To My 18 Year-Old Self

young-1208208_960_720Here we go with the debt standing:

Student Loan 003: $1,749.06

Student Loan 004: $4,464.77

Total Debt: $6,213.83

In 5 weeks and 3 days, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be debt-free! I’m so close I can feel it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle on April 23rd confident in both myself and soon-to-be husband that we are on solid financial footing. That’s a kind of peace that is priceless (other than the cost of paying off debt, of course).

 

While I feel great about the progress I’ve made, a huge part of me will always be burdened with regret about how debt has negatively affected my life.  Sometimes I lament this to friends, and being kind people, they assure me that I didn’t have a choice other than to take out student loans.  That student loans are “good debt”.

I lovingly disagree.

There is no good debt. What I know now at 31 that I ignored at 18 is every payment I make on debt steals from my future. I was like most 18 year-olds. I worked a job getting paid $9/hour, didn’t save a dime and opened up a bunch of credit cards. I went to a 4-year university because the education was supposedly superior. Every payment I made on my retail Express card prevented me from putting money towards college tuition. Every stupid thing I charged at Best Buy sometimes kept me from paying my rent or car insurance on time. Eventually, I racked up enough debt that I took out more student loans over the amount of tuition and books to finance a lifestyle I couldn’t afford.

Now, 6 years after graduating, I’m paying off the mistakes of my 18 year-old self. I stopped contributing to my 401k and IRA to pay off my debt. It’s temporary, yes, but I’m losing out on a company match and compound interest that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars one day. Because I had so much debt in college and after graduating, I wasn’t able to take an unpaid internship to further my career skills. I had to work a job I hated to pay bills I didn’t need to have!  I also stayed longer in Arizona, a place I loathed, because I couldn’t afford to move after college. Being in debt robbed me of choices.  Period.

 

I could’ve done thing differently…

I started working when I turned 16. I came from a low-income, single-parent family, so I knew money was tight. I could’ve saved that money instead of blowing it on clothes and fast food. I also could’ve had a conversation with my mom about how college would be paid for well before I filled out the FAFSA. I also could’ve worked like a maniac in the summer months in high school instead of watching soaps and eating junk food on the couch.

Here’s the big blow to my reality: I could’ve went to community college instead of paying 3 times as much at Arizona State for tuition.  I could’ve gotten a roommate instead of opting to live on my own.  I could’ve taken 15-30 minutes a day to cook and pack my meals instead of eating out for lunch and dinner.  I could’ve gotten over myself and realized that college kids are supposed to be poor and exist in crappy apartments.  I could’ve said a big “F-U” to Sallie Mae and paid cash for college.  And yes, it’s possible.

My long-winded point is this:  once I got hip to Dave Ramsey’s way of thinking, I realized that I don’t want to waste a second more of my future on mistakes of the past.  Debt holds us back from the best version of ourselves and narrows our options.  “Good debt” is a myth.  Think about that every time you feel the itch to “charge it”.  How much of your future self are you willing to give up for something you don’t need?  If your answer is “None”, turn the corner and don’t look back.

Now it’s time to hear from y’all!  What are some things you’ve had to turn down due to your debt-load?  How have good or bad financial decisions affected your life?  Comment below and be sure to subscribe and “like” this post!

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