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Personal finance is personal – even when the path you end up choosing is controversial.
“I graduated in 2014 with $150,000 in student loans, despite sleeping on just a mattress and being as economical as possible in college,” says Emma Shapiro, a full-time physical therapist who has a doctorate and makes $98,000 a year.
Contrary to popular finance advice, Shapiro has opted to pay the minimum on her student loans. Despite graduating eight years ago and making every payment, her debt has now ballooned to $208,000, highlighting the present-day student loan crisis many Americans face. When she and her husband talked about how they’d combine their lives and finances, they weighed their options.
Related: Waiting for Student Loan Forgiveness From President Biden? This Expert Says It’s Unlikely
Shapiro decided to enroll in a public service loan forgiveness program, which will make her eligible to have her loans forgiven if she holds a federal government job for at least ten years. She also launched a side hustle: Alternative Healthcare Careers, an online education and coaching company that has a Facebook group of 41,000 healthcare professionals and a YouTube channel with 2,900 subscribers. The side hustle yields over six figures in revenue a year and about $4,300 a month in profit, which Shapiro contributes to savings and investing goals instead of accelerating her student loan payoff.
Here’s why Shapiro is taking the risk, how she set up other income streams in the interim to move toward financial independence, and what she recommends for grads and young professionals who find themselves in similar circumstances.
Consider All of Your Personal Finance Options
After working as a special education substitute teacher and tennis instructor, Shapiro decided to pursue physical therapy, a career that requires a doctorate.
“I’ve always loved sports, so physical therapy felt like a natural transition,” she says. Shapiro started working as a physical therapist. For two and a half years, Shapiro and her husband tried to balance student loan payoff with saving money to purchase a home. Despite their efforts, her debt burden increased during this time, jumping to $175,000.
“I went to USC for my doctorate,” she says. “I remember sitting down with my husband and talking about how my student loans were rapidly accumulating. I could use a big chunk of our savings for my student loans, or I could decide to take a public …….