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In May 2018, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany (SUNY) and was ready to find a job. My first thought, once the high of completing undergrad had passed, was, “How will I pay off my student loans?” as I’m sure is the case for many recent grads.
When I started off in the workforce, I was making $35,000 and living at home with my grandparents. I lived life like none of the money I earned or saved was mine, putting every spare penny towards my student loan debt.
I know some people say there’s such a thing as “good debt,” including student loans, but I do not have a financial safety net. My family is supportive with love, but has struggled financially for years. I didn’t want to risk having this debt over my head forever.
The accident that changed my life
During this time, my boyfriend of three years moved to Manhattan and was renting a small three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a few friends. I was going to visit every other weekend and enjoying the city on a budget, still extremely careful with the money I was spending.
In September of 2019, on a Sunday, my boyfriend and I went back to his apartment to get cleaned up. For a few weeks, my boyfriend’s shower door had been a bit tight, and you had to really push it to get it to open and close. I had both of my hands on the shower door as I was closing it when the bottom wheel popped off and the shower door shattered.
I sliced both of my hands wide open.
After getting stitches and x-rays, seeing a neurologist, meeting with an occupational therapist, and going to several follow-up appointments, I walked away with nerve damage in my right thumb and permanent scarring.
Luckily for me, my boyfriend had renters insurance through Lemonade. As soon as we got back from the hospital, I pushed my boyfriend to make a claim — without doing this, my medical bills would have been through the roof. Ultimately, after several months of doctor’s appointments and negotiating, I settled with Lemonade for $23,250, in addition to what they paid for my medical costs.
Twenty-three thousand, two-hundred-and-fifty dollars. Just a couple hundred dollars less than what I owed for the remainder of my student loans. That money changed my life.
I’ve been building my net worth ever since
I immediately used my settlement money to pay off my student loans in full. After that, I started putting all my spare cash in savings and investments to build my net worth.
Since then, I have been able to save about $50,000. I opened a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, and am now able to put my money away for the future — something that I didn’t see myself doing for another 10 or more years. My goal is to max out my Roth IRA every year, so I can actually have a chance at retiring.
Because I’m out of debt, the idea of buying a house in the future is no longer just a dream. I can save for my dream honeymoon. I don’t have to worry about credit card debt. My credit score is now at 793, and is only going up.
At the end of the day, because of that settlement, I was able to become debt-free at 25 years old. But I had to get nerve damage to do it. If I could go back in time and avoid this traumatic event, though, I wouldn’t. I would go back and let it happen over and over again. All the pain and the suffering, and the permanent scarring and nerve damage, is worth being free from student loan debt.