Get the app
Get the app

Join millions of investors on Stash

Investing, simplified

Start today with as little as $5
Get the app

They Paid Off Their Student Loans In Under 5 Years

October 02, 2018

3 min read

Get $100 in your Stash Invest account

when you refinance your student loans with LendKey*

Start now

Paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Take it from these three former borrowers, who each found creative ways to free themselves of educational debt in less than five years.

Here’s how they did it, in their own words.

1. “I Got A Job Overseas”

—Thomas Minter, 33, Engineer, San Francisco

Thomas’s story: I finished school with massive debt—$80,000 in student loans, to be exact. After exploring the interest rate details on my first few loan bills, I knew that if I ever wanted to achieve financial independence, I would need to get serious about paying off my student loans, fast.

How he did it: I’m an ecologist by training and never thought I’d follow my passion to the Middle East. But then I got a job in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, working on a large-scale coastal restoration project, and just like that, I went from a $40,000 annual salary to $90,000 that year, and then up to $120,000. My employer covered most of my expenses—including lodging and car—which allowed me to save, on average, 80% of my salary.

Inside tip: Insanely beneficial tax advantages exist while living and working abroad: As much as $100,000 of income may be excluded through the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Tax Credit, according to the IRS: If you were physically present in a foreign country for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months. As always, be sure to consult a tax professional.

Life after debt: [The final payment] was an automatic payment, but when the confirmation email came through, I literally giggled with excitement. I felt as though a world of opportunity opened up for me. It also made me think about where I would be, financially, if I did not have to pay back the loans and could have put the $80,000 into an investment portfolio!

2. “I Still Lived Like a Student”

—Kevin Han, 31, Lawyer, Minneapolis

Kevin’s story: After graduating from law school, I paid off $87,000 worth of student loans in 2 and a half years, by setting a goal to pay off my student loans as fast as possible.

What he did: I started off my career at a large law firm—‘biglaw,’ as we say in the legal world. I was tempted to keep up with my attorney peers, living in a luxury apartment, upgrading my wardrobe, going to fancy restaurants. It’s amazing, but every single new grad always seems to immediately upgrade their living situation. Instead, I lived like a student, in a “normal” apartment, in a college neighborhood.

Inside tip: I saved money by biking to work, instead of using a car. College students are awesome at figuring out ways to get around without a car. In my neighborhood, I see students walk, bike, skateboard, and rollerblade.

Life after debt: Once I paid off my student loans, I was able to take a new job that I thought would be a better fit and that paid $50,000 less than what I made as a biglaw attorney. Paying off my debt bought me freedom and flexibility to try things out in my career.

3. “I Moved Back Home”

—Danielle Desir, 27, Writer, Bridgeport, Connecticut

My story: I paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in four years by living at home with my mom and substituting rent for making extra monthly payments.

What she did: I lived on campus throughout undergrad, but my mom and I have always had a strong relationship, and that continued after graduate school when I moved back home. Her only ask was that I touch base with her with a “simple” text message if I would be out late. I was able to save about $1,600 each month by not paying rent; these funds went straight toward paying off my debt.

Inside tip: I used the “snowball method” of paying off debt—keeping my morale high with quick wins by paying off the loans with the smallest balances first. I also made a few large payments a year, using any savings I’d accumulated: I would see a dramatic decrease in my principal amount, and as a result, my interest per day would decrease as well. I also took advantage of the 0.25% interest rate reduction when I signed up for auto-pay.

Life after debt: I cried tears of joy that I was finally free from the financial burden that came with debt. It felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders.

By Sarah Robbins

Please see complete Bonus Offer Terms & Conditions.

*Stash is a paid marketing partner of LendKey. All content herein is for informational purposes only.

Next for you
Can I Pay Off Student Loans While Saving for Retirement?

Investment Profile

Bonds Worldwide

An International Bond ETF on Stash

Learn more
Explore more articlesChoose a topic to learn more about
social media politics love and money pop culture Retirement

This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, represents an assessment of the market environment as of the date of publication, is subject to change without notice, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice or opinion. Stash assumes no obligation to provide notifications of changes in any factors that could affect the information provided. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding any issuer or security in particular. The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and should not be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective.

Furthermore, the information presented does not take into consideration commissions, tax implications, or other transactional costs, which may significantly affect the economic consequences of a given strategy or investment decision. This information is not intended as a recommendation to invest in any particular asset class or strategy or as a promise of future performance. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will work under all market conditions or is suitable for all investors. Each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should not substitute these materials for professional services, and should seek advice from an independent advisor before acting on any information presented. Before investing, please carefully consider your willingness to take on risk and your financial ability to afford investment losses when deciding how much individual security exposure to have in your investment portfolio.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. There is a potential for loss as well as gain in investing. Stash does not represent in any manner that the circumstances described herein will result in any particular outcome. While the data and analysis Stash uses from third party sources is believed to be reliable, Stash does not guarantee the accuracy of such information. Nothing in this article should be considered as a solicitation or offer, or recommendation, to buy or sell any particular security or investment product or to engage in any investment strategy. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. Stash does not provide personalized financial planning to investors, such as estate, tax, or retirement planning. Investment advisory services are only provided to investors who become Stash Clients pursuant to a written Advisory Agreement. For more information please visit www.stashinvest.com/disclosures.