Drowning in debt is a sinking feeling. Interest rates follow the lead of rising tuition costs and upon graduation, degree holders are finding it difficult to land a job.
There is hope.
A Rockford couple fought the burden of student loan debt paying off nearly $100,000 decades before most.
"People are averaging anywhere from 10 to 30 years depending on the amount of debt that they have and the amount of income that they're earning," said Tracy Richter from Riverside Community Bank.
Meet Jake and Rebecca Crowley. They decided to kick that stat out the door. Two bachelors degrees, two masters degrees, two kids and no debt.
The Crowley's, set the curve.
"Honestly, it feels a little anti-climactic. It was exciting but honestly I thought there'd be fireworks. You're expecting like fireworks, this huge accomplishment," said Rebecca and Jake Crowley.
Their outlook wasn't as positive as newlywed undergrad's, staring down more than $90,000 in student loan debt and making a combined income of around $30,000 a year.
"Overwhelming, overwhelming. It just seemed hopeless there was so much debt," they said.
"They are absolutely an anomaly," said Richter.
In America, the average student accrues nearly $30,000 in debt. Combining their debt meant the Crowley's needed a plan to pay back and fast.
"We decided what our budget was and every time we got a raise or a promotion or a bonus we would just throw it at debt. Even like tax returns, we might save some of it for a vacation or something that we wanted to do but then the rest would go to debt," said Rebecca.
"Well we didn't get smart phones when we could've updated our phones we just stay with the plan that we had, when Becca was getting her masters a lot of it was online but we didn't get Internet. We still, she basically went to school to work at the library there to work on her online degree," said Jake.
Living disciplined but not going without: It's a plan even bankers agree, can work.
"Living really simply, paying bi-weekly, even an extra five dollars a month will make a big difference in actually paying down your debt," said Richter.
Jake and Rebecca also sought the help of some online finance experts like Dave Ramsey. Tracy Richter says the Ramsey program has helped many people in similar debt situations.
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