My Debt Freedom Journey

In March 2016, I turned 34. I also made a commitment to myself to achieve debt freedom and begin my journey financial Independence (FI). Here is my story from debt accumulation to debt freedom.

December 2002

I moved to the United States of America.

visa-nyc-2002
Passport Stamp at Immigration

I was 20 years old. I left everything I owned and moved to the United States to start afresh. I had $0 dollars in my bank account and zero debt.

  • Consumer Debt: $0
  • Student Loan Debt: $0
  • Total Debt: $0

 

 

January 2003 – December 2003

I enrolled in a private college close to home and started taking prerequisite coursework at a college within commuting distance. I received partial scholarships, federal, and state grants that helped with my tuition. In addition, I saved on the costs of room and board by living at home. I worked part-time during the semester and full-time in the summer. This enabled me save for books and school supplies for the Fall semester of 2003.

  • Consumer Debt: $0
  • Student Loans: $2,625
  • Total Debt: $2,625

January 2003 – December 2004

I moved from home to Upstate New York. I completed my prerequisites and applied to pharmacy school. Although my tuition was much lower in my new school, I now paid for room and board which increased my student loans.

  • Consumer Debt: $0
  • Student Loans: $15,000
  • Total Debt: $15,000

January – December 2005

I started pharmacy school! Great year for me but that meant higher tuition and fees. I obtained my first credit card through Citi cards. I worked while in school but I was never able to save over $1000 because I was always spending more than I earned. Slowly, my consumer debt and student loans accumulated.

  • Consumer Debt: $1,500 – $2,000
  • Student Loans: $20,153
  • Private Student Loan: $2,800
  • Total Debt: $24,953

 January 2006 – December 2008

Great news! I received a scholarship that covered graduate school tuition for three years. This was a big deal as my tuition at the time was ~$15,000/year. Unfortunately in November of 2007, I got into a car accident and my 2002 Nissan Sentra was totaled. I replaced it with a gently used 2006 Nissan Altima. Even though I got a check from my insurance company for ~$8,000 to replace my Sentra, I purchased the Altima for ~ $18,000, which meant I financed the balance with an auto loan. I still cringe at this decision till this day! Where were you Mr. Money Mustache in November 2007??? On a side note, here is a link to a fantastic article by MMM titled New Cars and Auto Financing: Stupid, or Sensible?

At some point during those three years, I acquired three additional consumer credit cards, namely Express, Victoria Secret, and Macy’s. Even though I paid my bill every month, I either didn’t pay off the full balance or always spent more. As a result, I perpetually carried a revolving balance, and my debt continued to grow.

  • Consumer Debt: $2,500 – $4,000
  • Student Loans: $42,544
  • Private Student Loan: $2,800
  • Car Loan: ~$7000
  • Total Debt: $56,344

January 2009 – December 2011

I graduated from pharmacy school in May 2009 (one of the happiest days of my adult life), and moved to Brooklyn NY. I wasn’t earning enough to start paying my student loans due to two years of post-graduate training and I deferred my loans. During this time, my subsidized and unsubsidized loans started accumulating significant interest. In July 2010, I moved again to Baltimore MD to complete my second year of post-graduate training. I received excellent training and I was ready to enter the workforce! I got a job in Upstate NY and moved again!!! During those two years, I was able to pay off my car loan.

  • Consumer Debt: $5,000 – $7,500
  • Student Loans: $59,484 (interest now included in the principal)
  • Private Student Loan: $3,200
  • Car Loan: $0
  • Total Debt: $70,184

January 2012 – December 2013

I purchased my first home with a 3.5% down payment FHA mortgage in May 2012. I dug myself deeper into debt by selling my fully functional 2006 Nissan Altima for a brand new 2014 Toyota Corolla with zero miles and heated leather seats. Home repairs and furnishing my 1,656 square feet home with some cash but mostly through credit lines further increased my debt. I also turned 30 something during this time and my debt was at its peak. By the way, if you’re thinking about buying vs. renting, here is an article that I wish I read in 2011 “Roots v. Wings: considering home ownership” by JL C

  • Consumer Debt: $15,000 – $18,000
  • Student Loans: $54,933
  • Private Student Loan: $1,700
  • Car Loan: $21,000
  • Mortgage: $97,500
  • Total Debt: $193,133

January 2014 – December 2015

In May 2015, I sold my house because had to move again, to eliminate a 300 mile weekly job related commute. Although I barely broke even with the home sale, I was glad the house finally sold. I slowly began changing my spending habits and made a significant dent in my consumer debt. I also paid off my small private student loans.

December 2015 was a significant month for me because it was when I discovered minimalism, debt freedom and financial independence on YouTube. The name Dave Ramsey and The 7 Baby Steps came up very often. I also binge watched videos on YouTube (Mike and Lauren) that openly shared their plans on early retirement/financial independence. Retire at 30 something? People can do that? It was as if I had stepped into an alternate universe. I owe so much to the aforementioned bloggers because their story instigated the real “kick” that I needed to finally achieve debt freedom.

  • Consumer Debt: $2500
  • Student Loans: $50,258
  • Private Student Loan: $0
  • Car Loan: $10,400
  • Total Debt: $63,158
  • Mortgage: $0 (I gained no equity in 3 years, I barely broke even)

January 2016 – September 2016

Following my financial awakening, I discarded everything I previously learned (or thought I knew) about debt and finances and continued to  consume content from popular bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache, MadFientist, and the Minimalists. I read hundreds of blog posts, watched hours of video content, listened to podcasts, and read my first financial book the Simple path to wealth by JL Collins. These were without a doubt the most transformative months of my adult life to date.

In May 2016, I moved AGAIN across the country! I somehow managed to pay off my new car loan and saved up a few months of emergency funds to prepare for my move to Texas.

During that time, I was fortunate to have almost 3 months off and in-between job applications and interviews, I traveled solo to Europe. I visited six cities and four countries and enjoyed every moment of it. I got a taste of what I could do if I decided to do this thing called early retirement. If I wasn’t convinced before that the road to FI was for me, this trip to Europe was the last push I needed.

  • Consumer Debt: $483
  • Student Loan: $47,009
  • Private Student Loan: $0
  • Car Loan: $0
  • Total Debt: $47,492 (Today, September 23rd 2016)
debt-freedom-2016-3
Debt Freedom Chart (September 2016)

October – June 2017 (Anticipated goals)

From reading my story above, you can tell that I am obviously not a financial guru. I consider myself a financial disciple. I have learned a lot from the aforementioned financial gurus and I am still learning. but with what I have learned so far, I decreased my monthly expenses by 50% and increased my monthly net income by 18% (blog post coming soon). These significant changes will enable me pay off my student loans hopefully in 1 year or less instead of 17 years and 2 months (saving me $22,935 in interest), if I choose to pay only the minimum required payments. My plan is to be debt free on or before June 1st, 2017.

loan-details
Student Loan Balance September 2016

 

– Student Loan: $0 (by June 2017)

– Total Debt: $0 (by June 2017)

 

 

 

Update (March 24th 2017):

 

On March 23rd, 2017, 3 days after my 35th birthday, I officially became debt free.

I repaid my student loans 3 months earlier than scheduled. I paid off $47,000+ of student loan debt in 7 months!  Over the next few months, I will write about the strategies that I utilized to pay off my debt fast. Ill also write posts on what I am doing with my money now that I am debt free.

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post serves two purposes, first, it keeps me accountable and motivated to meet my goals. Secondly to inspire others with similar debt stories to begin to make the journey to debt freedom and FI.

Do leave comments below if you have any questions, or if you want to share  your debt freedom story.

4 thoughts on “My Debt Freedom Journey

  1. This is the perfect web site for anyone who wishes to understand this topic.
    You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that’s
    been discussed for decades. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  2. I find these articles “how nice” types… there are no calculations on how you paid off the debts… no calculations on income vs. Debts/expenses, so if I make $2000 per month and I have to pay rent, hydro, car insurance, phone, food, etc… I need an article to give me a breakdown on how I can pay down my expenses/debts…

    1. Thanks for commenting.

      This particular post is an overview of my financial journey that lead to the start of this blog. If you want to see a breakdown of income, expenses and savings, check out my financial updates tab

Leave a Reply