The Bounce Back: Hindsight's 20/20




   In this edition of Bounce Back, a segment where I share a financial misstep and what steps were taken to correct it, I will be discussing Student Loan Employer Pay Back Programs.

The opportunity to have my job pay back a portion of student loans has arisen twice in my career. Once in 2015 and again in 2017. Both times I opted not to apply, and while the first time not applying turned out to be a blessing in disguise (I’ll explain in a little) the second turned out to be another L I’d take and have to bounce back from.


I Dodged that Bullet...


In 2015, I was working as an Intel Assistant for a government agency. I’d been there for roughly 2 years and let’s just say it was not the place I wanted to be. The job was mundane, the office was dysfunctional, and my boss was an asshole (and despite what you’re thinking that’s the nice way to describe him). I just knew this wasn’t a place I wanted to be. 


One day the email regarding a Student Loan Pay Back program in which my employer would pay back up to $10,000 of my student loans providing I met certain criteria and stayed in that position for at least 3 years (if not, I’d be on the hook to pay them whatever they put out). I remember one of my coworkers suggesting that I apply. I let him know that I was hesitant with the idea because I really didn’t want to be stuck in that position for the next three years. Not only was I not satisfied with the work or even the whole vibe/morale of the office I had already reached my full promotion potential and had no desire to stay at the same grade for three years (FYI...Government workers are generally paid on pay scale referred to as a grade). He suggested that it still might be worth forgoing a pay increase to help pay down my student loans. (In an effort of full disclosure at that time I probably owed roughly between $25,000 and $26,000. So not too bad in terms of student loans especially for someone who had a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree.)


In any case, I thought it over carefully weighing my options and costs but I knew in my heart of hearts that this was someplace I simply didn't want to be and I refused to trap myself in a situation that ultimately was not good for me. So, I decided not to apply to the program. This, honestly, was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In early 2016, I was offered a new job. It was a step up and it came with promotion potential. The job would be more challenging but I was up for. I couldn’t help but think, if I’d signed up for that program I would have never gone for this opportunity.


Flash-forward to three weeks after I started my new job, I found out that my old office had been shut down and was under investigation. I seriously dodged a bullet that would have put a major hold on my career. Someone from above was definitely looking out for me.πŸ™


...But Ultimately Took Another


    The overall atmosphere and morale of my new job was a lot better, but as I stated before it was challenging. It was 2017, I was there for roughly a year and trying my best to learn the ins and outs of being an analyst. For context, my office in terms of staff is very small but we are often tasked with covering vast topics. When people would refer to me as a SME (or subject matter expert) I used to think and sometimes say “ I can’t be an expert on anything because I have to know a little bit about everything”. Yea, sometimes it could/can get stressful. And on top of that, it didn’t help that every now and again I would start to suffer from bouts of imposter syndrome, which is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". 


Low and behold I was going through one of these episodes when that email appeared. Unlike the last time, somehow our office received the notification of the Payback Program late meaning if we wanted to apply we didn’t have much time to think about it we just had to do it. Feeling stressed and inadequate, I was unsure if this was the right decision; what if I was locking myself into three years of stressful hell? What if I wasn’t good enough to be here or I couldn’t cut it? (Yes, imposter syndrome is a B*TCH😑) So, I didn’t apply. I told myself that as long as I got a new job within 3 years then I’d made the right decision. Spoiler Alert! I’m still at my current job, with a higher pay, even unofficially “managing” others, and with, you got it, student loans *lol smh*πŸ˜†. But what can I say? I do like what I do, even if I complain every now and again. The work isn’t mundane, I get to travel, and the job ultimately is what you make it. It stings to think that I could be where I am now and not have student loans if only I had applied. But as we all know hindsight’s 20/20.


Although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel


The lesson here is to try your best to not let your emotions get in your way and cause you to make rash decisions. I couldn’t go back and change my decision but I could take other steps to help remedy the situation. I decided to sign up for Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) which is a program that forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Student Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly (that's 10 years) payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer, which is generally any job in the public sector. I will go into a more thorough review of the program and my personal experience with it (which hasn’t been so great) but it is at least an option to potentially give some type of relief to those who think it’s impossible to pay off their student loans. 


In the end, I decided I was just going to bite the bullet and pay off my student loans (hopefully, by the end of September). I most certainly took that L and I’ll own it. But I am fortunate enough to be in a situation financially where I can finally see the end of the tunnel and I feel confident I’ll make it there sooner rather than later *knock on wood*. 


Again, the whole point of the Bounce Back segment is to illustrate that we all make mistakes financially. Life really is a learning process and while we don’t always make the best decisions we can decide how to make our next step better. My advice, if your employer offers any type of Student Loan Payback Programs make sure you are making a thoughtful decision as to whether or not the offer and the terms suit you and your financial (and career) goals. These programs can be great opportunities to help you get out of debt, well at least student loan debt, quicker just make sure the situation is right for you.

Comments

  1. I love your blog. It provides alot of great info as well as good advice. Keep up the great work!!!

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  2. Thanks! I appreciate the feedback.

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