Watch Your Money: How This Millennial Paid Off $83,000 In Student Loans In Five Years | news
Location: Northern New Jersey
Work: Marketing director at Macy’s
sideline: Personal Finance Coach and Content Creator at Jamila’s Two Cents
If “lay down and keep moving” was a person, it would be New Jersey’s Jamila A. White would be the hallmark.
White graduated from college in 2015 on $83,000 in private and government student loans that she planned to repay within five years.
While her college friends moved into apartments in The City with no student loans, White moved into her childhood bedroom with a floral-motif daybed and pink walls in Jersey. Her social environment did not know the financial burden, she made sure of it.
“I felt like my friends couldn’t understand each other,” said White, 28, who studied communications and human resource management in college.
During this time, millennials consumed personal finance podcasts, books, and articles. She listed all of her debts from smallest to largest. She befriended a debt settlement calculator to come up with a plan. And she started her career and got her first post-college job at the age of 21 as an assistant account executive at a global marketing agency.
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Although the job only paid $37,000 a year, White was paying double her student loan debt monthly. Instead of the required $753 payment, she paid $1,500 per month. She would drop any extra money, like a tax refund, on the debt. She also saved $400 a month while working for the gig.
After 11 months, however, she was fired after a round of budget cuts. Because she had money saved and received $400 biweekly in unemployment benefits, her loan payments remained uninterrupted.
After five months of job hunting, White landed a new job in health communications. That job brought in $55,000 with a better title of Account Manager. After 11 months, however, déjà vu struck; The budget was cut when the company lost a customer and she was fired.
Luckily she was prepared this time. She already had her resume ready. The day she found out about her layoff was when she was applying for several jobs. She heard from a recruiter she spoke to during her previous layoff. Within two weeks she got a job – account manager in health advertising.
“I had the experience,” White said.
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She stayed with the company for four years, was twice promoted to account supervisor, and received an annual salary of $80,000. White received bonuses each year by putting the $2,000 and $3,000 checks on her student loan balance. Earnings and salary increases were also included in the balance sheet. Within two and a half years with the company, White repaid the loans.
“When I got the next paycheck, all the money was mine!” said Weiss. “It didn’t go to a lender.”
She shared the good news with a colleague who was also in debt, as well as with her immediate family.
With her extra money, White booked a trip to Charleston with a friend. After her student loan balance was wiped out, White opened a Roth IRA and she increased her 401,000 contributions from 12% to 15%.
White also planned her next career move. She “edited” LinkedIn. White knew she wanted to try something outside of health advertising and on the consumer side of her field. She set up job alerts on the professional social network for marketing managers and account managers. She set her profile so only recruiters could see that she was open to new opportunities. She contacted recruiters via LinkedIn Inmail.
She secured a position at Macy’s, where she now works as a marketing manager, earning $95,000.
White also completed her nursery. White initially moved into a $1,050-a-month apartment in early 2020 after saving $6,000. Now she lives with her partner and pays $500 rent for their only bedroom. Your next step is to buy a property. White has $10,000 in savings but wants $30,000 in her account before she starts looking for the single family home she wants.
White credits living at home after college, plus her discipline and perseverance from being able to pay off her debt in less than five years. On the side, White does financial coaching and helps others to achieve their goals.
She is also training to become a certified financial planner.
She no longer hides her previous situation from her friends. She tells the world about it on her blog Jamila’s Two Cents and in real time on her Instagram feed full of money manifestations, goals and tips.
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“My friends are amazed that I did it and now they better understand why I’m so passionate about personal finance,” she said.
While White is proud of her achievement, she says in hindsight that she may have considered going to a community college first to save on college costs. She also notes that her personal loans and interest rates of 8% to 9% have boosted her bankroll.
“I was 17 and didn’t know how credit worked,” White said. “I thought a floating rate meant they would give me a lower rate, not knowing that a floating rate means they change the rate every year.”
Overall, she has no regrets.
“I’m seeing a positive return on my investment,” White said.
Natalie P. McNeal is the author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Came Out of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life.