Student Loan Debt

By In Do the Math, Financial Independence, Student Loan Debt

Could Your Paid Time Off (PTO) Help Fund Your Early Retirement?

There was a news item circulating around the benefits business this week about PTO Exchange, a company out of Seattle that raised $3 million in venture capital. The idea investors are buying into is that you can and should use your excess PTO (AKA “paid time off,” or vacation pay) for other things you might want or need, like paying down your student loan debt, or putting it toward gift cards, or all manner of other things.

If you’ve ever 1) not used your PTO and watched it either expire or roll over into a new year where you’ll just get more PTO you won’t use up, or 2) you’ve left a job and had all that unused PTO vanish into the ether, you may have gotten the same lightbulb I got when I first read about PTO Exchange. Here’s why…


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By In Around the Web, Money-Saving Tips, Student Loan Debt

Want to Pay Down Student Loan Debt Faster? Consider Moving to the Cleveland Suburbs

Back in the early ’90s, there was a show my mom and I used to love called Northern Exposure. It was about a doctor who, in return for getting his tuition paid, moved to a small town in Alaska to be the town’s general practitioner for a number of years. It’s a practice that still occurs and in fact may be expanded in the coming years as higher-education costs continue to go up up up.

A story from CNBC,”Here are ways to pay off student loans, using other people’s money,” reveals that a similar practice is available in several states, most notably in Maine, where your student loan debt is deductible on your state income taxes, and in Newburgh, Ohio, where you can get up to $50,000 toward paying off your student loan debt by buying a house you plan to live in inside the city limits. I did a Zillow search and it looks like apartments and houses are going for anywhere from $57,800-$250,000+ in this Cleveland suburb. Pretty good deal if you’re cool with Cleveland.

Other helpful tips are volunteer opportunities that will pay you a monthly stipend toward debt paydown and, of course, through your job. Tess wrote about what to look for in those job-based options.

Got your own advice? We’d love to hear it!

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By In Around the Web, Student Loan Debt

If You’re Dealing with Student Loan Debt, You’re Not Alone

There’s not a lot to say about this segment from “Patriot Act” that Hasan Minhaj and his writers don’t say themselves all too well. Student loan debt is a huge issue that impacts our ability to save for the future, whether we’re just getting out of college and staring down our debt or we’re saving for our children’s education. Take 25 minutes when you have a chance and watch.

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By In Around the Web, Money-Saving Tips, Savings and Budgets, Student Loan Debt

How to Graduate from College Debt-Free, or, It’s Never Too Early to Live the FI Life

A lot of you were initially attracted to the FI movement by a need to change your situation, and most frequently that “situation” was student loan debt. As we all know, and as Hasan Minaj so brilliantly covered on his show (linked here), student loan debt is a national crisis and it’s really, really rare for anyone to come out of college and not have at least a little bit of debt.

That’s why when I saw a post on Twitter about a woman who graduated debt-free, and then I saw her tremendously useful recap of how she did it, I just had to share it. The main takeaway is that you CAN avoid debt before you even get it. There are major tradeoffs but I guarantee they’re worth it.

Read on for the tweet and the tips.


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By In Budgeting, Do the Math, General Benefits Knowledge, Money-Saving Tips, Savings, Savings and Budgets, Student Loan Debt, Taxes

How to Identify Your Scarcities and Use Them to Your FI Advantage

Recently, at a PTA meeting for my daughter’s school, the school’s two parent-volunteer yoga instructors gave a short presentation (with student participation) on the easy yoga and meditation techniques they practiced with our kids. It was fun, funny and heartwarming to see the kids really get into their practice. It was also illuminating for us as parents to try it ourselves. When it got to the mindful meditation part, one of the instructors mentioned how focusing on your breath opened a path to the amygdala, which “will get you off of the treadmill of worry and into relaxing mindfulness.” I used to find these types of descriptions a little silly, but the more I’ve tried to be more mindful in my own daily life, the more I can buy into this idea of needing a real shift in mindset to get from worry to deeper conscience.

It reminded me of a book I read last year called Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives. It’s a wonderful book that can impact the way you approach both personal and professional challenges. It’s more of a research-oriented book than self-help, so don’t go into it expecting to get a blueprint for finding mindfulness. It’s more about the research the authors did on how scarcity impacts how we think and make decisions — and it really does.

As you seek financial independence, chances are you are making plans that are deeply impactful to the two most common forms of scarcity: money and time. You’ll want and need to ensure that you’re making the most of both to reach your FIRE goals. But you’ll also want to make sure that you understand when you’re making decisions based on a scarcity of one or the other, or both, and what you can do to work against making bad decisions.


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By In Around the Web, Retirement, Student Loan Debt

Best (and Worst) Places to Pay Down Debt and/or Retire

Two studies came out last week, one by LendingTree on the best cities to pay down debt and one by WalletHub on the best and worst states to retire. I found the study on paying down debt particularly interesting for what it cites as the main indicator that you’re in a good place for working on becoming debt-free: the rent-to-income ratio in every city in the top 10 was less than 20 percent, meaning you’re paying less than 20 percent of your income toward your rent or mortgage on a monthly basis. Other cost-of-living factors also have an influence but since housing is the largest component of most budgets, it’s a no-brainer that what you pay to have a roof over your head will impact how much you can pay down student loan debt and pay up on your retirement savings.

How does this relate to the benefits you receive? Well, more companies are offering benefits in lieu of higher salaries. As such, when you look at your “total compensation” that a company is willing to pay you, pay close attention to the value of the benefits. Are they offering student loan paydown? What kind of 401(k) match do they give? If they’re offering you an HDHP, are they also giving you an HSA contribution and, if so, how much? All of these “benefits” amount to added income for you and should be figured into your budgeting and calculations of rent-to-income ratios, which could make even cities that didn’t make the list look even better — or could make cities that are on the list look worse if your income and benefits aren’t on par with cost of living.

On the flip side, this list focuses on cities. If you are able to work from home or otherwise telecommute, and you’re willing to live further from a city center or in the country altogether, you’re likely going to get your ratio way down, which will greatly boost your savings potential, which will in turn compound itself over time.

Regarding where to retire, again, your combination of income and benefits are important, but then you also add in factors like cost of health care, income tax, property tax, etc. All in all, there are some great places on the list where you can live…and there are some places that you may personally love but they’re not going to do you any favors in making your dollars or health go further in retirement.

One more thing to consider above all else: What makes you happy? I live in Charleston, which is not the most expensive city in the country but also not the one with the lowest rent-to-income ratio. But it’s a beautiful place and I love raising my family here, so I’ve done and will continue to do what makes the most of our place in the here and now and in the future. Love the place you choose and be sure you’re not giving away too much in the present for a greater future — but also know that the right sacrifices will lead you to your right path to happiness.

Here are links to the studies:

“10 Best Places to Pay Down Debt,”

“Best States to Retire,” WalletHub

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By In Budgeting, Other Voluntary Benefits, Student Loan Debt

The Benefits of Employer-Provided Student Loan Debt Pay-down

Why are an increasing number of employers offering benefits that address financial wellness, including student loan payoff? Simply put, it’s good for their business. A non-distracted workforce equates to more productivity. It is also a powerful recruitment tool.

While there are benefits to employees who are trying to get out from under the yoke of student loan debt, are there better ways to protect one’s financial future? Before you sign up for the company student loan debt repayment benefit, there are some things you need to consider.


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