Freaking Out About Your Law School Loans? Get Help From a Debt Guru

Money funnelLaw school debt is a huge issue these days. Not surprising, when the average borrower has over $100K in loans by the time graduation rolls around!

To help you get a handle on things, we’ve recruited the very inspiring Anna Newell Jones, debt guru extraordinaire. Anna runs a blog called And Then She Saved, which chronicles her efforts to pay off all of her debt (she did it!) and has great tips and advice to help you do the same thing.

Without further ado…

Alison: On your blog, you talk about how you got yourself out of your “overwhelming” $23,605.10 in debt. That’s an awesome accomplishment, but the average law student these days is graduating with more than $100,000 in student loan debt. Do you think your strategies apply equally well to this scale of debt? What would you suggest to someone in this scenario?

Anna: There is no doubt that those are very different totals, however, when I discuss debt I talk about the universal feelings that come with having a large amount of debt rather than focusing on the total that we each owe because being overwhelmed by debt is something that we can all relate to despite the total.

For me, having close to 24K in debt is what prompted me to start the Spending Fast and my blog And Then She Saved. What gets an individual to the point of taking serious action will vary.

I firmly believe that no matter the amount of debt amassed that my techniques and approach can be utilized for successful debt repayment.

It may take you a longer or shorter amount of time than it took me to become debt-free but I believe that it can be done if you’re committed to the process.

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and writing about, debt and how it impacts peoples’ lives. What would you say to someone who’s considering going to law school, and is going to have to take out massive loans to pay for it? What should they be aware of before signing on the dotted line?

Do the research before you sign.

  • Research the statistics for recent hiring trends in your field. Are people getting jobs? If they’re not, is it likely to improve, or not?
  • Talk to people who are already in the field. What are their thoughts on the industry from an insiders viewpoint?
  • How much will the loans be per month?
  • What will your life look like if you don’t get the job you need to pay the loans back? Are you okay with the way that looks? Be honest with yourself and not just hopeful.

Then, after considering those questions and answers you will have a clearer picture about what you’re getting into and if you’re ready to take it on.

I’m a recent law grad who’s starting to freak out about how much debt I have. Can you give me three tips for beginning to attack my debt (and, hopefully, for feeling a little more in control of the situation)?
  1. Know that it will take time to pay off the large amount of debt. That’s okay. Be committed to the process. Know that you might will mess up and “fall off” the saving wagon sometimes. That’s okay too. Keep going.
  2. Determine where your money is truly going, and avoid the excess spending. It’s easy to say “I’ll always have tons of debt so I might as well enjoy myself!” but that only makes it worse. Find other ways to feel better about life than by taking out your wallet.
  3. Know that you are not alone. Utilize the Community section on my blog to discuss how you’re feeling and get feedback from people who are dealing with similar situations.
  4. (Because it’s an important one) Find ways to make more money. It might not be in the legal profession, and that’s okay. Think about what you truly enjoy doing, and offer it up to others but with a fee. If you can walk there are ways to make more money. Get creative, and tap into all of your skills.
Thanks, Anna!

If you’re struggling with debt, check out And Then She Saved right now. You won’t regret it!

Read On:

Want more? Here you go.

Have questions for Anna? Leave them in the comments!

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Image by Leonardini via stock.xchng.


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Comments

  1. Laura Gabriele says:

    Anna,

    I am just about to start my first semester of law school. I want to work a weekend job so I have some income while I am in school. Do you have any suggestions where students should work while still in school full-time?

    Laura

    • That’s a great question. I could see at least two different approaches working. One, you could try to find a job that gives you relevant legal experience, even if it’s pretty low-level like working for a solo or small firm doing clerical work or something along those lines (although this might be challenging if you’re only going to work weekends). Or perhaps a research assistant position for a professor, if anyone’s willing to hire 1Ls.

      The other alternative I can see is to try to find a low-stress job that you actually enjoy, that has nothing to do with law. So, maybe planning birthday parties, taking tickets at a movie theater, working in the library or computer lab, tutoring, teaching sports/music lessons, or even babysitting. Ideally, something that wouldn’t be super intensive, so you might have time to study while you’re working!

      You’ll definitely want to look at the rules on how much 1Ls are “allowed” to work (I think it’s 20 hours a week, but double check). And you’ll need to ensure you still have adequate time to study, particularly when exam time rolls around. First-year grades are really important, so definitely weigh the income potential against the long-term impact of improved grades (if you had more time to study). Having a side job is definitely doable, but be careful not to over-commit, particularly first semester when you’re still settling in.

      Good luck!

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