I recently withdrew from my Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program because I did not know if it was the direction I wanted my career to go anymore. It was a difficult decision, but one that gave a sense of peace once I went through with it. A few weeks went by before the reality hit that my monstrous amount of student loan debt would be in repayment. During my undergraduate studies, I took out loans. Some I needed, some I could have gone without. I paid for my entire nursing license with student loans…so.many.student.loans. I attended a private school that had an accelerated direct entry master’s program for people with non-nursing degrees. I wanted to go the community college route and pay WAY less, but the admission process isn’t the best. So I went for my masters; something I knew I wanted anyway.
Fast forward to a year out of school, I decided it was time to go back and get my nurse practitioner license, since that was the end career goal when I started this journey. I could have (and should have) only taken out the amount needed to books and tuition, but I allowed myself to receive the full amount; adding more debt to my already large amount. Now, in January 2018 MOST of my loans are going into repayment and it is a scary time. If you have student loans, you may understand my pain. The amount they want you to pay…the amount the THINK you can pay is ridiculous. I guess they assume I’m still living at home. A lot of millennials are, but this one is not thank you very much (but trust me, if I could and stack my coins, I might consider it). Bottom line, I could not afford to pay what they initially wanted me to pay. Let me just say, if this was years ago, I might have just ignored them. I used to do that. I used to think if I didn’t open the mail or answer the call, they would just go away. I had a real ostrich mentality when it came to my finances. As I have grown, I realize the only way to deal with these matters is head on, so I called my loan provider…2 days before the payment was due, but I called. After explaining that I could not afford to pay what was showing on my screen, the man on the other end began to tell me my options. What he said almost brought me to tears. I went from a $1,027 payment to a $700+ payment to a $494 payment. May I remind you, not all my loans are in repayment yet. I sat in my living room sweaty thinking about what I could sell around my apartment beside my own body to make these payments. Now I can hear some of you now. But you’re a nurse, you got money. You are right. I am a nurse. I make a pretty decent amount of money. But I am also a single woman with no tax breaks living in California. This rent is nothing nice and gas is rude. I work at a hospital that pays pretty well for it’s location, but does not pay me more for my degree as some locations do. Also, there is not specialty pay, but I’ll save that for another post. What they take in taxes and benefits most of the time equals what I used to make bi-weekly at some of my jobs. Heck, it’s what some people currently make bi-weekly. I also have many expenses. Some I have created over time and some that are just a part of life. When I got off the phone with the man, I sat in my chair in my two bedroom apartment for a minute with an instant headache. What was I going to do? I had already realized I needed to work more in order to continue living my best life (see my post The Borrowed Life), but this was going to have me working all the dang time.
After a rant in my group text, I went to work trying to figure out my options. In order to get the lowest payment (which doesn’t include all my loans, so the number WILL go up), I would need to consolidate all my loans. On the surface, that does not seem like such a bad idea, until you consider some of the loan forgiveness programs available to healthcare providers. There is a Heath Resources and Service Administration program. This program forgives 60% of the loans taken out for your nursing degree in exchange for 2 years in a particular type of institution. That program is amazing, and of course very popular. Two things: if you combine your non-nursing and nursing loans together, you are disqualified and you must work at facility that fits their criteria. My reality is that my hospital does not qualify and in order to make my payments manageable, I need to consolidate. I could get a new job at a qualifying facility and suffer through the payments until the next application cycle, but I may not be selected. Ain’t nobody got time for all that. There is another program called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. With this program, the applicant must work for a qualifying facility and make 120 qualifying payments. The program then forgives the remaining balance. This means 10 years of minimum payments, then boom! The rest is forgiven. There are a few downsides to this program. The biggest one is 10 years of payments. Who wants to do that? Really? Also, this is all based on Congress approving the program. At any moment, I could be making minimum payments and in year 9, Congress could decide to no longer fund this program. Seeing all the things Congress isn’t doing and is allowing, I put nothing past them.
After researching all my options, I realized it was time to come up with a plan and be honest about where I am in life. I not only need to make more money, but cut my expenses. It seems like an easy fix, but let’s be honest. It will take a LOT of work and many hours to reduce my debt. That’s not a bad thing, but sacrifice is hard for me. The thought of being tired because I’ve been working already makes me tired. Using my days office to catch up on all the things I used to be able to do during the week doesn’t sound pleasant at all. BUT it is necessary in order to be financially responsible, so it will be done. I have to keep my life goals in mind. I want to buy a house within the next 2 years. I DO want to be debt free. I want to travel and have money in my savings and checking accounts. So, it’s time to downgrade my life in order to upgrade. My largest expense is my rent. I live in a really nice two bedroom with a designated room for crafts. That is such a blessing to have. When I finally became a nurse, that was the one thing I decided I was going to upgrade. I wanted a space that allowed me live and play. But in order to upgrade my life in the future, it might be time to downgrade to a less expensive one bedroom. I will miss the extra space, but I’ll be OK. I realize this is going to be quite an adjustment for me, but it has to be done. I must adult. It’s time to get my financial life right and I am the only one who can make the changes to do so.
Have you ever had to take two steps back in order to move forward in life? What adjustments did you make? Share in the comments below.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I have paid off my car, downsized my living situation which means a downsized payment, and am on track to pay off my revolving debt by July 2019, if not sooner. I will be consolidating most of my student loans, which will make my payment more manageable. I started reading the Dave Ramsey book, The Complete Guide to Money and it lit my spirit on fire to change my financial situation. Some of the tools and methods he discusses in the book I knew about, but it was not until I was actually in the space to want financial change that they began to resonate with me. So remember, change can’t happen until you are in the place to receive it. Also, read the book by Dave Ramsey. It’s great! K, bye!