20 for 2020: #1 Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt

Item #1 crossed off the 20 for 2020. Sort of. OK, not really, though important progress is underway.

After returning from the Peace Corps in December 2015 and it became clear that repayment loomed following deferment while serving, I took the easy way out and set up those recurring minimum payments and figured I’d come back around to it when in a better position to do so. After all, I was just settling into a new job, part-time only, and my soon-to-be husband and I were figuring out our reintegration on other urgent levels, like housing.

And then I got busy with work. And life. My job went full time, my now husband and I married and bought a house. Life was busy and good, and I really hardly noticed those minimum payments trickling out of my checking account every month. As these last few years have gone by, I’ve lost touch with even a good guess as to my balance, except to say it was in the low 5 digits, and besides, I was smart and consolidated when interest rates were just a hair over 3%. So what did I really have to worry about anyway?

What I have to worry about, I decided at the end of last year when I added this item to my 19 for 2019, was that it’s been a dozen years since I left grad school, I didn’t rack up nearly the debt of many of my peers because I benefited from state and federal programs that supported me through most of my lengthy education, and if I didn’t have it paid off by now, it should be a figure manageable enough to dispense with in short order, and I just wanted to get it over with once and for all. So I added it to my my list for last year, immediately dialed back my commuter and 401K payroll deductions to make ready for plumping that automatic monthly student loan payment, and then promptly got distracted by most of the other items, like yarn crafting, reading, seeking joy, and exploring side hustles, all worthwhile endeavors, though they weren’t paying down my student loan debt.

So right up to #1 with it this year, and I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the balance is still in the low five figures and at this rate, my projected payoff date is another decade away. The good news is plentiful—now I know and there is plenty I can do. I immediately increased my monthly payment by something like 150%—it won’t dial in the payoff horizon like I’d like it to, though I’ll take any improvement at this rate, since my original intention of dividing the balance by 12 and paying it off in full by the end of the year is a non-starter. More good news is the relativley low balance and interest rate. Definitely want to put the whole thing behind me, though I know others with six figures of student loan debt paying more than twice monthly what I am now and that’s only covering interest. Fingers crossed for public service loan forgiveness. Still, I’d like to do more.

And it occurs to me, that having a goal like paying down debt is a common reason that people side hustle. It wasn’t my original motivation, though with the thought and consideration I’ve put into rolling out a side hustle of my own, it occurs to me that I can choose to not simply roll 100% of profits back into the side hustle to build it, rather, I’m considering my options for putting aside a percentage of proceeds for this personal financial goal, and that is exactly what I will do, again, smartly combining items from my 20 for 2020 as force multipliers, like taking a day hike at IKEA to gather resources that are enabling me to tackle multiple items on this 20 for 2020 list. Items, by the way, that will, in turn, support other goals on the list, like developing my side hustle and organizing my closet and garage.

Onward and upward! Did you make a 20 for 2020 list, and how’s it going as we draw close to the end of January?

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