The Victim Mentality

Last post, I talked a lot about why it is important for me to quickly pay off student loans. Again, the ‘why’ is what should drive and motivate you.

For a while, I felt a lot of resentment towards my parents about how much student debt I had. For some reason I thought they should have helped me pay for school. I was very jealous of my friends who did not have any school debt (and still am). I was angry at my universities for how much they charged. I was angry at the decisions I made to study abroad on school loans and go on another international trip in grad school on school loans. I was angry I didn’t budget better in college. I was overwhelmed at the thought of what my paycheck-to-paycheck life was going to be for the next 20 years. Yep. Pissed off and disappointed in myself. I didn’t feel like I was in control at all.

The last time I felt like this was in high school. Early in high school, I had no plans to go to college. My parents divorced at the beginning of my freshman year. I decided to stay with my mom who battles bipolar disorder. At school, many of my friends probably viewed me as the happiest kid walking the halls with my big smile and high energy when it was quite the opposite at home. I could probably write a novel about my childhood but I’ll save that project for later on. I had a guidance counselor at school that saw me come in and out of her office frequently with tears in my eyes in between football/baseball practices, work outs, classes, and my job at a fast food place in town. Frustration about the life I had at home and the sense of resentment I had towards my family. I was jealous of my friends who had parents that were present and active in their lives. I was an angry adopted teenager who felt like he was the victim of some terrible crime. I was overwhelmed by the balancing act of school, sports, work, and life at home.

My school counselor saw something in me that no one had ever vocalized in such a beautiful way. She said, “Eric, you are going to get through this and go to college away from here, and you are going to do what you want with your life.” She helped me fill out college applications and registered me for advanced placement courses my junior year and kept me focused on getting the hell out of Madison, WI.

Fast forward to 2013 and I ran into my guidance counselor back home, and I told her I had a master’s degree and worked at a Fortune 50 company. Tears. Hugs. It was a powerful moment of accomplishment and lesson of gratitude. I’ll have to write more about that later on.

Resentment. Jealousy. Anger. It was happening again but now it was financially driven and had come full circle from my high school hopes to go off to college to escape my life at home. I have been there before and I have won. I could not let the victim mentality win again.

It is easy for us to fall victim to the barriers that lie ahead. The barriers that are between us and our goals. For me, it has been a change of attitude. While the sky seems to be falling, I realize that I still have two feet on the ground. I’m still breathing, and I have the resources to overcome these obstacles. I am in control.

control

(from troll.me)

Now that I’ve spent a few posts talking about my vision for being debt free and the attitude shift I’ve gained, I’ll finally talk about how I’ve been making it happen…in the next post.

Eric + Blog = Therapy

For several months I have been debating whether or not to start the blog again. Should it have a general theme, focus on my personal stories/experiences, or be complete randomness about whatever crops up in the old noggin? I also was concerned about professionalism knowing my coworkers are reading this right now, but this is who I am and this is my experience.

I have been on a financial journey over the past year. It has been a transformation full of frustration, momentum, and insight…

loans

(from someecards.com)

Student loan debt. My. Living. Hell. SallieMae/Navient, Firstmark Services, Great Lakes, and ECSI are not companies I have worked for but rather, names that have haunted my dreams since 2008 when I graduated college. If your parents paid for any of your school, call them right now and thank them. My parents love me, but my dad’s business went under when I was a kid and the family went bankrupt because Walmart moved to town. Oh and I did a master’s degree shortly after the job market went south. I am making progress, and I am part of the $1.2 trillion of national student loan debt. Selfishly, this blog is therapy for me during my journey. Selflessly, I hope some of you can learn from my experience and be inspired to take some action now rather than 20+ years later.

Disclaimer: Before I go into specifics on the awful epiphany I had just over a year ago about my “progress” on repaying my school loan debt, I will say that I currently have a great corporate job working with very intelligent people who I admire, and I am happy with what I am doing. Not a lot of people can say that, so getting the advanced degree was well worth it.

Sometime in 2011 I began getting those lovely letters about repayment and that my grace period had ended. Once all of them came in, I had about 6 or 7 payments per month from various lenders. It felt like every few days I had a reminder of how stupid I had been with budgeting when I was an 18 year old boy. I made poor financial decisions and I’m paying for them now. I managed for a while and finally felt in control, paying my minimum payments every month while still enjoying my 20’s with full-time employment IN the field I studied. Victory! Minimum payments for 20+ years can’t be that bad, right?

Fast forward to just over a year ago when I finally took some time to check in on my “progress”. Just about $128,000 left to pay!!! Interest was slowly killing me at 3 to 7%. I remember sitting in front of my computer, completely helpless. I felt sick. My head throbbed and I wanted to vomit. I laid around a lot that day feeling angry, sipping a beer. Then I felt sorry for myself. Then I felt angry. Then I felt hopeless. I then went to the google and explored my options for reducing my interest rate, consolidation, and forgiveness options. There are pros and cons to consolidation, interest rates weren’t negotiable, and the only forgiveness option I was eligible for was death

Here we are just over a year later and I am happy to share my progress. I have just over $92,000 left to pay off. It is still a ridiculous amount but man have I made progress. How the hell did I do that? I didn’t get some enormous raise. I didn’t sell some large asset I had. I did a lot of little things from cutting cable when I lived alone to going without paying for a haircut over the last year.

This blog is about taking responsibility for past actions, setting goals, making plans, taking action, and being frustrated and elated along the way. Care to join me?