Why?

Why? There are two ways to view this question in the world of leadership coaching. Some view this as a question that can raise defensiveness in the person being asked. Some view this as a powerful question to analyze the root cause to a problem. In the context of this blog, it is a powerful question because it motivates the shit out of me. Since my first blog post, I have had quite a few people reach out to me with a variety reactions and inquiries, but my favorite question I have been asked is, “why? why do you need to pay this off so aggressively?”

why-god-why

(from icanhascheezburger.com)

“It’s not bad debt, you should just pay the minimum on your loans because the rate is low and you can invest the rest in retirement accounts.”

This is what a financial planner told me. He clearly did not listen to the goals/vision I laid out below. I’ve also heard this from friends and family. I crunched the numbers on average returns for various accounts over the next 20 years versus having the loans paid off 15 years earlier and investing that $45,000 of interest into anything that gains a return. Lots of free financial calculators online. Do it. The numbers were in favor of my plan over his. Pick a financial planner that has the same values/goals and not just someone trying to sell you bad products, so they can make a commission. Ask them about how they make money and you’ll get a pretty good idea on their intentions.

Disclaimer: I’m still saving through a 401(k) because the employer match is free money. Your financial situation is different and you should do the math or get someone else who is better at math to crunch the numbers. You could even get one of your finance buddies to run some numbers over a beer. Maybe coffee, keeps her/him alert.

Here is why I have decided to pay the loans off so quickly versus the slow bleeding that could occur over 20 years.

  1. Math. Think about what I could do with $45,000 saved from interest in the next 20 years.
  2. Going into my early 30’s with no debt sounds pretty rad.
  3. Financial freedom, so I can save long term for a variety of things like retirement, education funds for kids, a house, etc.
  4. I could take a pay cut some day. I love the community and giving back, so having the financial option to go to a nonprofit would be great. They just don’t pay like a big corporation, unless you’re at a big nonprofit like the NFL. Yes, they’re a nonprofit.
  5. Give money to help others. Whether that is writing a big check to a nonprofit I’m passionate about (not the NFL) or it’s helping someone I know, I want to be able to help others financially when the time comes.
  6. Freedom of choice. The reasons above all tie back to the ability to make financial choices without the financial restraints of a nearly $1,000 minimum payment every month.

Some people have the attitude that debt is just part of life. I don’t want to carry that attitude based on the vision I have set forth in the list above. Whether you’re paying off school debt, trying to lose weight, or debating whether or not to quit your job, I believe it is important to explore the answer to ‘why’.

Let’s have a conversation. Make a comment below and tell me why or why not aggressively pay school loans (or any loan for that matter). Thanks team.

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?