How to Pay Your Student Loans and Stay Sane

I always worried about them but the first time I cried over them was when my girlfriend and I started talking about our money situation. For the first time I discussed my debt, in details, with someone. She knew I had student loans to pay, I had just never pondered too long about how much it will affect my future, perhaps it was my way of keeping it from turning into a bigger anxiety than it already was. Early on I decided I would pay them as fast as my bank account and my common sense allowed me to. I had read this article about a person that paid 75k worth of student loans in 5 years, so I thought to myself “I own 65k, I probably can do the same.” A little naive, but not too crazy of a thought. I also made the choice to not let it take over my life, like the person in the article did. I didn’t want to make ramen noodles cups part of my regular diet or have no savings after 5 years of working as a so called “adult.” Yet there I was, three years into my debt, crying over my debt while my girlfriend tries to console me.

“would I ever be able to have an actual savings account”–I remember thinking

It crushed me how different our situations were just because I had student loans and she didn’t. Her parents and her grandfather had invested in a 529 College Saving Plan and a CD to cover for her tuition. What paid for my tuition was three different kinds of Federal Student Loans, a private loan from a credit union bank, and 2 thousands dollars my dad gave me one year he got money back from his taxes.

That was the first and last time I cried over my student loans, I wish I can say the same about my worries over them. There were countless of times I let that number rob me from my sleep. That’s why I’ll stop the sob story here and talk about the advice I wish I got while I searched on google things like “How to pay my student loans.”

The advice I, typically, came across on the internet or heard from people was of two types, One practical; things like live a frugal life; like I had a choice–frugal was the only way I knew how to live. In my desperate search for answers I even remember stumbling upon this article that profiled Americans that moved to Europe and left their debt behind. The other type was also practical but this one came with a tone that made me feel like I was being scolded for having a debt. Of course not all was bad, things like pay the high interest loans first was a good advice, but they all had that tone that said “Damn–how you got yourself in that mess?” Which unfortunately was the same tone I remember a close family friend had when he once told me “those loans will follow you until you’re old.”–Thanks Javier! that would help me feel better, I remember thinking.

So here it is, some sound practical advice next to an emotional one that says “you are doing ok” keep at it.

Always sign up for that 401(K) account
Here is the one thing I never saw in advice articles. Probably you can’t save right now because you are in paying mode, but what you can do is have your employer pitch in. Lot of places offer 401(K) accounts, but they make it optional. They match a percentage of your contribution, don’t be afraid it will make your check smaller, the contributions are before taxes so in most cases you won’t even feel it. I suggest signing up for that 401(K) even when you know you are going to be at a job only for 1 year. Consider contributing at least as much as the percentage your job will match. Here is an example of why I think it matters: One year of contributing 5% from a 30K/yr income, plus the percentage your employer matches, can yield about $3000 at the end of a year. So do it!, you’ll be paying your loans and saving for your retirement at the same time.
Don’t stress too much:
This is something I would have loved to hear, either on the internet or from people I talked to. The worrying many times was unnecessary. You already made the choice to take care of your loans, now please breathe and stick to your plan. Know that with time you’ll make more money, right now the predicament of wanting to save while not having enough to do so seems like an oxymoron but you’ll get there. With time you’ll get a better job, you’ll gain experience. You will get paid more. So, don’t stress about this moment in your life too much.
Pay more than the minimum
Event if this means $10 more, interest is the worst and the more you pay the less it adds to your principal. An extra $10 can translate to thousands of dollars you didn’t have to pay at the end.
Add “Treat yourself” to your budget
As practical as this may seem I wish someone told me that budgets can also help you know how much you can spend on yourself, after debt pain-ments of course. Knowing how much you can “treat yourself” can help you not feel guilty about your spending.
Open an IRA
This would be the smartest financial move you can make. Any contribution you make there can be deducted on your taxes. Now If you can’t contribute anything right now, at least you can rollover your 401(K) money there when you change jobs.

Take care of your mental health
Also another advice I never heard while searching for help on the internet. Don’t let this debt stress you out more than it should. Celebrate the milestones, treat yourself when you can. Continue with your life as best as you can.
Pay High interest Loans first
The higher the interest the more money you are going to pay at the end, so if you can pay that high interest loan first do it. Now, if you have multiple loans pay a bit more on those with the highest interest.
Don’t feel shame about your debt
Why feel shame about the first adult decision you made, you decided to invest in yourself. Even if you didn’t fully understand the commitment, it is good you did it. The failure, if any, is not on your parents or yourself, is in our government for letting higher education be a luxury only a few can afford instead of a basic human right.
Forbearance or deferment
None, if you have the option none would be the best, but if you have to–Deferment will stop interest so it is the better option of the two. Forbearance it stops payments but it continues collecting interest.
Money can come back, time can not
If you wish to take a vacation, do it. Now that you are young, you’ll learn so much about yourself and the world it would be like another school. Don’t deprive yourself from it just because you are in debt. Of course save for it or make it part of you budget.
Learn a thing or two about Money
This was just a failure from our education system, why leave such a crucial part of everyday life out of the classrooms. I heard kids now are getting some financial education–good for them. What I did to fill this knowledge gap was to read few books, the most practical book I picked up was the The Elements of Investing by Burton G. Malkiel, this short book taught me basics things like interest, savings, planning for retirement, all in digestible sizes of information. I recommend it.
Help others
In either big or small ways, helping others will do wonders for your well-being. Volunteer for a non-profit that you like or offer your time and/or expertise to a good cause, you would leave feeling better about yourself and others. It may sound selfish to help for your own benefit, but in this case there is a win-win situation no matter how you see it.

Hope that was of some help. After 5 years of graduating from college I can say I didn’t do all I planned; I don’t have a real savings account or rainy day money (as today), but that is ok. In the bright side, I paid my loans in 5 years, I always signed up for the 401(k) benefit at my jobs and put couple bucks on my IRA so, as-today, I have about $40,000 in my retirement accounts. Now, after paying all that debt I wish I took better care of my mental health or celebrated my milestones like paying off my first loan, or the second, I was too hard on myself. My goal now that I am debt free is to save money and start therapy.

To show you what a masochist I am, I put together this timeline of my debt. By the way, when I finished it I realized I paid an extra $10,406.36 on interest so in reality my education costed me about $75,662.92. Interest is absolutely the worst. Enjoy, or cringe.

🎓 May 2015 | $65,256.56
Federal Perkins Loan – $11,130.00
Stafford Loans – $27,176.23
Parent-Plus Loan – $13,897.67
Credit Union (Private Loan) – $13,052.66
$870/month (29% of month’s income)

Oct 2016 | $ 58,385.41
Federal Perkins Loan – $9,703.28
Stafford Loans – $26,082.09
Parent-Plus – $12,523.80
Credit Union (Private Loan) – $10,076.24
$870/month (33% of month’s income)

Dec 2017 | $ 52,248.11
Federal Perkins Loan – $8,525.63
Stafford Loans – $25,939.41
Parent-Plus – $10,875.39
Credit Union (Private Loan) – $6,907.68
$870/month (35% of month’s income)

Aug 2018 | $ 43,800.15
Federal Perkins Loan – $8,466.28
Stafford Loans – $25,426.94
Parent-Plus Loan – $9,906.93
$621/month (14% of month’s income)

Aug. 2019 | $37,165.04
Federal Perkins Loan – $6,260.48
Stafford Loans – $22,966.02
Parent-Plus Loan – $7,938.54
$900/month (17% of month’s income)

Feb 2020 | $30,422.59
Consolidated: Federal Perkins + Stafford
$3000/month (57% of month’s income)

💸 Oct 2020 | Debt Free
$3000 last pain-ment

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2020 Elections Vs. Trump

Twelve years ago, around this time, I remember having only been in the United States for less than a year when George W. Bush; standing in a podium in front of the white house, concluded his presidential term by welcoming the incoming president and saying “this peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy” that simple statement, to me, it was as much of a cultural shock as the new language, and learning that people from all over the world call this place home.


Beats (2019)

Beats, based on Kieran Hurley’s play; of the same name, and Co-written and directed by Brian Welsh (Black Mirror: The Entire History of You) tells the story of two teenagers living in the mid ’90s in a poor suburb of Scotland. On the surface the plot is reminencent of 2007’s Superbad: ackward teenagers attempting to make it to a party while facing lot of logisticla and humours obstacles. However, just few minutes in, the film unfolds to a graceful coming-of-age story that has lot of fun scenes that mix with the sad realization that these friends are growing apart by the circumstances surrouding them.


El amor en los tiempos del machismo

Las malas costumbres de la sociedad que hasta hoy en día siguen siendo injusta con las mujeres perpetua una idea errónea de ellas al representarlas únicamente como estereotípicas madres, solteras, viudas, sentimentales, etc. Incluso el simple echo de ver a las mujeres como personas ‘difíciles de entender’ es dañino ya que repercute en la mente de toda una población. Yo que me considero una persona progresiva pensé que bien sabía de estas obvias, y no tan obvias, maneras en las que la sociedad siempre a puesto a las mujeres en desventaja. Pero, para mi desconcierto, y después de conocer y conversar con mujeres feministas, empecé a entender que yo y toda mis ideas (que me hacías sentir progresivo) no llegaban a ser más que un pobre vistazo a un problema aún más grande. Una de esas mujeres es Rachel, una lectora voraz y de una inteligencia enciclopédica, algo que se hace evidente cuando conversas con ella por esa sencillez sin pretensiones con la que dice las cosas. En los mejores momentos de nuestras conversaciones me da la impresión de que todo lo a medido antes de decirlo, desde nuestras primeras charlas me asombro esa sencillez con la que se expresa. Yo que complicó hasta las cosas más simples veía en su forma de hablar una destreza admirable. Después de muchas conversaciones con ella descubrí que no me había dado cuenta hasta qué punto yo mismo, a pesar de todas mis buenas intenciones, también soy un buen ejemplo de esta sociedad que es injusta con las mujeres. Lo digo porque por momentos yo continuo acarreando, por puro hábito, las actitudes sexistas de esta sociedad. 


Puerto Rico

My visit to Puerto Rico, was motivated mostly because it was my anniversary and for the love that my girlfriend and I share for the music that comes out of this island; but at the end this trip was memorable because of the sheer beauty of the place. Also how can I not mentioned Reggaeton. Being home to Reggaeton, a genre I saw taking off before my eyes and then becoming this sound that reached the whole world, that music that was the soundtrack of my teenager days was the first genre I felt I could identify with, so; yes, Reggaeton was a another big reason I felt allured by this place.

School project

Reflexion acerca de El otoño del patriarca

Para Gabriel Garcia Marqués sus cuentos eran un tipo de ejercicio literario, es por esto que la impresión que nos deja el leer una novela y un cuento de este escritor es distinta.  A diferencia de sus cuentos, en las novelas la narración se expande y se expresa en total plenitud. En ellas hay una clara historia que se abre y cierra, y esto es evidente en los finales de las novelas de este autor, en sus fianales no hay ambigüedad o espacios para dudas; lo que no siempre sucede en alguno de sus cuentos. Las novelas de Garcia Marquez terminan con mucho mas intención y es esta precisión lo que se puede esperar en El otoño del patriarca. En muchas maneras esta novela es tambien una interpretacion de la historia, ya que la historia es uno de sus aspectos mas importantes. Pero todo no termina ahi, esta novela esta llena de excesos: el primero es la manera en que se escribe esta novela; de una manera muy pero muy densa y casi sin ningun punto o coma, luego la conocida exageracion del autor llega a sus limites, el personaje pricipal no solo esta aquejado por un monton de plagas pero tambien tiene rasgos de animales y tiene un poder que mas alla de politico se asemeja al de un dios.

Creative life

The Autumn of the Patriarch

El otoño del patriarca by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez  My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this novel, as in most of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work, history is at the center of the story,  The Autumn of the Patriarch takes us trough the history of a whole continent through one character. Very different from any of his other work, this book is unlike anything he has written because if his collections of short stories feel as if they were literary exercises, his novels express themselves with narratives full intention, in them there is a clear story that opens and closes itself. So, after finishing one of his novels there is no traces of ambiguity or spaces for doubt, something that doesn’t always happen in the short stories.


Looking for a job

It’s was a Sunday night in January when I wrote this, it was forty-eight degrees outside, It was a warm night for a winter. That night I found myself unemployed, in love, and young; and like that winter night I felt rather optimist. The ambiguity that surrounded, and sort of still surrounds, my immediate future doesn’t affect my mood, it is a concern but nothing more. I like all the free time I have. It gives me space to unwind, to think about writing, and of projects of my own. I haven’t written for all this past year and that made me feel that I have been missing something. For example, it had been a year since I left college, I worked at my first full-time position, and I met someone I really enjoy being with. One would think I would have loved to write about these experiences, however, that year I have been absent for myself, I had no motivation to write much at all. The routine was killing my spirit, at least that is what I thought, but it wasn’t. Routine can be a good thing. What happened was that the work I was doing was minuscule, I was making changes and barely creating anything. I was doing so much of it did not leave me energy for myself to burn. This past year, at my job, I learned new things and I made good friends but after all it was too little reward for too much demand. The longer I seemed to stay the more comfortable I felt about the work I was doing. I did not like that conformity. Even though it was appealing because it came with a steady check and healthcare!. I felt I was at the verge of feeling miserable, I know I never reached that point. But, my character was being doll down. In that time learned I am curious about many thing outside design and dwelling into those things, for me, are a creative fuel of some sort. Unfortunately, the curious side of me was not being replenished when working on things I do not appreciate. Ideally I like to learn about the subject matter I am working on. Perhaps the search for a meaningful work of art, for a great movie, for an inspiring book, or even meeting interesting people. All that makes me feel creative. I draw inspiration from appreciating other people’s work as much as my own, and above all I have to care about the subject matter. I was not doing a lot of that. Now, in hindsight, I know of few things I will look for in my next jobs. Just so I avoid feeling like that again. I will look for places where I can appreciate the work, where I can work with people I can learn from, and; if is not asking too much, a place with projects that involve advocacy, storytelling, and/or technology.


The Other Side of The Family

Peter’s father was always present, although he only knew of him by the sound of his voice on the phone and couple photos from an old album.

Peter grew up in a house of all-women; he had two sisters and his mother. Being the only boy, he always felt sort of a loner despite tha he was never really alone.

At home, Peter, always felt he was under a constrained set of rules: be polite, take a shower in the mornings and one in the evening before bed, don’t chew with your mouth open, hold the knife and fork properly when you eat, never leave the house without your mother’s consent, take care of your little sister, bring home good grades, and so on.

Creative life News

Making Few Stops In Bolivia

The Illimani on the horizon

One thing is to travel and be captivated by a country. In your eyes everything is new, the landscape, the costumes, the faces speaking a different language. All those are fascinating experiences that leaves you craving for that very thing even more; more traveling. Now, it’s a completely new feeling to visit your own country and find yourself just as intrigued by it. This ought to be something close to being home-sick for a place you do not know, I say this because I had never been to most of these places. The only way I can explain it is that before, I only ‘liked’ the idea of visiting the ruins in Tiwanaku or walking in the salt flats, but I only ‘liked’ those ideas because I was born in Bolivia, these places were always close by. They never felt as alluring as seeing some foreign land that is far away. Today, living in another country I get to feel like an outsider and I see Bolivia with the same allure as a tourist.