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November 5, 2018

I owe $200,000 in student loans. Where do I start?


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Our question of the month comes from Joe from South Dakota:

Hey Andy,

Like you, I have a young family (wife + 2 young kids), a house, and a blessed life. However, I do have a mountain of student debt (~200,000) that I have accumulated through a doctorate in Chiropractic that creates considerable stress in our little world.

We are working to pay that down as much as possible but man it is hard to get ahead of!

We are also blessed to currently have:

  • my wife's loans paid off
  • no credit card debt
  • no car payments
  • and our only bills are the mortgage and my loans

At the same time, we understand the importance of setting ourselves and kids up for success in the future, and are trying to put money away as well so we can take advantage of compounding interest, but it is hard to know the right path (especially with all the “experts”) out there.

All of the above can really cause a person to get “stuck in the mud” and just throw your hands in the air and continue to put it off, but your podcast has really helped us stay out of that mentality.  

Any advice or resources you think might benefit us would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

Dr. Joe

Man sitting alone in empty classroom
“How am I going to pay for this?”

Thanks for writing in Dr. Joe!

I completely understand how you feel. With the demands of young parenthood and your career, the last thing you want is a mountain of debt sitting on your shoulders.

I invited Ryan Inman from the Financial Residency Podcast to help me answer your question today. We came up with 5 ideas for you to consider to get rid of this debt.

1. Give Yourself a Visual Motivator

Find a place in your home where you can post up a huge goal setting thermometer chart. That way you'll have a visual motivator that can drive you to hit your goals.

Also, by setting up milestones of $50,000, $100,000, $150,000 and then $200,000, you'll give yourself an opportunity to celebrate along the way.

Take the kids for a big ice cream celebration at $50,000. How about a champagne toast at $100,000 with your wife? Make it fun and capture the memories with your family.

Paying off huge debt can be a blast. (Check out how my family enjoyed celebrating crushing our $200,000 mortgage!)

2. Look into Refinancing Your Loans

Ryan and I weren't sure about your specific interest rates, but refinancing may be an option for you to significantly lower your payments.

Now if your credit isn't that great, you'll want to take some action to bring your credit score up.  The higher your credit score, the better the rate you're going to get.

If you don't know your credit score, you can receive your score for free here.

3. Create a Budget and Spending Plan

When you're paying down $200,000 of debt, knowing your detailed income and expenses matters.

Utilize a spreadsheet-based system like Tiller to clearly lay out your income and expenses and let automation do the rest. The clarity that will come from understanding your true financial picture will be incredibly refreshing.

If you're spending more than 50% on your fixed expenses (home, transportation, food, utilities, ya know, the big stuff), then see what you can do to decrease your spending so you can make room for bigger debt payments.

Related Article5 Ways to Avoid Becoming House Rich and Cash Poor

4. Take Advantage of Matching Retirement

Even though paying off your student debt is important, don't forget to take advantage of any workplace retirement matching that may exist.

In your situation, it would make sense to contribute up to the match so you're not leaving any FREE MONEY on the table. For example, I have a 401k at my office that matches 15% of my contributions. Since I max out my contributions at $18,500 (2018), I'm able to receive $2,775 of free money each year from my company.

This money will compound year over year and give you a nice retirement nest egg in the future.

5. Increase Your Income

Not everyone wants to do a side hustle to make more money especially when you're a young parent. I get it.

Is there a hobby of yours that you have already that can help you make extra money? For me, I enjoy writing about money and talking about money. At first, it was just a hobby and now it's turned into a small side hustle that pays me $1,000 extra per month. That money sure goes a long way for my financial goals!

If side hustling isn't your thing, see what you or your spouse can do to increase your income at work. To inspire you, here are the ways I have increased my salary from 5-figures to 6-figures.

You're in a great spot, Joe! You have no high-interest debt and you're asking GREAT questions … that means you care and you will clean this debt up soon.

Have some patience and be determined. This debt will be gone soon enough.


Marriage, Kids and Money, Andy Hill

Our Guest Host:  Ryan Inman

Ryan Inman Financial Residency

Ryan Inman is a financial planner and the host of the Financial Residency Podcast which is dedicated to the financial wellbeing of doctors.

His financial wisdom has been featured in Entrepreneur, Go Banking Rates and US News & World Report.

Ryan is married and a proud father to two kids.

Money Master of the Week

Carmen Make Real Cents

Carmen from New York recently paid off $57,000 in just under 3 years!

She reached this milestone by:

  • Tracking her spending through a budget
  • Paying off her debts smallest to largest using the debt snowball method
  • And staying determined

Now she’s ready to build a big emergency fund and buy a house. With her drive and her money not all going towards debt, she’ll get there in no time.

If you want to follow Carmen on her path to financial independence, check her out at Make Real Cents.

Carmen is our Money Master of the Week!

Share Your Wins

If you have a financial victory you want to share on this show, please leave me a voicemail (or an email) and include the following:

  • First name
  • Location
  • Your recent big win
  • How you did it
  • Your financial plans for the future

Your story will inspire others to save more, make more and plan for their family’s future.

FinTech Spotlight

Grove Financial Chris Hutchins

Check out Grove to learn more about their affordable financial advising services.

Chris Hutchins Grove

Chris Hutchins is the Founder and CEO of Grove, a startup reinventing the financial planning to be actionable, affordable, and accessible for everyone.

Before founding Grove, Chris was a Partner at Google Ventures where he focused on seed and early-stage investments and prior to that, Chris co-founded Milk, which was acquired by Google in 2012.

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Carpe Diem Quote

It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage; that we move on to better things.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

What strategies are you using to pay off your debt?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Subscribe to the podcast:

Marriage, Kids and Money, Andy Hill

How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance
How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance
How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance
How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance
How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance
How to pay off student loans. How to handle a mountain of student loans. Debt pay off. Drowning in debt. #debt #money #studentloans #personalfinance

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.


  • My son had 58,000 in student loans and a new car. He was making $14/hour, with occasional bonuses. He paid everything off in 3 years and within a couple more years, was able to save 10-15,000 for a downpadown on a house. Tight family budget that they stuck to. No outings to restaurants, activities, parks, fishing, museums. They paid extra every month. Any extra money paid that. If he got a bonus..the whole thing went to the student loan. Each had a small allowance that they could spend or save .

    • Betty, your son sounds like a winner! Discipline and hard work got it done ?

  • You can also look into loan forgiveness programs. Federal student loan programs may forgive a portion of your debt if you go into fields like teaching, government or not-for-profit work. You can check the Department of Education’s student aid website to see if you qualify to have some of your debt forgiven.

    • There are TONS of loan forgiveness options that may be available to you. Depending on your profession, you may qualify for PSLF, Teacher LF, some state-specific loan forgiveness, or depending on your loans (federal versus private and when you took them out) you would qualify for PAYE, REPAYE, IBR, or ICR. These last plans are widely available and your payments are sensitive to your household income. You would pay taxes on whatever is forgiven, but can save cash over the 20-25 years of repayment to offset that tax hit. You want to look at the all-in cost of the loans (i.e. monthly payments over duration of pay period + taxes paid on forgiveness) to understand if this is saving you money over the long run. At the very least, the income sensitive payments allow you some breathing room with your monthly budget.

      • Great options to consider Andrew! I agree that looking into Loan forgiveness is a smart plan. For my profession (corporate dude), it wasn’t available but there are lots of jobs where it would be applicable.

    • They sound like a company that is focused on truly improving the problems with financial advising. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks for your support!

  • Great tips! Student loans are not fun, I paid mine off last year and it was such a relief. Next year my husband and I are going to turn more of our attention to his. The sooner we are student loan debt free the better!

    • Way to go crushing your loans Chonce!

      There’s nothing better than double student debt freedom. ❤️?

    • Yes, a big ole pile, but with a doctor’s salary he also has a big shovel.

      With patience, he’ll crush this debt soon!


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Marriage Kids and Money Podcast

About Marriage Kids & Money

The Marriage Kids and Money Podcast is dedicated to helping young families build wealth and happiness.

With over 400 episodes and counting, we share interviews with wealthy families, award-winning authors, and personal finance experts to help you find your version of family financial independence.

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