So I Paid Off My Student Loans- Part 1

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few years, you may know that I’ve been on a quest to pay off my student loans since… basically forever. Actually, for the first few years after I graduated, as my debt amount surged while interest piled up, I simply lived in hopeless despair. I wondered what magical miracle would occur that would enable me to pay off more than $100,000 (yes that 6th zero belongs) worth of debt – and for undergrad only! I’m not even a doctor or a lawyer or even a prosperous business person- I have a DRAMA degree, for god’s sake! And that $100,000 total is with ONE YEAR PAID OFF ALREADY by mom and grandma! So even with a whole year of school paid off, plus some financial aid, my loans were STILL that much!

And the loan kept growing, even after college ended, because in the first few years after graduation I’d decided that since my interest was high on the smaller of the two loans (one was for around $86,000 and the other was $14,000), I’d put the smaller loan on forbearance (effectively deferring it) and not pay it for awhile.

I know now that this is BACKWARDS thinking- it’s a really bad idea to put loans on forbearance unless you’re absolutely desperate and have no other choice. To be fair, most people put loans on forbearance because they have no other choice- I myself was the definition of desperate- so the warning is probably unnecessary. But forbearance is a horrible sneaky trap that only punishes your future self while your current self breathes a very temporary sigh of relief. I got the 14k loan down to 11k with a lot of blood sweat and tears, and then put that loan on forbearance for a year. When I started paying it again, after only one year of deferment, the loan had GONE BACK UP to 14K! As if I had never made a dent! The experience was both sickening and horrifying.

NYU is even more expensive now- disgustingly expensive. Somewhere around 70K a year expensive. It’s wayyyy overpriced, and pricing seems to only be only going up. The thing is, many colleges are following that same path of being completely out of line overpriced- the problem is not just NYU. To be fair, I really enjoyed my NYU program- I had private conservatory training in all aspects of acting, directing, and theater, and the 4 years were pretty amazing. It’s not a bad school. But the loans afterwards all but buried me- and I don’t recommend anyone ever taking on that kind of student loan debt. Ever. Even if  you’re going to medical school or something that should fast track to a lucrative career, I’d still advise you to think your finances through very carefully.

In a blaze of glory I finally completed my last student loan payment this February, 2018. I still can’t believe it. I remember the day I hit ‘send’ on that last payment- I cried. My body shook in front of my computer and nothing made sense. The student debt that had hung over my head for so many years of my early adult life was finally gone. It felt like a miracle- but it wasn’t. It was the result of an incredible amount of work and very carefully calculated planning. Even making very little money per year, I finally did it. I did it.

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I did it! In the next post I’ll tell you how…

 

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Those Brief Moments of Brevity In Your Thirties

Today my uncle and little cousin came to visit me at work. I’m working an auto show in Fort Lauderdale for a few days, and they live nearby.

My cousin is 16 and thinking about the colleges he’s going to apply to next year. I know that his parents are kind of freaking out about it. The college application process is a scary thing. My uncle and aunt asked me about my memories of applying to college- specifically about writing the dreaded college essay.

Even though I’m now 30 and the college application process was more than 13 years ago, it all came back to me like a dream…sort of screwy and very vivid. My college applications were nuts- I applied to 12 different colleges and visited all of the campuses. I also wrote over 7 different essays, and took dozens of hours to complete them.

But the hardest part for me was always the editing. The essays were so hard for me to shorten- 650 words tops, and I went over every time. Once I had my essays edited down to total brevity, they were almost unrecognizable- little moments in time that never captured everything I wanted to say.

Thank god I got into NYU and the application torture ended.

But as I was walking over a drawbridge in Florida tonight, I thought about how life is like the editing process. You feel like the years go on and on, but really, in the end, you get to keep only a small collection of memories capturing the briefest essence of what came before. And then your small fragments of memory meander and cut off, vivid and dreamlike, and not exactly what you wanted to say at all.

Every moment is special. Every feeling matters. Live in the now and hold it close before it’s edited down to nothing. Because one day what feels like forever will actually fade and cut off. And our beautiful path will come to an end.

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Giving Advice In Your Thirties

Hope you’ve all had a restful Boxing day! Boxing Day doesn’t exist in the US, but is officially a day after Christmas bank holiday in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa, and many other places around the world- and I know we have some awesome readers from these places who know all about this 🙂 Random trivia- the name ‘boxing day’ comes from when servants and tradesman would get their boxed Christmas gifts from their employers and managers the day after Christmas.

Anyway, this post started out as a short note about socks.

I was remembering when I was a child and would get upset about getting socks as a gift. Then adults would say to me: “when you’re older, you’ll appreciate getting socks!

Of course, I was positive they were wrong. But on my 30th Christmas, I received not one, but 6 pairs of socks. And I was overjoyed! I needed them! And I appreciated the pajamas I got too! And the scarf! Which I definitely could have cared less about earlier in life.

Which I guess means I’m a real adult now. 😉

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But anyway, as you may know, sometimes even though you’re officially an adult, you may not feel like an adult- especially when it comes to giving advice.

In the past, I’ve shied away from giving advice about money, even while I’ve been in the thick of paying off my student loans. I’m quite good at paying down debt (as evidenced by my major decline in student loan money owed, thank god) and I’ve spent hours and hours researching best ways to pay them down. However I’ve felt like there were people better qualified than me to give financial assistance.

And there are. But that doesn’t mean that people are going to find them. And that doesn’t mean I’m not at all qualified to give any advice- after all, I’m an adult. So I’ve tried my best to help people when they ask.

During Christmas, my younger brother Scott and my little cousin Justin were sitting together at one point, both playing on their phones and Nintendo 3DS’. My cousin (a junior in high school) suddenly started opening up about how he felt slightly pressured into choosing a certain major and how he wasn’t sure where he really wanted to go to college.

My brother, who’s 26, put down his game and gave Justin some advice. First, he asked Justin a bunch of questions. He inquired where Justin really wanted to go to school and what he was actually interested in studying. Then he told Justin to follow his heart but also to research everything. He said to be conscious of the money involved (my brother also knows all about student loans), but not to base the decision solely on money. It was a sweet moment.

I have no idea if my brother’s advice will have any influence on my cousin’s decision. But it made me think about how advice in general doesn’t have to come from an expert. And it doesn’t have to come at special scheduled times. Sometimes you’ll be asked for advice during holidays or at totally random moments. Feel confident that you’re adult enough to share whatever you’ve learned so far in life. You never know how much you’ll help someone.

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