5 Tried-and-True Ways To Pay Off Student Loans As A Therapist

On February 7th, 2019, I paid off my student loans that I accumulated in college from 2009-2016. I have two advanced degrees: a Bachelor's in Communication Sciences and Disorders from an out-of-state public school, and a Master's from an in-state public school. At graduation from graduate school, I had close to 80k in debt to private and federal student loans.

It took me from May of 2016 (graduation) - February of 2018 to pay off all of my debt, including student debt. That is less than two years.

I had $73,783.00 of total debt in October of 2017, which is when I went crazy on my student loans and car debt. Before October 2017, I was paying off around 12k/year on my federal student loans and private loans. However, I was still accumulating car debt in the meantime, and using credit cards (I paid off the balance each month, but it is debt, nonetheless).

So, How Did You Pay It All Off?

This is a long answer, but I will try to be succinct. I credit Dave Ramsey and his materials of The Total Money Makeover, his radio show: The Dave Ramsey Show, and Financial Peace University to teaching me everything I needed to know to dig myself out of a very deep hole in a short amount of time.  

As for being a speech-language pathologist, I know how other therapists can apply what I did, which is specific to our field.

Here is an outline of what I did:

1. I got a full-time contracting job in a school district

I left a medical job (skilled nursing) in Wisconsin and moved to NE Florida. I got a job contracting in the schools with a contract agency (I was employed by Community Rehab Associates, and I enjoyed working for them).

Note: Moving to FL was not apart of my debt free journey, but was planned from before I graduated.

The reason getting a school contracting job will work in your favor is: YOU HAVE HOURS AFTER THE SCHOOL DAY TO WORK A SECOND JOB AND YOU MAKE A HIGHER HOURLY RATE THAN AS A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE.

To get out of debt, it's all about your income vs. your outgo. As therapists, we can boost our income higher by picking up other jobs. Having a school job allows you to do this- medical jobs often require weekend shifts and later hours in the afternoon, which can prohibit you from working a second job. 

2. I got 3 therapy jobs

I worked at the school full time, a private practice over the summer and after school 2-3 days a week, and also worked PRN at a skilled nursing facility.

These jobs enabled me to work over 40 hours a week and make that money! Was it easy? No. Was it fun? No. Would I do it again?! YES. I gave up some free time to dig myself out of a deep hole.

Now, I have more free time than I have ever had, and it's wonderful! It's short term sacrifice for long term gain. I thought of my goal each time I went to my second or third jobs, and let that be my focus.

3. I worked 6-7 days a week

With my three speech therapy jobs, I worked after the school day and on the weekend. Medical settings are often looking for weekend staff, so it can be very easy to find work on Saturday's or Sunday's. You may need to brush up on your medical snuff, but this also helped me become a stronger therapist. 

4. I learned to budget

This is not specific to being a therapist, but it is SO IMPORTANT. I only paid of 12k in the beginning of my journey (before Dave Ramsey) because I didn't know how to budget! Learning how to budget changed my life! It was extremely empowering, which was surprising, because before I saw it as limiting. But then I made every cent earned work for me, and not just wash it down the metaphorical drain called Starbucks and Target.

5. I stopped hoping for loan forgiveness or a miracle

I used to pray that something or someone would dig me out of debt for me. I had to stop daydreaming about that for me to get my booty into gear to pay off the debt myself. Loan forgiveness is sadly pretty non-existent. The term is tossed around a lot more than it is actually done. And, at any time, it can be removed. Not good.

As an SLP, it's possible to get the $17.5k loan forgiveness when working in a Title 1 public school as a school employee. HOWEVER, when I did the math, I would have made more than $17.5k as an independent contractor in less than 2 years working in a Title 1 school than I would make as a school employee, which would have made me eligible for that loan forgiveness. It just didn't make mathematical sense. I do know SLPs who have received the $17.5k from the federal government, so this is definitely possible and you should apply for it if you have been a school employee for a Title 1 school for 5 years, or plan to. But, do the math before deciding that's the best route for you.

Plus, if you pay off your loans as quickly as me, than this "forgiveness" wouldn't even matter or apply to you.

To sum it up, GET TO WORK AND GET IT DONE! FAST!

Getting out of debt like your butt is on fire is the best way to go about it, in my opinion. The weight off your back will lift, and you can work a job you love and not feel guilty if it's not the highest paying job, or not as many hours as you originally wanted. You can go part-time, which is a HUGE benefit of being a therapist. I would know, I now work my therapy job part-time and it's amazing!

As therapists, we know what going to school for the long-haul feels like. Extend that fire into your work life for a few years and don't fall into a lifestyle that hurts your ability to pay off your student debt. Live like the cheap college student you were for so long for just a little bit longer... Please leave me a comment if you need some encouragement!

Go pay off loans, you ball of fire, you!

Kacy

P.S. For more debt-free tips and tricks, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

 

 

 

 

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