Almost two years after graduating from the Harvard Business School, Joe Mihalic seemed to be living the life. With a six-figure job at Dell in Austin, Texas, he could afford a nice house, two cars, a motorcycle, and an active social life. He was responsible with his finances - dutifully making $1,057 payments on his $101,000 student debt. contributing 10% of his income to a 401k, paying off his monthly credit card balance and even maintaining an emergency fund built to last for six months.
One day last summer, he checked his student loan balance, expecting to be impressed with his progress. Instead, he was stunned - after paying more than $22,000, he still owed over $90,000. Due to interest payments, he wouldn't pay off his loan for at least another 10 years.
So, Mihalic decided to take extreme measures - making a commitment to pay off his loan in 10 months by any means necessary. It became strictly a numbers game. To reduce his expenses, he stopped contributing to his 401k, didn't go home for Christmas, brought a flask with liquor to bars where he'd order a Coke, didn't buy any clothing, used duct tape to repair his car, and found two roommates, among other such sacrifices. To increase revenue, he sold a car, motorcycle, roadbike, drove a pedicab and started a weekend landscaping business with a friend.
And starting last August, he chronicled the whole experience on a blog, "No More Harvard Debt," where he described each challenge and moment of self-doubt.
On March 29 this year - after 214 days - Mihalic made his final payment, crediting commitment, patience and discipline. And he says the blog helped push him over the finish line - "I believe that making this challenge public was helpful to my follow-through."
And he acknowledges that he was lucky - he didn't experience any major disasters, has an income higher as the average household income of $50,000, is single and childless and lives in a city with a relatively low cost of living.
With collective student loan debt recently reaching $1 trillion dollars, Mihalic's story of significant debt is no singular circumstance. The average student graduates college with about $25,000 of debt. If they go to graduate school, the average number tips the scale at $43,500.
Here is a short film Mihalic made about the experience (emphasizing that he did it using a free movie-making software):