How I Paid Off $117K of Student Loans

By Gerri Detweiler,

When Richard Kline graduated from law school in 2003, he had $117,000 in debt and jobs in the legal field were scarce, so he took a job as a mortgage loan officer. Despite his hard work and a housing market that was just starting to boom, he was barely making a dent in his balances.

Within a few years, though, he was debt-free, in large part because he was willing to take a step back in order to move forward. Here's how he did it.

The first year after graduation, Kline deferred his payments on his loans, but since interest continued to capitalize, he quickly grew frustrated by the fact that his balances were growing larger. His next step was to make minimum payments (about $450 a month) and pay extra when he could.

But living and working in an expensive city -- New York -- meant a big chunk of his income was going toward rent. The fact that he was getting paid largely on commission didn't help. No loans closed meant no commission check.

That's when he decided to get serious about paying off his debt. He wrote in an email:

"I didn't want to be a debt slave my entire life. I saw the handwriting on the wall and it was kind of scary to have this debt hanging around my neck for the next 30 years. I felt like I was running to stay in place. It made no sense to me to be in this situation."

So he asked his parents if he could move back in with them, a step that wasn't as common as it is today -- especially for a law school grad. "Just a few years ago, everyone was snickering at people that moved in with mommy and daddy," he said.

With no rent payment though, he was able to put a large chunk of his income toward his debt. He also tried dabbling in the stock market, but it turned out to be a expensive mistake. He said he "lost about $5,000 on silly junk stocks. Never again."

His strategy paid off and within six and a half years he had paid off his loans completely. He's also now working in his chosen field as circulation manager and partner of, a website that connects clients looking for legal advice on the Internet with a licensed legal professional.

His advice to other grads with lots of student loan debt? Don't dismiss the option of living with family if it helps you free up funds to pay off your loans as fast as possible. "I think it is wise to move into your own apartment and get married and buy a home, only after student loan obligations are paid off," he said.

His only regret is that he waited a few years to return home. "I could have paid off the loans much faster if I had moved back in with my parents even sooner, but I was brainwashed by society that says there is a social stigma for moving back in with mom and dad."

If you're worried about how your student loans are affecting your credit, be sure to keep close tabs on where you stand. You can use free tools from to monitor your credit scores, along with a clear explanation of why they are what they are, and what you can do to help them.

This article originally appeared on Gerri Detweiler is's Director of Consumer Education. She focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of

Image courtesy of Richard Kline

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