That’s right. You read that correctly. My student loan debt is the price of a down payment on a house. On top of that, I also have almost $11,000 in credit card debt so my total debt bulldozes in at around $146,000. Yikes! Now, to be fair and to give myself a little bit of credit, I paid off my $12,000 auto loan last year. Small wins, yes! But, I still have a long way to go. This amount of debt is completely insane for many, but it’s the norm for most, and I’m tired of being a statistic.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
I grew up solidly middle-class. My dad worked full-time as a computer engineer and my mom worked part-time in a lab. My parents gave my sister and I everything that we could have ever wanted. We had a house, good food on the table, a furry friend (sometimes several at once), private education, and fun activities outside of school. Life was very comfortable. But, like so many other households, we never discussed finances.
If my parents saw something interesting in the store, they bought it. If my sister or I wanted that shiny new toy, they bought it for us. Uncles and aunties gave us money or gifts at birthdays and holidays. My grandparents gave me money and even helped to pay for any school tuition while my parents just made up the rest somehow. I never noticed anybody around me really struggling with money or setting boundaries with money.
I guess you could say that I was utterly clueless…as if…
STUDENT LOAN DEBT ACCUMULATION
So, where did my debt come from? A fancy master’s and doctoral degree in acupuncture and herbal medicine.
One day, I was in the waiting room at my herbalist’s clinic and I had a lightbulb moment. I was going to help people heal from pain and disease! Mind you, prior to this, I was roaming somewhat aimlessly through life after completing undergraduate school. I had a random, non-cushy, full-time job at a start-up for a few years. But, I was laid off and that gave me a chance to think about a real career. That career would Chinese medicine!
Shortly after my lightbulb moment, I enrolled into the master’s program at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Had I saved up any money for this new adventure? NOPE. Any extra money that I had was probably blown on travel. My only option was to take out student loans. My parents were worried but they didn’t talk me out of it. I just said, “I’ll deal with it. It’s my burden” and off I went signing my financial life away without understanding debt, student loan interest, or student loan repayment options. Most importantly, I had no knowledge of the viability of choosing a career in Chinese medicine or how I would have to scramble to earn income.
Suffice it to say, I am no longer a practicing acupuncturist. After 3 years, I felt like I did all that I could to make it work. I had my own clinic while working at two other clinics. I networked with strangers to promote my business and marketed to my desired niches. Unfortunately, unlike allopathic doctors or osteopaths, it was very challenging to succeed as a newbie. The reward of helping people on their healing journey just did not match the amount of time and effort that I put in.
Now, I am fortunate to have a full-time job with stable income in a completely different industry, a husband who supports me as I prioritize debt repayment, and I couldn’t feel more relieved to have the opportunity to aggressively tackle this dark cloud over my head.
SWALLOWING THE PROGRESS PILL
There are so many resources out there about how to get out of debt quickly but nobody teaches you how to avoid debt, the consequences of having debt, or how to repay debt.
The US student loan debt crisis is real reaching $1.56 trillion at the beginning of 2020. Approximately 69% of students in taking out loans, the average undergraduate student loan debt being $29,800, the average non-P.h.D doctorates was $132,200. Even more eye-opening is that approximately two-thirds of all student loan debt in the United States are held by women.
With a six-figure debt looming over my head like an impending hurricane, it is time to swallow the progress pill and kick my bum into high gear. I see friends around me buying homes, earning passive income on old investments, traveling around the world (pre-COVID, of course) and I want that for myself. What would it feel like to have financial freedom? What would I do with all of that extra money? I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Perhaps, you have been too.