Too often, loan repayment success stories are shrugged off. Even when we can appreciate how someone paid off thousands in debt, we might forget to ask: What was it like when you made that last payment?
Welcome to The Moment: A recurring series that aims to rehash memories from ex-borrowers for the benefit of current borrowers. Our hope is that hearing these tales just might push you closer to your final payment, too.
“Miss Gala, I just want to be the first to congratulate you for paying off your student loans,” the voice said.
Annie Gala was stunned. She had spoken to dozens of customer service representatives over the years. This Navient rep wasn’t all that different — until he ended the conversation.
Before Annie had a chance to hang up, she was overcome with emotion.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” Annie says. “[Crying was] not something I anticipated doing at all, but these loans have been such a growing process for me. I had — and have — such a sense of achievement.”
Falling into the trap
For Annie, the last payment was meaningful because of everything that came before it. She had spent 10 years paying off $42,233 in debt that sprung from attending her dream school, New York University.
Federal and private loans made up for what her parents, scholarships, and grants couldn’t cover. As a high school graduate who’d never even had a credit card, she just didn’t realize her loans would eventually turn into a monster.
“I hadn’t wrapped my head around what paying that off was going to look like,” she says. “When I graduated [in 2007] and my loans started to kick in, I was floored.”
Starting after the financial crisis in 2008, the loans began changing hands. They ultimately landed in the laps of Navient and Discover. Unaware of the steps to take when your loan servicer changes, she missed payments.
And when she was out of work, she received no unemployment protection from servicers.
“I encountered so many [customer service reps] who failed to see the human [part] of it,” Annie says.
Getting aggressive with repayment
When Annie got serious about repayment, she returned to the very same customer service reps who proved unhelpful in the past. Hoping to say goodbye to debt faster with the avalanche method, she asked to make more than the minimum payments. One servicer proved to be an obstacle, saying that Annie couldn’t choose the amounts of her extra payments.
Still, every time her fledgling business, Guilty Goose Productions, signed a new client, she had more ammunition to tack onto her loan dues.
Without having a lump sum extra payment calculator handy, Annie ran the numbers herself. She realized in 2016 that making $250 payments on one loan would clear her balance in a year and a half. She also found that making $275 payments would shave four months off that timeline.
“Once the numbers were calculable in my head, I could say, ‘OK … I just have to keep moving this forward,’” she says.
Her first milestone was paying off the Discover loan in early 2017.
“It was anticlimactic,” Annie says. “They didn’t send a letter out. I expected there to be an email or something along the lines of ‘Hey, we’re done taking money out of your account every month.’ There was nothing.”
Closing one loan did give her more funds to work with to tackle the Navient debt. With her automatic payment being transferred on that account in September 2017, Annie noticed that she was one additional payment away from calling it quits.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, I can finally achieve something here,’” she says.
Submitting the last payment
Two-hundred and fifty-three dollars and fifty-seven cents. Annie checked her math before making the last loan payment on Sept. 28, 2017.
The Navient rep confirmed that she could drop her debt to zero with one more online payment of that exact amount. So she hung up and logged in. With her emotions on edge, she pressed submit with her mouse.
Annie was surprised that tears rolled down her cheeks not long after her Navient rep said it would all work out.
“I myself have been super rude to plenty of student loan customer service agents,” Annie says. “I worked really hard to pay off these stupid things … and to have a stranger say, ‘Hey, you did it, that’s great,’ was a nice human-to-human moment.”
Annie picked the phone back up. She called her mom and told her she wouldn’t be receiving any more calls to the house about late payments. “Done and done,” Annie recalls saying.
“I told anybody who even asked me how my day was that day: ‘Oh, I paid off my student loans actually,” she adds, laughing.
Close in on your last payment
You might hear Annie’s memory of her last moments as a student loan borrower and think you’ll never be where she is today. Maybe your balance is still large, your income still small.
But look at it this way: Annie was in your shoes, right where you are today. So she knows how burdensome student loan debt can be, how awful it can make you feel.
She did something about it, and she hopes you will, too.
“Keep going,” says Annie. “I know it sucks to have that money taken out of your account every month when you’re trying to be aggressive about it. But it’s all worth it in the end.”
If you’re nearing or recently made your last student loan payment, we want to hear about it. Your story might inspire someone to follow in your footsteps. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.81% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|