Six figures deep in student debt for law school, Ravi Kantha’s nerves got the best of him every time he thought about having to face his financial situation after graduation. “It was such an abstract number. The gravity of the debt didn’t really sink in until it was time to get out there and look for a job,” Kantha told Yahoo Finance.
Kantha, 32, had borrowed between $160,000 and $170,000 for his Fordham University Law School education and was banking on paying that off through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. A federal program for debt relief, PSLF may forgive your remaining student loans if you work full-time for 10 years in a qualified government or non-profit job, and make 120 consecutive student loan payments.
In keeping with his plan, Kantha joined the Bronx district attorney’s office in New York after graduating. But after working there for four years, he knew that another six would be tough to fulfill. Juggling his debt with his income at the time would not allow for him to plan for a family or a home and he was eager to start a life with Kathryn, now his wife, who also owed $70,000 to $80,000 for her own law school education.
After seeing what Ravi went through, Kathryn had waited a few years before going to law school herself and used that time to save up and apply for scholarships. “I didn’t want to add to the mountain of debt so I went to law school knowing I wanted to be a patent attorney – having that targeted path helped me focus on jobs,” she said. Wary of accumulating interest, Kathryn made sure she used up her savings before taking out any loans.
For six years the couple barely went out and kept track of all their spending, but found it nearly impossible to get ahead of their debt. “I was floored every time I opened up a [student loan] statement. I just couldn’t believe that it kept growing even as I was making payments,” said Ravi.
Hoping that a higher-paying job in the private sector would help, Ravi switched over to practice law as a white-collar defense attorney. He set aside his original plan for loan forgiveness and decided to refinance his loans through SoFi. His monthly payments became more manageable as his interest rates went from 10% down to 4.16% on one loan, and from 7% to 5.28% on a second loan.
Despite a better salary and refinanced lower interest rates, Ravi still felt limited by having to stay within the legal field. Compared to how dedicated Kathryn was to her own law career, Ravi felt he had to do something different professionally. “I look back at my life and see how much student loan debt shaped all my decisions,” said Ravi. Knowing how unhappy he was, Kathryn supported his decision — as long as it didn’t require taking any more loans.
Networking with friends helped him realize his interests were more aligned with real estate – and while it didn’t require a law degree, he was able to use his legal background and experience and transfer that over into a successful career selling commercial properties.
It only took him about nine months before he was making deals on luxury buildings in New York. From the commission on some of his early deals, he’s been able to pay off the entire $320,000 balance for him and his wife. “I’ve never made a better decision financially and I can tell you that it’s been a good fit for me,” said Ravi.
Realizing how fortunate they are to have been able to pay off their loans so early, Ravi recalls the moment he finally paid off every single penny of his student loans: “I thought I was going to be paying these loans well into my 50s and 60s. I felt like I could breathe for the first time — it was such an overwhelming feeling.”
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