Wes P. graduated with his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Colorado in 2017 and got married right after graduation. He was excited to settle down with his wife, Sarah, and begin his career. Unfortunately, along with graduation from pharmacy school came the realization that he had over $200,000 worth of student loans to pay back.
To make matters worse, Sarah had about $120,000 of her own student debt from physical therapy school to deal with. Needless to say, they had their work cut out for them and needed a good student loan repayment strategy.
Read on to learn more about Wes’s student loan debt success story and how Student Loan Planner has helped him and Sarah begin achieving their financial goals.
Photo provided by Wes P.
Researching Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Wes found Student Loan Planner as a result of an online quest to learn more about Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Wes happened to fit into one of the few categories of pharmacists that can qualify for PSLF because he worked as an in-patient pharmacist at a nonprofit hospital.
Wes and Sarah went back and forth on whether or not pursuing PSLF was a good decision. He was particularly concerned about the rumors that kept swirling online that the federal government might cancel the PSLF program soon. Wes said they were hesitant to start PSLF at a time when everybody was talking about ending it.
He was desperate to find someone who could speak authoritatively and from experience on whether or not the PSLF program was really worth considering.
Wes had spoken to his loan servicer representatives about PSLF before but wanted to get a second opinion. He said, “I was just tired of dealing with loan servicer customer service reps. They’re nice people, but they don’t inspire confidence.”
He continued, “I just really wanted to find the person who wasn’t the government who could share the real-life examples of ‘this is how you do it.’ That’s when I found Travis and started reading his stuff.”
Booking a student loan consultation
After reading up a bit about PSLF on Student Loan Planner, Wes decided to set up a student loan consultation to see if it was a good fit for his situation. He and Sarah ended up meeting with Rob Bertman, one of a handful of consultants at Student Loan Planner.
After talking to Rob, Wes and Sarah felt much more comfortable with going for PSLF. Rob explained that if the PSLF program was canceled at some point, borrowers who had already made qualified payments would very likely be “grandfathered in” and allowed to finish the program.
That made sense to them, and they decided to move forward with PSLF for Wes’s pharmacy school loans.
The power of focusing on financial goals
Once Wes was accepted into the PSLF program under PAYE (Pay As You Earn) in late 2017, he started making payments based on his previous W-2 from his pharmacy internship. Since he had only made approximately $5,000 gross at that job, his payments were $0 each month.
Now, in his second year, he’s currently paying approximately $600 a month and expects that his payment next year should be around $1,200 a month.
Now that they were following the PSLF program for Wes’s loans without guilt or reservation, Wes and Sarah began following the plan that Rob gave them for how to use the extra cash flow towards financial goals.
Goal #1: Pay off Sarah’s student loans
The first order of business was to begin socking away at Sarah’s physical therapy school debt. To keep expenses at a minimum, Wes and Sarah lived in a 600-square-foot apartment while every extra penny went toward her student loans.
And in about three years, they were able to completely pay off Sarah’s $120,000 student loan debt!
Goal #2: Buy a house
Wes and Sarah were on a roll now. They knew how to live below their means, and they experienced the thrill of financial wins.
As they neared the end of repaying Sarah’s student loans, they began saving up for a down payment on a home.
They were able to save about $30,000 for a down payment in about five months as they paid less and less to Sarah’s loans.
Wes said, “We had about $12k in emergency funds to start with. So the extra approximately $10k was saved from her loans along with a crazy budgeting plan (grocery, subscriptions, eating out, etc).”
Wes added that even with such a heavy focus on their down payment, they were able to allocate some money for travel during this time as well.
He said, “All of that time for saving for a home…we still managed to squeeze in a timely vacation to visit a best friend in Japan. Crazy I know, but experience gathering is big for us, so we had to take advantage!”
And in October 2018, they were able to buy their first home. When asked to describe their house, Wes said, “It’s perfect — a 1950s home, approximately 1,600 square feet near the Truckee River and waterfront park in downtown Reno.”
Goal #3: Save for retirement
It’s been approximately two years since Wes graduated from the University of Colorado. But he and Sarah have accomplished so much in that timespan.
Now that they’ve bought their home, Wes and Sarah aren’t just blowing the extra cash that they have in their monthly budget. Instead, they began getting serious about hammering out retirement savings.
They’ve both just started contributing 20% of their paychecks to their 401(k) accounts and are also maxing out their Roth IRAs. To put it simply, Wes and Sarah are absolutely killing it.
Here’s a quick timeline of how things have progressed for them:
- May 2017: Wes graduated from pharmacy school
- January 2018: First official PSLF payment that counted
- October 2019: Bought their home
- January 2019: Finished paying Sarah’s physical therapy school loans
- January 2019: Increased retirement savings to about 30% of income after taxes
As for Wes’s student loans, his payments are so low that he’s eating very little, if at all, into the principal. But he’s OK with that.
Wes said, “To be honest, I am not sure what the total loan amount will be in 10 years. I’m aware it will be much more than $230k as my payments are minimal, probably barely covering interest per month.”
But he continued, “What I do know is that this program allows me to always pay significantly less than a Standard 10-year plan AND have the total amount forgiven at 10 years. This allowed us to save for a home. This allowed us to begin saving for retirement. Win, win, win, win.”
How to reach your student loan debt success story
After hearing Wes and Sarah’s story, you may feel like they’re rockstars. And, well — they kind of are.
And you can be, too.
Just a few years ago, Wes and Sarah were drowning in student debt and had yet to reach any of their financial goals. But their story shows how quickly you can make progress when you get on a plan and follow it.
Wes’s income-driven repayment program gives him and Sarah extra leeway in their budget. But he gives Rob a lot of credit for the smart decisions they’ve been making with that extra money.
He said, “We’ve been following Rob’s guide step by step all the way.”
If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by your student debt, Student Loan Planner would love to help. With the right plan, your student debt doesn’t need to get in the way of realizing your dreams.
One of our student loan consultants would love to help you make that plan. Book your consultation today.