Why You Have To Break Free Of The Student Loan Shackle

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shackle and chain

What’s holding you back?

For the past few months, I feel like I’ve been writing a preface to my future, instead of actually living it.

I’ve been staying at home with my parents, seeing the friends I grew up with, and working two cities away from where I was born. If I learned one thing in college, it’s that you grow the most when you’re uncomfortable. The past few months have been different, but all in all, a little too comfortable for comfort.

That’s all going to change soon, though, because I’m moving to New York City.

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Over the past few years, I’ve chronicled many phases of my life on this blog: from intern, to Oxford student, to college senior, to “young professional.” From here on out, I’m going to profile my triumphs and tragedies in America’s largest concrete jungle—specifically as they relate to my wallet.

Moving was not a decision I made lightly, once again due to financial considerations. Or, more specifically, my student loans. However, I can’t let these hold me back, and you shouldn’t either.

The Student Loan “Shackle”

I’ve heard people compare student loans to a shackle, in that the monthly payments can keep you from chasing dreams or making big changes in your life. As a recent graduate with quite a few loans, I get how scarily accurate that analogy is.

So, is moving to the second most expensive city in the country with a considerable amount of student loan debt financial suicide? Not necessarily. I worked out the numbers before making any decisions (this is why having a budget is so important). After paying loans and rent, I’ll have money left over, but not so much that I won’t potentially have to make some tough decisions.

That doesn’t mean things aren’t scary, though. Am I going to starve? Move home after a month? Be miserable and tired? Flourish? Make mistakes? Make memories? I have no idea; neither does any new grad. But like me, you won’t know unless you try.

Freeing Yourself

Ultimately, I think student loan debt can only be a shackle if you allow yourself to see it as one. Now, I’m speaking from a position of privilege: I landed a job at a well-known NYC ad agency, and I have amazing parents who are willing to help me out if I fall and can’t get up on my own. I’m lucky, and not every borrower can say the same.

However, if you are also lucky enough to be able to chase your dreams despite loan payments, I think you should start running. I think you should start running even if it means you’re going to have to rough it for a little, or if your parents don’t agree with it, or if there’s a high chance you may crash and burn.

I think you should start running because you’re young once—and nobody owes their youth to a student loan company.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The short, not-so-vivid answer is into a tiny, overpriced apartment with some good friends and a brand new job with a lot of room to grow.

The more metaphorical answer? Into sink-or-swim territory. I’m going to do everything I can to keep my head above water. And my hope is detailing this will give college students and recent grads an unadulterated look at what “young professional life” looks like when you’re in a major city with major student loans.

If you’ve got any advice that can help me along the way, please let me know in the comments. I’m going to need it.

Post your tips for Mike below in the comments.

(Photo: lwr)

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