More than 44 million borrowers collectively owe $1.5 TRILLION (with a T) in student loan debt. After crossing the stage and shaking hands with the University bigwigs the average borrower owes $37,200. With projected average graduate salary at $50,500, after rent, food, transportation, cell phone, medical insurance, one can only wonder: what’s left? How does one get ahead? This brings me back to my own personal finance journey which was altered, of all places, a 2 Bros. Pizza Shop in midtown Manhattan.
Graduating from college back in 2008 my job prospects were pretty low (virtually nonexistent). I had graduated with an Economics degree with the hope of entering into banking or finance. After many months and over 500 Taleo applications, through a referral I landed a job in my collegetown in the reporting department of a marketing agency (which we’ll call Dolphin Marketing). Dolphin Marketing specialized in “direct response” a/k/a acquiring customers online in the most efficient way possible. My role was to gather the campaign data and compile massive reports using microsoft excel. My starting salary was $25,500 (with a raise to $27,500 after 6 months). Not my dream job by any means, but my student loan tab gave me more than enough reasons to swim with the dolphins.
However, a couple months into this new role my direct Supervisor (who worked remotely from home) was not to keen on my performance. In truth I was not the best at the position and the tight deadlines while being left to learn everything on my own did not help my case. I thought I was on the chopping block when the C.E.O. called my into his office. To my relief, instead of letting me go, he was transferring me over to the media side of the company. My role would be to scout potential websites our clients could advertise on. Surprisingly I was better suited for this type of role. I was successful in this role and my year end review demonstrated such. I continued meeting or exceeding company metrics but toward the end of my second year at Dolphin Marketing, I decided to seriously reflect on my financial picture. While I was pretty good at handling my money (avoiding credit card debt and frivolous spending) I wanted to see exactly what I was up against.
I was roughy $25,000 in student loan debt across 2 loans (currently paying the minimum payment on both).
At the current trend I was in line for 9 more years of payments.This did not sit well with me and the idea of payments for that long ate at my soul. I knew something had to change and my $27,500 salary was not going to suffice. At my current position any hope for advancement or salary increase was met with “we’ll talk about that in the future” despite being told how excellent a job I was doing. Fed up with the deferment I went back on the job hunt, deciding to find something closer to back home in the Bronx.
I applied for jobs each night after work and lined up a couple interviews back home. I took time off from Dolphin Marketing and made the four hour commute back home. None of my interviews panned out. I would research the firm, practice interviewing, show up early and I even printed my resume on special paper to stand out, but nothing worked. The interviews felt as if the employer had already chosen their candidate but were interviewing me just to go through the motions.
Hungry after another pointless interview, I decided to get a sandwich but at the last moment opted for a slice of pizza.
I did not know this at the time, but this decision changed everything…
Read Part 2 here: Two Slices and a Soda for $2.75