October 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s) Update

This one will be short and to the point. To the numbers…

AccountDebtDebt (7/1/19)Min. PaymentInterest Rate
Private Student Loan 1$0.00-$10,231.32$110.460.000%
Private Student Loan 3$0.00-$12,580.49$153.820.000%
Private Student Loan 4-$6,231.87-$13,280.33$45.403.625%
Private Student Loan 2-$6,660.81-$8,271.15$93.305.090%
Federal Student Loan 1-$21,440.37-$20,583.34$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 2-$13,946.84-$13,457.55$0.005.310%
Federal Student Loan 3-$11,184.47-$10,737.40$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 4-$7,748.09-$7,518.58$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 5-$5,561.12-$5,520.10$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 6-$3,147.30-$2,849.21$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 7-$2,863.10-$2,649.80$0.004.660%
Federal Student Loan 8-$2,457.12-$2,538.91$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 9-$2,307.18-$2,047.30$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 10-$2,003.02-$1,813.31$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 11-$1,639.01-$1,573.49$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 12-$1,144.25-$1,035.88$0.005.600%
University Student Loan 1-$3,503.40-$4,581.00$60.418.000%
University Student Loan 2-$3,090.59-$3,629.38$0.000.000%
University Student Loan 3-$349.02-$1,031.21$30.008.000%
University Student Loan 4-$155.14-$857.81$30.008.000%
Personal Student Loan $0.00-$1,875.70$312.620.000%
Total$95,432.70-$128,663.26$836.01

September 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$98,014.00

October 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$95,432.70

Total Payments: $2,656.65

Net Difference: $2,581.30

Despite ongoing stress and disappointments in my personal and professional life, in terms of debt repayment, September was a great month. My very, very modest bonus was taxed at 50% but helped to meaningfully chip away ($750.00) at Private Loan Student 4 (PSL4).

Gig Income Update

Net Gig Income Goal for September: $600.00
Net Gig Income Actual for September: $398.56
Difference: ($201.44)
Net Gig Income Goal for October: $600.00

My program work for University B began in earnest in September and I have had to work three weekends in a row for my full-time employer, which seriously cut into my time to pick up gigs…and rest. Unfortunately, that resulted in me falling short of my gig income goal this month. While my weekend obligations for my full-time employer won’t change in October, my work on campus will settle a bit so I am hoping I have both the time and energy to pick up more shifts. For now, I am going to keep the same gig income goal for October. Especially since I’ve calculated that if I meet my gig income goal for October, November, and December, I would reach my goal of getting below $90K this year.

September 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s) Update

Whew, August was…a lot. I am only too happy to see the start of September. I feel like it is going to be a good month. Okay, enough of that. To the numbers…

AccountDebtDebt (7/1/19)Min. PaymentInterest Rate
Private Student Loan 1$0.00-$10,231.32$110.460.000%
Private Student Loan 3$0.00-$12,580.49$153.820.000%
Private Student Loan 4-$8,611.30-$13,280.33$45.403.625%
Private Student Loan 2-$6,726.38-$8,271.15$93.305.090%
Federal Student Loan 1-$21,440.37-$20,583.34$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 2-$13,946.84-$13,457.55$0.005.310%
Federal Student Loan 3-$11,184.47-$10,737.40$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 4-$7,748.09-$7,518.58$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 5-$5,561.12-$5,520.10$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 6-$3,147.30-$2,849.21$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 7-$2,863.10-$2,649.80$0.004.660%
Federal Student Loan 8-$2,457.12-$2,538.91$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 9-$2,307.18-$2,047.30$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 10-$2,003.02-$1,813.31$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 11-$1,639.01-$1,573.49$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 12-$1,144.25-$1,035.88$0.005.600%
University Student Loan 1-$3,577.70-$4,581.00$60.418.000%
University Student Loan 2-$3,090.59-$3,629.38$0.000.000%
University Student Loan 3-$380.41-$1,031.21$30.008.000%
University Student Loan 4-$185.75-$857.81$30.008.000%
Personal Student Loan $0.00-$1,875.70$312.620.000%
Total-$98,014.00-$128,663.26$836.01

August 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$99,935.49

September 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): $98,014.00

Total Payments: $2007.47

Net Difference: $1,921.49

I mean…not bad. Despite disappointments in my personal and professional life, in terms of debt repayment, August was a pretty good month. It should be noted that the debt repayment amounts above do not reflect my very, very modest bonus, which will instead be applied to my September debt payments and reflected in my October 2021 update. This is the first balance update to reflect Private Student Loan 3 being paid off so that is exciting.

Gig Income Update

Net Gig Income Goal for August: $700.00
Net Gig Income Actual for August: $563.75
Difference: ($136.25)
Net Gig Income Goal for September: $600.00

If you will remember, my gig income goal for August was $1,000.00. However, this was a gross income goal which didn’t really make sense for reporting purposes as all of my other income is net income. For that reason, I have updated my August goal to reflect a net income goal. (Your can learn more about how I decided how much to set aside here.) After losing a weekend to a terrible summer cold and deciding not to work this past weekend, I fell short of my goal. The amount of gig work I actually performed felt about right, and I’ve decided to shoot for just a bit more than I earned in August for September.

Again, not a bad month. Thank you so much to all of you who read, and especially those who comment, for your support in August. It was so very much appreciated.

I Quit?

Shockingly, this is not click bait. And this time, I’m not talking about a part time role…

I am underpaid. While I have believed this to be the case for some time now, being underpaid during a global pandemic is an awkward position to occupy. Unlike folks who lost their income or their lives, I have remained employed and healthy. For that reason, despite my belief knowledge that I am underpaid, I was prepared to gratefully accept my meager wages (yes, I understand that my salary isn’t terrible but this is also a role for which a master’s degree is required). That was until I learned that my new colleague (who I already really like) gets paid almost $7,000.00 more than I do….

Before you say, “But AP…” I would kindly ask you to hush-it. I sat on the search committee for that role and know that my new colleague and I have similar educational backgrounds and professional experience. However, it wasn’t until my new colleague and I were having a candid chat about how little we both get paid that they let their figure “slip.” I was shocked. While I had an idea that they made more than I do, I don’t know what it was about hearing them say it out-loud that made me so angry…and hurt. I had directly communicated to my boss during several one-on-one conversations over the past year that I believed my role warranted a salary adjustment. The department had increased the role title from a coordinator to an assistant director without a commensurate change in salary band. My boss, who loathes confrontation, continually said complimentary things about my work and endeavored to make me feel “heard” while demurring on the actual issue of salary.

So on Tuesday, after that candid chat with my colleague, I sat down to calculate the true cost of quitting my job. I calculated how much I would have to earn an hour to replace my current salary and included benefits like health insurance, employer 401K and HSA contributions, and death/disability insurance. After I came up with the hourly or daily rate I would need to stay afloat, I decided it seemed “doable” and concluded that it wouldn’t be so very difficult to find another role at my current salary. Then, I sent my boss (who I like a great deal) an email with the subject line: Planned Resignation. In the email, I explained that I was planning to resign but that I wanted to speak with him about how I could depart without causing serious damage to the programs I manage. Unsurprisingly, he schedule a one-on-one with me for an hour later.

I went into that meeting a bit sad but comfortable with the decision I had made. My boss also seemed sad and asked if it was about my salary. I was honest and told him it was but also offered that a new role would give me an opportunity to continue my professional development. It was at this time that he disclosed that he had recently gone to his boss to inquire about both a bonus and a salary adjustment for me. And that while he could not disclose the amount, that his boss had approved both. I was…shocked. And sad. We spent the next ten minutes talking about how much respect we have for one another and we ended with him encouraging me to think about it over a couple of days.

It didn’t take me a couple of days. With some of my anger now diffused, I did a bit more investigating and learned that the unvested portion of my 401K was in excess of $12,000.00. Which meant that if I left prior to the vestment in the Spring of 2022, University B would take back its $12,000.00 in contributions. Ummmm…no. I also spent a bit of time thinking about the other people with whom I work that would be negatively impacted by my abrupt departure, the community I support, and the students I advise. With that $12,000.00 being a significant factor, I concluded that two weeks notice did not seem like enough time.

On Wednesday, my boss and I met again. I thanked him for the grace he had extended me and asked him if he would be amenable to me staying on until the end of the academic year. It would give me enough time to transition to my next place in life, for my 401K to become fully vested, for me to wrap up loose programming ends, and enable them to conduct a candidate search during the height of hiring season (I have a somewhat specialized role). He said that he was glad to have a bit more time with me and encouraged me to keep him apprised of my plans as the year progresses. And that was that…for now.

There is obviously a lot more to this story, a lot more to the relationship I have with my boss, and a lot more going on with where I am at this moment… The only thing of which I am very certain is that I just gave myself a deadline. A deadline by which I have to have a new plan. And instead of feeling scared or anxious, I feel relieved. I have become comfortable and complacent in my current role, and scared to rock the boat less I disrupt my predictable monthly student loan debt payments. However, that isn’t me. That has never been me. I have deadline. I have a goal. And I am prepared to do whatever it takes to meet it.

August 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s) Update

Abject pleading apologies. I know I’m getting this post up in the waning minutes of August 1st (for folks in the EST) but forgive me, I accepted a last minute gig and got home not too long ago.

Now, for my first student loan balance(s) update where my overall balance is below $100,000.00…TO. THE. NUMBERS!!!

AccountDebtDebt (7/1/19)Min. PaymentInterest Rate
Private Student Loan 1$0.00-$10,231.32$110.460.000%
Private Student Loan 3-$847.07-$12,580.49$153.826.590%
Private Student Loan 4-$9,486.04-$13,280.33$45.403.625%
Private Student Loan 2-$6,790.66-$8,271.15$93.305.090%
Federal Student Loan 1-$21,440.37-$20,583.34$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 2-$13,946.84-$13,457.55$0.005.310%
Federal Student Loan 3-$11,184.47-$10,737.40$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 4-$7,748.09-$7,518.58$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 5-$5,561.12-$5,520.10$0.004.450%
Federal Student Loan 6-$3,147.30-$2,849.21$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 7-$2,863.10-$2,649.80$0.004.660%
Federal Student Loan 8-$2,457.12-$2,538.91$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 9-$2,307.18-$2,047.30$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 10-$2,003.02-$1,813.31$0.005.600%
Federal Student Loan 11-$1,639.01-$1,573.49$0.006.800%
Federal Student Loan 12-$1,144.25-$1,035.88$0.005.600%
University Student Loan 1-$3,651.05-$4,581.00$60.418.000%
University Student Loan 2-$3,090.59-$3,629.38$0.000.000%
University Student Loan 3-$411.79-$1,031.21$30.008.000%
University Student Loan 4-$216.42-$857.81$30.008.000%
Personal Student Loan$0.00-$1,875.70$312.620.000%
Total-$99,935.49-$128,663.26$836.01

July 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$101,626.31

August 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$99,935.49

Total Payments: $1,788.62

Net Difference: $1,690.82

July was not my best month ever in terms of student loan debt payments but it will certainly be a month I remember. In addition to finally making it below $100K in student loan debt, it also feels like I’ve turned a corner in other ways…

As of July 31st, thanks to some persistence and gig income, Private Student Loan 3 is barely hanging on…more about that tomorrow.

Gig Income Goal for August: $1000.00

If you have read any of my recent posts, then you know I have joined the slightly less brave new world of gig apps and have decided to use them as a way to generate additional income, without committing to a fixed schedule. Each Friday, I will post the additional income I earned since the preceding Friday (so Friday to Thursday). I have been using the apps for about two weeks now and I really like them thus far. I feel like their is enough flexibility with scheduling for me to earn $1000.00 for the month of August without stressing myself out (this is prior to the 30% I set aside for taxes et. al. You can read more about my decision making about this amount here). I think $1000.00 is ambitious enough that I will have to push myself, but not too ambitious as to be paralyzing, AND would make a huge impact in my ability to pay off my debt.

July was a good month.

Blogiversary: Year 2

Despite recent events, I am in a much better place mentally, emotionally, and financially, if not physically (working on that), than I was last year. For that reason, pardon me as I fully turn up the Tony! Toni! Toné! and host a somewhat more jubilant celebration of my 2nd Blogiversary. (WARNING: Lengthy post ahead…)

Whoot, what a year. I struggled to figure out what this post should be. Should it just be a reflection on the modest goals I set last year, with new goals for this year? Because July is halfway through the year, should it be a mid-point check-in on how I am doing with respect to my calendar year goals? Also, does it make sense to have blogiversary goals that are different from my calendar goals? What is the real distinction between the two? As I am often wont to do in these situations, I decided to permute and do both…

But first, let’s get to the numbers!

Student Loan Debt Journey

Blog Start – July 4, 2019: -$133,259.74

1st Blogiversary – July 4, 2020: -$119,119.98

2nd Blogiversary – July 4, 2021: -$101,626.31

That is…that is progress. It should also be noted during this time that I saved $5,000.00 in an emergency fund. Given my income during this time period has been just under $50,000.00, this really isn’t bad at all.

Review of Second Year Goals

1) Move my blog from Blogger to another platform and improve the overall appearance and readability.PASS! Like most moves for better digs, the “Ms. Afro Penny” WordPress site is pricier than my “Debt End Date” site at Blogger but the site looks a lot better and posting is a bit more enjoyable. And when I post more, I feel more accountable for my financial choices and every bit of accountability is helpful when your journey will be as long as mine.

2) Post at least twice per month including a student loan balance update post on or about the first of the month.FAIL! I think I am always worried about posting irrelevant content and never want to post unless I really have something to say. This goal will likely return…

3) Establish an alternative income stream bringing in at least $500.00 more each month.FAIL! I achieved this early in the year but decided to switch from steady part-time work to more lucrative contract work, which meant the ups and downs of contract work.

4) Reduce student loan debt below $100,000.00.FAIL! This was a recent fail that should have been a fail much earlier in the year but temporarily moving back home with my parents, due to my apartment flooding, put me back on track….only for this goal to be derailed by May galivanting with my bestie.

5) Refinance student loans at more favorable interest rates.N/A? The pandemic has meant that there was an interest rate abatement on federal student loans which meant a refinance would not have been a good choice. I could have refinanced my remaining loans but given the lower interest rates due to the pandemic, and the fact that all of them are targeted for payoff within the next year, it didn’t seem like the right move for now. For now.

Ultimately, it doesn’t make sense to me to have blogiversary goals and calendar year goals that overlap. Thus, moving forward, blogiversary goals will be strictly related to blogging/vlogging and calendar year goals will be finance related.

Midpoint Check-In on 2021 Financial Goals


1) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $100,000.00 – On track. This should have been accomplished this month but will definitely be accomplished next month.

2) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $90,000.00 Unlikely. While I will easily make it into the mid-$90Ks, it is unlikely I will make it below $90,000.00 without a significant, and unexpected, change in income over the next six months. While I have been flirting with getting a part-time job again, I still don’t know that this would be enough to get me below the $90K mark.

3) Payoff Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3) (-$10,666.59 as of 1/1/2021) – On track. Assuming no unexpected costs, this should happen next month. My balance is currently under $1500.00 and I’m itching to pay it off.

4) Payoff Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) (-$9,997.13 as of 1/1/2021) – Unlikely. Paying of this loan would get me below the $90,000.00 threshold but see explanation above as to why getting it done this year is unlikely.

5) Weekly blog post

6) Biweekly vlog (YouTube) AND Instagram* post


These will no longer be 2021 Financial Goals as they are really blog related.

7) Increase part-time/side monthly income to $1000.00Not on track. However, I am still willing to give myself a pass on this if I can make this happen before the end of the year.

8) Establish sinking fundsNot on track. I had started this in March to pay for my May gallivanting but it got wiped out by deposits for my new houseshare. I still have time to turn this around.

9) Cashflow final coursework and application process for medical school – I have been on track. More on this is another post.

Ugh. So many words. Overall, it’s looking dicey…but I can still turn it around.

Finally, my Third Year Blog Goals:

1) Blog at least twice a month.

2) Vlog at least once a month.

That’s it.

And finally, finally, a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who take time to read my blog, and especially those of you who take time to comment. I’d like to think I’d keep writing even if no one were reading but I don’t really believe that to be true. Having to post my debt updates each month helps immensely with accountability and that would be impossible without you. So…THANK YOU!

What loan should I payoff next? VOTE! (2)

I know. I know. Why am I worried about the next student loan I’m going to pay off when PSL3 is still lingering? Well, did you not read this blog subheading? One OBSESSIVE post at a time. Further, I sometimes have analysis paralysis where my need to investigate all options to a level of minutiae result in me procrastinating or not making a decision until it is too late…which sometimes results in me making a poor choice. So, you’re judgement of me aside…

In September of 2020, I asked the Pennyfolk which loan I should payoff next. Six of the eight responses said PSL3. I began targeting PSL3 in December 2020 and next month, assuming no unforeseen obstacles, it should be paid off. While paying off PSL3 is my primary focus, looking down the road just a bit helps me keep focus on exactly why I make the day to day financial choices that I do. Because it’s not just PSL3, it’s all the financial choices I will need to make long after PSL3 is paid off.

As I stated in my 2021 Financial Goals post, the plan this year has very much been to pay off PSL3 and then PSL4, and finally rid myself of 1) PSL3’s egregious interest rate, 2) AES as a student loan servicer, and 3) the large minimum payment associated with PSL4. However, yesterday, when I logged into my student loan servicing sites to get the “high” of seeing my balances a wee bit lower, I noticed something…

PSL4 – 06/02/2021

PSL2 – 06/02/2021

Hint: Look at “Unpaid Interest” and “Outstanding Interest.”

Yea…so, despite the fact that PSL2 has a balance of -$6,827.01 and PSL4 has a balance of -$9,474.11, PSL2 generates the same amount of interest as PSL4 because it has an interest rate that is 1.36% higher. I feel like at this point I don’t have the right to be shocked by how terrible interest is anymore but AHHHHHH!

It was after the scream that my mind began opening up to another plan… My University Student Loans have a combined, weighted interest rate of 6.87% per month and a current balance of -$7,475.12. I was not really considering paying off these loans next, last September, however, seeing how significantly interest impacts debt repayment has put these firmly on my radar. I have hesitated to pay these off because they have friendly terms, including interest free forbearance if you enroll full time in school; however, that only seems important if I wouldn’t have these paid off by the time I would enroll full time next fall. If I am enrolled full time next fall.

The last and largest loan group are my federal student loans which have interest rates that go from kind to egregious. However, there is no incentive to pay these off ahead of my other student loans while there is a federal interest and payment forbearance (although it likely ends in September). Right now, it is my goal to whittle down my student loan balance as fast as I can before applying for a refinance on my federal student loans.

So…thoughts?

2021 Financial Goals

Happy New Year!

If you read my 2020 Financial Review, then you know what this past year looked like for me financially. My moderate success in 2020 has made me bold, and to reach my 2021 financial goals, I’m gonna have to hustle my tush off. WARNING: This is a long post.

1) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $100,000.00 – Wow. I can actually achieve this goal without very much hustle. That is, even if I earn no additional income outside of my full time job this year, or have a month or two where I don’t nail my rather tight budget, I should still be able to accomplish this goal.

2) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $90,000.00 – Yeaaaa… Who thought I would be setting this goal, this soon? Not me! This goal would require a net reduction of ~ $21,000.00. While this seems like a lot given my net income was only about ~$37,000.00, in 2020, I did achieve a net reduction of $12,885.84 and saved $5,000.00 so a net reduction of ~ $21,000.00 isn’t so far fetched…

This goal is only possible IF 1) I hustle to earn additional income, and 2) the interest rates stay relatively low. A continued interest rate forbearance on federal student loans would make this goal that much more achievable, but I’m not counting on it. Ending the year below $90,000.00 in student loan debt would be a HUGE milestone in my journey. I know this debt amount would still seem terrifying to most people but to me it would be amazing. To achieve this goal, I MUST achieve goals 3 and 4, which not so coincidentally, are serviced by the same student loan servicer (AES) and come very close to that amount…

3) Payoff Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3) (-$10,666.59 as of 1/1/2021) – Thanks to some hard work and good financial fortune, I began targeting this debt in early December 2020. As shared above, as long as I make decent progress this year, this goal should be pretty easy to accomplish and help me polish off Goal #1.

Note: The reason it doesn’t show a monthly payment is because my extra payments (paying the original minimum even as the balance decreases and extra payments) have put me in “paid ahead” status.

4) Payoff Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) (-$9,997.13 as of 1/1/2021) – This is very much a stretch goal. However, as I stated above, if I am to stand any chance at achieving Goal #2, then this is an absolute must. While this student loan has the lowest interest rate (3.75% as of 1/1/2021) of any of my private student loans, it also has the largest minimum monthly payment ($245.40). While it might make more sense to payoff PSL2 first, because it has a lower balance (-$7,235.81 as of 1/1/2021) and a higher interest rate (5.140% as of 1/1/2021), it also has a much lower minimum monthly payment ($93.30). At this time, when my student loan debt is still very high, I have decided to prioritize lowering my financial exposure. For example, if I found myself without employment for any extended period of time, I believe it would be much easier to swing a $93.30 payment than a $245.40 payment.

Note: The minimum payment recently fell to $234.53 after they recalculated the term (48 months) based on the current interest rate and payments (for some time, this loan was just always “paid ahead” as I employ the Ramsey method of continuing to make the same minimum payment even as the minimum payment declines as a way to make “painless” extra payments).

A note on my university student loans: I know some folks would like to see my university student loans on the chopping block given their interest rates (5-8%!). They aren’t on the chopping block right now for reasons I will address briefly below, and later more extensively.

5) Weekly blog post – I know! If I failed at doing two blog posts a month, why does it make sense to ratchet the goal up to four? 1) I need the accountability and 2) I realized I have things I would like to work through and want to write but I have held back because I didn’t want to “bother” or “annoy” you all by posting something that wasn’t really significant. (Yea…let’s not get into the socialization behind that). However, I’ve thought about it and 1) to achieve my huge goals this year, I am going to need to stay on track 90%+ of the time, and this blog helps me do that, and 2) you all could always just ignore my blog or not read 🙂

My blogging schedule for 2021 will be a blog post every Friday. I will also post my monthly “student loan balance(s)” updates on the first of the month. During months where the first of the month is a Friday, as is the case this month, I will only post once…except this month, where I have posted my student loan balance(s) update and this lengthy post. Eh. It’s New Year’s Day. It warrants an exception.

6) Biweekly vlog (YouTube) AND Instagram* post – I have received gentle prodding to be a more active member of the personal finance community on both of these platforms (On YouTube, I have lurked and commented under an alternate username, but only recently joined as Afro Penny). As I stated at the beginning of my old blog, Debt End Date, I have very little interest in turning this blog into a revenue stream. Perhaps that is “money left on the table,” but I like this blog as is. However, YouTube is a different beast and if I take the time to create and edit videos (so much more work than blogging), then I am open to the idea that they might be monetized.

*Thank you for the Instagram suggestion Isabella. 🙂

7) Increase part-time/side monthly income to $1000.00 – I don’t really know how I am going to achieve this goal consistently given that I recently quit my part time job. But I am someone who is good at making plans once I have a “real” goal, so I figured I better make this a goal.

8) Establish sinking funds – After reviewing my forecasted and actual monthly budgets for the past year, I realized that other than the occasional overeating, the only times I consistently overspent we related to my car and gifts. In an effort to thwart future disruptions to my budget, and really “adult,” I have decided to finally establish sinking funds.

9) Cashflow final coursework and application process for medical school – I KNOW! Did not see that one coming, did ya? If you were to click on the “drafts” tab for this blog, and scroll to the bottom, you might find something surprising. Or, not so surprising.

So, clearly I haven’t gotten into medical school..yet. But, I drafted that post when I first started this blog and then continued to edit that post with reason after reason as to why it should one day be posted or deleted. I have finally decided that I don’t have enough information to make that decision… Initially, I thought I would provide a bit of background and explanation as to what my plans are here, but this subject really does deserve it’s own post and this one has already gotten a bit long in the tooth. Per my new blogging schedule, this post will appear on Friday, January 8th. Before then, I will remind you that I said I was done taking out student loans for good. I meant that. I mean that.

Happy New Year!

I am really excited about the possibility for positive change this new year represents, for every aspect of my life. In terms of my finances, I have decided a quote from C is going to be my mantra for the year:

I think it’s important to not totally abandon the idea of getting out of debt, but also not sacrifice the rest of your life to “serving” it. – C

Today, I quit.

Yea, that title is a little…dramatic. But this is a blog, and I gotta keep it interesting.

The title is also little…inaccurate. I began writing this post more than two weeks ago when I sent my letter of resignation to my part-time employer. I had been wanting to do it for some time, for a confluence of reasons, which I share below…

So, I quit.

(Technically, I allowed them to keep me on the payroll in case someone calls out in the future but that’s not quite as dramatic).

I kinda know what you must be thinking. “Really, chick? You quit a part-time job that was moderately inconvenient while still in -$112,707.46 of student loan debt?” I sure did, and I mostly don’t regret it:

1) My wage was decliningMy wage continued to decline as the site I worked at underwent renovations, and the hours available decreased based on the construction work.

2) The work became increasingly laborious – The work I was being asked to perform continued to stray significantly from the tasks for which I had been hired, and were increasingly labor intensive. (i.e. Moving office furniture and cleaning up after construction workers). I don’t think there is anything wrong with this work, but the people who perform it generally get paid more than $10.00/hour. The new construction also previewed that in the future it was going to be a lot harder to complete the tasks I was usually assigned. I had been “making due” with a less than ideal site since I started and my employer had stated that he was looking for a solution to some of the challenges the site presented but despite being a very nice man, he was a very bad communicator. Because I was responsible and completed my work with little oversight, he would often not visit my worksite for several weeks at a time. I would tell him about the changes and what it meant for our work and he kept promising to stop by but never did. He finally showed up this past week, my final week at the site, and realized how much harder it would be once the construction was finished and why he should have been to the site much sooner. He apologized, but for me it was a bit too little, too late.

3) Increased commute – My commute time slowly creeped up from about nine minutes to about twenty minutes, each way, in traffic. Admittedly, some of this was most certainly due to holiday shoppers on the road, but some of it is was also due to the fact that I live in a city and more folks have slowly returned to working in person.

4) Cut into my evening availability/Time tradeoff – The increased commute time in the evening, after my primary job, was tough because I have been pursuing consulting work (I landed some and will be paid in January this month for a recently completed project). The more I looked into it, the more I realized that with a bit more effort, that the consulting work could be pretty consistent. Ultimately, the last project I completed took me two full work days (16 hours) and a couple of meetings to complete, and I was paid more than I made in a month in my regular part-time role (80 hours). The work is very “hot” at the moment and each consulting project is also good for my resume.

5) Wage stagnation – In the past, I mentioned that I covered another site for a coworker. What I didn’t mention was that I actually spoke with them when we met to exchange site and access information. While I was speaking with them, they mentioned that they had been working for my employer for almost five years. I was quite frank and asked them how much more they were making now as opposed to when they started. They were very forthcoming and told me they were currently making $10.00/hour. I was kinda blown away. Even in retail you get a $0.25, $0.50, or $1.00 bump after each year you are employed.

For all of these reasons, I decided that it was best for me to be a bit more aggressive in my pursuit of consulting work and to let go of the part-time gig. While I appreciate the additional income earned and the experience, I owe it to past and future Afro Penny to make sure that the investment and sacrifices for my education and personal development are used in the most strategic (and lucrative) way possible.

So, how do I think this will impact my ability to accomplish my financial goals for the next year? I’ve done the math and to achieve my somewhat audacious goal, in addition to my monthly minimums, I need to pay an extra $1,500.00 on my student loans each month. At least $900.00 of that is scheduled to come from my monthly paycheck, which means I really need to pay an additional $600.00/month or $7,200.00 over the year. That seems like…a lot. And it is, but I think it is the right kind of stretch goal.

In my first post of 2021, “2021 Financial Goals” I will break down my 2021 financial goals, and how I plan to achieve them.

Which student loan(s) should I pay off next? (Vote!)

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be focused on saving. Listen, I told you who I am at the very top of this blog: “Climbing out of $130,000.00 of student loan debt, one obsessive post at a time.” It’s not my fault if you didn’t listen…er read. (Note: It took me many years to learn the life lesson that you need to listen to people when they tell you who they are and not who you imagine or want them to be).

So I haven’t changed my immediate goal. My immediate goal is still increasing my emergency fund to $5000.00 by the end of the year, which represents about three (3) months worth of fixed expenses, INCLUDING my minimum student loan payments. (Note: Some of my student loans, such as my university loans discussed below, can be very easily deferred due to hardship, which would allow this money to stretch a bit further). However, the process for saving is pretty simple. There is no real strategy required and on the first of the month (and on the biweekly pay cycle for my side gig), I just need to transfer money into my savings account. Pretty simple. Pretty boring.

So, my mental energy has instead turned to which student loan(s) should I pay off next? This turn in mental energy is helping me to stay motivated while saving and probably results from the fact that my income has increased since taking on the part-time job and will increase a bit again on October 1st. I will discuss these increases later this month in an income update when I will have a month’s worth of paychecks from the part-time gig and my October pay stub. Unless I move this increase to savings (like retirement savings…but that is another post) I could very well reach my $5000.00 goal early and could possibly return to debt repayment this year. I know!

I have decided that in 2021, I would like to pay off at least $20,000.00 in student loans. This would bring me to the mid 90s and probably allow me to qualify for a traditional refinance. So my question should actually be, which two student loans should I pay off next?

University Student Loans

I broke down my student loan debt pretty extensively in the aptly titled post, “The Breakdown.” But a Cliff notes version is: my university loans are held by my Alma mater (they are the lender and the servicer) and while they have terrible FIXED interest rates, the university is very generous with its deferment/hardship policies, which are periods in which no interest accrues. These loans are also forgiven in the instance of death or permanent disability.

So if you review my most recent debt update, you can see that these four loans have a mix of interest rates. Using this NerdWallet Weighted Average Interest Rate for Student Loan Consolidation calculator, I determined that collectively, my four university student loans represent the following:

Yuk. Generous repayment terms aside, that interest rate is atrocious and that monthly payment is nothing to sneeze at.

Private Student Loan 3

I hate this loan. It’s one of those loans that I have already paid back far more than the original balance, the interest rate is atrocious and the balance is gross.

Private Student Loan 3-$11,628.07$153.826.670%

Even in this environment of pretty low interest rates, the variable interest rate on this loan is still 6.670%. At peak times, this interest rate has been over 9%. Ugh. It is serviced by the same student loan servicer as Private Student Loan 4. I have exhausted the hardship/deferment/forbearance on this loan which means it sticks around in the event I lose my job or suffer other financial hardship.

Private Student Loan 4

This is the first private student loan I ever took out. It is serviced by the same servicer as Private Student Loan 3. It was prior to the 2008 recession and has a decent interest rate but a very significant minimum payment. In fact, outside of my rent payment, this is the largest payment I make each month. As of my student loan update on September 1st:

Private Student Loan 4-$10,854.06$245.403.875%

While this loan has a variable interest rate, the rate has never quite reached 6%. Using the Dave Ramsey method of paying off debts smallest to largest OR the avalanche method of paying of highest interest to lowest interest rate debts, this loan wouldn’t be on my radar. However, the minimum payment on this student loan represents a significant amount of cash-flow each month and if I were able to knock-it-out, it would really help me gain some traction on my debt repayment.

So, what should I actually do?

Blogiversary: Year 1

Excuse me while I put on a bit of Tony! Toni! Toné! and host a very low key celebration of my first blogiversary. This is a rough moment in many ways but I owe it to future Ms. Afro Penny, as well as to the sacrifices made by immediate past Ms. Afro Penny, to celebrate this milestone in debt repayment and keep chugging along.

I started this blog a year ago, on July 4th 2019 with the intention of documenting my student loan debt repayment journey. In my first debt post I shared that my current debt stood at: -$133,259.74; and, I set a payoff date December 9, 2025. So, a year later, am I any closer to my goals?

As of July 1, 2020, my debt stands at -$119,119.98. That is a reduction of $14,139.76. Yay! Not bad. Not…great. If I continued at a similar rate of repayment for the rest of my desired payoff term, I would not make my goal.

While it is my usual pattern to do a deep dive into the numbers and create new and elaborate plans for what the upcoming year will bring, I’m just not mentally there at this moment. Instead I will outline my list of five very moderate goals. 

Second Year Goals

1) Move my blog from Blogger to another platform and improve the overall appearance and readability.

2)  Post at least twice per month including a student loan balance update post on or about the first of the month.

3) Establish an alternative income stream bringing in at least $500.00 more each month.

4) Reduce student loan debt below $100,000.00.

5) Refinance student loans at more favorable interest rates.

That is it. I could be a lot more elaborate with my goals and do a much deeper dive as to the feasibility of any of these goals, and perhaps I will, but for the moment, this is it.
 

I hope this extended weekend finds you and your loved ones safe.