My Attitude Toward Money Changed When I Got My First Student Loan Bill

Learn what to do when your debt takes you by surprise.

I remember the day I saw my student loan bill for the first time. It was back in 2006, and I was a few months into my accounting career after graduating in May. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were grabbing my mail, and she started opening a few envelopes. She quickly turned to me and said, “Dave, did you know you have student loans?”

I responded with a typical, “Huh? No, I didn’t think I did.” She showed me the bills and there it was, plain as day: I had $20,000 in student loan debt. I was completely blown away.

Click to read more about 15 ways to pay off student loans.

While it’s a pittance compared to what college graduates pay today (which, by the way, is $37,000 on average, as of 2016), I knew I had to change my thinking about money — and it had to happen fast. Here’s what I did.

I Decided I Wanted to Be Debt-Free and Financially Independent

Not long after receiving that bill, my girlfriend handed me a copy of Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” That book alone set me on a path to value assets over liabilities. As simple as it sounds, I, like so many of us, valued debt over income-generating assets.

Think about it. We go into debt for our education. We go into debt to buy fast food. We go into debt to get the hottest ride or the latest mobile phone to impress other people. We go into debt to live. How many of us are actually making the difficult choice to be debt-free?

I decided to commit myself (with my girlfriend’s encouragement) to pay my student loans off early. I did so in a span of a few short years.

I didn’t stop there either. I recently paid off my car, as well. We are also saving money to purchase rental properties and finally becoming investors. The only debt we have is our house.

More on Living Debt-Free: Make This the Year for Paying Off Your Debt — Here’s How

I Decided I Wanted to Be My Own Boss

As I was paying off these loans and working my first full-time job, I began to realize college and being an employee were not all they were cracked up to be. I started to investigate the world of entrepreneurship that Kiyosaki boasts about, and it set me on a completely different path. I realized that I wanted to be my own boss and determine my destiny.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple side hustles and tried various other career routes, but, I always came back to my bread and butter: blogging. It’s my side hustle in addition to my full-time career, and it’s nothing short of amazing what it has led to. It has given me the opportunity to pay off debt and pad our savings account. It’s invaluable.

If you’re still unsure of starting a side hustle, I suggest you look into the many different ways you can bring in more money for your family. It’s life-changing, to say the least.

Related: Side Hustle to Full-Time: How I Became a Six-Figure Freelancer

I Decided I Would Leave a Legacy for My Children

It may sound odd, but I was actually chastised and dubbed immature by family and friends for paying my student loans off early. You see, I came from a household that saw debt as a means to an end, and having student loans was a teachable moment. Which, sure, it can be. But, it’s not a way to true wealth.

Instead, our goal as a family is to build long-term wealth that gets passed on to our children’s children. No, we likely won’t be billionaires, but it’s amazing how one moment helps redefine the outlook for the rest of your life.

Read More: 3 Family Members, 3 Degrees, Each in 3 Years — How We Did It

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