How did we end up with so much debt

You may have read some of our previous blog posts and as you may have heard, we have a lot of debt. Almost $200,000 to be exact. And after hearing that, you may have wondered to yourself:

How did we end up with so much debt?

end up with so much debt

Well, there’s a short and a long answer to every question. I’ll let you decide which one this is.

After high school, I made the decision to attend college at a well-known private school in the middle of Iowa: Luther College. I had gone to Dorian Camp there and fallen in love with the campus and the atmosphere. I absolutely loved Luther. And to be fair, I still love Luther. Luther was the first place that I felt truly alive; my experiences there shaped me, changed me, created a new person from what I used to be. I am eternally grateful for what Luther did for me.

Except in one regard.



There were warning signs and there were people who talked to me about not taking on too much debt, but at the time it seemed like the world was so much bigger, happier, forgiving than it truly is. I may have known that I was getting into debt, but I didn’t truly know what that meant at that point. In fact, I continued my four years there (ending with a degree in English and an emphasis on Creative Writing) and soon after began a two year degree track to get my Masters. In Camp Administration, nonetheless.

I don’t regret my decisions, but I do regret the debt. I know that I couldn’t have done much as far as paying for school on my own or not getting into debt, but I think if I would have realized sooner I would have spent more time paying off interest while in school rather than paying on it compounded now that school is done. But let me repeat, if I could go back to the past: I wouldn’t change Luther. I would still go there. I do not regret my decision.

During my freshmen year at Luther, I met my soul mate. In 2013 we were engaged. In 2015 we got married. Until we got married, we thought of student loans as something that everyone had. We didn’t really think of loans as much more than a normal thing. And the sad truth is: having debt is normal nowadays.

But we have never been ones to want to be normal. We decided it was time to calculate just how much we owed in debt. In combination with our student loans, credit card debt, a family loan, and a car loan, we owed a total of  $196,021.8.

This total, mind you, is after we paid on our debt for over 2 years (so who knows what it was before, but I don’t know that I even want to know).

How does your debt add up to so much?

We wondered the same thing. How could we possibly have almost $200,000 in debt at our age (me, being 23 and my spouse being 25).

  • $72,444.79 – (this is after paying on this loan for over a year). My wife decided to go to college at Luther College (and thank God, because that’s where we met). She worked hard and earned her Psychology degree. Afterward, she went to Minnesota State in Mankato, MN to receive her Masters degree in Social Work. She now works as a Outpatient Therapist for a great company that we love!
  • $73,767.94 – (We have made a few payments on this one, but not as many as on my wife’s). I made the decision to go to Luther College as well. I earned my degree in English. Afterward, I went on to Touro University where I have one year left to earn my Masters in Camp Administration. So, we will be adding a little bit more to this total, but hopefully we’ll pay off more than we add. We only have one semester left to add on so it shouldn’t be too large of a total.
  • $29,279 – (No payments made thus far). Boy, does this loan have a fun story. Going into freshmen year at college, I was just shy of what I needed to be able to get into Luther and pay for it. I had it worked out with my uncle that we would co-sign on a super low interest loan. Fact: never deal with money with family. I got into Luther, he co-signed the loan, everything was going great. Two weeks into my first classes at Luther I get a call from the bank saying he backed out and that they had to cancel my loans. He sends me a Facebook apology (not even a call) and I am stuck, already in school, unable to pay for classes I am already taking. Anyway, this all meant I had to go with what they call a Last Resort Loan. Basically, it’s a loan from Iowa with a 10% withdraw fee and a super high interest rate (like a credit card rate) that capitalizes more often than most. Anyway, long-story-short, I now have a huge debt here that would probably have been half the size if I hadn’t decided to ask a family member for help when I needed it. You live and you learn.
  • $3012.64 – (Update: this has since been completely paid off – our first debt repaid – hooray!). This debt comes from our wedding. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan ahead as well as we should have and ended up with some debt in relation to our wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and I have no regrets.
  • $4,000 – (Update: this has since been completely paid off – debt repaid number 2! $500 was given to us as a wedding gift in the form of a credit toward this loan and the rest we repaid soon after). This debt is one that we took out with my wife’s parents who were gracious enough to help us in our time of need by loaning us money to purchase our car when our jeep broke down and we could no longer drive it. We are a one car family, so we had to get something. Thanks to them, we were able to get a car that is safe, drives nicely, and in good condition.
  • $3575.71 – This is credit card number one. We are not happy about our credit card debt, but sometimes it happens and you simply need to move on and pay it off. Now that we have this debt (and the debt from card number two) we’ve decided that we will never have credit card debt again. As soon as it’s paid off, it will be gone for good.
  • $4,827.08 – (Update: This debt is not paid off yet, but it is down to $4,027.08). Similar to the last one, this is credit card number two.
  • $5,614.61 – (This is after paying for 6 months on the car). This is a debt that we had to have to get our car that we now use every day. Like I said before, we are a one car family, so it’s important to us that the car is reliable and safe. Thankfully, we were able to get one that is both of those with one-year warranty on all major parts.

The total of all of these debts is $196,021.8

Where our debt comes from

BUT we are grateful and lucky enough to have started aggressively attacking these loans now rather than waiting for them to capitalize further. In the past 6 weeks we have paid off over $8,000 worth of these debts and we now have $187,733.6 in debt left. It still is a lot of money and it doesn’t seem like we even made a dent, but $8k in 6 weeks is pretty spectacular.

Here’s to keeping it going!

We are so young and yet so far in debt that we are pretty much drowning – we can’t do anything. We want to buy a house, but we have too much debt. We want to travel the world, but we have too much debt. We want to have a baby, but…well, you get the picture.

It is time to make a change. To figure this debt thing out and get rid of it once and for all. Thus, DIY Jahn was born and now you can read about our story to becoming debt-free as we move forward!

How are you working to get out of debt? Share your story here, we’d love to hear!

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41 Replies to “How did we end up with so much debt”

  1. WOW!……… debt is a fact of life in the UK too. Good luck on your journey. Just a little thought, you will never have enough money to have a baby so maybe just do that one?

    1. Thank you for the comment, Jo! I really appreciate it. Yeah, debt can be very frustrating for so many people. I’m hoping to give advice on how to pay it off and earn money online / save money to help people get out of the hole. So if you’re interested in following, I’d love to have you along for the ride! As for the baby, as of right now I think our debt is too great to bring a little one into the world, we want to be in a little bit better of a place first. So, my goal is to get us down under 100k before we have a baby (like yuo said, you never have enough money for a baby and it’s never truly the time, but we want to be a little more ready than we are now). Hoping to do that in the next year and a half! Here goes nothing!

      Thanks for the support!

  2. I sent this blog post to current Luther College administration. I think it is important for them to hear a good example of the detriment of recent grads who have huge student loans. All for what? I have a feeling you will be hearing from them. Thanks for your honesty in this blog.

    1. Interesting, I’m curious as to whether they’ll look. I will be honest, I don’t regret my student loans at all – but there are a lot of them. Luther was the best decision of my life and I loved every minute of it, but getting out of this hole is harder than one would expect. I’ll be interested to hear thoughts. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Michael.

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