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You might read a loan repayment success story and think, “Of course they paid off their debt, they had a full-time job and a big salary!”
Finding paying work and launching your career can be challenging when you’re weighed down by debt. But being in the red could help you earn some green. Don’t believe us? Consider the tales of these two borrowers.
Cornelius Davis: Becoming a financial coach
Cornelius Davis’ student loan debt was just one part of a larger problem. It represented a $71,000 chunk of $171,000 in consumer debt, including an auto loan, mortgage, and credit cards.
To tackle his student loan debt, Davis cut expenses, consolidated his student loans with SoFi (dropping his rate from 6.50% to 4.60%), and took on as many side hustles as he could find. Some of the job roles he filled include:
- Freelance inspector at a major car company
- Mystery shopper at car dealerships
- Participant for a clinical study on sports drinks
- Author of two books
- Founder of a T-shirt company
Every cent earned from Davis’ 12-to-16-hour workdays went to his debt. He increased his payments from about $800 a month to as much as $3,000.
The side hustles helped Davis pay off his education debt, but they weren’t enough to create a career. That’s where being a financial coach came into play.
About halfway through repayment of his more substantial consumer debt, Davis was inspired to help other people in similar situations.
He received a certification as a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach and is working toward being a certified financial planner. He’s hoping his financial coaching business will be his main hustle by 2019.
“The pathway is definitely what led me to it,” said Davis, who maintains his 9-to-5 job as a financial specialist at a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Reading about debt, finances, and realizing how much of a problem it was — I wouldn’t have learned that if I didn’t go through that situation.”
Davis estimates that about 60% of his clients are dealing with debt. Hearing his story, he said, goes a long way for them.
Chris Scott: Becoming a credit expert
Chris Scott had about $50,000 in student loans and was looking for his mom to borrow or cosign on more before his senior year at Columbia College Chicago. Scott’s mom refused, so he left school looking to earn some money.
Scott opened a beauty salon and day spa, financed entirely with credit cards. He ended up maxing out his cards. He was denied more financing through a loan because his credit was shot.
Besides his student loan debt, Scott had accumulated about $26,000 in debt on his cards and was facing collections fees.
“It was embarrassing,” Scott said. “I was reaching out to anyone that would listen.”
Instead of waiting for help, Scott helped himself. He bought a credit repair book at Barnes & Noble and spent the next 11 months paying down debt and whipping his credit report into shape.
Soon enough, Scott found salon customers asking for financial advice and credit builder tools. Eventually, he started charging them $100 for a consultation.
Tired of paying rent on his salon space and buying shampoo and conditioner by the crate, Scott saw a new career path.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks … like I can change people’s lives,” said Scott, who now runs Opulent Credit Builders, which is based in Chicago. “I look at this as my mission and also my purpose in life.”
How you can further your job prospects
You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about all the detriments from being in debt. Now consider the benefits — yes, the benefits.
Maybe you have no desire to become a financial coach like Davis or a credit repair expert like Scott. There are plenty of other positions that require similar skills. Perhaps you’ve gotten so handy with spreadsheets while repaying debt that you’re a data analyst in training.
The next time you’re interviewing at a company — or, like Davis and Scott, starting your own — consider ways to leverage your experience as a borrower.
When a hiring manager asks you about where you went to college, use the question as an opportunity to talk about your independence and how you learned hard lessons by putting yourself through school.
Say you’re asked instead about your problem-solving skills during an interview. You could have your debt repayment story ready to share. The same goes for when your potential future boss mentions “challenges” of the position.
“I’m handling my loan repayment,” you might say, “so I can handle anything!”
Do you have pressing student loan questions? Don’t forget to check our Student Loan FAQ page and Ask a Hero column.
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