Happy Friday friends! I’m excited for another installment of the Student Loan Conqueror series. 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 Michelle Argento who runs Every Little Cent for parents teaching their kids about money. Michelle Argento is a 20-something new mom, dog lover, and freelance writer/solopreneur living in Wyoming.
3 years ago, she was devastated to learn that her husband lost his job, and they struggled to maintain their lifestyle while paying down debt. But they have been fighting back to get in the black while learning how to make great financial decisions for the future.
1. When did you graduate and with what degree?
I graduated in spring of 2009 with a Bachelors of Music/ Music Education. I also have a partially completed Masters Degree in Education with a concentration in Higher Education and am currently back in school completing a Masters in Social Work. My husband graduated in spring of 2007 with a Bachelors of English and Spanish. He additionally has a Masters in Literature.
2. What was the maximum amount of student loan debt you owed and where do you stand now?
Between my husband and I, at the onset of our marriage, we owed roughly $61,000 in student loans. This includes a Parent PLUS loan I was paying back on behalf of my mom and several private loans.
Today, we are down to $38,000-ish owed between us. Our private loans are almost all gone (except for one) and so is my mother’s PLUS loan. My husband is about two years away from qualifying for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program, which will additionally cut down our amount owed to about $20,000.
Editor’s Note: FYI if you have federal student loans and are struggling with your payments, consider utilizing an income-driven repayment plan at least temporarily. If you have private loans, consider refinancing with a company like SoFi. I wrote a review about my experience refinancing my bar loan with SoFi. Refinancing with SoFi ended up saving me over $1k. Use one of my links to refinance and you’ll get a $100 bonus.
3.When did you start to focus on your student loans and what motivated you to do so?
The day my husband and I got back from our honeymoon, he was fired from his job leaving me as the only money-maker in our house. Almost immediately we identified that the biggest and most painful debt we had was our student loans. Without being on any special payment plan, we had paid nearly $1300/month towards these loans.
At that point, we realized just how painful it was for our current and future lives. We wanted a family, yearned to travel more, and had our eyes on making drastic job changes. We couldn’t do that with student loans holding us down.
4. What is the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?
Learn everything you can about the debts you are taking on. This includes student loans. There are so many programs out there that you may qualify for, even if you are a high-income earner. Not taking this assistance is almost like burning free money.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to others paying down student loans?
Don’t go too hard, too fast. I know it sounds easy to just give up everything to pay them down quicker, but those magical stories of people paying down mountains of loan debt in a year or two is not realistic unless you are a frugal person, to begin with.
Goals happen when you know yourself. If you’re like me and you love to travel, explore new restaurants, or just take your daughter out to a museum, making those major cuts to your budget isn’t realistic to staying sane and happy.
Instead, slowly work on what you can. Throw a few extra dollars a month towards your payments. Cut out soda when eating out or grocery shopping. Eventually, you’ll get there.
6. If you could do it all over again, would you? Why or why not?
Heck yes! College isn’t for everyone, that’s true. But it was for me. I loved learning from professors, living in the dorms, getting challenged through activities. I am that kind of person. My husband is the same. We are life long learners and our student loan debt just made that a reality.
7. Are you actually utilizing your degree? If not, why not?
I like to think that I am using my degree in education every day when I interact with people or when I work with my 1-year-old daughter. My husband is actually working in his field and is now teaching college courses.
As for why I’m no longer a teacher, it wasn’t the career, it was the recession. I graduated in 2009 when the bust hit and music education was hit the hardest. There were no jobs out there for years, and there continues to be a trend is cutting arts education.
I am hoping that a degree in social work will instead mix my love of educating and communicating with communities.
8. Anything you’d like to share with LDMW readers?
One of the biggest myths is that liberal arts or arts education is a waste of money and that finding a job in the field is impossible. I did a real quick poll of my friends who graduated with similar degrees as my husband and me and found that over 90% had good paying, “real” jobs. Many were in their field while others had transitioned away to something similar (such as a theater major working in art nonprofits). Don’t be afraid to get a passion degree if it is what makes you happy. After graduation, you can find its worth.
Thank you, Michelle Argento! I appreciate you being a part of Student Loan Conqueror Series. I’m excited for you and your husband’s journey toward student loan debt freedom! If you all would like to learn even more about Michelle’s journey you can visit Every Little Cent.