When I began thinking about what I wanted from this website, and how it includes being honest and real when it comes to my finances (and my life), at first I got really excited about sharing my own story (which involves A LOT of student loan debt). Then I became fearful. I started trying to convince myself that it’s okay not to share EVERYTHING – and realistically, that is a reasonable statement. It IS okay not to share everything. But I’m a therapist by trade, and my next question to myself was, “why am I feeling this way?”
It all came down to shame.
I was feeling ashamed of my debt. I was feeling shame that I had acquired so much student loan debt, shame that I hadn’t done things differently in college to avoid it, and shame that I haven’t paid off my debt yet (I have been out of college for six months, after all *rolls eyes at self*). Telling people about my debt would make me vulnerable, and vulnerable is the worst thing someone can be, right?
Vulnerability is a buzzword right now for a reason. And as much as I hate being cliché and using buzzwords, this one is important. Vulnerability helps people feel connected. It helps people feel like they aren’t the only ones going through something. Vulnerability is motivation and healing. I’m a naturally quiet, introverted, private person, so vulnerability is especially difficult for me. You often hear stories of the people who paid off SO MUCH debt in so little time. Maybe one day that will be my story. Maybe my story won’t go exactly like that. Either way, this is my story.
I currently have $76,000 in federal student loan debt after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree. My husband has $30,000. Together we have $106,000 of federal student loans that we are working diligently to pay off. Wow. It is surreal to type that huge number. That’s more than a mortgage for a decent home, where we live [update: it’s now August 2017 and we ARE buying a beautiful home for less than that].
In March of 2016, we had $121,000 of debt because in addition to the student loans, we had auto and credit card debt. We have paid off $15,000 of debt in eight months. That is a huge accomplishment, and I am hoping to get the rest of our debt paid off at an even faster pace.
I hope to help others through my story, to educate people about their finances, and to encourage others through real, open dialogue about personal finance. It’s hard to be radically open with others. It may be even harder to be boldly open with yourself. I’m trying to embrace being comfortable with vulnerability and preparing to get real.