Happy Friday friends! I’m excited for another installment of Student Loan Conquerors. Student Loan Conquerors is an interview series where I talk with some awesome people tackling their student loan debt head on and finding out how they are doing it and what inspired them to start in the first place.
If you are interested in participating please contact me and share a little information about your student loan debt situation.
Today, I’m excited to have Eric Rosenberg from Personal Profitability, a finance, travel, and technology writer originally from Denver, Colorado living in Ventura, California. When away from the keyboard, Eric he enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers, riding his beach cruiser bicycle, and spending time with his wife and baby girl.
1. When did you graduate and with what degree?
I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and a certificate in International Business. I finished my MBA in finance at The University of Denver in 2010.
2. What was the maximum amount of student loan debt you owed and where do you stand now?
I had a great scholarship and graduated from CU debt free, but that wasn’t the case for my MBA. The program had an estimated cost of attendance around $90,000, of which about $67,000 was tuition. The highest balance was $40,000 when I graduated, and I finished paying off the loans two years and six days after graduation.
(editor’s note: Graduated undergrad debt free, that is amazing! And debt free less than three years after grad school? Teach me your ways!)
3.When did you start to focus on your student loans and what motivated you to do so?
I actually took out more than $40,000 in loans but started paying down my balances as early as possible. I worked full-time while going to school full-time for my MBA, and lived on a college budget while earning a full-time finance salary.
By keeping expenses low, I was able to pay a portion of my tuition due each quarter from my bank account and financed the rest with student loans. I started making payments the first month after my student loans were issued to start building good habits and keeping the loan balances from growing due to interest while in school.
4. What is the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?
When I was about eight years old, I went to spend a long weekend with my Grandparents in Arkansas. My Grandpa, who grew up in the Great Depression and was a business school professor, gave me a personal financial ledger and taught me how to track my income and expenses. That lesson stuck with me when I got my first job at a summer camp, started working in high school to pay for my car insurance, and as my income grew and I started supporting a family.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to others paying down student loans?
Live on a college budget as long as possible to avoid lifestyle inflation. Keep your expenses as low as possible while in debt so you can make extra student loan payments regularly. Putting your loan payment on auto-pay every payday makes it easier than remembering to make payments manually, and it gets you in the habit of living with less money.
Bonus tip: every time you get a lump income outside of your paycheck, like a bonus at work or tax refund, put 100% of that into your loan. You are used to living without it, so don’t waste it. Put it towards your loans and you’ll see your balances drop much faster.
6. If you could do it all over again, would you? Why or why not?
I definitely would do it all over again. My MBA led to great job opportunities and a 40% raise. It more than paid for itself, and keeps paying dividends every year!
7. Are you actually utilizing your degree? If not, why not?
Yes, every day! I’m a big advocate for the STEM degrees – science, technology, engineering, and math related subjects. I include business school degrees with STEM degrees as the ones most likely to lead to a job that will be able to pay off those loans.
College is not about discovering yourself or partying, though those are important parts of the process. College is about getting and education that can lead to a job. If you are getting ready to go to school, research which fields of study will lead to a career you will be happy with. Remember that just because you enjoy something like art history or social work does not mean you can get a job doing it, or a job that will pay off hefty loan balances.
(Editor’s note: my undergrad is actually a STEM degree, but I never did anything with it, every once in a while I think about going back to that area, but a plain math degree doesn’t open up that much.)
8. Anything you’d like to share with LDMW readers?
I could never have paid off my student loans so quickly if I had not kept a well-rounded focus on my personal finances. You can’t get out of debt if you spend more than you earn, and that is not a sustainable way to live. On the flip side, it is easy to go overboard with frugality and miss out on fun because you are too stingy with your pennies to look at the big picture.
Personal finance success with student debt, credit cards, and retirement requires an approach that uses balance and a focus on big wins to reach your goals. That’s why I created Personal Profitability, to help you learn to earn more, spend thoughtfully, grow your wealth, and live a better life through mindful personal finance. If that sounds like you, get the free Personal Profitability Playbook delivered by email and get on your path to Personal Profitability.
Thank you, Eric Rosenberg! I appreciate you being a part of Student Loan Conqueror Series. I’m excited for you and your student loan debt freedom! Learn even more about how Eric paid off his debt, by checking out his story here. If you need help figuring out your student loans, you can download a handy worksheet I made to help do just that.