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So, in my journey to get to where I am today, I spent a good 7 years getting a Master's degree. This, of course, led me down the path of student loans.

Currently I sit at just over 100k in student loan debt, and I'm not sure how to tackle it. My salary, for the moment, is 54k before taxes, which could change in the next few months by plus or minus about 3k, due to moving from contract to being hired into my company.

Current monthly expenses:

  • Rent/Utilities: 575
  • Gas/Commute: 200
  • Groceries: 350
  • Car Payment: 220
  • Personal Loan: 200
  • Various Other: ~120

The problem is I have no bearing as to how I should handle my student loans. Currently I have consolidated them into a single loan, and the repayment option I was considering is known as REPAYE, as in the worst case scenario it offers forgiveness after 25 years for Graduate School debt. I'm not really sure what the best option for me is and would love to have some advice on the matter. Like what should I pay on the loan per month, and is it worth looking into the 25 years of debt for forgiveness?

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    Its great that you're here and thinking about this. I'm also a SE (although I only got a BS) and started with around the same debt / income. Be aggressive about paying it back, and know that if you work hard and make good career decisions, it certainly will pay off. – Andy Dec 1 '16 at 23:17
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There are many other answers on this subject, but I'll give you a custom answer.

For the benefit of other readers student loans are not necessary to obtain a Master's degree. In fact I would recommend getting professional experience before obtaining a Master's in most cases. Often times employers will help or fully pay for the advanced degree.

Your monthly budget is running about 20K per year, which should give you at least 20K to put towards loans. Luckily your student loans are not terribly high, but they are a bit ridiculous for your income. Good job on living a minimalistic lifestyle. Keep that up.

Here is what I would do if I was in your shoes:

  1. Stop borrowing
  2. Get a second job or two
  3. Pay off my loans smallest to largest.
  4. Consider selling your car so you don't have a car loan.

Without #4, and if you do #2 and make about $1000 per month extra you can be done with your student loans in less than three years. If your personal and car loan is around 30K you will have this mess you created all cleaned up in less than 4 years.

It's a mess that you created and there are not many secrets to getting it all cleaned up. Work like crazy, stop borrowing, and pay. I mean think about what you did. You borrowed over 100K (I included the car and personal loan) for a 50K career. That is not a good ROI and very risky.

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    I will say that 50k is quite low for people in my profession, unfortunately the barrier to entry is quite high in most cases, due to lack of professional experience, and the area in which I live is not the best market for a programmer. The goal is to move up in salary within the next two years, quite rapidly I would hope, however, sadly for me in this area it took a masters degree to be taken seriously, but that is an issue of degree title alone with reference to my "Video game" based bachelors. – Ranma344 Sep 29 '16 at 20:41
  • I would disagree. I know many engineers that recently graduated with little to no student loans and no family support. Still, you are in an excellent field with wonderful income mobility. You will be up around 100K/year in a short time. However, I would suggest to have a goal to get out of debt before then. You can be very wealthy or broke. Yes you will meet senior engineers that are broke. The only difference is behavior. Behave like a wealthy person and you will become one. Read the Millionaire Next Door and Stop Acting Rich. – Pete B. Sep 30 '16 at 13:40
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    Oh my plans have always been to get out of debt before anything else. It's definitely the Master's degree that put me so far behind, as it's about 60% of my debt. The problem is I was originally intending to move into the Video Game programming field, without realizing the barrier to entry there was requiring 5-6 years of professional experience along side a bachelor's degree, and with a video game based degree, I found it hard to be taken seriously at regular programming interviews. That said, I thank you very much for your input. – Ranma344 Sep 30 '16 at 13:51
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    @PeteB.Thanks for the amazing response and also insisting on reading the book, another advisor suggested the same-I had forgotten about that so I ordered a (used-like new book) right away.@Rcapenter: I did pay off my loan for my masters as well,it was certainly not much as yours but just keeping an eye on the goal and being a bit disciplined about it helps. Imagine the day when you dont have to finally make that installment payment and it can start going in to building future money for you. Keep it up. – pal4life Oct 25 '16 at 5:02
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    I had about 100K in student loans, and starting around 55K/yr as well (with benefits). Its not a bad ROI, its foolish to think someone would start with a 100K salary just based on loan amount. Since then, I've gotten a raise every year, and the 100K loan has more than paid for itself. The OP needs to be aggressive about repayment and as you say live minimistically. But its not a mess unless he's already at the top of the pay scale for his career. – Andy Dec 1 '16 at 23:11
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It might make sense for you to try to find a junior programming position somewhere that pays similarly and work on games in your non-work time. You should be able to find somewhere that will pay similar amounts (depending on the languages you know) or more and you'll be able to both build your non-gaming programming resume and your gaming resume. Your food budget strikes me as a bit high, but given how low everything else is there isn't much to be gained by slashing expenses.

Speaking as a programmer - the market for programmers is very good, but the market for game programmers suffers because so many of us (including myself) would love to make games, so there's a greater ability for companies to be picky.

  • How much do you actually spend a month on food? – Xalorous Sep 30 '16 at 19:11
  • Between my wife and I, combined groceries/restaurants/alcohol, we spend about $700 a month, living in the Washington DC area, but it's one of our indulgences - for about 4 years we spent between 500 and 600 a month and only increased it after increasing our income. If we had to cut back, we could do about 225 a month per person by cutting out restaurants and some of our meats. – David Rice Sep 30 '16 at 19:24
  • Family of four, and we hit 225-250 per head. (275-300 if you include eating out). It's much cheaper to feed two together than two individuals. Cheaper again to feed 4 together. But you have to actually COOK food from ingredients not put together mixes. So a single person who tends towards prepared meals, frozen entrees or mixes can easily spend 50% more. – Xalorous Sep 30 '16 at 19:49
  • Groceries includes cleaning supplies and toiletries, not just food. I generalized a lot, my actual list contains about 16 more items leading to the same final cost. – Ranma344 Sep 30 '16 at 20:23
  • Yeah, like I said - it looks like you've got a good handle on the expense side of things, but more income would make a huge difference. – David Rice Sep 30 '16 at 20:44

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