Happy Friday friends! I’m excited for another installment of Student Loan Conquerors. Student Loan Conquerors is an interview series. I talk with some awesome people tackling their student loan debt head on. 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 the anonymous blogger behind Debt Ascent (“DA”), which started in 2017 (welcome to the blogging community!). On Debt Ascent, Da and their wife share their story of how they are climbing out of massive debt in pursuit of financial independence by the time they hit 40. DA’s wife is a dentist and DA an engineer. They are the proud parents of two young children. In early 2014, they were over half a million dollars in student loan debt.
When did you graduate and with what degree?
My wife and I each graduated in 2013. Her degree is in dentistry and I have a PhD in Engineering.
What was the maximum amount of student loans you owed and where do you stand now?
At our lowest point a few months after graduating, we owed over $521,000. At the time, we had approximately $50,000 in assets, so our net worth was approximately -$471,000. Fast forward just over four years, and we currently stand at a student loan debt of -$384,000 and our net worth is -$81,000.
When did you start to focus on your student loans and what motivated you to do so?
Believe it or not, we were focused on student loans while in graduate/professional school. We knew going into graduate school that we’d amass a huge student loan balance, but we did it anyway to pursue our dream careers.
During graduate school, my modest stipend paid the bulk of our living expenses, but we were still left with the cost of covering my wife’s dental school tuition. It was during this time that I began reading about personal finance to plan our strategy for climbing out of debt. This eventually led me to blogs about financial independence. When I discovered some of the heavy hitters in the personal finance community such as Mr. Money Mustache, The Mad Fientist, etc., I was hooked.
What is the one action you’ve taken that has made the biggest difference in your finances?
For as much effort and sources dedicated to personal finance, the math is pretty simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not difficult to map out a strategy to pay down debt, but the implementation is messy. Things come up. Expenses you hadn’t plan on arise, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you planned for them.
The biggest action we’ve taken to take control of our finances is to track our spending. Every transaction and every penny. It’s tedious but worthwhile in my opinion. I downloaded a free trial of YNAB a few years ago and was immediately impressed and have been using it ever since. The reason I feel tracking spending is so important is that it helps keep me honest when projection expenses into the future.
There was a large disparity between what I thought I was spending and what I was actually spending on certain things. It’s been great to have an accurate and complete picture of where our money is going.
What is the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?
If not now, when? This is something my wife has said to me on occasion, and I find it most applicable to finances. If you have student loan debt, no payment is more important than the next one. It’s the next opportunity to pay down your principal balance so that you never have to pay as much interest again.
The same can be said for investing. The sooner you do it, the longer you get to enjoy the benefits of compound interest on the other end.
The financial decisions you make right now will be compounded for the rest of your life, so why not aim to make good ones?
What is one piece of advice you would give to others paying down student loans?
Be relentless and don’t let others tell you what you can’t do. Take control of your financial future and find a path out. Reading some of the headlines about student loans can be disheartening, but don’t be discouraged. If you live within your means, you’ll eventually make your way out. Find a way to stay motivated and always continue to learn.
If you could do it all over again, would you? Why or why not?
It’s an interesting question, and one I don’t entertain all that often. Personally, neither of us regrets the decision to take on such an enormous debt load to pursue our dream careers. It’s a burden, but we planned it out knowing we’d be six figure debt for some time. I wish there was a way for us to have avoided it, but here we are.
If I could go back in time to 2009, would we do it all again? Probably. Would we have done it exactly the same way? Probably not. Having said that, I think we’re content with how things have turned out so far. We have a wonderful family, great careers, and are on our way out of debt in our pursuit of financial independence. We’re happy, and that fact alone tells me I don’t need to wish for a do-over.
Are you actually utilizing your degree? If not, why not?
Yes, we are both utilizing our degrees. Neither of us would be able to work at our current positions if we didn’t have them.
Anything you’d like to plug/share with LDMW readers?
I want to take this opportunity to thank Liz for reaching out and allowing us this opportunity to share a small piece of our story with you, her readers. For anyone who is interested in learning more about our story, you can find us at DebtAscent.com. We’d be happy to hear from you, whether it be regarding your own path out of debt or even just to say hello.
(editor’s note: Aww thanks, so glad to have you on the blog!)
Thank you, Debt Ascent! I appreciate you being a part of Student Loan Conqueror Series. Good luck with the rest of your journey to debt freedom (I’ll see you there one day!).