Are you paying off student loans? Do you ever feel totally alone when it comes to paying off debt? For me that is one of the hardest parts about our journey paying off $650k of student loan debt. Sometimes it feels like we are the only ones. But the truth is, there are plenty of people out there paying off six figures of debt. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing stories of other people who have been successful in their journeys paying off six figures of debt and that’s why I interviewed Derek Williams about his journey paying off $300,000 of student loan debt in ONE year! Considering the fact that the average new dentist makes around $150k per year, Derek is the type of person we all want to learn from. Here’s how he did it.
Name, Occupation, Location
Derek Williams, Dentist/Consultant, Lufkin, TX (Check him out at The Lifestyle Practice)
Are you married? Do you have kids?
Yes and Yes. Yes. Four girls and one boy.
Does your spouse work? If so, what does he/she do?
Did you go to college? Graduate/other school?
Bachelors in Biology and DDS (8 years total).
What is the total amount of debt that you have paid off?
[Did anyone else’s jaw drop to the floor here? No matter where you are in your journey, paying off six figures of student loan debt is totally possible. All you need is a big shovel! More on that later.]
Did you take out student loans? If so, what was your total balance?
Yes, $300,000. [Related: Is dental school worth the debt?]
What other sources of debt do you have?
Business debt and mortgages (personal property and have about ten rental properties).
How long did it take to pay off?
Student loans took me one year to pay off. Still chipping away at the rest.
[Dr. Williams paid off his student loans so fast that he didn’t refinance his student loans. For the rest of us who might take longer than one year to pay off our loans, refinancing is a good option to reduce your interest rate while you are making those aggressive payments! It saved me and Danny literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to refinance and make the decision to pay off our student loans as quickly as we can. You can check what kind of rates you qualify for on Credible for free, without any impact to your credit score by clicking here.]
Did you refinance your student loans?
What was your plan for paying off debt?
I see debt a little differently than most. If I have any debt, I want it to be on something with an income-producing asset behind it. I want to keep myself in a situation, where, if things went south, my family and I would be okay.
My student loans, although were very important in investing in myself, were not tied to any income-producing asset, so I didn’t like that. I made a goal to eliminate that and then take a less aggressive approach toward debt after that. However, in order to pay this off extremely quickly (paid off $300k in one year), I had to spend countless hours learning the business of dentistry and find a practice that I would be able to grow.
So in essence, my plan was to increase my income as much as possible, while keeping my living expenses relatively low. This allowed me to be aggressive very quickly.
After paying off my student loans, I’ve actually probably increased my debt more than the amount I paid off. I’ve invested quite a bit in real estate. But with every home I put down at least 25% and make sure that it cash flows well. This allows me to not be over-leveraged.
My next goal is increasing my passive income to reach financial independence. Eliminating debt is not my main focus at this point.
[Some key takeaways that warrant discussion– maybe you aren’t a dentist and don’t currently make six figures to help you pay off your student loans as quickly as Derek. But I love what he did with his business and it is applicable to you no matter what industry you are in. He focused on growth (aka increasing his income) so that he could put more towards student loans. This, combined with his mentality discussed below about not mindlessly spending money are both KEY to paying off student loans quickly.]
If you need ideas on ways you can increase your income, see our Increase Income page.
Is there anything in your debt journey that you wish you could do over?
At this point, no. Ask me again in a few years and I’ll likely have some things that I see better in hindsight. Although, I’m pretty focused on my goals, continually re-evaluating my progress, and looking at all my options moving forward. I do consider this mindset a critical key to reaching the success I’ve seen so far.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out paying off debt?
I would recommend taking a balanced approach. First I would really do some soul-searching. What are your long-term goals financially? What are your greatest priorities in your life? Do your financial goals correlate with your priorities? I wanted to have great success, but was not willing to sacrifice family time with my wife and kids.
How can you increase your income? Are you interested in business? Owning your own business? In my opinion, if you’re looking to aggressively attack debt, it is just as important to consider how you can increase income, as it is to look at decreasing expenses/lifestyle.
I enjoy reading blogs like Mr Money Mustache and The Minimalists because they make you really question the way that you spend and earn money. Most of us mindlessly spend whatever we earn, and continue our lives in the hampster wheel.
I read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” in high school and it made my see life through a different perspective. Although the book is very simplistic, it helps you see a greater financial goal, in getting out of the rat race. Obtaining this mindset early on has helped me work towards that goal and I’m well on my way.
[end of interview]
If you are just getting started dealing with your debt, be sure to check out my (free) Debt Payoff Starter Kit! It will help you create and crush your financial goals, prioritize your debt so you know what to pay off first to get out of debt FAST so that you can move on with your life (financially).
What about you? Are you paying off debt? What is your plan with your student loans? Sharing your own story like Derek has done here helps all of us in evaluating our own plans. Your input is SO valued and needed!