Thanks for visiting another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. Here we have Amanda Page of Dream Beyond Debt. Amanda is a college professor, writer and debt-fighter working to pay off more than $48,000 in student loan debt that she’s carried for 15 years. By making a decision to attack and pay off her student loans and log her journey on her blog, Amanda has successfully repaid over 95% of her total student debt.
Besides being a debt-repayment expert, Amanda has a love for the outdoors stemming from growing up in Appalachia, loves to travel and nap on planes as much as she enjoys Waffle House stops on road trips, and she can clean up at pop culture trivia. We’re excited to share Amanda’s story and advice with you!
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
Years ago, when I was working an office job, a couple of financial advisers bought lunch for our team and pitched their services. I made an appointment and went to see them. I had a list of things I needed to do: pay off this and save for that. We had a great conversation about the travel I wanted to do. When I finally asked, “What should I do?” one of them said, “It seems like you know what to do, so keep doing it. We can’t really help you beyond that.” They suggested that I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and sent me on my way. They didn’t try to sell me on their services or pressure me to invest in anything I wasn’t ready for, and I appreciated that. I also appreciated the validation. I did know what I needed to do. Now, that doesn’t mean I did it, but it did make me realize that more often than not, we know. We just need to trust ourselves.
What’s your advice for those who have student loans?
Make a plan and take action! Don’t let them loom over your life. I wish now that I’d taken a couple of years in my late twenties or early thirties and paid those loans back in a hurry. Now that they’re almost gone and I feel the weight of them off my shoulders, I wish I’d done it earlier. But, now is better than never.
How do you stay ahead on paying your student loan debt back?
I stay ahead mostly by keeping my eye on the prize. I committed to this. I made a decision to dedicate a year to rapid repayment, and amazing things happened. I also take daily action – either checking my spending, reading about personal finance, applying for extra income opportunities, or working for extra income.
If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?
You DO NOT have to sustain the lifestyle that you experienced at home. When you get to college, look at your own situation and finances, not at what you left behind at your parents’ house. If you were used to dinners out twice a week and spending on whatever you desired, take a hard look at your spending habits. Take a hard look at your parents’ spending habits. What can you learn from their successes? Or their failures? Then make your own financial way.
I would also tell my 18-year-old self to trust what I want more than the advice I was being given. When I told the freshman academic adviser that I wanted to be a writer, she didn’t ask me any questions about what type of writing I wanted to do or what authors I admired. She said, “Well, then you need to major in Organizational Communication.” I was like, “What is that?” I never got a clear answer. Instead, I floundered for a few years until I ultimately designed my own course of study.
Ultimately, I think college is about figuring things out for yourself. You can find wonderful mentors and learn many amazing things, but the biggest, boldest lesson will be to make your own way.
Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student loan debt?
If I’d known I would be in debt to go to a school that never felt quite right, I would have fought harder to find the funds to go to my top choice school. (That doesn’t mean I regret my college experience. I met one of my closest friends there, as well as my mentor, and I wouldn’t trade knowing them for all the debt freedom in the world.)
Any other financial tips for our readers?
Track your spending. Reduce your living expenses. Get serious and commit to repayment. Then, trust the experiment. It may take you longer than expected, and that’s okay. The most important thing is forward momentum.