When I graduated high school, I was excited to go to college and eventually find my dream job, even though I didn’t know what it was yet. While in college I discovered that I have a passion for teaching and coaching! I knew my dream job was to be a History Teacher and to coach basketball!

I was lucky to quickly find a job working at a school as a paraprofessional, and within a couple years a spot opened up to teach 6th Grade History!!! Not only that, but I landed a coaching job for our middle school basketball team! Boom! Dream job; CHECK!! I was teaching middle school and coaching basketball! But was it everything I hoped for?

Counting up the Costs: Delayed Consequences

Remember what I mentioned about being in college for six years? Well those expenses came marching into my dream in the form of student loan payments! Upon graduation I owed nearly $50,000 in student loans, and shortly after being hired as a full-time paraprofessional my repayment plan went into full swing.
Very quickly, I realized that I could not actually afford to pay all of my bills and loans unless the payments were lower or I changed my lifestyle. So I took the “easy” way out and lowered my loan payments, trading off lower payments for a repayment period extension of twenty years. I felt owned and trapped by my debt.
My dream job turned sour. The investment I made into my education did not transform into a salary that could sustain payments and the lifestyle I wanted to live. It left me wondering, does this happen to everybody?

When I first started college, I was so excited to be entering a new chapter in my life, I didn’t take the time to understand the consequences of taking out so many loans. I didn’t save a lot of money to pay for college and my parents weren’t able to help out much either, so I viewed student loans as the only way to make college a possibility.

I did pick up a part time job on campus, but I didn’t view this income as anything more than fun spending money and to help pay for rent. It didn’t even occur to me to work hard to pay for tuition up front instead of going deeper and deeper into debt. As it turns out, this is a pretty common trap to fall into and many of my friends did the same thing and left college with massive amounts of debt.

The Tides Begin To Change

A few years after landing my first teaching job, I started dating my best friend Jenna. After a few months of dating, we knew this was the real deal and dreamed often about our future. As I mentioned, I left college with nearly $50,000 in debt and it turns out that my wife to be had a whole pile of debt too! When we got married we had a combined $90,000 in debt, making a total monthly payment of over $900, a whopping thirty-four percent of our total monthly income.

Our high amount of debt severely impacted our future plans of buying a home and starting a family. We are big dreamers, but it was hard to imagine waiting so long to realize our dreams, especially since we were both already working at our dream jobs as teachers!

Overcoming the Obstacles

Fast forward three years and I am now married to my best friend and love of my life! We are still both teachers and we still have student loans. However, we have been kicking the snot out of our student loans by paying more than the minimum payment each month.

In fact, we throw every extra dollar we earn towards paying off our student loans. But it comes at a price. We follow a budget and create a plan for every single dollar that comes in, and we both work a second job in a restaurant once a week during the school year in an attempt to accelerate our journey of being debt free.

It is a lot of extra time and effort to put in consistently, and sometimes we get overwhelmed and hate it. But it is what we need to do to achieve our goals. We know that these circumstances are only temporary and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hind Sight is 20/20

Looking back to our college years, it is easy to see what we would have done differently. We absolutely would not change our careers because teaching truly is a dream come true. I cannot think of a more rewarding profession and I love sharing life and building relationships with students, challenging them to be the best versions of themselves they can be.

If we changed our priorities to work more during college to avoid accumulating an immense amount of debt, we would not have had to delay buying a house or having kids. My current restaurant job would have been ideal to pay for tuition outright instead of signing off on student loans each year, but I did not realize the hole I was digging myself into and was not willing to work hard enough to pay my tuition as I went.

Bringing this story to the present day, my wife and I recently celebrated our two year anniversary and in a few days will make a loan payment that will bring us down to less than $30,000 of remaining debt, with the rest qualifying for loan forgiveness for teaching in a low income school. It is so exciting to see our debt dwindle each month and our dreams becoming a reality. Two months ago we bought a house and feel so blessed to be homeowners.

It has taken a lot of hard work, and many sacrifices in how we spend money, but we are proud of where we are today and where we are going. We had to say no to eating out, road trips, and seeing our families as often as we would like. But, like I said before, these circumstances are only temporary. We are still big dreamers and we refuse to let our poor financial decisions of the past rain down on our future.

Let Me Know in the Comments

Is your “dream job” worth the debt you accumulated? What would you have done differently?

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