Poster Child for…?

It’s 1 AM here in Austin, I’m completely exhausted, and I really should be fast asleep. However, I feel like there’s something that I must address before another work week–or work-seeking week, as is the case for (too) many people–gets under way.

Within the past six days, my story has been featured in media outlets such as WSJ, CNN/Fortune, Huffington Post, and Yahoo! Finance. It all started last Tuesday with an innocuous interview with John Byrne for a small website called Poetsandquants.com, a site that caters to pre-MBA individuals. The fit between his site and my story seemed obvious and I was excited to do the interview.

His piece got syndicated by Fortune, and then it got picked up by other Big Media firms. My blog went from getting about 300 hits a day to tens of  thousands.

Over the past few days, my inbox has been flooded with hundreds of emails thanking me for being an inspiration; some folks have asked for advice on how they can do the same thing.

When I started this blog, I wanted to write a low-key story to entertain close friends and family with my journey. I never promoted my blog anywhere save for a status update on my Facebook for the first five posts and the capstone.

I never thought I would be successful in paying down my debt within ten months, but I thought that I would have fun failing and let others have fun at my expense along the way.

But then I succeeded. Wildly. I saved and sold like I never thought I’d be able to. And over a month after succeeding, my blog was cast into the spotlight of the general public, a far cry from my original target market.

I’ve found that there are three main groups of people reacting to my story. The first group is comprised of people who are very similiar to my own demographic. They understand, for the most part, what the blog came to be about. Outside my close friends and family, the people in this group are my original target market.

From a fellow alum:

Hi Joe,

I am HBS ’08.  I just read the article about your quest, and had to send a note of congrats.  I took a very similar path out of school, and seem to be one of the few debt-free members of my class.  

 At any rate, rate congrats again and great job on the blog.

 <censored>

This email below is just one of the many I received from my former classmates and sectionmates:

Joe, why stop now? Keep going and pay off my HBS debt as well. That would make a great philanthropic story.  :-)

Awesome story, congratulations.

<censored>

To those who say that anybody making six figures can easily pay down their five-figure student loan within seven months, think again. The gentleman who sent the note above is a consultant for one of the top three (Bain/BCG/McK)–he didn’t exactly go non-profit, and is likely pulling down more than $150k/year. These are the folks to whom I was trying to tell my story.

The second group is comprised of people in (sometimes dramatically) different situations than my own that have been able to find inspiration from my blog:

I just finished reading your blog while sitting at work and honestly I’ve never been more motivated to try and get my life back together and fix the financial train wreck I’ve spent my self into. I’m 25 with 2 kids and I’ve been in the process of getting divorced for the last 3 years. Between my own irresponsible spending, credit cards and student loans, and the number my soon-to-be ex-wife has done on my credit I couldn’t even get financing for a pair of used tennis shoes. I’ve been reading articles from “get-out-of-debt” experts for several months now but they all seem so abstract and cliche, obviously not written by people who’ve been there and had that depressing feeling you get from a stack of bills and debt that’s as much as you make in a year. It’s really inspiring to see someone with the willpower to make a goal and stick with it like you did, I’m going to try to adapt what you did to my situation, I only hope can be half as disciplined as you are. 

 Thank you for the example and the inspiration, good luck with your future endeavors.

<censored>

I have a love-hate relationship with the email directly above. On the one hand, I love that I could inspire this man to turn his finances around even though we have such little in common. On the other hand, I hate the situation that he currently finds himself in, and my heart goes out to him and I wish him all the best in the world. I hope he meets success.

The third and final group is made up of people who are also in a different situation than mine, read the articles, consider my earnings and assets, and throw their hands up in the air and ask in completely understandable frustration and anger, “Why is this news? How does this help me?”

University costs are rising at an astronomical rate. Stafford rates are set to double to 6.8%. The job market sucks, with only one in two recent grads able to find work. How does a story about somebody making six figures with toys in his garage and money in the bank help the “average” grad?

For example, how does it help this person who emailed me yesterday?

Hello,

What if I only make $35,000 a year before taxes.  There is no possible way I can erase my $115,000 student loans. 

<censored>

Or this person, who emailed me this morning?

Good Morning!

 I read your story on Yahoo today and it was inspiring and quite impressive! I am also working on my MBA and will graduate with close to $120,000K in student loans (including undergrad).  I currently work full time and although I am blessed to have a job, it is relatively low paying. 

 I moved back home to try to save some money, but even then I am still struggling to make the minimum payments on my undergraduate student loans. What advise do you have?

Any ideas?

<censored>

To be honest, I’m afraid I don’t have any ideas. This person obviously took the right step to move back in with her parents rather than rent an apartment, and I have to assume she looked for a better job, but couldn’t find one. As far as next steps go, I really don’t have any ideas.  I’m deeply sympathetic to her plight, and if I knew what to say I would say it, but I just don’t. I’m sorry.

There’s a lot of anger in this country right now. And unfortunately, I’ve been asked to be the poster child and pose as a solution to rising university costs, rising student loan interest rates, and diminished job prospects. But making six figures as a single guy in a cheap city, I simply don’t fit the bill.

I’ll gladly sign up to be the poster child for gainfully employed, brainwashed over-spenders who need to be inspired to develop the right mindset to freedom-fight their way out of debt and get off the treadmill via frugality and anti-consumerism.

But a solution to a deep, multi-layered, interdependent problem? It is most certainly not “go find a six-figure job.” The solution is to fix the economy, put education costs back in check, and provide a low-interest funding mechanism to improve accessibility to education.

How do we do that? There are no easy answers, and I’m not going to make the slightest conjecture on how we go about righting the ship.

What I do know is that students have a duty to fulfill throughout all of this. They owe it to themselves and the rest of this country to pursue majors that have consistently proven to be high-ROI and to practice personal accountability and live below their means (e.g., no Starbucks and new cars) until their debt is paid off.

In the meantime, folks, we need more screen sharing of this and this and less of this.

Thanks and  goodnight!

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “Poster Child for…?

  1. Russell

    In your process, did you ever consider net worth effects? For example, if the student debt was at 6% interest but you invested the 90k in something that yielded 8%, then you’d improved your net worth position even though you had the debt.

    • Bruce

      This assumes that the utility gained by the increased net worth outweighs the drag, both in interest and on one’s mind, that debt has on the finances. I’m not just talking about pure interest rate calculations (which are hypothetical, no one knows what investments will return over a given period for ANY asset class), I’m talking about the “what ifs”, like “What if that six-figure job goes bye-bye?” or “What if I have an unplanned large expense ($5000 or more)”, which 90% of us will have within the next 10 years. Things like this can turn floating debt and investing the difference into a nightmare.

      Investments don’t put food on the table until they’re sold. Debt hangs over the monthly finances whether you’re worth $1000 or $1 million. Carrying debt to increase your net worth is risky at best. For every person who struck it big by doing it that way, there are a hundred more that lost their shirt.

      • Russell

        I didn’t mean to suggest that you did something wrong, was just curious your rationale. And by investments, I largely meant fixed income type securities that pay semiannual or annual payments — but I guess dividend stocks would also qualify for this.

        I never considered the loosing the job part, That is a valid point and interesting to my specific situation as well — I’m a student of finance, so I try to make models for everything but some things are hard to quantify. I don’t know what online resources you have utilized, but you may want to check out these websites going forward:

        http://www.mint.com
        http://www.lendingclub.com
        http://www.prosper.com

        You may find them interesting, if you haven’t already. The former is a live-feed budget software that syncs up to all your credit cards, loans, etc. The latter two are investment websites that are popular among higher income earners.

  2. Tina

    You are that dude! That dude who has no idea the impact your own feat can have on others. That dude that almost blindly stumbles into more and more success by making good choices and being willing to commit and stay committed. Congrats! Great story…similar to what I did two years before divorce. I knew I had a mission and had to stick with it and it worked. You have the ability to help others realize this can actually be done. Too many find themselves in debt and have no idea wat to do about it. Be the inspiration!

  3. I found your story on The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. He is fabulous. Congratulations on a job well done. You earned your six figure income and you should be proud. No class warfare here! I also loved your 90 day challenge. We are moving to a Plain Community and look forward to getting back to basics. God bless
    Jill

  4. Damie

    I am a 33 year old RN. I have 68,000 in debt. I make 56000 but child support before taxes. I have a 5 year old daughter. How can I pay them off in 5 years? They are finally consolidated. Payment is set at 356 a month. Have a child may make this a challenge but I’d really like to try so I can buy her a house. Thank you.

    Truly,
    Nurse Mama.

  5. Cheryl

    HI Joe, not sure if you saw 60 Minutes last nite. There was a story where Peter Thiel is paying students to drop out of college and go right to work on their own startups. The contrarian viewpoint is that this is only for the select few. Whether you agree with either viewpoint the large student loan debts in this country are sure getting attention.

    Second, you have inspired me to EXPLODE my MBA debt payoff. Its only 188.00 per month but its annoying. When I want an ipad3, I come to this blog, a new camera, back here again. New shoes, back here again. I do not want to hear anyone giving me grief on my MBA, it was one of the best things I have ever done. It puts my resume at the top of the pile in my field. I do a better job every day because of it. It has given me choices and that is an amazing thing to have now and for the forseeable future. I worked in a company an watched high seniority people get laid off and then after years of looking for a job, get jobs bagging groceries. Yes literally. Not for me, I want choices and if something happens to land firmly on my feet and the MBA is a great help with this.

    Lastly, the reason I love this blog so much is because of Joe, your authenticity. You let us in on not just that beautiful spreadsheet but your thinking on other parts of life too. Your journey was prompted by the student loan but you ran a marathon, got a great new job (in two weeks totally amazing) you know who your friends are and know the kind of girl you want to spend time with better now. So you got so much more than just NMHD! In my eyes as valuable as the debt paydown. Take care an hope we get to hear from you once in a while!

  6. Jared Wiskind

    Wow……what a great story. Like most everyone else I caught your story as it went viral over the web. I have been in a simialr situation as yourself. I graduated from Chiropractic school 6 years ago with a whopping $150,000 in student laons!! In retrospect, the education may not have been worth the price, but that is a story for another day. I have always paid my loans on time, have never taken a forebearance or delayed my payments….and six years later I currentlly sit at $128,000. I am happy that I have paid down over $20,000 of the loan, but boy is there still so much work to be done…..it’s utterly exhausting, and literally fatigues me to think about. There are days I pull up my account and just stare at it and watch the interest compund. Like you…getting this paid off is an emotional thing. I just do not want the control of my life to be at the control of someone else! I currently make 6 figures, but also am married and have two small children, so making extra payments can often be tougher and smaller in amount. But…..I continue to whack any amount at it that I can…………it is GREAT to see that it can make a difference. The emotional highs of making that extra payment are often followed by the emotional lows that there is still SOOO much to go. Either way, I appreciate you sharing your story as there are others out there like myself who are taking every stride available to us to get these loans paid off. It is good to hear the war cry of someone who has been on the battle fields and has come out successful on the other side.

  7. Ashley

    I really do find your story very inspiring and it also helped me think about realistic goals that can help me cut my debt of college loans. It is very discouraging with the amount of school loans I have and the choice of job I have chosen, which is working with animals. My job career does not offer the amount needed to pay off the debt that I have from school loans. I unfortunately am 29 and have always, since I was 17, had at least 2 jobs and even with working 7 days a week I couldn’t keep up with my bills and had to claim bankruptcy at 28. It was a really hard decision for me and I was never a huge spender on things, it just happened to be my jobs don’t pay enough to make ends meet with my $600 a month school loan payment plan. I have chosen my field and knew prior that I wouldn’t make much but I wanted to something that was important to me and that would make a difference. So with all this being said, I really feel that as a society we need to educate our teens prior to going to college to help avoid my situation and many others. Some of the things I know now, I wish knew prior to going to college. For instance, finances and what interest means. I almost changed my repayment plan to span over 30 years to make lower payments, but then I began thinking, in the end I would pay more in interest and almost spend four times more on my loans. That is one thing that I see many of my classmates do. I do respect your honesty in your blog telling that you make six figures and live in a cheap city bc it puts everything in more prospective to meet my realistic goals. So very much thank you for inspiring some change and making it seem doable to pay off debt.

  8. MJ

    I’m still hoping you might share what you would tell yourself, if you could write a letter to your 22 year old self, prior to accepting the student loan money. I believe education is a great investment, but could you have done your Harvard MBA on fewer loan dollars, or with a part time job, or spending less on your ‘wants’ ?

    I see all the cars in the university parking lots and can’t help wonder if student loans have propped up the American auto industry, and then seeing the full bars and cafes, the entertainment business as well.

    Please, give a shout out to all those students about to sign the loan documents.

  9. Christiaan

    I’ve never been into blogging mainly because I didn’t have the time. But your story caught my attention and I felt the need to continue following it for my own inspiration.

    I’d like to make a comment about the negative comments about your blog titled “Notes from the Out-of-Touch…” I feel for this individual. I’m sorry he can never get the wasted time he/she spent typing up such a pointless article. I agree, you are in a different place than most of us (me included) but that’s not the point of your success story. Focusing in on the fact that you make a lot more money than us does nothing in terms of finding a solution to our own debt problems. This is what’s wrong with us Americans–we’ve somehow fallen victim to an ‘entitlement’ mentality. Most people think they are entitled something just because they have this, or they’ve accomplished that, or conversely, because they DON’T have this or they DON’T have that. It’s unfortunate that your story has caused some people to feel a sense of anger; it’s obvious that these are the very people who don’t have any financial literacy, have no discipline, and walk around feeling sorry for themselves instead of being positive about life in general.

    I have $75k in student loans, $5k in credit cards, and $15K in a car I really have no business driving (a Mercedez Benz. I know what you’re thinking. It’s a long story–I bought it off emotion 2 years ago after returning from deployment when I found my wife with another man who happened to drive a fancier car than my Camry, so I rebelled and upgraded). I have a Bachelor’s in Accountancy and a Master’s in Taxation. You’d think I know how to get myself out of this debt situation. Well I do, but it’s hard when my ex-wife siphons $1,500 a month from me for child support. So I pay down my debt as much as I can and as often as I can. It’s a shitty situation I’m in. But, the reality is that I got myself in this situation and so I can get myself out. I also realize that this nightmare of mine was not created overnight so I can’t expect to get out of my debt problem overnight.

    I guess my point in all of this is that your story isn’t too far off from the rest of us. You are not out of touch. There is a part of your story that we can and should relate to. You simply applied some basic fundamental rules of financial literacy, which is live within your means. Cut your expenses and do what you have to do to increase income. I don’t mean to be simplistic, but that’s all that’s required. Any savings you manage to create should go towards paying down your debt. Next was to develop a plan that works and get it on paper. If we work the plan than the plan will work for us… but this takes discipline. This was something you demonstrated, and I think this too was the point that we all need to focus on.

    Thanks for the inspiration. It’s Monday 8:30am. Today is the day I get my finances back in order. And I’m going to start by first facing the ugly and recording ALL of my expense and then comparing it to what little income I have. It will be depressing I know but I need to accept the truth of my reality before I can move forward in the right direction.

    Thanks!

    • Kathleen

      Seriously Christiaan, don’t you want to rethink the wording of this sentence? “. . it’s hard when my ex-wife siphons $1,500 a month from me for child support.” Oh my God.

      My asumption is that you like your kid(s). I hope they never see this. :-(

    • Bob

      Agreed with Kathleen here. You DO have a child; the $1,500 is not about your ex-wife, the money goes to YOUR child.
      The new big picture you are trying to create for yourself is completely missing this point.

      • Christiaan

        Hi Kathleen and Bob,

        Thanks for reading my comment. As I said above I’ve never been into blogging so the thought that somebody would actually read my thoughts is amazing. At first, I wasn’t going to reply to your response but since you took the time to write me I figured I’d write back out of respect. I just don’t want to take away from the point of Joe’s blog which is what we are all following (not my personal divorce problems).

        Kathleen, So I’ve thought about my wording as you suggested, and you have a valid point. Furthermore, your assumption is right I do love my child. However, no matter which way we skin the cat it does not cost $1,500 a month to raise a 6 year old. Child care is only $500/mo, clothes are minimal-no diapers (besides, I pay half in addition to the $1,500), and I pay 100% of health/dental insurance (again, in addition to the $1,500) and 50% of any co-pay and medicines. Food is only $300. The costs that are actually traceable to my child and payable by her is $600 at best. Sure, we can factor in gas, time, her efforts etc. but there’s no indication that any of the extra monies actually goes to my child. In fact, I can only suspect where the other money goes after seeing my ex-wife show up in a brand new Altima, wearing brand new clothes/shoes, sporting big fancy name branded purses, and ‘bling-bling’ watches, etc… and SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A JOB.

        Differences aside, I’ve never missed a child support payment… ever. So I’m not some dead-beat dad that I might have made myself sound like. Please excuse me.

        Bob, my ‘big picture’ incorporates this point entirely. The child support is a fixed expense in my budget and takes priority of everything including my school loans. Why? because I can only hope that with the money I pay monthly my child has an opportunity to have a stable childhood, comfortable living, etc. Simply put, I hope that the entire $1,500 actually goes to the health/welfare of my child. I pray that she’s putting money aside for the future. (Without being intrusive, I can only hope for the best and expect the worst, right?) That said, I’m saving money for my child’s college in a Coverdell Educational Savings Account incase her mother isn’t.

        In closing, I think this thread entirely is missing the point of Joe’s accomplishments and words of inspiration. That said I will respectfully end my rant by saying thank you again for reading my comments and sharing your thoughts. I understand your remarks, especially since you don’t know the entire story behind my divorce situation.

        Very respectfully

  10. Allison

    I stumbled across your blog yesterday and literally spent the whole afternoon reading it. I’m a CPA who made some really stupid financial decisions in college, though I did manage to complete a B.S. and M.S. in 5 years, and now I have the albatross of 63k in student loans hanging around my neck. The weight of it has been stressing me out a lot lately and I feel like it hampers my entire financial future. Being the financial nerd I am, I have been throwing around various scenarios to figure out the best way to attack it, but my holdup was always trying to do too much at once (save for retirement, build emergency fund, etc.). Your journey has inspired me to go for it. While I don’t think I can pull off the extreme time frame you managed, I’ve set a goal of 27 months, aka by my 29th birthday, to eradicate this burden from my life once and for all.

    I think what people who criticize your situation fail to see it that yours is a personal journey. It can provide inspiration, but you have to shape it to your individual circumstances.

  11. Ash

    I’ve spent an embarassing amount of time the past few days reading about your experiences, and I’m firmly in Camp “I can relate, even though I make half your salary.” I also have about half your debt and half your expenses, so YAAAAAY, there’s hope for me!

    For what it’s worth, I’m usually the first to roll my eyes at entitled out of touch jack asses, and I didn’t get that from this blog. Maybe my own privilege is showing, but I think you handled the controversy with a lot of humility in this post.

  12. Bruce

    Sounds like you are a disciple of Larry the Cable Guy

    Git ‘r Done!

  13. Wisdomtooth2020

    Congratulations Joe! You did exactly what anyone could do…make sacrifices, work harder, make extra money! It may take others longer but they could also be free of student loans and other debt!

  14. Natasha

    Can I just say you are the best thing ever??? I am graduating from Harvard this week and this could not be more timely!! THANK YOU and if you ever need a girlfriend I am here for you ;) And yeah, that was a joke but still you are AWESOME!!

  15. Traci

    You are an inspiration. Your story is not really about a six figure salary, it’s about living below your means and being fully responsible for your spending. That’s a lesson people at any salary level can stand to learn. Present company included. I have been in the process of making major cuts as well and your story just acts as a confirmation that it can be done and proves that once you firmly commit to something, somehow the universe just line up and gets behind you.. ( once you make it through the “are you really serious” test. Rock on buddy! Really proud of you. Oh and I love your writing!

  16. Shawn

    Congrats man.

    But hey, it’s not hard to pay off debt like yours when you are making around 6 figures. Even the money you were spending after your cutbacks amounted to more than most people make before their taxes.

  17. Coupon Queen

    Thank you soo much for saying that I am a “more of this” Joe! You really have inspired me! I woke up at 4:30am and started pulling more things out to sell. I’m calling it my life cleaning instead of my Spring cleaning. I also made some phone calls and took care of some things financially that needed to be done a long time ago. I wouldn’t have bothered if I hadn’t read your blog. And because of you, I’ve had some of your readers come over to my blog and respond. They were so sweet! I’ll admit, I got all teary eyed when I started reading their posts. The encouragement was awesome!
    Don’t give the negative nellies another thought. You’re awesome for opening yourself up to everybody. You’ve really helped me and I know many others as well. You probably have no idea how many lives you have touched and I bet at times when reading everything it can be overwhelming. When that happens, just breathe.
    We’re behind you Joe, all the way!
    Thank you again, you’re a sweetie! :)

  18. Pingback: Look what happened to Joe Mihalic’s Readership! | theedrev

  19. Yissell

    Congrats again!! I read your blog for the first time yesterday and got super inspired!! Since most of my doctor friends have student debt twice mine, I had no urgency to pay it off… But that all changed! Today I contributed 9k to my student loans and will make every sacrifice to pay my 81k in 5 months!!!! Thanks again

  20. Kimberly

    $90,000 for a PhD that will come due in six months. Your blog is inspiring and your “voice” is entertaining. Keep writing.

  21. NISA

    Wonderful, powerful blog. I am no economist but the value of knowledge that I gained from your experience is very much appreciated. Live within one means… Congratulations!

  22. Cami Elaine

    On the matter of anger: I calculated my living expenses to a T last summer (I’m still in college, and I had a job that could sustain me at an apartment in my college town…but there are reasons I no longer have a job and I don’t wan to go in to them, but that’s my basic back story) and averaged the spending of my four months between classes, then multiplied that by 12.
    Essentially, if I kept up the way I had been, I would spend no more than 15-16K in a year. Thus, with your salary, as we know it (100K or better, is all) would have my loans paid off in 12 months — even the loans I have yet to take on for college — without changing a thing about my life. Soo…Yeah. I did get a little frustrated at the thought. But then I did the reasonable thing: instead of being pissy, I decided to check out your blog. And you know what I found?

    Yeah, someone that rubs me the wrong way, a bit (I mean, come on, from the sounds of it you had an extremely spoiled childhood…no offense I promise). But I also found my point of inspiration — a person I completely related to in many ways. You wanted to be free of the chains of student debt, and you were willing to do it all to get there. And your tactics were brilliant, and you learned a lot along the way. It’s practically something I’d expect to read in a novel, not come across in real life. Surreal. But extremely positive. It isn’t a life-changing story (as several people were likely expecting). It was an every day person that just happens to be better off than most people I personally know and spend time with. Some guy doing what we all dream of doing.

    Ah, this is going on long enough. Just wanted to tell ya’ not to get down about this. Sorry it’s so long. I wish you well, and hope to join you someday (hopefully relatively soon) in that life ‘off the treadmill.’

  23. Leslie

    Don’t let the haters hate, Joe! You’re still inspiring a lot of us. The point is that we shouldn’t be slave to our loans, even when we’re making a 6-figure salary and have refinanced our mortgages to a lower interest rate. The message that really resonated with me is how you’re now financially FREED to do what you want with the extra $1000+ per month that you would have otherwise been using to pay mostly interest on a very large, high interest rate loan. Congrats on offloading the $90K+ in 7 months!!!

  24. Mike

    “They owe it to themselves and the rest of this country to pursue majors that have consistently proven to be high-ROI and to practice personal accountability and live below their means (e.g., no Starbucks and new cars) until their debt is paid off.”

    Send this information to “JULIA” and all the other moochers in this country.

  25. I would first like to congratulate you on your achievement, as paying off that level of debt so quickly is an amazing feat. I must admit I have been intensely focused on paying off school loans as well, however will give credit where due, not as good as you. What are your future goals and would you consider releasing an instructional ebook to help those trying to also pay school loans down? I think you should call into the Dave Ramsey Show, and give a big I’m Debt Free scream!

  26. vanessa schmidt

    I’m in my first year of graduate school studying a masters of public health in nutrition and am extremely inspired by your blog, after a fretful night of stressing over the accumulation of student loan debt that has been accruing and will accrue over the next two years.

    I am prepared to follow the same financial regime that you yourself followed. I would also like to add that working in a low income area for four years is another option for loan forgiveness.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share you story!

    Vanessa

  27. Heather R

    Ugh, that third blog you posted made me want to smack that person! They were missing the whole point of this blog! You weren’t comparing yourself to anyone else or saying that it should be the same path for everyone, you were giving a detailed journey that YOU were on. Along the way, you happened to inspire a lot of people who could relate. Don’t listen to people who are critical of what you’ve accomplished or how much you make. You inspire me and many others to cut back and live financially free!

  28. Tiffany

    Not that I’m not extremely impressed with your accomplishment, because I am actually in awe of it, but I’m actually more interested about that spreadsheet you showed us! LOL Did you take the time to create all that yourself or did you acquire it online or via a program? I don’t have student loans because I joined the military and they are putting me through school, but my husband and I have $38K in credit card debt that I would like to see gone. We pay $1259 a month for all 7 of our cards which is ridiculous. We can certainly afford to pay our bills but who wants to! I love your ambition and would like to emulate a few of your tricks (selling stuff etc) and seeing how fast I can pay off my debt. Your story is truly an inspiration! I’m happy for you and your accomplishment and wish you all the best at attaining your $1M goal by 49. 
    Thank you for sharing!

  29. joy

    I am so glad I found your blog. My husband and I are both graduating medical school this year, and I needed the reality check to give me the motivation to take action on our loans. Your story is EXACTLY what I needed to read, and I hope you do not become discouraged from sharing your experiences with us.

  30. I know you are receiving a large amount of traffic as of late but I would be personally remiss if I didn’t agree that you are an inspiration for Americans, especially me. The issue for me isn’t that you make six figures and that this may have been “easy” for you, it’s that you made yourself accountable and you were able to recognize what it was going to take to create the life you wanted and you went out there, and you did it. It’s easy for Americans who are in debt to sit back and read your blog and other articles about becoming debt-free and want to become debt-free as well. It is a whole different story for those who are willing and committed to changing their situation. I just quit a $35,00/year job that I was lucky to get after graduation to move to North Dakota (jobless) on my minimal savings, live in an RV, and try work as many jobs as possible as well as attempting to start my own business tp pay off my $84,000 in student loan debt that I have accrued within a two year time frame. Some people think I’m an idiot, some think wise. Either way, I’m taking the steps necessary to be accountable for my own financial mess and my own financial future. You are an inspiration to me in your lessons of accountability. In my opinion, that is a main ingredient missing in today’s society. You help me know that I am on the right path and with enough dedication and sacrifice, I can achieve my goal as well. So, thank you.

  31. Lynn

    Good for you!!! Regardless of what you make, that was a large debt that you paid off in a short period of time. Ppl say that of course you paid that off so quickly because of your salary. Ok lets drop the last zero. So now you are making a salary in the low 5 digits and you paid off $9,000 in 7 months. Same difference. And amazing!! You still made sacrifices. Maybe not as much that some are going thru but more than others. And you are young enough to have lots of time for retirement. You are debt free and can now stash money toward that. Now leave the flask at home and go buy a beer!

  32. Chelsae

    This was a wake up call for me. I was convinced that going to an Out of State undergrad school was worth the money for a “good” education and the college experience. $100,000 in student loans is not worth it. I could not see myself going to any other school but I need to rearrange my priorities or I will be broke and 80 years old with my retirement savings going towards paying off interest on my loans. I wish this decision wasnt so difficult because school is such an important investment. My parents and grandparents have sent me dozens of articles of students in similar situations but none of them affected quite like this. It was because you went to harvard and ended up with a well paying job and a nice house, but still couldnt make ends meet/your future would suffer if something didnt change. I figured with a high paying job, it would be simple. But that is assuming I put all of my earnings into the loan and live in a box with no food. Even earning 100k, it would be difficult to do. I am only a second year student. I guess it isnt too late, but I just need to form a plan. Go to a cheaper school or find a way to get in state tuition. It may seem like a no-brainer, but I have been dealing with this choice since i was a junior in high school and havent decided on a solution. Thank you.

  33. Sara

    Hi Joe :) I’ve been reading your blog since your 2nd or 3rd posts, and was totally inspired by it (I too paid off all my loans right away after grad school!) But thats not what my comment is about…. I just wanted to say you are seriously cute! (Way better looking than I pictured you as I was reading… Lol!) Anyway, keep up the good work and keep being cute! ;)

  34. Hey Joe!

    Found your blog last weekend and have been reading from beginning to end. Thanks for your honesty and transparency. I paid off $76K of debt in 4.5 years back in 2001. That was tough…can’t begin to imagine how much tougher this was for you!

    Best –

    Kath

  35. congrats on setting a wonderful example.

    i do believe debt isnt bad, college debt interest is among the cheapest. i would have preferred to invest and yield a higher return then the cost of capital.

    but i do understand the psychological impacts of not having debt over oneself.

    love, investlike1percent

  36. Carrie

    Fantastic! I agree completely with everything you said. No matter how much (or how little) we make we still must be held accountable for our debt and live within our means (better yet – below them) in order to pay off what has been loaned to us.

  37. Kath

    Hey Joe –

    It’s been over a week since I finished reading your blog from beginning to end and I can’t tell you how much of an impact you’ve made on my choices. Everytime I want to deviate from my budget I think “Joe didn’t deviate and look where he is now”! Getting debt free is the daily topic in the break room at work. Close to 20 of my coworkers are now reading your blog. You really are changing the world.

    One question – now that your debt is paid off, will you still have housemates?

  38. I stopped checking back after your “final” entry and was shocked to see you’ve started up again. I’ve missed a lot!

    Don’t for a second think that your experience doesn’t count due to your high income. I know many people who are up to ears in debt but continue to eat out, buy things they don’t need, and egregiously waste money as they head straight for bankruptcy.

    Just as in weight loss and many other areas of life that require self-discipline, any time someone succeeds in an area that requires personal drive, there will be naysayers. Your success means that people with victim mentalities must either change or attack you to enable them to maintain their place.

    As far as the student loan debate goes, I’m not a part of it. I have $15k in student loans at what seems like a ridiculously high percentage–8.5%–but I am not complaining. What I am doing is moving out of my awesome apartment into a much smaller one and cutting out all extra trips, like you did, inspired by your choices, on a teacher’s salary.

    I already had a second job (babysitting), but since I’m a teacher, I am also teaching three different summer sessions of school. My goal is 30K in 18 months, and “even” on my salary at “half” yours, I know I can do it.

    Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Period.

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