Melanie Lockert of Los Angeles, California tells about the jolting student loan debt wake-up call she had right after completing grad school.
Lockert’s jolting student loan debt wake-up call
Lockert had wisely worked multiple part-time jobs throughout school, and for five years had made consistent monthly payments on her student loan debt. Yet, when she left grad school, she still owed a whopping $68,000 on her $81,000 student loan bill.
She’d worked so hard, and paid so faithfully—yet she still owed a staggering $68,000? How could this be?
The insidious nature of student loan debt interest
As Lockert dug into the “why” behind what had happened to her, she uncovered the reason. For five entire years, she’d paid only the minimum each month.
“When I graduated from NYU, I started to do the math and I realized I was paying $11 a day in interest,” she says. “That just really woke me up.”
Lockert was paying $11 a day in interest on her student loan debt
No wonder she wasn’t getting ahead.
Now Lockert warns others.
“When I was 17/18, I signed up for student loans not knowing how interest worked,” she told CNBC Select. “I subscribed to the idea that everyone has student loans, that it’s good debt. It wasn’t until I graduated from NYU when I was more broke than before that I realized the only way I was going to get out of debt was by paying more than the minimum.”
Photo courtesy of Melanie Lockert and Dear Debt
Lockert spent the next 4 years paying off her remaining student loan debt as fast as she could.
She took a full-time job as an events coordinator for a nonprofit, she shared an apartment to save money on rent and utilities, and she side hustled nearly 7 days a week to increase her income.
“I did any task—big or small—that I could find on TaskRabbit or Craigslist,” Lockert says.
She did freelance writing on the side, she started the popular Dear Debt blog, and she’s now the author of the book Dear Debt, which, she says, “chronicles my own journey overcoming crippling debt while giving you concrete tools to do the same.”
When Lockert became increasingly successful as a freelancer, she quit her job to freelance full-time—doubling her income to $60,000 within a year. “That turbocharged my student loan payments,” she says. “Suddenly, I was making four-figure payments.”
If you’ve got student loan debt, use these resources to begin the process of getting yourself free:
If you’re in college or technical school right now, see my article on how to slash your student loan debt.
If you’re in grad school right now, see my article on 12 ways to get your grad school paid for.
If you’re no longer in college or grad school, see my article on how to kiss student loan debt goodbye.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.
This article was updated on October 27th, 2022.