When I first joined cruise ships, I told myself that once I paid my loans off, I would be done. Of course, being a doe-eyed, 21-year-old being let loose into the big-wide world, I didn’t always save every penny- and thank goodness for that.
When I went out, my mom and dad told me that it is important to save but it is also important to have fun and enjoy myself. Enjoy myself I did. Port days, nights I cannot remember, stories that could fill a lifetime consumed my 21 to barely 24-year-old days. I have income, and crazily enough, disposable income. A position I didn’t think was possible right out of school.
I was having travel, expenses, food, and lodging taken care of for me. Almost everything I made went into savings and the rest went to living my life to the fullest.
Coming from a working-class household, this is never a lifestyle I could realistically envision. I was living a dream come true.
Then it happened. I had enough in my account to drop that H-Bomb on my student loan. I was done with ships. My mental health suffered greatly, I had left a contract early and was more or less in pieces waiting for my next career move.
Before I left though, I sat and stared at my bank account.
Enough, plus a little, to bust those student loans- get me zeroed out with a tiny bit to go with. (Which I recognize is far luckier than most.)
But then I heard my parent’s voices from years earlier “enjoy yourself”.
I had always wanted to do a cross-Canada train trip, a solo-trip. That would take out the little I had, leave me with next-to-nothing, but my student loan would be paid.
My mental health was at an all-time low… do I accomplish a goal I set out for myself? Do I give myself a trip of a lifetime? Do I dare do both?
If you’ve ever met me, or read anything I’ve written, I think you know the answer.
I didn’t pay off my student loan.
I decided to go on the best trip I have ever gone on. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, experientially amazing. In every single way. 16 days, coast-to-coast in economy class. The best choice I think I have ever made.
I also figured, it wasn’t the destruction of the student loan itself that would be so rewarding, but the fact that I could. I had reached that goal I set for myself. It was just a matter of pulling the trigger.
Beyond that trip and including present day, I have always been in the fortunate position to take out the student loans and be left with a little.
It has been a mental tug of war every tax season when I see that figure…I could just get it over with, take it out of my life forever.
Except this year.
Covid-19 showed me how important it is to have something for a rainy day. Had I taken out my student loan then or really any day since, I would be left with very little to go back on. I very likely would not have taken the risk to move across the ocean to be with Chris, and there is no way that I could be set up to have the ability to risk jumping back into entertainment once it opens.
My decision to keep my student loan active and keep my liquid funds as savings gives me options, opportunities, safety, and security I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It has given me the freedom to choose- a freedom I am truly blessed to have.
Would it be nice to be debt-free? Absolutely. Am I increasingly thankful for my past-self for setting up a safety net for present-self? 1000%
I understand that this is not possible or realistic for a lot of people. I recognize how lucky and privileged I am to have ever been in that situation, let alone maintain that situation and have savings in the bank at all during this time (or ever). It is easy for me to take for granted the lessons I learned from my parents and my personal experience on financial literacy and street-money-smarts.
I simply write this to say that there is more to life than paying off a loan. A “reckless” decision to have a trip before paying off a 6-figure loan, turned out to save me. What one may have thought would be the biggest thing to free me from financial restraints, would have entrapped me in the long term- who could have planned for a pandemic?
I guess that’s why they call it a rainy day.
Money often costs too much. –Ralph Waldo Emerson