Welcome to another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have Poorer Than You’s Stephanie Kibler sharing her personal finance with us today. Poorer Than You discusses money issues for college students and 20-somethings.
Stephanie Kibler is a one-time film school dropout, freelance writer and marketer, and part-time fossil-handler. She started her personal finance blog just days after dropping out of film school due to a combination of financial problems and a total lack of artistic film-making skill. The name of her blog, Poorer Than You, was a tongue-in-cheek jab at her fellow film students who had a hard time understanding why she dropped out of film school due to finances. Stephanie felt like the only kid from a poor family in film school, so she started Poorer Than You to learn her way out of her money problems and to help others who felt like they were alone in their broke-ness.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received
“Get into the habit of saving something. Even if you’re flat broke. Especially if you’re flat broke.” I wish I could remember where I got this from, because I owe that person a great deal. Toward the end of college and just after, I was even more broke than when I started “Poorer Than You.” I was at the peak of my student-loan-debt and I had some credit card debt still hanging around from trying to finance my student films before changing my major. But I started putting $5 a month into a savings account that I had labeled “Retirement.” Even though it was such a small amount, the habit became the important thing. I stuck with it, every month putting something away. Seven years later, my retirement savings outweigh my student loan burden, and my net worth is in the positive!
What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?
Know what you owe. When I was in school, I was amazed at how many of my friends didn’t know how much student loan debt they were accumulating, and some of them didn’t even know if they had any student loans or not. Get involved with your own financial situation, because no one will ever care about your money more than you do – not even your parents. And if you’re still in school, check to see if any of your loans are unsubsidized (which means they’re acquiring interest as we speak!) and try to pay the interest on those loans before you graduate.
How do you stay ahead on paying your student loans back?
Automated payments are my main weapon against student loan debt. For starters, it’s just a good idea to prevent you from ever forgetting and having to pay a late fee. And as an added bonus, many student loans give you a discount for setting up automated direct debits – usually 0.25 percent off your interest rate. Not a bad deal for setting up something that helps you in the long run, anyway!
I’ve also been known to use a windfall, such as a bonus check or a tax refund, to knock a big chunk out of my highest-interest-rate student loan when I can. I paid off the “worst” one that way last year!
Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?
Strangely, no. As a 17-year-old, I was determined to go to a good film school and become a great filmmaker. I ended up falling flat on my face: finding out that I didn’t really have any artistic vision or talent in directing actors, and having a sizable debt burden to show for the lesson. But I had chosen a hands-on film school that put a camera in my hands on day one, allowing me to learn that lesson early enough to change my major. That was the benefit of going straight to a private school with a hands-on film-making program, versus a community college or public school where I would have spent two years learning theory and not learning about my own skills. Since film class credits don’t tend to transfer well into other majors, I would have had to start my degree all over if I had gone to a different school.