Why My Favorite Student Loan Debt Payoff Stories are Boring

pexels-photo-765228.jpegI’m sure you’ve seen the clickbait headlines – student pays off $100,000, $200,000 in debt in a ridiculously short time.

Heck that’s me too: How I Paid Off $112,000 in Debt in 18 Months

Awhile ago, I was interviewed for Learnvest regarding my debt payoff story. I remember one of the comments said something to the effect of:

Well of course she could pay off her debt with her high salary. Why can’t we have stories of people who quickly pay off large sums of debt on low salaries?

Bitter much?
There are many reasons why we don’t have large debt payoff stories from the low-income. First, the math doesn’t add up. Yes, people side hustle and get salary increases, but usually that takes some time to get started and you’re not making the big bucks immediately. So the people who can do this, are rare.
Second, and most importantly, people shouldn’t get into big student loan debt and have a low salary job.

There are the stories of people who graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt who work at the poverty line. Yeah, that’d be a great story if someone succeeded given those odds. And it’s possible that someone can graduate with six figures in student loan debt and eventually pay it off on an entry level salary.  Yes, this makes for the start of a great story but the vast majority of these stories are not going to end well. This is not something to aspire to. Most of these stories are not told in articles because they’re not going to end well, and people don’t want to read those articles. They want the inspiration.
 Yes we can congratulate someone and admire someone for having the fortitude to pay off an insurmountable mountain of debt. But let’s not forget that it was probably a mistake somewhere along the line first to get into such large debt and have a low-paying job. That’s a failure of the system if you graduate with a lot of debt and only work a low-paying job.
And yes, we should and need to talk about out-of-control higher education costs and how easy it is to get into ridiculous amounts of debt for low-paying degrees. We should talk about how low-income people are caught in a catch-22 because they want to get better jobs, are required to get college or graduate degrees in order to get ahead. And we don’t have to blame the person for making this mistake because it’s a hard place to be in, but we also need not make it seem normal to graduate with way too much debt and pay it off on a low salary.
It’s great that there are inspirational student loan debt payoff stories. But let’s not forget the fundamentals – first, don’t take out too much debt. The rule of thumb is not to have higher total debt than your median first year salary. Also generally don’t to go to NYU. Or get an MFA.
So yes, I had six figures of debt and six figures of income. My debt payoff story is  really boring. It’s meant to be boring. I’m proud that it’s boring. I don’t want to encourage anyone to have an exciting debt payoff story where they pay off a crazy sum of money in a short period of time on a low salary because that’s a recipe for a very stressful life. Boring is good when it comes to  money. Prevention is most of the battle.
Was your debt payoff story exciting or boring?

7 thoughts on “Why My Favorite Student Loan Debt Payoff Stories are Boring

  1. Thanks for the common sense post. It has been a few years, but I found a teaching job immediately out of college. My starting salary was $25,900. After 22 years, the starting teacher salary in my school system has gone up a little to $38,600. Paying off 6 figures is just impossible in a short time, with that salary. There are plenty of side hustles that fit in with teaching, but a new teacher needs to use their energy to become a good teacher. After taxes, even if I had my paychecks direct deposited to the loan company, it would have taken over 4 years to pay off $100,000. Today’s teacher would take over 3 years of every dime going to debt, and there are new teachers with crazy debt numbers.

    1. ” a new teacher needs to use their energy to become a good teacher.”

      Love that. So important, particularly when you’re starting out in your career.

  2. The out of control college costs are the gorilla in the room here. It’s insane, and unsustainable. I think it’s probably the leading underlying cause in the increasing divide between the have’s and have-nots in America.

    Congrats to you on the quick payoff though, you smashed it!

    1. There’s an interesting book that touches on this topic – Dream Hoarders – where a college education has become a prerequisite to a better life but most college graduates are from the upper middle class. They’re the only ones that can afford it. So it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. So I agree that it’s part of the reason for the increasing divide.

  3. Love the title of this! 👏 Great read and so true. Our education system is setting so many people up to fail by charging outrageous amounts for college. I’ve been hearing of more and more students going to community college first to save up and finish their undergrad at a university. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree – college costs are insane. Well I’m glad that kids are learning to go to community college first – that’s such a smart solution.

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