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Money, Student Loans

The State of My Student Loans: Or, On Not Achieving My Goal and Why It’s Okay

Well, the day is finally here… I’m officially the big 3-0! If you’ve read my site at all over the course of the last 5 or 6 years, you might know that it’s been a longstanding goal of mine to pay off my student loans by the time that I turn 30.

So did I do it?!

Unfortunately, no. I’ve known for a while that it probably wasn’t going to happen by my birthday, but I was holding out hope for a Hail Mary pass at the very last minute. That play didn’t happen and I still have a pretty sizable balance.

Let’s take a look back at what I have accomplished, though. I’m pretty bummed about it and find methodical analysis of my finances almost as soothing as a nice, full-bodied glass of red wine.

Where My Student Loans Started

I made my first student loan payment in May 2011. I’ve been making payments on my student loans for exactly 6 years! My how time flies! However, I didn’t enter full repayment in May 2011, as I was still in grad school. Arcane rules for one of my private student loans required me to start making payments on my loan no longer than X years (I can’t remember how many) after I took the loan out, even if I was still in school. I made the first payment for (almost) the rest of my student loans in December 2011. I made the first payment for the last loan in April 2012. When I started paying off my student loans:

  • After capitalization of my student loans (interest earned in deferment is added to the principal), I owed just over $96,000.
  • My minimum balance was $756.07.
  • I had 15 separate loans split across 3 different servicers. This meant that my minimum balance was split across 3 different checks.
  • I had 3 private loans, 1 Perkins loan, and 11 Federal loans.
  • I decided to use a graduated repayment plan for 2 of my federal student loans from graduate school. A graduated plan means that the loan will still be paid off in 10 years, just like a standard repayment plan; however, the minimums start smaller and increase in size every 2 years.

Thankfully, I was able to get a full time job shortly after graduating from graduate school. I was then able to segue my education and job into a more lucrative (and personally fulfilling!) career that has resulted in me earning much more than I ever would have as a librarian.

Where My Student Loans Are Now

Even though I started with a LOT of student loans, over the course of the last 6 years (and really 5.5 if you’re counting when the majority of my student loans went into repayment), I’ve been able to get a fairly big handle on my student loans:

  • My student loans balance is hovering around $25,000. I’ve paid off 75% of my original balance!
  • My minimum balance is ~$440. Although I’ve paid off a number of my individual loans, my minimum balance has not gone down substantially, since my graduated repayment loans’ minimum balance has increased.
  • I have 4 remaining loans. I’ve paid 11 loans in full.

As you can see from the chart below, the bulk of my spending on student loans has been between 2012 and 2016. I’ve held steady at paying $20,000 in student loans for each of the last two years. This year, I hope to pay the rest off. I expect that interest will result in me contributing up to $26,000 to finish the loans off.

student loan payments by year

When you add up all of my payments, I’ve contributed over $91,000 to my student loans! A quick calculation tells me that if I end up contributing $117,000 ($91,000 to date plus my remaining balances), then I’ll have spent $21,000 on interest. Lord, the things I would do with $21,000!!! Or even, Lord, the things I would do with an extra $117,000 if I hadn’t had student loans in the first place.

How I Plan to Pay Off My Student Loans

Clearly, I’ve made a ton of progress; however, I still have a long way to go. In fact, I’ve been paying my loans for 5.5 years and my balance is now only getting to what the U.S. national student loan balance average is. That’s pretty sobering, if you ask me.

My goal is to pay the rest of my student loans by the end of the year. This year has been a bit crazy for us when it comes to finances. We got married (and paid for our wedding) and we also moved to Germany. The wedding cost a bit (although we were under substantially under the national average for that!) and moving will end up costing us quite a bit with furniture costs and security deposits. Stella’s final months were also quite expensive.

In the hubbub of moving, we’ve acquired quite a bit of cash. We sold our cars, received our security deposit back, had been earning steady incomes (and trying our best to not spend money on anything that didn’t contribute to the move), received wedding gifts, and sold some of our furniture.

We’d like to use a lot of that cash to make a big dent in the student loans. But first, we need to do a couple of things:

  • Pay security deposit for our new apartment
  • Purchase furniture and other household items
  • Max out ROTH IRAs for 2017 (doubles as a 3-month emergency fund)
  • Maintain a cash 3-month emergency fund

We’ll put whatever is left towards a large chunk of the loans. We are planning to rent an apartment that will allow us to save about 500€ per month towards retirement and other long term savings. Since we will have done all of our planned retirement savings for the year, that money will go towards the student loans until they are paid off.

Paying off $55k of student loans in 2 years
Money, Student Loans

Gut Check: Will I pay off my student loans by age 30?

I turned the big 2-8 last week. That means that I have two years left to acheive my longstanding goal of paying off my loans by the time I turn 30.

As of right now, my balance hovers around $55,000. Oof. That’s a lot of loans to pay off still. On the flip side – let’s celebrate the fact that I’ve paid off over $35K in principal on my loans since I started paying them off in late 2011!

Considering that I’ve only paid off $35K over 3.5 years and I want to pay off the remaining $55K over 2 years, it seems like it might be a tight two years. So, let’s look at the numbers.

What Paying Off $55K of Student Loans in 2 Years Looks Like

I decided to pull out my trusty debt repayment calculators,, to do a quick and dirty calculation of how much I need to contribute each month (on average) to achieve my goal.

Minimum Payments Only – Debt Free by July 2024

Chart highlighting minimum payments on student loans

If I were to only pay the minimum each month, I would be paying on my loans until 2024. That means I would be 37! That’s 7 years longer than I’m aiming to pay. Also notice how much interest I would be paying. I could buy myself a modest used car with that amount of interest!

Debt Free by May 2017 – $2500 per month to student loans

Minimum payments isn’t the world I live in though – I’ve been paying extra each month to help me achieve my goal. My quick calculations suggest that I need to contribute $2,500 per month to student loans in order to have them paid off by May 2017.

Paying $2500 towards student loans each month to be done in 2 years

Unfortunately, my student loan payments aren’t anywhere near $2500 per month at this point. Here’s a graph of my student loan payments over time since May 2011.

My student loan spending for all time

As you can see, I generally hover around a set amount per month with some months where I contribute a bigger chunk. Last year, while I was preparing to move, I took a break from paying extra and only contributed the minimum. Now that I’m settled in a new location with a higher paying job, I’ve been upping my payments again.

Moving Forward

I’ve been struggling for a long time with the basic debt reduction calculators that I’ve found online because they don’t give me the flexibility to choose the exact order I want to pay my loans off in and they don’t allow me to enter/account for one-off payments.

Much of my strategy, as you can tell from my chart above, has been to have a hefty payment each month and pay bigger chunks when I can (e.g. tax refunds, bonuses, etc.). Luckily, I finally found the answer I was looking for – the most comprehensive debt reduction calculator ever from Vertex42. It allows me to choose what order I want to pay off my loans and most importantly, it allows me to account for what they call “snowflaking” – adding in one-off payments above what I generally pay.

My Strategy for the next two years

Overall my strategy for paying off my loans will be this:

  • Maintain base level of overpayment each month
  • Increase base payment when my compensation increases (hopefully by $300 per month this year and then again next year in September when our salary increases go through)
  • Contribute 70% of windfalls (bonuses, tax refunds, etc.) to student loans in addition to my regular monthly payment
  • Treat third paycheck in three paycheck months (2 per year) as a windfall
  • Pay off my private loans (since they are higher risk) then move on to a snowball avalanche approach where I’m paying off the lowest balance of the highest interest rate first

A Note About Assumptions

Planning out two years of payments is a tricky game. I’ve tried to be conservative but also realistic at the same time in my estimates. So much of my ability to pay off these loans in two years will be determined by a few key details such as my compensation (I’m assuming it will increase, but I do not know by how much) and my windfalls (I’m assuming I will receive windfalls of a general size, but I won’t know until I receive them).

For example, when I plug my numbers into the debt reduction calculator/spreadsheet, I’m able to finesse them to get me to a May 2017 payoff date. However, it’s still wildly unclear how accurate those windfalls and numbers will be.

Will It Happen?

So, in sum, it’s looking like it’s in the realm of possibility, but it will be tough for me to pay off my loans in two years time. It’s really all going to come down to how much my income increases and how much I will get for bonuses and such. The good news is that it’s not a “hell no” at this point. I just need to keep on keeping on as I have been for the last few years by paying what I can regularly and pumping extra money into my loans when I come across it.

Hopefully, if you’re in the same or a similar boat as me you find these calculators useful for estimating how and when you’ll get all of your debt paid off.

What are your debt repayment goals?

Money, Student Loans

My Student Loan Story: Follow me from $90K to $0 Before Age 30


If you’ve been hanging around Living in Flux for any period of time, you know that student loans are one of my topics of interest. I’ve talked about why I pay extra on my student loans each month. I’ve talked about what I think could help solve the student loan crisis in the United States. I even won the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge in 2012 for my app design concept to help student loan borrower more easily manage their student loan debt.

And while I’ve skirted around the topic on this site for over a year, I haven’t fully shared my student loan story.

That is, until now.

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Reach the finish line and pay off your student loans faster
Money, Student Loans

10 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster


It’s no secret that student loans are one of my areas of interest. Specifically, I’m interested in how to pay off my student loans faster. Heck, I won the grand prize in the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge for an app concept that would help student loan borrowers pay off their student loans faster; plus, one of my main goals is to pay off all of my student loans by the time I turn 30.

One of the things that really sticks out to me about the options for student loan borrowers is that a lot of resources focus on making monthly payments more manageable. It’s true that there are a lot of student loan borrowers who are having trouble making their payments each month. However, one thing that is rarely mentioned is that you often trade a lower monthly payment for a longer repayment period and more interest paid over the life of the loan.

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Close up of houses from Monopoly.
Money, Student Loans

4 Approaches to Solving the Student Loan Debt Problem in the United States

Student loans. It seems like you can’t get through the day without hearing about them lately. Or maybe I just feel that way since I’ve been working on an app design to help solve this massive problem. Whether or not the topic of student loans has been on your radar, it’s hard to ignore the glaring (and scary) statistics that have been coming out recently.

Student loan debt in the United States has surpassed $1 trillion. That’s nine zeros! Student loan debt is a bigger source of debt that credit card debt and car loan debt in the United States.

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