By Malia Keirsey
One-third of students have so much debt that they regret college. Here are some strategies that you can use to belong to the other 2/3rds and make a life that is ultimately debt free.
A few years ago a study by Wells Fargo revealed that a third of millennial students regretted going to university. Why? One word: Debt. The debt that they received was so big and the time it took was so crippling that these students felt that they would have been better off going to work straight away, even though it would have reduced their earning powers for their whole lives.
Of course, if 1/3rd of students regret going to college, then 2/3rd don’t. So what’s the difference?
They ignore the advice to pursue their dreams
Dreams are wonderful things. They keep you going at the end of the day. They give you something to live towards. They do not, however, make most of us make very good university choices. Let’s face it, there are more than enough arts majors out there and the direction of psychology has probably received a little bit too much attention as well.
Instead of focusing on fulfilling some flighty fancy, try to focus on filling one of the many areas where companies are desperate for employees. According to payscale.com some of the best-paying degrees are:
- Petroleum engineer
- Systems engineer
- Actuarial Science
- Chemical Engineer
- Computer Sciences.
(check out the site for more ideas).
Remember, just because you spend some time doing something that pays well doesn’t mean that you have to do it for the rest of your life. You can always become a painter, or find ways to help abused children later in life. Reject the instant gratification mindset. Work towards your dreams.
They don’t decide to worry about their debt later
The tricky thing about debt is that if you don’t pay attention to it, it will keep on growing. For that reason, you’ve got to pay attention to it from day one. That means finding loans that have low-interest rates (even ½ a percent lower can make a huge difference in the long run due to the nature of compound interest) and finding any chance you can to pay at least some of it back, so it doesn’t have a chance to grow out of proportion.
They also take steps to restructure their debt whenever possible and aren’t afraid to ask for financial assistance from friends, family, and the corporations that are out there.
They continue to live like students for a little longer
Now, I understand that once you’re done with university and you’re starting to earn a bit more money, it can be very tempting indeed to splash out. Buy a new car. Get a house. Maybe buy those shoes you wanted.
There are two things to consider before you follow that dream. The first is, debt is debt. It means you owe money and should pay it back – the sooner the better so that you’re out from under that debt mountain.
The second is, once you take a step upwards in your spending habit, taking a step the other way is very hard indeed. You get used to spending more money quickly and it really hurts to downgrade again.
So don’t take the step up! Or only take a small one and spend all the other money on paying down your debt. If you really focus on spending down your debt for the first year or two, then you can take a big debt out of the mountain. That not only means the mountain is smaller, but also that the interest is smaller as well. That’s a double win.
They don’t take a year off right after college
Yes, of course, you want to see the world. Yes, of course, it’s all a great adventure. The thing is, you don’t have to go and see the world when you freshly graduated. You can actually wait a few years, get rid of your debt and then head off into the big wide world.
There are plenty of people who only start traveling when they’re in their late twenties or possibly even their early thirties. Yes, I know. Disappointing isn’t it? But then, so is struggling with debt until you’re 35. And one year of not paying off your debt can add years of struggling down the road.
They work while they’re in college
There are so many ways that you can earn money while you’re at college. It doesn’t even have to take all of your free time. Even just having a job that you do a couple of hours a week that gives you a bit of income can make a huge difference.
That means doing some bar work. Or it can mean using your degree and joining a writing site like Writing judge. When you’ve got a job you’ll end up with a lot less debt for three reasons.
- The first one is because you’ll (obviously) make more money.
- The second is that you spend less time spending money, which is also a useful way to keep yourself from going too deeply into debt.
- And thirdly, it will give you a lot more experience, which in turn will make the job that you’ll get coming right out of college that much better paid.
So bite the bullet. Join the working world before you quit the college life!
Embrace experiences instead of things
Sell what you don’t need. When you need something for a little while only, rent it and then return it. Live a minimalist life. Focus on enriching your mental life instead of your physical one. Not only will it be much easier to control your spending (leaving you more money to pay off your debt) but it will make you much happier besides.
Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice does it? So make sure that you focus on the right things. If you find it doesn’t work for you and you really want a bit car, then you can always do so after you’ve tried out minimalism and paid down your debt.
It is possible to live debt free much sooner than you may think. Here’s the story of one guy paid down 90k in debt in three years. So it is very possible. And yes, it might not be exactly comfortable, to begin with, but the act of actually getting your debt under control can be highly motivating. It can make you feel like you’re finally getting your problems under control.
And after you’ve paid down your debt, You’ll not just have a huge amount more freedom, you’ll also have financial discipline – and that is nothing to sneeze at. It’s something you need to run a household and a company.
So, fight the debt demon. It’s not an easy battle – but then nothing life that’s worth having is ever easy. The good stuff is the tough stuff. That’s because it isn’t just something you’ll end up having, but also something that will help you build character. And that is, in the long run, far more valuable than anything that you can hold in your hand.
Malia Keirsey is an enthusiastic writer and guest contributor. She has finished the University of Chicago with master’s degree in Sociology. Now she’s working as freelance web designer and blogger. Her main topics of interest are writing, digital marketing and education. Follow @MaliaKeirsey on Twitter.