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My Big Law Student Loan Debt

A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.

In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.

To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.

S. Fischer, 36, Attorney
Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000

When I was 21, I had no real concept of money. I’d lived off my parents as a college student, and anything that I made from part-time jobs was “fun money.” So the amount of student loan debt that I was accruing seemed very abstract. Not to mention that I really bought into the idea that large student loans are an “investment” in law school, and they’ll pay off in the form of money! money! money! upon graduation.Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. I went to a private “regional” law school (that’s a euphemism for a bottom-tier school, according to the rankings) that nobody outside of Florida has heard of because it was the only school that accepted me.

So every month, $308.19 comes out of my checking account, which is a lot considering that I make only about $55,000 a year. My salary is about 40% less than what most attorneys with my years of experience typically make because I don’t work for a private firm—I believe quality of life is as important as quality of work.

The culture of the legal profession is to never talk about your student loan debt because most people who’ve paid it off are resented by contemporaries who haven’t. But I am comforted in the knowledge that if I run into tough times, I can always defer the loans—while accumulating interest, of course. And since the interest rate is low at 2.875%, I’m not scrambling to pay it off.

What Katie Says: Shane is correct when he says that his interest rate is great—under 3% is fantastic—but I would caution him not to get too comfortable with those loans. He mentioned that he’s also thinking about paying down his mortgage faster, and saving for retirement and travel, which is smart, but I’d recommend that he keep the 50/20/30 rule in mind. At least 20% of his income should go toward financial priorities, which includes savings and debt repayment.

Have questions about your student loan?
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Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Please consult a financial advisor for advice specific to your financial situation.