My story is probably going to sound so familiar for many of you. I graduated in 2013 with a $40,000 salary and $30,000 in student loan debt, with a degree in Political Science. I still was able to pay off my student loans in 4 years.
I was working in finance operations, and I absolutely hated my job. After a few months, I immediately began looking for jobs in consulting, after meeting a girl who was a consultant and found out she was making 6 figures in her mid 20’s.
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I read several books on consulting, and added 500 random people on LinkedIn that worked at the top 20 consulting firms. I set up times to talk with about 30 of them over the span of a few months and got referred by some of them to about 5 jobs. I hadn’t made any payments on my student loan debt, as I was deferring them.
I got a job offer for $65k and had to move from Raleigh to Atlanta, but with that salary increase, would finally be able to make some progress. I kept living off my $40k salary, but that extra $25k now went all towards student loan debt repayment, about $1,000 per month.
After a year, I was laid off and spent 4 months unemployed before I found my next job. During that time I applied for over 350 jobs, interviewed at 20 companies, before I got the one I wanted, making $73k at a fortune 100 company.
I can already hear the crowd that says, “How lucky to get that big of a raise!” Well, it wasn’t luck. I majored in Political Science, remember? I purposely went into a business related field where the ceiling for pay would be higher, and I would develop Excel and Powerpoint skills that would be transferable to almost any corporate strategy type job. Also, keep in mind I applied at about 500 jobs total as I transitioned between jobs those 2 times that I did.
Save, save, save
I basically stuck to a 40% savings rate on my take home pay, and after establishing a $10,000 emergency fund, everything else went toward loans. I drove a 10-year-old car, even if it did break down frequently, lived with roommates for all 4 years that I’ve been post grad so far, so paying $750-$900 for rent instead of $1500 like some of my friends, and not having a car payment definitely helped. My goal was to build wealth and tackle those student loans.
And if you NEED a new car, you can buy a $10,000 car that’s decent, 4% interest, and owe $200 a month, that’s not THAT bad. But where people really mess up is buying a new car and owing $30,000 on it, paying $450-$500 a month; don’t do that.
Fast forward through years 2-3 and paying $1,000 a month for 30 months is essentially how I paid off all those loans. Now I’m a little behind on retirement savings so I’m doing the following:
1) contributing 5% of my pre-tax salary to get a 70% employer match on those contributions.
2) maxing out my Roth IRA ($5500 per year, putting it in vanguard index funds) and
3) contributing 20% of my gross salary to ESPP (buying company stock at a 15% discount and immediately selling it; free money)
I plan on buying investment properties to generate passive cash flow to try and be retired before 40 so I can travel and have some fun. I could write a whole different article about real estate investing, but that’s for another time.
- Live with roommates
- Create a budget so that you can save 40-50% of your take home pay, if you can
- Contribute 300% of your minimum payment to your student loans (so if the minimum is $300, try and do $900)
- Buy a used, cheap car for about $10,000 if you have to
- Try and take certain skills in your current job and leverage it to get you your next job
- Pursue higher-paying jobs even if you feel unqualified and stretch your experience to try and fit some of that new role. If you get the new job, you’ll learn it as you go so don’t be too worried about feeling unqualified.
- Also… Don’t carry credit card debt.