Like millions of Americans, when I went to college, I had to take out loans. My loans from undergrad were tiny, like less than $2,000.00 and I paid them off by working multiple jobs each summer and breaks. However, law school was a very different story. I still worked during the school year and worked more than one job during the summer, but I couldn’t keep up and carrying multiple jobs while taking law school classes was a bit more than I could handle all three years. So, I graduated with a bit of debt.
Without knowing that I was incredibly blessed to be graduating from law school in 2002, I consolidated my federal student loans through one of the government programs for a very small interest rate (I think less than 3%) and then I had guaranteed payments for 30 years. I was a little astonished that they would give me a consolidation loan as long as a mortgage, but I was happy with the level payment.
Over the years since I graduated, we’ve had the opportunity to pay more than that level payment I’d locked in or even to consolidate the student loans further into HELOCs or other debt, but that low interest rate deterred us from making that decision.
When I found out that I have a terminal illness in 2017, things changed. My disability income is helpful, but nowhere close to what I was making when I was running a law firm, so I started looking for options. When someone posted a link in one of my support groups (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation) about discharging the debt for good, I was intrigued.
The process was pretty simple and took some time, but I got the letter after a few months acknowledging that my students loans are discharged. There are some caveats, like if I take out another educational government loan within the next three (3) years, the balance will become due again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting a 1099 at some point that will create a tax liability, but I’m still glad I did it. Not only do we not have that monthly payment (albeit small) but it is one less thing my sweet husband will have to worry about paying through my estate when I pass. I’m also happy that we never expended assets to pay it off while I was still working because those assets will now be there for my boys.
Terminal Cancer changes everything, but sometimes there is a silver lining, sometimes that diagnosis can be used for some good. I’m just happy to have found some!!