Christopher M. and Nicole H. both just graduated college and are engaged to be married on Oct. 13, 2019. They are excited to begin their careers as husband and wife. But they also have over $170,000 in student loans they’ll need to work together to repay.
All of the student debt was taken out to help pay for Nicole’s two degrees. Thankfully, she’s been open and transparent with Christopher about her student loan situation. Together, with some help from Student Loan Planner, they’ve come up with a good repayment strategy.
Read on to learn more about Christopher and Nicole’s story.
Paying off big debt without a huge income
Nicole and Christopher met at Andrews University when they were both pursuing their undergrad degrees. Christopher ended up transferring to Southern Adventist University to finish his bachelor’s while Nicole stayed at Andrews University.
After her graduation, Nicole enrolled in the Speech-Language Pathology master’s program at Midwestern University’s Arizona campus. Midwestern is a grad school that specializes in professional and medical degrees. Of Nicole’s $177,000 student loans, $151,000 went toward her master’s degree.
While Nicole was in grad school, Christopher was getting his business degree, with a finance concentration, from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. Christopher now has a job waiting for him with Vanguard in Scottsdale, Arizona as a broker.
Nicole has a job waiting for her as well. While she was in school, she took an internship at a Title I school. Later, she received a full-time job offer to work at the school after graduation.
Nicole enjoyed her internship, so she accepted the offer. And while she’s excited about the job, a speech-language pathologist’s (SLP) income potential at a public school isn’t nearly as high as an SLP working at a private clinic.
This puts Nicole in the undesirable position of having big student loans without a big income to repay them with.
Exploring all options
Christopher was understandably concerned about the level of debt that he and his soon-to-be wife have to tackle together.
“I couldn’t comprehend it. It was weighing me down,” he said.
But Christopher was determined to find solutions. At first they considered refinancing and even started contacting some private lenders to check on interest rates. But Christopher wanted to see if there were other options.
“I googled ‘how to get out of student loan debt.’ That’s how I found Student Loan Planner,” said Christopher. “I started reading about PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness), and we thought it might be a good strategy. But I was afraid that I’d make a mistake, so we decided to book a consultation with Travis.”
Christopher says that after they explained their financial situation to Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner, Travis recommended that Nicole pursue PSLF.
But Travis went far beyond just telling them what to do. Instead, he walked them through the process, step by step, of getting set up with PSLF.
Christopher said, “Travis helped us understand that consolidating first was important. Nicole had 12 loans, and Travis recommended that we consolidate them down to two. That way, FedLoan would only have to worry about two loans instead of 12.”
As the couple worked with Travis, Christopher learned how to get Nicole’s loans transferred from Navient to FedLoan Servicing and how to apply for income-driven repayment, specifically PAYE.
“Travis helped us every step of the way with filling out the application online,” said Christopher. He continued:
When we got to the income box, I was going to put in the amount that Nicole was planning to make next year. But Travis stopped me and told me to put $0 because that’s what she made last year. This was huge for us because now her first 12 payments or so are going to be $0 until we recertify next year.”
Christopher said this was really helpful because Nicole hasn’t started her job, so she doesn’t have the disposable income to pay for these loans yet.
Alleviating student loan fears
One thing that Christopher and Nicole were worried about was the constant rumor that the Department of Education may decide to cancel the PSLF program. But Travis was able to remove some of their anxiety.
“Travis helped me understand that even if PSLF doesn’t come through, she can qualify for forgiveness in 20 years. I didn’t realize that,” Christopher said. “Plus, he helped us see that even if my fiance wanted to leave the public sector at some point, it would be financially worth it as long as she made at least $9,000 more annually and saved up for the tax bomb.”
One of Christopher’s greatest fears is PSLF going awry. So he was delighted to know they had a back-up plan just in case.
Christopher and Nicole’s consultation with Travis encouraged them to think deeply about their entire financial picture rather than just their student loans.
“Travis went overtime with us and went deep into the numbers. He didn’t just focus on the loans but also on personal finance in general,” said Christopher. During their consult with Travis, they discussed everything from savings rate to investing to tax filing strategies.
And, perhaps since they were an engaged couple, Christopher and Nicole even got an added bonus: “He also offered some marriage advice. So we got our money’s worth,” said Christopher.
Now that they’ve got a good student loan strategy, here are some of the other financial goals that Christopher and Nicole hope to achieve over the next few months and years:
- Create a joint budget
- Rent for their first few years of marriage
- Start saving up for a 20% down payment on a home
- Save up for the tax bomb in case PSLF doesn’t work out
Christopher and Nicole have a great financial plan in place, and it’s sure to help them avoid a lot of financial stress in their marriage.
If you’d like to talk to someone about coming up with your own student loan repayment strategy, a Student Loan Planner consultant would love to give you their unbiased advice. Book a student loan consultation today!