfortunately, there’s the basic principle of supply and demand. If students/parents are willing to pay a lot of money for a degree, there will be colleges willing to exchange a degree to unqualified students for money. That in turn cheapens the value of degrees in general AND provides a larger pool of higher educated work candidates for around the same size job pool. Employers, looking to get the best candidate possible for the position, have their pick of “educated” prospects and pay them a low salary which is still competitive because of the sheer volume of people with degrees.

          This is why I feel it is important for people to weigh the value of getting a degree and how much they’re willing to spend to get it. You do not need to spend $120k and several years of your life to make $40k.

  • LEM

    I totally agree with the other posters – where are the stories about those with high student loan amounts, but only make $50,000 a year? I’ve been out of business school for 3 years, and can’t pay back any of my debt on my salary. This story is for the 1%, not the rest of us.

  • Traci G.

    Okay, the lawyer pays $308.19 a month & thinks this is too much because he ONLY makes $55,000 a year! Then how is it my loan payment every month is $347 and I make $32,000 a year. I somehow manage to get by! I am noticing more and more that a lot of learnvest’s articles are about people that have nothing in common with the average person walking the street.

  • alreadygone

    Honestly, none of these people really sound like they want to buckle down and really face this debt. I make way less than $55,000 a year and I’m going to be debt free by Feb 2014!

    • jamasian

      Congratulations~~! I’m in the same boat! Except I’m free in December. ^^

  • fabi

    Does she have a house? Was she able to qualify for a mortgage??

  • B

    I have tried to ask my student loan company to put my extra payment toward principle but they refuse. (They are private, not federal). They say it has to go to the interest that has accrued (on a daily basis) first, then left over will go to principle. Is this allowed? It is so frustrating!

    • LeeLee

      If you’ve already made your payment for the month, any additional made at that time will automatically go towards the principal. If you wait a few days, you’ll have to pay down any interest you’ve accrued over that time first. Since interest is typically accrued on a daily basis, any extra payments won’t be applied towards future interest, so I’m not sure why LV is saying to send a note on it.

      • B

        Thank you LeeLee. What I usually do is have the auto-debit for the savings (0.25% on one of my loans) and then the next day have an auto pay go out for my extra. That way it mostly goes to principle. I found that to be my best bet. However, I have a UPromise account that will send my “earnings” whenever and its never close to my Due date so it generally all goes to interest. Womp Womp.

        • LeeLee

          I love using Upromise! It helped me pay off my loans quicker and now I’m using it to help my brother with his loans.

          nice thing is that it will have knocked off part of the interest so
          your next scheduled payment will have more go towards the principle.
          Good luck paying everything off!

  • drw62

    Dentist, attorney and executive. Can’t relate.

  • chelsea

    “So every month, $308.19 comes out of my checking account, which is a lot considering that I make only about $55,000 a year.” … “But since 6% of my salary goes toward paying off my loans, there’s little money left over for other things that I want to do”

    I can’t help but scoff at this! I make just under $36,000 a year, and my monthly payments are just over $700! I appreciate these three sharing their stories, but truly, it doesn’t seem that they actually have a problem with getting out of debt. Where is the story with people whose SL payments are 30% of their income? They are the ones who need advice.

  • http://www.taliashewrote.com thdpr

    There are a couple things that i feel are important to point out after reading these comments.

    1. If your student loan payments are $1500 a month and you only make $40k a year, check out income based repayment. They scale your loan payments so they are not such a large portion of your salary. This is especially helpful if you are in an industry where you can expect to make more in the future so your payments rise as your income does and it is not such a crippling amount.

    2. If you work in the non-profit world, a law was passed in 2007 stating that if you pay your monthly payment every month for 10 years and work for 10 years at a non-profit, the remainder of your loans are forgiven! This is especially helpful since oftentimes non-profit salaries don’t keep pace with for-profits (I have been in the non-profit sector for years).

    3. High interest rates… yes, it sucks. My undergrad is at 2.3% but my grad school loans are at 6.05% and 6.55%. My husband and I broke them out to see what I owed at each interest rate and we are putting additional money towards the loans each month but earmarking them for the highest interest rate. When we get lump sums, it goes to our highest interest rate debt first. That way, we will only have the 2.3% loans at the end and have accrued less interest.

    And so you all know, I have $90k in student loan debt so I get it… and it was in forbearance for years as I worked in non-profits making $18k a year.

    None of it is ideal. Many of us were “dumb” 18 year olds but thankfully we all have each other and learnvest to help us deal with it! :) Good luck everyone!

    • Private Loan Borrower

      Those are great suggestions for federal loans. Private loans make up most of my debt and they have no mercy. I make $4,000 a month after taxes, and I have to pay $1,600 as a minimal payment towards my private loans and $500 as a minimal payment towards my federal loans. More than half my income goes towards my loan payments, which are all minimal in nature meaning that I am not paying down the loans…basically just paying the interest. The remainder of my income goes to pay for rent, utilities, car insurance, medical bills, cell phone, and food. I don’t have any credit card debt. I only have student loan debt and medical bills. I rarely go out or spend any money on leisure activities…because I just don’t have money to do anything. I also work a second job on the weekends, just to make ends meet.
      The interest is what is killing me and truly not allowing me to even pay my loans down.

      • Vikki Karan

        Thank you for sharing your story.

  • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

    I pay about $475 a month and I make like $13k less than these people. With the rest of my bills (hell I even have live in bf) it is nearly impossible to pay more than the minimum payment :(

  • Danielle

    I really appreciate hearing people’s stories and actually getting to see their numbers as it gives me a real world example instead such general “Welllllll I have a lot of student loans…”

    • LeeLee

      Exactly! It’s all about choices and sacrifices. If you want to go to an expensive school that you have your heart set on, then you should probably get a degree that will pay for itself. If you want to go into the field you really want to work in regardless of its pay, then you should probably choose a more cost effective education option. If you want both the degree and the school of your dreams and you’re not independently wealthy, then you’re going to have to work multiple jobs or pay your loans for the rest of your life.

      I, too, get a bit annoyed when I see people whining about how unfair it is that they dug themselves into so much debt. I am glad that you have a good head on your shoulders and am glad to see that you are taking responsibility for your life choices!

    • Tania

      Agree. I went to an in state school as a resident. Did my first two years at the cheaper more rural campus and my last two at the larger campus when I was ready to enter the business school. I also get really sick of people complaining an article is useless because the income level (& in this case interest rate) doesn’t match their personal situation exactly. The advice given to each of these three people can apply to any of us (even if it’s not student loan but other debt). I feel like people just want to whine and complain when I read many learnvest comments. I feel like if they can’t read an article and have just one takeaway to apply in your own life then yeah, I don’t feel sorry for them.

    • Guest

      I actually did go to a public in-state school and still owe $90,000, but that’s from undergrad and graduate school. Having to report my parent’ income hurt me in terms of qualifying for financial aid when I first started college, even though they were not paying for me to attend. What hurt me is applying for private loans to help cover books and rent. On-campus housing is not guaranteed after your first year. I managed to luck out and get on-campus housing my second year but after that I had to find an apartment off-campus, which was still expensive even with three other roommates. I did work but it wasn’t enough to cover everything. I graduated a semester early by taking extra classes and doing grad school part-time so that I could work more. The school I went to is considered a best-value in the state, but the tuition and room and board is almost $18,000 for one year. Tuition has gone up every year so you could be paying more than $72,000 for undergrad alone.

  • Nonya Bizness

    Spoke with a parent yesterday,whose child was accepted to an out of state college, to the tune of $39 a year. She had to tell her child that she couldn’t go, because one of them was going to end up with a lot of debt.She told her to go to a CC,then transfer to an in state college. I told her that was the best advice, and she wouldn’t be helping her by allowing/encouraging her to go out of state.

    • LeeLee

      What a great parent! Sometimes I read these responses that say, “How was I supposed to know? I was only a teenager!” and I think to myself, “If a teenager isn’t responsible enough to make good fiscal decisions, why aren’t the parents stepping in to say no?!” I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like that, though, which makes me kinda sad.

      • Nonya Bizness

        That’s exactly what she said. She was afraid if she allowed it, one day her child would say to her”Why did you let me do this? You should have told me No.” I know it can be hard to tell our kids No,but we just have to think about our debt stories,and it’s a lot easier lol.

  • Andrew

    LearnVest, What are you thinking? This article borders on being irresponsible “journalism”. Why don’t you help people who need it? These people are all is a wage bracket that would be considered unrealistic for the better part of the population. Its like listening to someone whine about having to park their BMW in a driveway instead of a garage. Silly and worrisome.

    • LeeLee

      Many people in that bracket have had to work hard and pay a lot of dues to get there. As you can see, it also means that some of them have to acquire a ridiculous amount of debt, but only two of these three can deduct their interest payments on their taxes and all of them likely have to pay a ridiculous amount of taxes.

      I hardly think $55k at the age of 36 is an unrealistic wage bracket.

  • Andrew
  • Risitos

    I’m paying off my loans, but a major frustration when I asked Sallie Mae to apply extra payment to the principle: “To ensure that your extra payments are applied as requested, please send an email after each payment has posted with your specific payment instructions.” Anyone else think this action should be automatic? Ugh.

  • Humble Dreamer

    In America you are encouraged to dream big but not everyone has the same means to achieve those goals. For some people, loans are the only way to get to where you want to be. Which further proves that hard work is NOT the determinant of success in America. It’s an important factor, but it’s not everything. It would be great if this BS “work hard and you’ll prosper” American myth could be dismantled.

    • LeeLee

      Scholarships, merit awards, and jobs still exist for those who want to finance their education through hard work rather than loans.

      No one ever said that the “American Dream” came easily or cheaply. However, the current tax structure definitely discourages people to work harder in order to achieve their goals as it creates a poverty pitfall and penalizes people who try to climb higher.

  • GreenBeans

    “So every month, $308.19 comes out of my checking account, which is a lot considering that I make only about $55,000 a year.”

    I feel a little bad in judging anyone’s financial decisions, but I’ve managed to throw about $650 a month at my loans on a $37,000 a year salary. Then again, since I began college in 2008, my interest rates are considerably higher, so I have an incentive to pay down as quickly as possible.

  • FinancialStrength

    I’ve read the comments below and have to say, I see truth in all of them. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their financial decisions regardless of the age these decisions were made. If you are considering taking on $90,000 in student debt for a career that a simple search on Salary.com shows will only pay $30,000, maybe you need to reconsider your goals and/or lifestyle choices. There is such a thing as being over-schooled for a job. However, I understand the wonderful declarations of success made possible by higher education and believe there also needs to be a structure in place to assist those that over-borrowed under the pretense that their out of college income would sufficiently provide for their education. We go to school to better ourselves and achieve our goals, not to have to rely on our family and friends for financial support. The student loan crisis is exactly that– critical– and I believe we will see it boil over in the coming years, regardless of the economic recovery.

    I am surprised that in all of the comments, no one has mentioned two points. First, student loan debts are not forgiven if you claim bankruptcy. They will follow you and hurt your credit score until you have them paid off regardless of other financial circumstances. If you have plans to use loans to purchase anything in your future– a car, a home — your student loan debt will always impact your ability to make those purchases.

    Second, if you are serious about taking control and getting out of debt as quickly as possible, I recommend reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. It will change your approach to tackling your debt. It has greatly helped my husband and I climb out of debt — student loans and small amounts on credit cards — and seeing the results of our work is encouraging. We customized Dave’s plan to fit our needs and budget, and I recommend it to anyone that is facing a mountain of student loan debt. Some of his ideas are radical, but they all point to a healthier financial state regardless of your income to debt ratio.

  • Guest

    How do you get loan companies to apply payments directly to the principal, not the interest? I was told mine will not do that, so with what I pay each month that I can afford, I never pay even what I rack up in interest each month.

  • steve webb

    This is all a bunch of b. S. These folks should have worked the summer months like I did bartending, driving a taxicab and working my ass off like alot of my friends did we own nothing. These folks are a bunch of spoiled little children that wanted to party all summer and suck up on government loans sonny silverado

    • Vikki Karan

      I worked till 11pm in unpaid internships to get to where I wanted in my career. No regrets. I worked my ass off every summer in law school and all of 2nd and 3rd year of law school to position myself for where I wanted to go in my career. It worked. I’m in my dream job. I’m also not above the type of jobs you mentioned. Been there, done that. On my way up, I’ve cocktail waitressed, said would you like fries with that and even worked in the bathroom at a night club. Your quick and lack of fact based assumptions makes me question the quality of that education you received.

  • http://nomorecreditcards.com/debt-settlement/ Ruth Adorno

    Student loan debt should no longer be a problem. The William D Ford Act allows you to have your college loans consolidated.

    There are 6 different programs currently being offered by the federal government. The process can be confusing and you have to get re-approved each year for the right program, but they work. I see a lot of our clients that get set up with a zero dollar payment because of their income, and then after 300 payments, their debt will end up being forgiven.

    People can contact the department of education to find out more about these programs, and we can also help them at Golden Financial Services, with enrolling on the right program.

  • Lauren

    Not to sound like a jerk, but with the exception of Victoria, I wish I was in their positions. I graduated in 2009 from a STATE SCHOOL (albeit out of state, but come on, I was 18 and desperate to get outta Jersey). My mom, a single mother with a good job, co-signed my loans, most of which were private, but with the agreement that I would be paying the private ones back (which added up to a little over $100K). The rate is 6.8% and I make a little under 40K. Every month I pay $738 on a 30-year repayment plan, so I won’t be done paying this loan off until 2042. The loan repayment is 31% of my income, and that doesn’t even take into consideration credit card debt and a car payment since my job is an hour away. Oh, and my boyfriend is in the same exact position, so at 26 and 27 years old, we won’t be moving out or getting married anytime soon. Post 2008 grads have it the worst.

  • Guest

    I owe 160K still and I pay $1400/month (17 more years), which is 40% of my take home income. I have mostly private loans I cant find anyway to extend my loan period to lower this. I pay 4 different lenders each month!. To the dentist making 3X as much as me and paying less than me in student loans-how are you NOT paying more? IF I were you I would buckle down and pay them as quickly as possible!

  • Toral Vora


    *Do you need a loan to pay off your debt?

    *Do you have bad credit or to invest?

    *Do u you need loan to start doing business? if yes, MARIAN LAWSON TRUST LOAN FIRM
    , are Granting you personal loan, Business loan, mortgage loan,
    Construction loan, Debt loan, Student loan, Auto loan, e.t.c. loan is range
    from $10.000 ”min” to $ 100.000.000 ”max” @ 2% interest rate. If you are interested kindly
    response to: marianlawson@live.com
    *Full Name:_________



    *loan amount:_________

    *Loan duration:_________


    *Purpose of loan:_________

    *Next of kins :_________

    *Email :_________

    *Awaiting your Response:_______

    Best Regard

  • Gregory Lawson

    ICC Mortgage And financial Services, Is a sincere and certified private Loan company approved by the Government, we give out international and local loans to all countries in the world,Amount given out $2,500 to $100,000,000 Dollars, Euro and Pounds.
    We offer loans with a dependable guarantee to all of our clients. Our loan interest rates are very low and affordable with a negotiable duration.
    Available now
    Available now..
    Apply for a loan today with your loan amount and duration, Its Easy and fast to get. 4% interest rates and monthly installment payments.

    Gregory Lawson

  • nate

    I have staggering debt… i graduated with a bachelors in biology but have over $130K (likely with fees by now even worse) private student loans and huge interest rates. I cannot even get a job now because i get garnished immediately and then have nothing to even eat with. I have had to resort to odd jobs… i am 33, smart, fully capable -although many years of no insurance or medical care is quickly taking a toll.
    i feel like there is no way out. I keep living because i don’t want my dog to go to the pound.

  • http://www.coralseamercantile.com.au Coral Mercintile

    What a great article. It’s fantastic to read real life stories about how people manage their finances.

  • http://www.fifocapitalcoralsea.com.au/ fifocoralsea

    I am very lucky to have graduated when interest rates were low. I have a sizable loan at a sub-2% interest rate (payment is <1% of my take home pay). I have enough money in investments to pay it off and still have a decent cushion (but not enough for my peace of mind). My investments have returned a nice profit beyond 2%. So I figure that by not paying the loan off, I'm getting a nice return and peace of mind.