If you have six figures of debt, you’re in good company. The population of people who have six figures of student loan debt is exploding– more than 700,000 borrowers in the U.S. owe more than $200k, plus 2 million borrowers who owe between $100k and $200k. It sounds crazy in the abstract, when you AREN’T one of those people. So imagine how overwhelming it feels to be one of us (yes, we’re in the six figures of debt club!)
And if you don’t have the unfortunate burden of six figure student loan debt, there’s a good chance you owe six figures in a mortgage, since the average mortgage debt in the U.S. is ~$137k. Wherever your six figures of debt comes from, I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be OK– paying off six figures of student loan debt isn’t as hard as you’d think. (Ok maybe it’s exactly as hard as you think– I don’t actually know what you are thinking. But for me, it wasn’t as hard as I thought).
Here’s everything you need to know about paying off six figures of debt.
(1) You won’t treat it exactly as you’d treat other debt.
If you’re paying off six figures of debt, you are going to be in it for the long haul. Assuming you aren’t going to be earning enough to pay off six figures of debt straight out of the gate, don’t have a trust fund, or some wind fall headed your way, paying off six figures of debt will be a little different than paying off a smaller stack of debt. It’s kind of like the difference between a running a marathon versus a sprint. When you are running a marathon, you really have to pace yourself. If you don’t, you could run out of steam or injure yourself, rendering yourself unable to finish your race. You can’t take a marathon at a sprint pace– you just can’t. Paying off six figures of debt is a marathon. Take it at the right pace– not too fast, not too slow, that way you can actually finish, but finish strong.
This will play out in a number of different ways. For example, when someone is paying off a smaller amount of debt that can be paid off within a few months, taking on a second, third, or even fourth job is not only feasible, but a good idea to get rid of your debt fast. But carrying on a second, third, or fourth job when you have six figures of debt? Not a great idea in my opinion. Because you are going to be paying off six figure debt for years. And running around like a crazy person with several jobs means that you are almost certainly going to burn yourself out at some point. (Speaking from experience here). So remember, marathon pace, not a sprint.
Along those lines, I also don’t believe in completely skipping on family vacations or skipping on retirement savings while you are paying off six figures of debt. It’s not like other debt. Rather, I recommend taking frugal, modest vacations that recharge you. I also recommend starting to save a little for retirement especially if your debt is from graduate school and you are getting a late start on life. You won’t get these years back. Please don’t let your take away from my point here be that you should be living it up on lavish vacations and not making extra payments on your loans. I’m just saying its OK to take time out with your family, especially if you have young kids (who, as you know, won’t be little forever) and that you should save for retirement because you won’t get these years back. You won’t be saving as much now as you will once your debt is gone, but get in the habit of saving 1-10% of your income.
(2) You’re going to need a plan.
If you want to pay off six figures of debt, you are going to need a plan. And I mean need. Paying off that kind of debt is not just going to magically happen on its own. I think that’s what I honestly believed when I was in law school. I just figured things would work themselves out. It took several months of researching and planning to really realize that the magical way my loans would work themselves out was going to be on me– doing lots of magical work and magically paying them off on my own.
You need to take time to figure out your income, expenses, and debt burden, and what adjustments you need to make to get a handle on your debt.
If you need help planning, make sure you grab a copy of my free Debt Payoff Starter Kit— it will help you get going with creating your plan to get out of debt and teach you about tracking your spending, ideas for increasing your income, budgeting, and so much more. It really makes you dig deep and think things through.
If your six figure debt comes from student loans, I ***HIGHLY*** recommend consulting Travis from the Student Loan Planner (affiliate link). Chatting with Travis was honestly the best decision I made after law school and has given me so much peace of mind in what we’re doing to pay off our student loans. He’s the expert on student loans, truly. And he’ll help you figure out which plan is best for you, what saves you the most money, or whatever you need help straightening out. He’s the man, I’m telling you. Best financial decision you’ll make this year.
If you’re interested in reading about our plan for paying off six figures of debt, you can check it out here.
(3) It’s going to take some time; you’ll need to persevere.
Paying off six figure of debt is obviously going to take more time than paying off other debt for the obvious reason that a bigger balance will take more time. You’re going to need a little more patience in paying off a six figure balance than you’d need paying off less debt. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So set a realistic time frame that stretches you but that is achievable. Along your journey, you’ll likely need to remind yourself to be patient, patient, patient. Sometimes those extra payments will feel like a drop in the bucket. But that’s exactly how the bucket gets filled up– one drop at a time. So, go into your debt payoff journey with that mindset.
Because paying off six figures of debt will take some time, you are undoubtedly going to have to grab yourself by the lapels on occasion and keep yourself in check. It is not going to be easy. It won’t be the funnest thing you’ll ever do. I once heard it said about marriage that if you want something to last, you have to treat it differently. That’s how you should approach paying off six figures of debt. Treat it differently. Give yourself grace and pep talks. You CAN actually do this. Focus on how far you’ve come and remind yourself of why you wanted to pay off debt in the first place.
Do you have six figures of debt? What’s your plan for dealing with it? Let me know in a comment below!