Four Mistakes I Made Paying Off Over $30K of Debt

Kofi Gyebi
Founder 400LB Elephant

      Know Your numbers

Here are some tips on paying off your student loans and four mistakes I made. My first and biggest mistake was being unclear about my financial standingthat was not good. In 2016, my then-girlfriend asked how much debt I had; I did not know. I fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t have the slightest clue of how much I owed. It’d been six years since I graduated from college and I stopped keeping track of how much was owed. You see, I was not financially equipped to understand how my student loans were set up. The interest kept growing at my peril, had I known and covered my interest with my payments my debt would not have ballooned the way it did.

      Subsidized loans & Unsubsidized loan

The second mistake was being unclear about what type of loans I had. There’s a big difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized loan. A subsidized federal student loan does not accrue interest while a student is in school. An unsubsidized loan, however, accrues interest the day it’s initiated, gaining interest before the student even graduates!

Embrace your debt-free story

My third mistake was not telling others about my journey to pay off debt. It felt strange trying to explain that I had to make lifestyle changes to pay off my debt. So I didn’t. When friends invited me to lunch – I would duck and dodge them or wouldn’t order food. People thought I was broke, I mean I kind of was. One time we went to a bomb Jamaican restaurant called Chef Rob’s here in Atlanta for a going-away lunch. My colleague, we’ll call her “T” screams “Kofi, you’re not eating? I responded “Nah. I’m good.” hoping it would go away. Someone else chimed in “I can get your lunch”…Lord! I wanted to crawl under the table. 12 of my colleagues looked on uncomfortably, trying to figure out what was going on. I really wanted to scream, “This food is expensive as hell is why I ain’t ordering” but I kept playing the short game… “I ate before I left the office”. Now that I think about it, I could have told them “I’m paying off my debt so I pack my lunch.” That might have quieted the conversation about me not ordering food.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” Benjamin Franklin

Investment in knowledge pays off!

Finally, I should’ve read more to increase my understanding of taking on debt to fund my education. Learning and continuous development can change the trajectory of someone’s debt journey. I could have learned about taxes, stocks, and real estate for free. Books are free at the library but serve as an investment tool. Tony Robbins wrote Master the Money Game, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robbin, and Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Make Over are all good books to read on your money journey. These books remove you from the space of feeling isolated because of your money beliefs. The reality is you’re going to make mistakes along the way but the aforementioned can save you time and money. Granted you’re actively working to pay off debt is a gift and something you should be proud of because of the doors it will open for your future. Short term it’ll suck, there’s no way around it. Long term “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” ― Dave Ramsey.

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