College debt­­­­­­­­­­­­­—­­a fact of life?

How a Portland couple paid off their loans in eight months

Student loans. Two words that are sure to send a shiver up the spine of anyone enrolled in a university.

How a Portland couple paid off their loans in eight months

Student loans. Two words that are sure to send a shiver up the spine of anyone enrolled in a university.

It’s the looming reality that we all hope will just magically turn out to be a bad dream. Yet, on graduation day, loans stand next to us on the podium, ready to walk, arm in arm with us into the rest of our lives.

The majority of college graduates in our country have these unwanted houseguests around for years, with seemingly no deadline for departure. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans now owe $867 billion in student loans. This is more than the nation’s $693 billion credit card debt. We have officially made education more of a burden than indiscriminate spending.

Getting a degree equals getting into debt, and this has become our society’s norm. But it’s a norm that is causing a great amount of stress—in fact, a combined report by the Pew Research Center and the Chronicle of Higher Education last year revealed public anxiety over the cost of education has never been higher.

So what’s a university student to do? Just take it lying down? Is our only option to spend years paying off debt that ends up being thousands of dollars more once interest has been factored in? One Portland couple certainly didn’t think so.

Ali and Rachel Hadiashar began last year with over $69,000 in student loans. But, rather than settle into a lifetime of payments, the 30 somethings said, in an interview with The Oregonian, that this was just not an option.

“If we kept paying the minimum amount, it would have taken us 25 years to pay it off, and we would have paid $28,000 in interest,” said Ali. The Hadiashar’s decided on a different timeline—one year. They started a blog documenting their journey to delete their debt and said that this not only helped to keep them accountable, but also provided a forum for discussion around the often taboo topic.

Incredibly, they exceeded their own expectations by paying off their loans in just eight months.

So, how did they do it? The number one contributing factor, they said, was increasing their income, while at the same time decreasing their spending.

To do this, Rachel took a break from her profession as a photographer and got a job as an office manager. Every one of her paychecks went straight toward their debt. This is great advice for those of us who are ready to get our dream jobs and start doing what we’re passionate about right out of the blocks. Sometimes, you have to wait.

This brings up two questions. If more Americans were willing to stop spending now in order to plan for the future and wait to find the perfect job, would there be less debt and therefore less stress?

We’re given the message early on that getting ahead is crucial, and yet, we have our whole lives to do so. The decision to take a less desirable job or two for a year, versus 25 years with a cloud hanging over one’s head, seems like a no-brainer. And, yet, the numbers suggest otherwise.

We want it all, and we want it now. We live in a society that screams we have the right to anything and everything we wish at the click of a mouse. And, though we might wear the label of “poor, starving student,” we still somehow manage to find the money every week to throw back a few drinks, meet up for coffees and pizzas, and, well, you name it. The amount of iPads and iPhones around campus suggest that we’re not hurting too badly in the electronics department, either.

We’re spoiled. We assume that tomorrow will never come as long as we don’t think about it. Well, let’s hope we’re learning a little more than that in our pricey classes. We need to be willing to face the facts and realize that the epidemic of debt in this country doesn’t have to spread to us. We’ve been fed a reality that is just not true.

Perhaps we won’t be able to pay off our debt in eight months. But if we are willing to limit ourselves a little—eat out less, do without the latest gadget for now, stop recycling our wardrobe every few months—we could potentially pay it off long before we have our own kids, who’ll start the cycle all over again.

There’s no way around it. Getting into debt is virtually unavoidable in our current system. Still, getting out of it shouldn’t be.

We are empowered by our ability to espouse mathematical, philosophical and scientific theories. The uncomplicated economic theory of “save more, spend less” could empower us to live sustainable rather than unattainable lives.