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  • Jenn Steliga

3 things you can do right now to go to college debt free

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

Focus on thriving, not surviving by putting these three things into action NOW

The amount of debt that our college graduates are carrying with them past graduation is tremendous; and it’s stopping them from pursuing the careers they love, buying homes and cars, and saving for their future. The average student graduates with $35,000 in student debt with an avg monthly payment of $393. That’s just the average. Also consider that as student debt has risen so also has the cost of education. According to a US News and World Report survey, tuition and fees over the last 20 years has climbed 154% for private institutions, 181% for out-of-state tuition and fees, and 221% for in-state tuition and fees.

Wouldn't it be great if our kids could start off life without any debt?

The numbers are astounding. But what’s more astounding to me is the psychological impact this debt is having on individuals, families and our society at large. We’ve started to believe this is normal, and that we have to live with it. I want to challenge you to think differently. Don’t accept normal. Put yourself in the shoes of a graduate (or even a non-graduate who still has to pay off the loans they took while they were in school) who is trying to balance paying off student loan debt and living their life. How do they afford a home? They can choose to go into more debt by getting a mortgage. What about a car? More debt. Furniture and other things for their new home? More debt. That’s the choice most folks feel they need to make because they can’t see a way out of the debt cycle.

The cycle is never-ending and has our young people stuck. Even when they make good choices after college by NOT taking on more debt and trying their best to pay down school debt quickly, they are still in a position where the dollars spent on those loan repayments are not being spent to the best of their ability, namely saving for their future.  And sadly, a lot of graduates find themselves in a position where they have to pick a job they hate just in order to pay the bills. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our kids could start life off in pursuit of what they love, unshackled by the weight of student debt?

Unless something changes with our perception of what “normal” is, this cycle will continue, and our children’s children will be saddled with debt as well. This is no way to live. 

Today I offer you 3 things you can do RIGHT NOW to start and change your attitude on what should be normal for yourself, your kids or your grandkids when it comes to getting an education.

1. Write down 3 reasons why a debt free degree would be beneficial. 

Have an honest heart-to-heart conversation with yourself, your spouse, or any accountability partner you choose about what debt is really doing to your life, or the life of someone you know. Is it worth it? Really … is it worth it? Consider the depression and anxiety that most folks in debt carry with them. Jot down 3 reasons why embracing debt-free education could change your life for the better. You don’t need to believe yet that you can achieve this, but I want you to start envisioning what it might feel like for you, your child(ren) or grandchild(ren) to start life off without the shackles of debt.

Post that list where you can see it every day until you begin to believe that you too can do this! If you need some help getting the juices flowing, pick up a copy of Anthony ONeal’s new book, Debt Free Degree for inspiration.

2. Communicate with your child! 

If you are a parent, start talking to your kids NOW about how you will fund their college education. Start to familiarize them with your expectations of a debt-free degree and what that will look like for your family. Maybe you’re in a financial position where if you start saving now you can pay for their tuition and fees in cash (but don’t stop your own retirement savings to do so). Or maybe you’re working hard to get yourself out of debt and you can’t promise your kids you can pay – that’s OK! Just tell them that … and lead them on your journey together towards a solution. 

3. Start to familiarize yourself with what really makes a school valuable.

Too often we get hung up on the prestige and reputation of a school. Look past that and start to familiarize yourself what really makes a school valuable. Does it offer a field of study your child is genuinely interested in? What’s the student to teacher ratio? Are good mentors available to help guide students on their chosen career path?

To get started, check out some of Gallup’s recent research on what makes college worth it for the long-term (see link below). Then, start to compare these criteria with affordable schools to help yourself, your child, grandchild or someone you care about start to determine what school will be the best fit for your goals and wallet.

Stay tuned for more good information on graduating debt-free! In the meantime, if you think you could benefit from financial coaching to help you on this journey, please click here to schedule a free 15-minute consultation. During that call we can determine together if you’d like to pursue all the advantages financial coaching can offer.

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