How Our Debt is Holding Us Back

Living the American Dream often involves going to college and taking out student loans. Today’s post is from my friend Cassie, who is sharing her experience on this topic. Enjoy!

We all know the image: child grows up, heads to college, and graduates. They pick a graduate program and strive to be their best. They work as hard as they can until they receive that crisp, piece of paper in the mail. They have accomplished their goals and there it is: the finish line. They apply to jobs and score their dream job – it starts the minute summer ends.

Now, as someone who has attempted to go through with this so-called-American-dream, I call bologna! Sure, college is a great experience; it’s important in teaching maturity, independence, and structure as well as important functions for specific job positions.

I mean, you can’t really fulfill your dream of being a teacher if you don’t learn about how, right? And you most certainly can’t become a doctor until you learn medical practices (I sure hope *that* never changes). So, on the one hand, going to school can open many doors.

On the other hand, coming out of the gate with a degree in one hand and a pile of debt in the other can be rather limiting – an understatement With the country’s student debt reaching new heights, it is far from limiting. Student debt is debilitating.

Living the American Dream can often times include having student loan debt. Here are three ways having debt can influence your daily living and personal finances.
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Affording the Interest is Impossible = No House For Us

When I got married this past fall, my wife and I calculated all of our debt – a whopping total of almost $200,000. Can you even imagine what that gains in interest every day? I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s well over the minimum payment. This means that even if we pay the minimum payment on our debt for the next 25 years, not only will we be out over $240,000, but we’ll still be in the exact same place we are right now.

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I hear a lot of people talk about how there is, supposedly, ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt, student loan debt and mortgages being the former. However, when it comes to a banker’s eyes, all debt is equal. Which means that our student loan debt becomes a factor in securing a mortgage.

Even with a significant down payment, our debt-to-income ratio is so high that we are unable to purchase a house.

Less Income = Less Room to Grow

So, our only choice is to start paying extra on our loans, which means less money coming in and more money going out. At a minimum, our loans come out to ~$1,000 a month and our income is ~$3,200 a month – which isn’t too bad, I’ll be honest.

However, even if we contribute $2,000 a month to our debt, it will take us 10 years to pay off our debt and at that rate. With only $1,200 to our name each month and bills to pay, it’s hard to imagine bringing new life into the world.

We would love to have a large family and know that risks become more prevalent after a woman turns thirty-years-old. Even so, our debt makes it next to impossible for us to start a family (responsibly).

High Debt Payments = No Retirement Funds

It goes without saying that we are unable to start saving due to our high debt payments. Sadly, we are also unable to contribute large amounts to retirement. There’s really no choice though; our debt has forced us into a situation in which we can’t escape.

Both of our employers contribute a small percentage into our retirement accounts at the moment, which is fantastic. However, without a contribution from us as well, we know that we are throwing money out the window. Talk to any retirement specialist and they will tell you: saving money when you are young is key to a happy retirement.

We can try to catch up in ten years, but the compound interest works so fast that it is next to impossible. Unfortunately, this is just another way in which debt is holding us back.

How We are Fighting Back Against Our Debt

Now, I know that I made the conscious decision to take on debt when I went to school and I am certainly not asking for any hand-outs. Having student loan debt is truly a difficult thing to overcome, but it is possible. My wife and I have been putting an unbelievable amount of money toward our debt this year and we don’t plan to stop until our student loan debt has been crushed.

We will achieve our goals and you can too. Create a budget, stick to it, live frugally, spend less, earn more, and keep working toward your goals because five years from now, you’ll be grateful you started today.

Don’t let debt continue to hold you back; make the choice to live a better life.


DIY Jahn

Cassie Jahn is the author of a DIY blog devoted to living life to the fullest on a frugal budget. DIY Jahn began to help Cassie to stick to her plan to aggressively pay off her student loans, in hopes to inspire others to do the same. Find tips on saving money, paying off debt, earning money online, yummy recipes, and DIY projects like this one at: www.diyjahn.com. You can also find us on social media – FacebookPinterest, Instagram


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12 Comments

  1. When I was paying back my $25K Student Loan I was not smart enough to make extra payments in the beginning. As I became wiser I realized how much extra interest I paid because I didn’t make extra payments.
    It sounds like you and your spouse have a solid plan so you will be paid off in a fair amount of time. Just keep on trucking and you will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Best of luck to you…

    1. If only we were educated better at a younger age about student loans / debt / interest. I had no idea about anything about finances when I was young πŸ™‚

  2. Yes! And even at $40k student loans, I experience those things too. I have created a plan to get out of this debt in 3years’ time and just having a plan makes me more confident and optimistic for my future πŸ™‚

    I wish you and your partner good luck in tackling this debt Cassie! Great read!

  3. Wow, you basically wrote my life story! The only difference is my spouse… he has no debt at all (community college and state school that he slowly worked through and paid off… he graduated with his undergrad degree the same time I graduated with my Master’s, and he’s older than I am, but he paid as he went and graduated with no debt).

    It almost makes it worse that my spouse has no debt, because at least you and your spouse are in it together. Note: I’m definitely not complaining that one of us is out of debt! It just makes it a more difficult relationship because he wants to do things (buy a house, have more expensive experiences) that I just cannot do.

    One thing I’m looking forward to is Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I work in a field that is lower paid than what one would get if they worked in a private company, but I’m doing that so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in 8 years. Oh, and I’m side hustling πŸ™‚

  4. I didn’t realize how much my debt limited my choices and opportunities until I destroyed my credit card debt. Having extra room in the budget gives me the ability to have more life experiences…..and therefore make life more enjoyable and meaningful.

    1. Exactly! It’s hard to see the forest for the trees. As someone who is in debt, you begin to think that life is just that: making minimum payments and living with the means beyond those. But when you start to see how much more money you could have in your pocket WITHOUT debt, it’s truly eye-opening. It can be completely freeing. Debt doesn’t have to be the norm anymore – it’s a choice though. Thank you for sharing your perspective πŸ™‚

  5. Debt is the devil!! πŸ˜‰

    Lucky for me I never took the burden of going to an super expensive college so I never had that student debt which obviously has played a key role to where I am at today with my finances.

    1. That’s definitely a good decision! If I had known what I know now about finances, I would have done things differently. Let’s be honest: I still would have attended the same school, I in no way regret that decision. However, I would have worked harder to get scholarships and pay on debt while in school to at least lessen the blow. I guess you live and you learn! Hindsight is 20/20! πŸ™‚ Thank you for commenting!

  6. Love your story! It takes so much bravery to be paying that kind of percentage of your income on debt when the temptation to spend it on other things exists. Keep fighting that interest beast!

    1. I will admit that it’s scary to put all of our income toward debt. We have about $1k a month that we use for bills & expenses (only as absolutely needed) and the rest goes toward debt. Last month we put over $12k toward debt. It’s SCARY, but it’s also really exciting and eventually we’ll be free from the burden of debt! Thank you for your comment! πŸ™‚

  7. Inspiring story! Student loan debt is definitely holding me back from investing and purchasing a house. You have the right idea with trying to optimize your income to pay more than the minimum each month to fight against interest. Good luck on your debt journey!

    1. Thank you, Chonce! I appreciate your reply. I hope that you get out of student debt quickly as well. It’s such a hassle, but once we are debt free it will be a huge relief. We can do this! πŸ™‚

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