TMBA 291: I’ve Got Tons of Student Loan Debt, What Should I Do?

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Last week I was on vacation in Southeast Asia with my family, and we are all huge Penn State fans. I spent some of my most formative years around State College in Pennsylvania. I was thrilled when one of our listeners named Brian (Brian’s website), who teaches at Penn State, reached out to us and asked us to answer some questions for his students at the university. In this week’s episode Ian and I lay out a three-part plan to become location independent out of college, talk about how why you should be looking for an apprenticeship instead of a job, and finally answer one of the questions we get asked the most: why cat furniture?

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • How we were able to transition from college to a location independent lifestyle.
  • How badly our student loan debt affected our ability to start a business.
  • Why you shouldn’t be focused on getting a career out of college.
  • The difference between “know-how” and “know-that”.
  • How important social media was to scaling our business.
  • How we have been able to balance our business partnership with our friendship.

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Thursday morning 8AM EST.


Dan & Ian


Published on 04.23.15
  • Hey Guys – I thought this was a great show today, I just have one comment for the guy with 30k in debt.
    I think that dan & Ian are right about the student loan debt – you can pay the minimums on that and be fine, but the 6k in credit card debt is an emergency and you need to pay that shit off quick. It’s costing you 17-22% probably. Get out from under that as quick as you can. Now you can easily do that in 2-3 months if you don’t get yourself trapped in the lifestyle. Live at home, don’t spend a lot of money and just knock it out. Start before you graduate as well.
    It seems like a lot of money since you probably have next to 0 income, but once you start working consistently you can pay that off quick as long as your expenses are low. I graduated with about the same amount of cc debt, and paid it off in 4 months.

  • Do you still have those khaki pants Dan? Quite an entertaining episode :)

    In all seriousness, I would totally recommend this episode to anyone coming out of school. My gf is just about to finish university with some student loans and I made her listen to it. Great points were made.

  • nitinbhuva

    Undoubtedly, this is an awesome article creative by you. You really inserted some very interesting points which force us to think in details. I really enjoyed this article. – Result Zoo

  • Gonçalo Hall

    loved this eppisode, great content. I didn’t finish school, but Î’m starting a business that you mentioned on the Podcast hehe.
    Do you think it’s possible to be location independent as a social media manager, or should I invest in another related product?

    All the best for you guys, from Portugal.

  • toddbeuckens

    Great episode as always. For the college grad with lots of debt, I would add teaching English overseas as a way to pay off the debt. It can be a boot camp for location independent living. It gets you out the country, removes a lot of expenses like having a car payment, frees up a lot time to work on a business as you will have fewer social responsibilities, gives you creative space to focus on projects and not deal with naysayers, is short term as most contracts are only a year, and moves you closer to the action if you teach in Korea, Taiwan, or Japan. It worked for me.

  • thanks Jeff glad you dug it, I 100% agree with your advice and appreciate you making that clear. Holding those balances will cost you a ton of money.

  • great point Todd, I didn’t think of it but have a handful of friends who’ve taken this route!!!

  • 100% is possible! :) good luck!

  • crazy how long I had them, many of my very early nomadish photos come complete with those actual pants cut off at the knees and fraying.

    appreciate you passing the ep on!

  • Great episode! I’ll be sending this to college kids who ask me for advice.

    Also fun to hear Penn State on TMBA! I turned down a full ride to PSU to chase my entrepreneurial dream… now I hire Penn State grads. :)

  • Pat

    Forum solution. Buddy Press (on wordpress) seems to be on the right track. Some of the themes you can find through themeforest that use BuddyPress are pretty slick.

  • Martin

    Excellent podcast. So what would be the way to make life at the tropical? I did it for two years by diving structions, but another way as blogger how would it be to make some reall money?

  • Freddy Lansky

    Hi Ian/Dan,

    I think the girl sending in the question of whether its still possible to live in “digital nomad fantasy life” is very telling. We’re trying to get the word out of this incredible life we live and share how to do it with others and adapt to the new economy but it sounds so incredible that people think we are snake oil salesman!

    The truth to these people hurts, think about hearing this in their position:

    “University is a colossal waste of money, you just not only wasted 4 years of your life, put yourself in tons of debt for no reason but furthermore most employers (esp for sub 100 employee companies) not only don’t care where you went to university but don’t even care whether you went to university at all! Oh and by the way, even if you do get hired at a good salary, working a corporate job sucks and will be unfulfilling or take 3 decades to get where you want to be with 2-3 weeks vacation per year! Well, that sucks, Want to relearn everything and find out how the world actually is?”

    Most would stick to the blue pill like that guy who thinks he needs to work “3 to FIVE years (!!!) before he can think about starting a business and I remember when I used to think that way.

    All of this has to do with social programming and the fact people just don’t know all the options out there because SOOOOOO much has changed over the last 5 years especially. We must free as many minds as possible.

    My 4 minute video with Till Carlos explains more on this topic:

    Please keep up the good work guys!

  • Freddy Lansky

    I think theres way better opportunities out there than teaching English, even for someone in debt. Especially if we’re talking for someone who wants to start their own online business immediately, like in the episode.

    The main problem is the job will eat up ALL your time, and on top of that the pay is always just barely enough to live.

    My friend teaches in South Korea and tells me of long hours and even though the pay is good, the country is obscenly expensive. Maybe you canput away a few hundred a month extra to pay towards debt (at best), and at that rate it only take you half a decade to pay it off. There has to be a better way. If you’re really passionate about teaching English its a great niche online to sell products and services.

    If I was starting off in that position, I’d rather find a work to stay at a hostel, baseline like crazy, and spend all my time building my teaching English brand online doing videos and writing articles, than spending 40+ hours per week crammed in some kindergarten with low pay.

    Also to note of people not familiar with this topic, in Japan and Korea its possible to maybe save a little bit, but anywhere else forget it.

  • interesting yeah my friends who did it was prob 5-10 years ago reported to saving a ton, but yeah the working requirements were serious. agree I’d be a hustla too, prob depends on your level of vision/confidence.

  • Seth Overly

    This episode hit home real hard. I’m in a very similar situation to the guy in 30K of student loan debt. And I agree with the point you made – can’t be deferring life for that shit – so, even with that debt, I’m still planning on heading over to SE Asia in January, 2016 and just doing whatever it takes to be location independent, indefinitely.

    Does anyone know or have any advice on finding apprenticeships / internships for other location independent entrepreneurs? Is there some type of job board for something like that?

    I work for a digital marketing agency as a Local SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization-er and have been working on ramping up side clients so I’ve got quite a bit of experience with online marketing.

    Thanks for the real talk on something that is affecting myself and the majority of my friends, I’m passing it along!

  • Great episode! I wish I had known all of this stuff many years ago. I’ll probably die still owing my student loans, and I don’t really care.

  • thanks for listening Zach!

  • also i think we underestimate the changes that can happen in 5 year timeframes

  • cheers Seth appreciate the comment and wish you the best on your adventure. A lot of people are tempted to give safe advice etc etc but honestly the big risks are probably traffic related :) best of luck and let it know how it goes.

  • Thanks Freddy, honestly I hadn’t thought of that lately but I can understand why it would be taken as threatening / insulting / etc. You’re right it’s also very easy to look at this stuff as childish or unrealistic, there’s a very fine line between being tough and having grit and being able to objectively and honestly evaluate the options. If you’ve got a horse in the race (sunk cost) i guess it’s tough to do that.

    Thanks for the link! Till is the man.

  • Hey Martin thank you! Do a search on TMBA for “make money with your writing” we’ve got tons of content about it

  • thank you good sir!

  • haha there used to be a joke in the university systems that engineers get the big checks but liberal arts majors sign them, reminds me of that. looking forward to catching up Greg will be in touch soon.

  • Pat

    And a good day to you sir! Hopefully one day you will repent from your sins and migrate away from Ning….

  • Let’s hope that in a 5 year timeframe my small businesses become able to pay off those loans!

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