- Because of the pause on student-loan repayments, I saved a lot of money for a down payment.
- But now that they’re starting again, I can no longer save for a home.
- I have to make a lot of tough decisions now, and I’m putting my dreams on hold.
In March 2020, my student-loan worries disappeared practically overnight.
For years, my $35,000 debt hung over my head. Every time I purchased an item I needed, I wondered whether I should save that money for my payments. When I moved apartments in New York, I worried I would be denied because of my debt.
But that changed when the federal government paused loan repayments and dropped the interest rates to 0% amid the pandemic. I felt like I could breathe.
Over the past three years, I was able to finally set my sights on the future. But now that the repayment pause is coming to an end, I have to put my plans on hold and welcome back my financial anxiety.
I went to a private school and racked up debt I couldn’t understand
I was like most high-school seniors: excited to get into the best college I could and start my life as an adult. I remember some people telling me to consider state schools, but I felt like I had to go to a prestigious private university to impress everyone.
I wasn’t thinking about my future self and the debt I would face after graduation. That future self felt like a fantasy; I couldn’t imagine myself as a grown-up paying bills, so what did it matter if I went to a school I couldn’t afford?
I enrolled in Emerson College as a journalism major. Because of my family’s financial situation, I received grants that paid for the majority of my tuition. I was still left with a hefty bill upon graduation.
Right after college, I paid my monthly minimum and felt thankful when the payments were paused
When I graduated in 2015 and landed my first full-time job, I was making only about $55,000 a year. Living in New York City, I was able to pay rent and eat out a couple of times a week.
But then my student-loan-payment grace period came to an end, and I had to start paying off my $35,000 debt. I panicked. Thankfully, I wasn’t making that much money, so I had to pay only about $100 a month because I was on an income-driven plan.
When the 2020 pause started, I was finally able to relax. With that bill on the back burner, I could think about my finances differently.
I started to build a comfortable life and plan for my future
Over the past three years, I’ve gotten several raises. Since I didn’t have any student loans to pay off, I started saving — a lot.
I always dreamed of owning a condo somewhere in Florida and listing it on Airbnb. It felt like the perfect investment opportunity, and the entrepreneurial aspect excited me.
I knew I needed at least $30,000 to afford a down payment. Since I focused on saving and had the extra money without my loan repayments, I’ve been able to get close. I was able to put my finances behind a dream I was excited about.
Plus, in 2022, President Joe Biden announced his plan for student-loan forgiveness. Under that plan, a whopping $20,000 of my debt would’ve been wiped out. With much smaller debt, I knew it would be easier to get a mortgage, and I could put my savings into my Airbnb plan.
But the Supreme Court put a stop to Biden’s plan in June, and repayments start next month.
My student-loan repayments are starting again, and they’re triple the cost
Since I now make a lot more money than I was before the pandemic, my payments jumped to $350 a month. When I saw the number, I was shocked. The familiar panic crept back in.
I wondered: How will I afford that? Why didn’t I save money specifically for my loans during the pause? Why did I go to a private school in the first place?
And most importantly, I asked myself: Can I not afford my homebuying dreams anymore?
I’m now forced to put my dreams on hold to pay back my loans
After my panic subsided, I had to get real with myself. I live on a tight budget. Every cent I don’t spend on necessities has gone into my savings for that home. Now that extra money will go toward my $350 payments.
That means I will be saving little to no money for my future; therefore, I will not reach the $30,000 goal I need for a down payment.
I debated using all the money I saved up over the past few years to pay off my student loans and then starting again to work toward a down payment. But honestly, that plan depresses me too much. I also debated leaving the career I love so much just to get paid more. I’ve even thought about getting a second job.
I don’t have any answers yet, but the scary reality is I’m going to have to put my dreams on hold.