I borrowed a grand total of $88,000 in private loans (Sallie Mae) for college. Struggles with health (migraines, vertigo, etc.) forced me to take nearly six years to finish my degree.
Since that time, the total has ballooned out to $119,316.52 as I’ve only been able to pay the interest and have had to use forbearance requests on a few occasions. I continue to pay $360 per month but it feels as though that is a wasted effort and the total will never dwindle.
As you suggested, I don’t have any savings, nor a rainy day fund. I am a successful award-winning reporter, but it isn’t very financially rewarding ($26,000 annual salary). Suffice to say, I feel very trapped. I don’t want to go into a field I don’t like. I don’t care to spend my life paying off a debt that seems impossible. To be honest, I wish I hadn’t gone to school at all.
What is the best course of action to take? What are my options? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
My condolences for being a professional and award-winning reporter. The people who read or view the stuff folks like you produce, just don’t understand how little most talented reporters, journalists, and writer actually make. It’s pretty sad.
I’m a champion of do what you love. Trust me, there were so many things I could have done in my life that would have made me a shitload of money but I elected happiness over working at a job I hated.
When people are in the middle of what I like to call “Shit Your Pants Syndrome” and all panicked and afraid of life because of their debt it’s hardly the time to explain that if you are doing what you love to do and it pays crappy wages, the bonus is doing what you love. And that has real value.
So many people are out searching for those high paying, low responsibility jobs that never exist. Instead, most go for a higher paying job they hate to go to.
Dealing with your situation is more of a math problem than a complex life conundrum.
Here is what seems clear, you don’t make enough to service your debt. In fact, dealing with debt is stupid simple to do if we just look at the math. If we look at the bigger picture though we have to deal with this and How to Get Out of Debt. The Honest and Unvarnished Truth.
From a math point of view you do not have enough income to ever dig yourself out of this hole with regular payments that will stop your balance from growing or reduce it according to the original terms. That just is what it is.
If you could not pay $88,000 off on your income, you are not going to be able to pay off $120,000 in a way Sallie Mae will love. But that doesn’t mean there are not options.
There are a couple of really important financial responsibilities I need for you to get on top of right away. The first is working on that emergency fund. You know the need for that. The second is to start saving for retirement. Use my online calculator here if you are brave enough to see how wasting time before saving for retirement will cost you millions. By not saving a little each month today, you will have to save more that you don’t have in the future.
And trust me, you do not want to be among one-out-of-three people who say Social Security will be their only retirement income. Those people will need to decide what flavor of cat food they prefer or make a choice between heat, medicine, or food.
So here is the in-your-face truth nobody wants to hear, you will most likely need to default on your student loans and then have the balls to deal with what comes next.
When you default on your loans your credit will suffer, but it can be rebuilt. Your student loan balance will explode and you’ll wind up chased in collections. Who knows, you might even be sued over the bad debt. And let’s not forget that you will probably even get a big tax bill for the bad debt. But you can deal with that by reading this.
Defaulting on your debt is traumatic if you don’t know what to expect or how to deal with it. The fear and terror of facing this unknown has actually made people shit their pants. I’ve seen it happen. But if you want someone to coach you through this private student loan mess, consider talking to my debt coach friend, Damon Day.
But once your private student loan debt is charged off you can either negotiate with the servicer to repay the debt for less than you owe, enter a stipulated repayment plan you can actually afford when you are sued, or just hide out till the statute of limitations expires and then discharge the debt in bankruptcy. Yes, you really can discharge private student loan debt in bankruptcy. In fact, some private student loan debt can be discharged in bankruptcy immediately without waiting. If you don’t believe me then read this.
The options I just told you about, really happen. Just last week I was sitting with an attorney who told me he was able to settle a private student loan debt at court for a third of the balance, at 0% interest and ten years to pay. Other people are getting lump-sum settlement offers from Navient / Sallie Mae in the 30-40% range. Read This is How You Can Settle Your Navient Student Loan.
But by far one of the most important articles you need to read is Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan. The attorney who provided the tips laid out some excellent reasons to consider.