As the post-school deferral ends for lots of former students, I wanted to knock out a few posts addressing how to get started paying off your student loans
I’ll address the more practical steps to take control of student loan debt in future posts, but today I want to discuss attitude.
Stop dwelling on the past
Stop thinking of your debt as a moral failing and start thinking of it as a temporary inconvenience.
Yes, of course you should take responsibility for and learn from any mistakes you made along the way, and you certainly should avoid taking on any more debt.
But after that intensive introspection, you won’t gain anything else by throwing precious time and energy toward retracing all the things you could have done differently.
In fact, people under financial stress are more likely to make worse decisions with their money.
So stop stressing over a past you can no longer affect.
It’s just a number — maybe a big number — but stop wasting your energy reliving how you got there, and start using that energy to knock it down.
Don’t let other people bring you down
Mention out loud that you’re in student loan debt, and there will be no shortage of actors who will happily work to make you feel miserable over it.
You can listen to doubters who look at your debt and assume you’re too dumb or too frivolous to get out of it. You can convince yourself that older relatives are right when they scoff and remind you that they bought a house at your age and that your irresponsibility is just so typical of this generation.
Or you can smile politely, thank them for their advice and move along.
You can ignore them because you’ve got your own plan and you’re doing the right thing by working on it. And because, try as they might to convince you otherwise, we’re hundreds of years past the time when debt was legally considered a moral failing.
No one is going to send you to prison for having student loan debt, the church isn’t going to condemn you, and the mafia isn’t coming to break your legs.
You define you
In the end, you write your own definition for how you see yourself.
Suppose this is the current state of your debt:
Right now, you might think of yourself as the person deep in debt. You probably know the exact number, in fact — perhaps from being asked so often. If so, you’re looking at your debt like this:
Is that who you want to be?
Instead, put your payoff on a chart, as I’ve done here. Why not see yourself as someone who’s doing a little bit every day and every month to reach your goals?
Why not define yourself by the progress you’ve already made, and by your plans to get even more results?
In other words, sure, you could see yourself as one big negative number, or you could look at yourself like this:
Sure, you may not feel like you’re in a great position, but trust me; you’ll get very few chances to start a whole new life from scratch. Take this unique opportunity to completely reinvent yourself and re-emerge as the best darn butterfly you can 🙂