Welcome to another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have MoneyManifesto.com’s Lance Cothern sharing his financial expertise with us. Lance started his blog back in 2012 to share his journey of paying off his wife’s student loan debt, which was more than $80,000. They we were able to pay the debt off in less than three years, while still managing to enjoy life in Florida as well as traveling for free through the rewards they earn from credit cards. Let’s see what they have to share with us!
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
I read a lot of personal finance blogs when I was in college. I’d have to say the best piece of advice that I had read and that stuck with me is you need to spend less than you earn and invest the rest. Spending less than you earn and saving or paying off debt is a good start, but once you have an emergency fund set up and your debt paid off, you need to start investing for your future.
What’s your advice for those who have student loans?
My biggest piece of advice is to figure out all of the details of your student loans so you know exactly what you owe. Once you have a clear picture of everything you owe, what the interest rates are, what the minimum payments are, whether interest rates are variable or fixed, etc., then you can make a solid game plan for how you want to pay off your loans.
How do you stay ahead on paying back your student loans?
Staying ahead on your student loan payments requires dedication. You have to spend less than you earn so you can make your payments on time or make extra payments to pay the debt back faster. My wife and I lived on a very strict spending plan and earned extra money to pay down her student loans in less than three years, so it is doable.
If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change much to be honest. It’d be nice if I could find my future wife and help her get a better deal on her student loans, but I honestly believe the process of paying off the $80,000 put us in a better place, both in our relationship and financially, going forward.
Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?
Both my wife and I went to public universities in Virginia (Radford University and James Madison University, respectively) and we wouldn’t change a thing. We both enjoyed our college experiences and learned a lot in the process. However, if we had gone to private schools and taken out even more in student loan debt I bet we would have wished we went to public, in-state universities.
Any other financial tips for our readers?
Don’t let your student loan debt define you. Yes, it can be a challenge and be overwhelming at times, but student loan debt can be overcome! We managed to pay our student loans off aggressively, but even if it takes you five, 10 or 15 years to pay the debt off, it shouldn’t change who you are. If you feel completely overwhelmed, make sure you take the time to figure out exactly where you stand and then make a game plan for how you plan to make your situation better.