Notes From the Out-of-Touch: Wiping Out $90,000 in Student Loans in 7 Months

“I am so accomplished. I had money and wealth and used it. Follow my lead”

Harvard MBA Joe Mihalic, in what is supposed to be an inspirational story for all Americans, especially in light of the current student loan crisis, has made headlines  – most notably in the magazine of the Mecca of Greed – Wall Street Journal – for having paid $90,000 in student loans in seven months.

He accomplished this by getting a second job (in his case, landscaping), forgoing all restaurant dining (even McDonald’s), selling all unnecessary items around the house — and getting a flask.

Yes, a flask. Genius decided that one of the best and most effective ways to save money in this world is carrying your own booze around in a flask to bars rather than ordering drinks and shelling out $50 everytime.

Instead of the movies, he took dates out hiking, or for bagels and coffee. He ate protein bars packed from home and walked several miles to the city, to save a few bucks on transportation, during a trip to Michigan. He got two roommates to rent out his house. Mihalic also took steps that financial advisers typically say are a no-no: He liquidated his individual retirement account, drawing a tax penalty, and stopped contributing to his 401(k), even though his employer offers a matching contribution

Oh and yeah, did I mentioned one minor detail? The guy makes six figures working for Dell, Inc. As in $ 100,000 and above.

And therein lies the rub in this story of “inspiration” because pointing out the obvious,  namely that having wealth makes it easier to reduce debt, is neither inspirational nor newsworthy.

So thanks Wall Street wizards and thanks to this guy. He did not go to Harvard for nothin’.

No Kids, no wife, no health-care bills making six figure income and able to pay off debt. Reminds one of wrinkle cream commercials starring a twenty year old.

Fact is, you can’t pay off 90 grand in student loans taking a flask to the bar and selling household junk on ebay and saving a few bucks on a bus pass every day. This is utterly ridiculous and insulting to the whole movement aimed at keeping student loans and interest rates in check and affordable.

While the frugality tips are good, the point of the student debt  crisis is not Harvard Business School grads with six-figure incomes trying  to pay down student loans by “slumming” it for a while.  It’s people from middle-to bottom-tier schools with  no jobs, or very little income, drowning in $100k or similar amount of debt with high interest rates.

With a six figure income, this guy is already six steps ahead of most students buried in debt; students who don’t have jobs and if they do have a job, they are lucky to be making 35k and rent a room somewhere or move back to live with their parents.

Beside the six figure income, the other major factor in his “accomplishment”  is that he has a sizable amount of assets to slash his debt. According to his website, his after tax (i.e net) income was $85,000 per year. He immediately used around  $27,500 in cash plus $14,000 from stocks, and $9,500 from his IRA.  He also stated that his monthly entertainment expenses were $1,300… x 7 months= $9,100! He got two roommates bringing in $5,950 over seven  months. He sold a bicycle for $900 and a motorcycle and his second vehicle for another $9,500. A also received a tax refund of almost $1,900. A work bonus of almost $14,000 and  don’t forget that he was already paying $1,050+ each month to his  loans so there’s almost $7,400 already. He banked $4,000 from stopping his 401k. He got a raise for $2,300 over 7 months.

That alone is over $106,000 available to him in either assets or funds that he was already receiving without even delving into his regular monthly expenses,  i.e mortgage, utilities, cell phone, etc.

How in the world any of this is any kind of accomplishment that is news worthy is beyond me. I don’t need the WSJ telling me that having money greatly helps reducing your debt and improving your life.

Paying Off Student Loan Debt is Not Just a Matter of Discipline 

This is not an inspirational story, it is a harrowing tale of a privileged man using his considerable financial resources to pay off his debt. The reality for over 90% of students coming out of colleges and grad schools, however, is more like they are buried in student loans at high interest rates and have either no job or a job that barely pays for the necessities, such as room and board and basic bills, much less for astronomically high student loans.

In other words, Mihalic’s situation is neither typical nor representative of the situation of college and grad school graduates in this country and it certainly does not provide a realistic template with which to to approach the student loan crisis.

When you come out of college or grad school and make around 40k – and if you are lucky maybe your employer also throws in a health plan  – and after you paid your taxes and for your basic needs, there is not much room left to work with. And that is the issue. Mihalic had a lot of room to shuffle money around; he had options: top benefits, bonuses and promotions oh and yeah a six figure salary. The majority of grads don’t.

A young person having recently graduated from an institute of higher education should not have to suffer and subdue themselves with some minimum-wage paying slow death at all costs just to pay off student loans issued to them under draconian rates and conditions.

The point is to reform student loans and make college affordable so that people aren’t burdened and buried in debt just for getting an education.

Making it look like the problem was one of personal discipline alone as opposed to structural is what truly irks me about the press surrounding this guy’s alleged “accomplishment” because all it does is put a bandage  – a very expensive one – on the issue saying “Hey kids, stop whining about student loans. Do what this guy did (never mind most of you cannot) and you will be fine.”

When you don’t have any or much money, you don’t have many options. That is, after all, what is so great about money: options. Mihalic, on the other hand, had options and he used those options to adjust his life such that it was possible for him to pay off his student loan debt quickly. Many graduates in his place don’t have these kinds of options.

File that under yet another rich privileged dude doing what all rich, privileged dudes would do in his place: spend his money to be better off.

This country has taken the notion of finding ever newer and more creative ways to make fools out of people and insulting their intelligence to new heights.

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  1. #1 by TJ on July 12, 2013 - 12:44 PM

    The only solution to the student loan crisis is to RESTORE BANKRUPTCY protections for ALL student loans. I have a law degree from a top 20 law school and an MBA from a decent MBA program. Congress improperly removed bankruptcy protection for federal student loans right after I graduated from law school and realized that I would never make what my law school claimed I’d make. I doubt Congress will ever do the right thing and restore what it stole from us, so I moved out of the country. I would love to have a job that pays me what I should be making and what I would need to be paid to enable me to pay my student loans back, but I do not have that job and likely never will – so, again, restore bankruptcy protections for all student loans. If you don’t, expect many more people to flee the US. The loans still won’t get paid (because, you know, we don’t have the money – duh!), but we’ll be using our education to help other countries. I wish some of you morons understood the concept of “false receivable” as that is what these student loan debts are.

    • #2 by popreflection on July 12, 2013 - 7:22 PM

      Removing student loans from bankruptcy protection is just one item on the long list of items directed at gutting and undermining the middle class. The only reason student loans were removed from that is to make sure the banks – who have the backing of the government anyway – get their money back, no matter what. Just like credit scores and credit ratings that are put in place to protect the banks, not consumers. Together with union busting policies and a host of employee protection laws shattered, consumers and hard working wage earners are not only SOL but at the mercy of these banks who can do whatever they want.

      A student loan bail out would, of course, have been a viable option too. But in this country members of the 99% are apparently not worthy of a bail out, only the robber barons who got us into this mess. When the economy tanked because of THEM, we tax payers bailed them out (and it was just us since the 1% dont pay taxes) and then they gave themselves bonuses and now post record profits. No on thought about bailing out student loan borrowers and thus an entire generation or two of people who have forever fucked up their lives because of suffocating loans.

      That is why Joe Mihalic’s story as an inspiration pisses me off because how many people are in his place? And why should people only choose a vocation that makes money instead of something they truly want, just so they can be indentured servants basically and make enough money to pay back loans.

      That said, while bankruptcy is not an option, I suggest defaulting on loans when push comes to shove. I mean if it’s between a roof over your head and basic needs and paying off loans, i would choose a roof over my head. They will send you to a collection agent and then you pay whatever you can each month. If you have a lot of loans and it is overwhelming, dont work on paying them off ever – it wont happen, not with the way things are going. Not with a congress, republican and democratic alike, including Obama – who basically just cater ot the needs of the 1% and repeat the failed Bush policies of the past over and over again. Unless there is a paradigm shift in that regard, things are bound to just get far worse than what they currently are.

  2. #3 by CRP on August 24, 2012 - 7:12 PM

    Simple common sense should tell you that something is wrong if you’re racking up $100K in debt for a middle- or bottom-tier school. What people don’t get is that yes he’s making $100k GROSS – (assuming roughly around $72k net) but the minimum payment on his loan was probably around $6-700 a month. That’s MINIMUM, which we all know gets your loan balance to zero in 15-30 years. He’s an inspiration, not because he paid off $90k in debt in 7 months but because he saw a problem in his life and took steps to solve it instead of blaming others with his hand out.

  3. #4 by Ann on July 18, 2012 - 3:51 PM

    So I take it you won’t be buying his e-book?

    I agree w/ you in that he shouldn’t be made into a poster child on student loan repayment because his salary is way higher than most graduates who are making around 40K and don’t have the assets that he had. I think he would agree w/ you also since he acknowledges he had a certain amount of luck on his side. The problem is that certain media outlets like CNN want him to be a poster child for loan repayment so they say things like “are you trying to pay off student loans? maybe you can be like this guy” Ignoring the fact that most people can’t be like him. Watch the video if you don’t know what I’m talking about. The headline in the HUffPo was “How to pay off 90K in 7 months” again making it seem like anyone can do what he did.

    • #5 by popreflection on July 18, 2012 - 6:00 PM

      Agreed. Whatever Mihalic’s spin is on the issue, the media is mis-portraying and misrepresenting his story as being a blue print or example of how to go about paying off student loans. Like “you have student loan debt? No problem. Read what this guy did, he has the secret, so you can do it too.” I am assuming this is what his e-book is about so in a way he also banking on that misrepresentation by pretending that he holds the secret and if you buy his book, he will tell you the secret too. What people aren’t told is that his number one “secret” is that he has money and assets, which in turn opens a lot of doors. The only thing his e-book will accomplish is fill his pocket with money. Otherwise, it will be as useless as his blog – and his story – for those genuinely stuck with student loan debt.

    • #6 by Robert on August 20, 2015 - 1:23 PM

      After brief review of his site and story I can’t help but wonder if he was out for media attention from the get-go. He spent 2 years on the typical repayment plan without a care to the amount of debt. Blogs are popping up everywhere for various self-help types of situations.

  4. #7 by Edogg on June 25, 2012 - 11:37 AM

    The reason this is an insperational story is very clear; his story should inspire folks to focus on degrees that pay. 50k for a poetry degree will result in a long and drawn out payment. We should be encouraging young people to read his story and taylor their college experience to result in post-college success as opposed to personal growth. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with all of those who can’t pay off their loans, maybe we should be asking what this guy did right.

    • #8 by popreflection on June 25, 2012 - 12:01 PM

      So you advocate everyone go into either business or law or some kind of financial firm to make money as studying anything else is just a compelte and utter waste of time? THIS is what you consider inspiring? Everyone going into finance and following the money? And people who pursue degrees that aren’t making big bucks are irresponsible losers who deserve what they are getting? Of all the things you could get out of my post about reforming all of this and this debate in general is that following a degree that isn’t sure to be profitable is a waste of time? That is your idea of what a free society ought to be? Everyone in it to make money? Have you ever considered that this money hungry greed everyone exhibits is the problem here? Read this article, if you want to truly educate yourself and maybe even get inspired.

  5. #9 by mike on June 12, 2012 - 8:24 PM

    I would be interested to know if you had/have student loan debt? Was it in the 100k level? If so how did you handle it when you graduated?

    I think that there is a misconception here too that everyone has to go to college and with a degree there is supposed to be a guarantee of a certain level job and salary.There are other more affordable options (trade schools, technical/industrial training, etc) that can provide skills needed for jobs with a great salary – Not everyone has to go to college.

    Also, if the student loan system is so screwed-up what is your proposed solution? What would make school loans more accessible to everyone without lingering debt, but not be a burden for the taxpayers or let the system be abused?

    • #10 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 8:47 PM

      Low student loan rates. More government aid to increase access to education and to provide options for repayment and relief like deferment, forbearance, Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Reform of private lenders rather than letting them prey on students any which they want. And of course more indirectly better job opportunities. We just need to invest more in education as not investing in education and allowing ot remain affordable, we drive people actually more in debt as rapidly increasing student loan debt harms low income students, making a vital piece of the American Dream less accessible to people. Reality is that student loan debt is nearly $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt.

      We currently spend a lot of money on increasing our defense budget, wealthy people aren’t paying tax properly (see california that is rich in many ways but going bankrupt because of lack of revenue), subsiding farms and defense contractors, keeping the likes of Romney and Bain tax exempt etc. We are not spending our money wisely and when it comes to cuts instead of going after the the things that are bad for us, we go after those things that are good for us and I would say higher education and access to it qualify as such.

      • #11 by Michael on June 13, 2012 - 4:16 AM

        I think you’ve done some serious misinterpreting regarding the numbers from that IHEP report. That 37% number you used, that’s of people that become delinquent but don’t default, not the general population with student debt. It’s a subset. If the default rate is 8.8% as you said that means 91.2% of the student loan holding population does not default. 91.2% of the student loan holding population paying off their loans normally is not a crisis.

        The difference between 3.4 and 6.8 is relatively insignificant over the lifetime of the loan. I saw an article saying it was roughly 2k over the maximum lifetime of the loan. It’s been made intro a big deal because it’s an easy place to score political capital. You even mentioned the fact that the temporary rate slash was enacted in 2007. So somehow, all those people that graduated in 07 and earlier managed to cope with that. People taking out loans in ’12 and ’13 will find a way too.

        And you talk about variable rate loans as if you can’t get private loans with a fixed rate and I spent 10 minutes looking at my alma mater’s financial aid website and found three private lenders that do offer fixed rate loans.

        As for the affordability of school the premise that everyone should go is just unreasonable. The poll also includes people that know nothing of the actual cost of attending school. Yeah, the sticker price might be over 100k public or 200k if you’re talking private but the REAL price is often far lower than that. I know that because I went to a school that currently has a 240k sticker price but I know that most students there won’t pay half of that. You wouldn’t know that, however, unless you had personal experience with it or had done extensive research into the matter.

        People have no business judging the affordability of school without doing their homework on the matter. Anyone whose research consists of looking at the sticker price doesn’t have a valid opinion because ironically only the 1% pay sticker price.

        My alma mater and most of it’s peers generally have policies of ZERO required contribution for low income (read: < 65k/year) parents and relatively small contribution ~10% from parents with incomes in the 65k – 150k range. Please explain to me how zero is unaffordable. Please explain to me how 10% is unaffordable. Oh and here's the kicker, if your family is in that income range you more than likely qualify for federally subsidized loans so 6.8% interest rate over 20 years with a principle capped at something like 25k. Now please explain to me how that policy, which I believe covers something like 90% of US household incomes, is unaffordable.

        I'm not the one misrepresenting the facts here. If only four in ten people that borrowed money for school could actually repay it we'd absolutely have a problem but that's simply not the reality of things.

        • #12 by popreflection on June 13, 2012 - 8:35 AM

          I am sorry but I do not have time for your trolling and repeated misrepresentation of the facts and numbers that frankly speak for themselves. You are severely ignorant about student loans, their nature, the banks and the consequences for students, the meaning of variable rates, the doubling of the rate, the fact that private lenders are unregulated, that higher education is unaffordable, etc etc. Speak of intellectually dishonest. The poll asking people about affordability was one measuring public perception – which matters since it has changed from the 1980s. The numbers concur such sentiments: A report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found that college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

          When comparing net college costs — that is, a year’s tuition, fees, room and board, minus financial aid — against median family income the findings have been also very clear: In 2007 the net cost at a four-year public university amounted to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university cost 76 percent of the median family income.

          The share of income required to pay for college, even with financial aid, has been growing especially fast for lower-income families. And among the poorest families — those with incomes in the lowest 20 percent — the net cost of a year at a public university was 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost was 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.

          That higher education has become and continues to remain unaffordable is a fact. Even experts and professionals from various policy backgrounds agree that things have gotten worse and will only worsen over time if appropriate measures aren’t taken. For you to be questioning that and claiming that they are all wrong and that everything is just fine, by citing your personal anecdotal evidence no less, is utterly ridiculous.

    • #13 by Anonymous12 on January 12, 2014 - 8:11 AM

      I am in the 100K club with student loans. I have a business degree and went back to get a masters in public policy. People have this stereotype about us that I want to put to rest…we just borrowed the money to finance a luxurious lifestyle in college. It is certainly not true…I worked while I was in college, chose cheaper options in living, received some partial scholarships (i.e. Dean’s honor list money), and simply just wanted to finish school. I was so scared to think that I would not finish school on time, which made me grab the loans to pay the difference. It would have been devastating for me to get off track because I couldn’t afford it.It was a struggle for me to get where I was at. I went to a private school, but let me say that the state schools are just about as high when it is all added up. I do admit that I should have been more wise with my actual school choice. If I could do it over again, yes…I would have looked for cheaper schools. But, I didn’t and now here I am.

      The government loans are not as bad since I am on an IBR and you can get them forgiven after awhile. But, the private loans are horrendous. Right now, I have been paying only interest to my loans for about four years now, because that has been my only option to make the payments cheaper. Also, they don’t allow me to pay down on the one that has the highest interest rate. They calculate where your payment will be applied, which I believe is evenly through all your loans.I doubt they are looking out for my interest when they do this. Lastly, how are you only going to provide 12 months of forbearance on the ENTIRE length of your loan. That is absolutely ridiculous…I was caught in a rock and a hard place when I was unemployed using my forbearance and knowing that I may not be able to use anything 10 years down the road. I don’t know how my life is going to be in 10 years. Also, I was getting hit with fees to get the forbearance that would not be applied to the principle unless you paid consecutively for 6 months. That payment was not applied for any part of my loan…just in the pockets of the lender, because they don’t count a payment being made if the balance is not current.

      Let me tell you…I don’t have a problem paying back my loan, but I’m smart enough now to know how much these private lenders are ripping me off, which makes me want to throw up my hands and say “f@&9 it”. I really hope they will allow for student loans to come back through bankruptcy, because I am going to be the first in line. 7 years without a new home of my own…so be it compared to Joe Crocker getting rich off of me my entire life. Wage garnishing is the only thing that makes me nervous, which is why I have been giving them a bone here and there. But, this is such a big business…I doubt that nobody will not really do anything until the economy really starts feeling the pinch. So, until then, I will give them whatever and whenever and looking at my options to becoming a U.S. expat. God bless America for the few, but I am going to live my life and if it means a better life in a different country…that is what I will do. I know this is also my fault, but I am not going to play their game and diminish my life and well-being. The End.

  6. #14 by Rusty on June 12, 2012 - 8:11 AM

    It’s not his fault that the media decided to sensationalize the story of him getting out of debt. The intention of his blog is to inspire and share his progress with friends and family. While it may be easier for him then a typical college graduate, because of the Harvard MBA, many MBA students come out with $100k+ and take 15 yrs to pay the debt off. That is how he is different than others. Is is news worthy? No, not to this degree. But it’s not like he was promoting himself. His intention was not to boast, but to inspire and share. Your view of all this is understandable but not very inspiring. The main point here is that there is value to not having debt, and he simply shared his way of paying his student loans off.

    • #15 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 8:57 AM

      Nobody is accusing him of seeking sensation. The point is that his story, whether he promoted it himself (he did write a supposedly “inspirational” blog after all) or whether the media did it for him by covering him as inspirational, is neither representative of the student loan and debt crisis nor typical. Someone making 6 figures with substantial assets and financial backing is simply not very inspirational when it comes to the question of how to solve the student loan/debt crisis. Yet both he and the media misrepresented that and made it look like this was totally easy and doable since look, he is allegedly the poster child for how it can supposedly get done ipso facto those who don’t do it must be having discipline issues or just be irresponsible slobs who deserve being buried in debt. And that is ultimately the message both he, the media and his supporters are sending – which is the same message that was sent after the economic meltdown: it wasnt the fault of the too-big-to-fail banks, a corrupt and unregulated wallstreet, but the fault of the little guy – the middle class wage earner. Just as it isnt the fault of mismanaged student loans, high interest rates and horrible job prospects for new graduates but the fault of those graduates themselves for allegedly lacking discipline and what it takes ot man up and pay off their debt. Such a view, however, is ignorant beyond words.

      And i am really sorry that telling the truth about the student loan crisis and subsequently criticizing it and Mihalic doesn’t make you all warm and fuzzy on the inside. But just because valid criticism doesn’t make you feel good doesn’t mean it isn’t valid and should not be said.

      • #16 by Rusty on June 12, 2012 - 9:19 AM

        I agree that while his situation may not be typical with an undergraduate student, it is very typical with an MBA graduate. A typical graduate has about 6 figures of debt, a 401k and other assets that can be leveraged to pay off student debt. A typical MBA graduate is making right around what he is.

        I don’t think his approach is a solution to the student loan crisis, in fact he specifically states that he has no idea how to solve such a complex problem. You are correct in saying that in an undergraduate students case, this may not be as easy. I am not suggesting it is. But I went to school. Have two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree and at 23 was out of student loan/debt. I credit that to all of the scholarships, hard work and multiple jobs (4 at one point, averaging 45 hrs a week working) I was holding down while going to school full time. My situation is not the norm either, I get it. The job prospectus is not horrible for students who get degrees that teach them hard skills, engineering, finance, etc. I also agree that it is not a lack of discipline that current grads cannot pay off their loans.

        I know plenty of engineering students who have an undergraduate degree and $100k+ in loans and will be paying those loans for 13 more years. But they are consciously choosing to live in a ritzy studio, near a large city and go out for drinks every weekend. I’m not saying they can pay off their loan in 7 months, but they can definitely do so in 3-4 years with better spending habits. In fact, they acknowledge this themselves, but simply do not care enough about student debt.

        Even though I have paid off all of my student loans, I am still in favor of a “loan forgiveness” program. The system is toxic, I agree with you. But you have to understand that there is a large percentage of people out there who choose not to pay off their loan and are OK with just making minimum payments. His story is inspiring because he took the initiative to actually care. Many out there do not.

        For those who do not have the means to pay their loans back and are looking for jobs, I feel really bad for and I am not expecting nor encouraging them to pay back their loans. My discussion is about the people who have the opportunity to pay more than the minimum payments on their loans but are complacent and choose not to.

        • #17 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 12:17 PM

          It is all about standard of living. The american dream was the creation of a solid middle class, not the creation of millionaires. That nonsense is the kind pf crap perpetuated by the rich to get people keep pandering and supporting their causes (“help me so one day you too can be sitting on the throne. Reality is, most people cannot and will not be millionaires and the get rich or die trying mantra isn’t a good one. Speak of inspirational).

          So, people really shouldn’t have to subdue and torture themselves to pay off student loans or for having gotten a higher education. Someone graduating from school after years of hard work should not have to graduate and live in utter poverty with their primary goal in life being paying off student loans. Not even the President did that. In fact, he announced that he and Michelle had just a couple of years ago finished paying off their student loan debt and he doesnt strike me as the lazy irresponsible kind. People have family, kids, obligations to take care of parents, car payments, mortgage payments, dependents of various sort – so they will not be able to make it their life’s goal to pay off student loans in a jiffy. I don;t know anyone who graduated from school and had the good life in the lap of luxury with racking up debt. It is great that some can do so – such as Mihalic and yourself – but most can’t. That is why student loan terms are 20 to 30 years and not 2 to 3. It is understood that people won’t be able to pay off such amounts in a short amount of time.

          So the goal ought to be to keep rates low as well as an economy with a healthy job market so that people can have a comfortable living without having to torture themselves. Also remember that every penny used to pay back student loans, takes away from money that could be pumped in the economy through spending. Debt prevents spending, which is not a desirable situation. So there really should be a balance and people shouldn’t be called irresponsible losers for not getting right on living on ramen noodles and walking to work (if that is possible at all) so they can pay off the banks at high rates and draconian terms.

          As to Mihalic: I dont now about other MBAs – I do know a lot of them end up working great jobs with high end salaries and bonuses – which is fine – but they are not the target audience we are talking about. They are well off and whether they choose to pay it off all at once and thus “slum” it like Mihalic or over time is their choice – but they aren’t in a crisis. Mihalic was inconvenienced a bit, but wasn’t in a crisis. he had the choice to live “frugally” for a bit. Most people don’t – and that is the point I ma trying to get across. Rent or student loan? Food or student loans? My kid’s braces or student loans? These are the kinds of things graduates struggle with. And no not everyone is a lazy asshole who is trying to mooch off of people. it is like those Pelosi documentaries where they go to NYC and interview a couple of dead beats who say that they just want to get their welfare check – giving the impression that all welfare recipients are like that, even though the reality is that a lot of families – good people – depend on those monies to put food on the table and support their family (not that welfare in this country is worth mentioning. I dont know anyone who can live on 600 a month – which is what welfare pays).

          Finally. I am not going to split hairs here over Mihalic’s intentions. The point is the story was put out there and it is up for criticism – especially if the media headline is as some kind of message to borrowers “look kids, he did it. You can do it too.” Only that most can’t.

          • #18 by Michael on June 12, 2012 - 2:24 PM

            If the average indebtedness is supposedly 25k for an undergraduate degree and you can pay that over 20 years at 6% that translates roughly into $180/month. Does it suck that you may pay double what you borrowed? Absolutely. Does that payment mean you might have to make some sacrifices depending on your income? Sure. Is that inherently unfair? Not at all.

            The extreme cases are the ones that get the publicity but for the most part the vast majority of us go about paying off our loans without complaint.

            The price of an education is definitely outpacing inflation but to say it’s not affordable when so many people A) do it and B) pay off their loans just fine is intellectually dishonest. I just looked at a couple private lenders that do fixed rate student loans and yeah, the fixed rate varies between 6 and 13% but do you really think that’s draconian? Throw in federally guaranteed loans and the rate for undergrad is 6%. The difference between a federal loan and a private loan being a couple points on average is hardly draconian.

          • #19 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 3:47 PM

            Who is paying off their debts just fine? And who said education is affordable?

            1) According to The Institute for Higher Education Policy Only 37 percent of student loan borrowers were able to repay their loans without delinquency or delay. And for every student who eventually defaults on a loan, there are two others who fall behind on their payments, even if they don’t default. Moreover, the Department of Education reported that the default rate on federal student loans jumped to 8.8 percent of borrowers in 2010, up from 7 percent in 2008. Not that not paying loans is an option for anyone. Even when you retire, the government can garnish your Social Security checks. If you’re disabled and you default on your loans, the government will take 15 percent of your Social Security. Defaulting on student loans is a trip through hell, there’s no way out. Even a bankruptcy won’t get you out of them.

            According to the New York Times, for-profit colleges, which typically serve low-income students (read, low income) enroll only about 10 percent of the nation’s undergraduates, but their students made up 150,000, or almost half, of the defaults.

            To make matters worse, people who might want to go back to school to improve their skills are discouraged because of the economy and loan rates. According to a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute, people often decide to go back to school and start a new career when the economy gets bad, but this recession has gone on so long that the job market is weak even when they graduate.

            2) According to a Pew Research Study, most Americans now regard the price as out of reach. Fully 75% of the public says most people cannot afford to pay for a college education. Just 22% of Americans say that college costs in general are such that most people are able to afford to pay for a college education. Both college graduates and those who did not attend college are equally skeptical about the affordability. Nor do opinions differ between graduates who attended public schools and those who attended private schools. A majority of Americans have doubted the affordability of college in surveys since the mid-1980s, but the percentage saying college is affordable for most Americans has fallen significantly over time. In 1985, 39% of adults agreed that most people can afford a college education. By 1991, that share had fallen to 25%.

            And according to Forbes, a 2007 law that kept federally subsidized Stafford loan interest rates low will expire July 1, if Congress doesn’t extend them. Interest rates on some 7.4 million student loans will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, which is a lot for student loans. Graduate loans stay at 6.8 percent. Moreover, while students have long had the luxury of having a six month grace period right after graduation when the government paid their interest. Come 2013 and 2014, that perk disappears in one of many cost saving measures. Last year Congress cut $8 billion from the Pell Grant program and this year lopped off another $2 billion. The income threshold changed for Pell Grants from a household income of $32,000 to $23,000, which resulted in some getting $1,200-$1,700 less in grants. Pell Grants are facing a $10 billion shortfall.

            And interest rates on private loans vary, depending on the lender and the borrower’s credit rating. Almost all private student loans have variable interest rates that are tied to an index, such as the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) index. That means there’s a good chance that the rate you start with will increase before you repay the loan — and if interest rates soar, it could rise significantly. Moreover, private loans usually don’t allow you to defer loans or lower your payments, as federal loans do. And unless you have excellent credit, you’ll need a co-signer to get the lowest interest rates on private loans. This is a serious responsibility: If the borrower can’t pay, the co-signer is on the hook for the debt. How many people are in a situation where they can even do that? Federal student loans, on the other hand, are available for all full-time students, regardless of credit history. Finally, as mentioned above, private student loans have less-flexible repayment terms than federal student loans. If you lose your job while you’re repaying a federal student loan, the government is required to allow you to temporarily suspend payments on the loan. Very few private lenders offer forbearance or interest-only payments to borrowers who are experiencing economic hardship and even that is according to the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance project. You get whatever the lender chooses to give you as there’s no law that requires certain kinds of relief.

            So I think the facts about the reality of student loans, college affordability and ease of repayment speak for themselves. You don’t know how an individual and household handles this hardship. People generally try to do the right thing, but just becasue they don’t speak up and are vocal about at assemblies, doesn’t mean it is just A-ok. You are grossly misjudging and mischaracterizing the realities surrounding student loans.

  7. #20 by Michael on June 8, 2012 - 3:04 PM

    I’m a bit late here but the one of the real issues with the student loan debt “problem” is the fact that you have hundreds of thousands of people paying 40-50k/year to go to unknown private schools.
    It’s not unusual for the actual elite schools (top 10 rankings, multi-billion dollar endowments, instant name recognition…) to have sticker prices in the 200k+ range but REAL prices for most students well below that.

    What needs to happen is people need to realize that all those schools outside of the top ten aren’t worth the money. There’s no reason to go to a private school just because it’s private. There’s no reason take up that much debt to head off to some private school that a recruiter in your post-graduation field of choice is going to have to google.

    What we have here is poor judgment. People paying Ferarri money for Hondas then being surprised when the Honda doesn’t have Ferarri performance. The student loan “crisis” is a crisis in judgment. The guy’s blog isn’t aimed at people that bought Hondas because he bought a Ferarri.

    • #21 by popreflection on June 8, 2012 - 6:04 PM

      so are you saying it is the fault of students since they chose unwisely? The numbers don’t prove that. Take the UC system. Used to be affordable, but no longer is and is almost as expensive as some of the private schools. And the problems with loans until very recently has been the private banks as middle men and compounded interest. For the banks it was a win-win situation. They handled the loan and pocketed the money and if the student defaulted, then the government stepped in and paid that loan. Moreover, the Bush era interest hikes further made taking out loans hard. Either way, the problem is not just one thing: the problem is expensive schools, private loan sharks, high interest rates for student loans and a lousy economy with little job prospects. There is nothing wrong with taking out loans to pay for your education, what is wrong is the way it has been handled. And no matter, Mihalic’s example is out of place and completely irrelevant to this debate as he does not represent the average graduate with respect to crippling student loans in this country.

      • #22 by Michael on June 11, 2012 - 7:22 AM

        There’s nothing wrong with taking out loans. I took out loans myself.

        The point is that students need to be doing analysis to figure out whether every dollar of debt they take on is going to generate at least that much revenue in the future. Borrowing 100k to make 20k/year is a bad investment. Borrowing 20k to make 100k/year is a great investment. It should be an obvious statement but the whole point in investments is to get more out than you put in. If students aren’t figuring that out for their situation they’re not investing, they’re gambling.

        All the things you listed are consequences of a large number of people throwing money around without doing their homework. Of course you’re liable to be taken advantage of if you haven’t done any work to ensure that you aren’t.

        • #23 by popreflection on June 11, 2012 - 8:21 AM

          The point you are making about students choosing unwisely is really not the issue and problem in this country. Americans dont choose schools any less wisely than their European counterparts. Moreover, the point is that education, higher education, in this country, has become unaffordable (unless you are contented with a community college) and that coupled with high interest rates and a bad job economy graduates are left with loads of debt and little ways to pay them off efficiently. Finally, investment in education is not measured by cost of college for four years vs. annual income. You have to look at it in terms of an aggregate over lifetime. You might end up owing 100k – with a college degree and Master’s – but you also have better job opportunities and over a lifetime make more than 100k. Your example of making 20k and owing 100k is exaggerated and false. Finally – and most importantly – some fields are traditionally not money making fields – such as teaching, liberal arts, political science etc – but there is a need for them and also of course an inclination on the part of the student to pursue them, which is great as no one should have to not do what they want to do in life because it doesnt make you rich. According to your logic, people ought to pursue only business and maybe engineering degrees at crappy schools (or good schools if they will earn it back) and everyone else should just suck it up that they chose a degree that gives them a job as a community organizer or in a non profit.

          This assertion is the very precise problem in this country: this mentality that we all ough to want to be rich, even though certain professions are not meant to leave people rich (see scientist, professors, teacher etc.)

          Again, the point is to make education affordable, keep interest rates low and create a solid economy with jobs so that even a teacher or research scientist can lead a solid middle class lifestyle – which is what the American dream has been about all along, not the Bain-Capital, Mitt Romney-Corporate-Raider-Money-in-my-mouth, everyone-should-be-a-millionaire mentality perpetuated by individuals who neither represent nor understand anything about the american dream.

          • #24 by Sweta on June 12, 2012 - 10:29 AM

            “The point you are making about students choosing unwisely is really not the issue and problem in this country. Americans dont choose schools any less wisely than their European counterparts.”

            Americans chosing unwisely is a part of the problem. Here’s a link to a website that illustrates this. This girl graduated from an undergraduate private school w/ a degree in Sociology and 200K in debt.

          • #25 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 12:22 PM

            so? One anecdotal evidence is supposed to be representative of millions?

          • #26 by Matthew on June 12, 2012 - 12:51 PM

            I’ve been watching your replies for the last several weeks. Let me really break it down for you real simple like. This guy did something good, paid off his debt. And you’ve done nothing but bitch about it. My mother, rest her soul, taught me the most important lesson. “Life isn’t fair”. Once you learn that and quit looking to solve societal ills, you may just come to grips with your own problems in life. We can all use big words and philohize all day long. If you accumulate debt, it isn’t society’s problem to bail you out. This is America so do it your self. No more pity parties. Your desire to blame it on the rich or entitled just sells yourself as someone pining for the provider you weren’t able to grab at your ivy league school. If your really wanna go help the world, join the peace corps then give me your self righteous shick.

          • #27 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 1:36 PM

            Your personal opinion and feelings toward me are ignorant and irrelevant. Straw-man arguments and ad hominem attacks won’t get you far in debates in general either. And from the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like you even know what you are talking about with that dismissive, callous indifference you exhibit. Based on your mentality, the French Revolution and Enlightenment and the Civil Rights movements and just a lot of the things that were fought for over these years would never have happened because those damn farmers, and minorities and allegedly exploited should have just stopped bitching about the problems since “life’s not fair”. What you miss is that sometimes there are powers beyond one’s control and personal autonomy – in the structural sense (such as segregation, jim crow laws, being under the yoke of the feudal system, exploration by employers, a predatory banking system, a corrupt congress – just to name a few) – thus rendering people incapable to just solve the “problems” and issues personally. The issues this country is facing is bigger than each individual and only collectively will we be able to make life more bearable and equitable for human beings. Since you did read my comments you ought to remember what I said about the american dream, namely that it was the creation of the middle class allowing entire segments of society to move upward leading a solid middle class lifestyle. It wasn;t the creation of millionaires and the “pull yourself by your bootstraps mentality” doesn’t work if you don’t have any bootstraps to pull. And mind you, the economy tanked because of a corrupt government under GW Bush, a fraudulent war and deregulation of Wall Street and the banking industry (including Clinton’s repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act which lead to the “too big too fail” banks) and not because of social workers, teachers, firefighters, college graduates, regular middle class wage earners and thus all those people you dump on as nothing but utter whiny losers who can’t accept that life is just fucking unfair.

            To call what you said above overlay simplistic and marred by ignorance would be an understatement.

          • #28 by Matthew on June 12, 2012 - 2:24 PM

            You’re obviously a lot of talk and not a lot of doing. I understand all you educated arguments but their lack or revelance in modern society is obvious. To compare the French revolution to modern day students is more than a stretch. You’re unfortunately a person who ‘is never wrong’. I get the feeling you’ve ha more than your share in life handed to you. And yea. You need to learn it since its been true throughout history. From Egypt and the Jews, the opium wars, Catholicism, and every civilization on this earth. Life isn’t fair. If you want that than you’ll forever be in search of a utopia that will never exist. Quit trying to talk down to people and start trying to help people with the positive. It’ll help you more in the end to get that negativity out of yourself. Your only alternative is life playing with your dolls alone. Your choice!

          • #29 by popreflection on June 12, 2012 - 4:00 PM

            While I am not interested in responding to your personal insults and speculations about me, I would like to clarify that the only reason I used the French Revolution is because YOU said that people need to just suck it up and deal with it cause life is unfair and i wanted to illustrate that according to that logic, the uprising that lead to one of the most important revolutions and thus changes in our history (or any change for that matter) would never have happened. No one was comparing students or student loans to the French Revolution. Finally, no one claimed that life was either fair or that utopia is desired. The point is to try to improve lives and the standard of living of human beings today (at least in developed countries) is better than it was 200 or 500 or 1000 years ago. And why? Because we worked on it instead of spitting on people as you do and telling them to just suck it or get out. I doubt you understand any of these “educated” arguments since your approach is a simplistic one filled with fallacies.

          • #30 by Matthew on June 12, 2012 - 4:28 PM

            You’re an elitest Jewish american princess if I had my guess. You won’t listen to anyone else’s point of view and you feel the need to show it with your debate skills via blog format. Good luck in life and enjoy leaching off my taxes. I’ll work till the day I day I reduce them so you don’t benefit. As the former soldier you’ll owe me more than you’ll ever understand.

  8. #31 by Hyder on May 24, 2012 - 8:56 AM

    Read his last post on is blog and this current discussion can be put to sleep. He even links to this post in it. I think the guy is a lot smarter than people give him credit for. If you want to blame someone blame the media.

    • #32 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 10:08 AM

      No one said anything about this guy being stupid or a bad person. If that is what you want to read into it, go for it. But that is not what I sad.

  9. #33 by David on May 23, 2012 - 5:36 PM

    This is incredibly negative. Who says that paying off debt isn’t about discipline? Going to college in the first place is about discipline. He could pay the minimums on his loans and spend the rest of his money on penthouse apartments, alcohol, and traveling, but he didn’t. He made a choice to priortize, let material things go, and work even MORE when he needed to. What he makes almost has nothing to do with it. Ultimately, he decided where to put his money and that’s what made the difference. I applaud his efforts and I think this blog is a result of jealousy more than anything else.

    Every decision counts. $2 not spent on a bus ride is $2 less in debt and $2 of interest that you don’t have to pay.

    Throw every penny you have at debt until it’s gone.

    • #34 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:06 AM

      that is not the point and you missed it. No one is saying he should not have any discipline. However it is not just about discipline alone. And that is because such a scenario (6 figure salary, fat bonuses etc) is simply not representative of most college or grad school graduates in this country who come out of school and have debt. This guy and most of you tools make it sound like this was something totally easy to do and that those who can’t do it are just being undisciplined mooches and assholes who deserve all they are getting and that is simply not an accurate picture. The fact that you cant even get that and read into this what you like proves my point even more. You are a total victim of the system and you dont get it.

      • #35 by David on May 26, 2012 - 9:44 AM

        nah. Sorry bud, he deserves a well-done. I never said that people who can’t pay down debt don’t have their reasons, but those that do deserve respect for doing it.

  10. #36 by Amanda Deschamps on May 23, 2012 - 2:20 PM

    Okay, what I think is being missed by those commenting is this:

    1) Making this person a “poster boy” for student debt hurts the movement to realize the reality of the situation for the common student. The conservative notion of “pulling yourself from your bootstraps” could be applied here by politicians trying to find an angle to dismiss the reality that college tuition has become out of hand and student loans are drowning college students. This story could be the “inspirational” story that shows all students can do what this guy did even though their situations are very different. These types of stories hurt the real narrative of what most people go through. Sure, we can celebrate his success, but to let it get out of hand and have him become a “poster boy” of graduates is to neglect that fact that most people didn’t have access to an Ivy League education and did pursue liberal art degrees (what’s done is done, it’s just a fact now for most people).

    2) He is a healthy man who probably did not have thousands of dollars in health bills. Now, if he had health bills that took a percentage comparable to some peoples health bills, he would have had a harder time. Oh, and he had health care which most people don’t. Again, to make this a “poster boy” story is to act like anyone can do it while neglecting the fact that many people don’t have ACCESS to things like health care or have high health care bills which make it impossible for them to do what this guy did (even if they make 41K and have a debt of 25K as someone pointed out).

    3) Some people don’t live in areas in which they can walk to work or have public transportation; therefore, they have to have a car or transportation of some sort.

    4) 10 months of “slummin'” it like millions of people do just to survive is not impressive. To think that’s impressive is actually really insulting since millions of people living in poverty are forced to this every day for the rest of their lives. We’re just impressed because he *chose* to do this.

    5) Overall, the point is that we shouldn’t be mad that he did this but we should be mad if it’s used as a political ploy to insult those who aren’t fortunate enough to have access to the IVY League, pursued a degree that seemed promising but didn’t turn out to be (a majority of graduates), need medical care that is expensive, may not have access to affordable medical care therefore creating more debt, don’t have the opportunity to get rid of their car, and etc. It neglects the majority of people who are struggling and cannot do what he did even if they tried their hardest. Good for him that he did it, but this shouldn’t turn into a “he did it, so can you!” story that makes it possible for conservative politicians to neglect the reality of high tuition, student loan debt, and the economy that is having 85% of recent graduates living at home.

    6) Lastly, as a former server, it’s harmful to actually publicly suggest to sneak in liquor into a bar as to not pay (and not tip) as that takes away income from servers who probably are themselves paying off student loan and make well below minimum wage (like $3/hour) and DEPEND on your paying. Just don’t go to the bar then, jeez. You do take up precious space, ya know.

    • #37 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:22 AM

      oh my goodness. At least one intelligent person who gets the point. Amazing. They are out there. Far and in between but they exist 🙂

  11. #38 by MatthewT18 on May 23, 2012 - 1:21 PM


    I hate to say it, but you do sound like everything should be fair. This is America and not a Soviet commune. I couldn’t afford college either and got lucky enough to go to a select military university. Three years later our country is at war, and I’m lucky enough to have served. Now after ten years and numerous trips around the world no will hire me. Time to go back to school, and luckily I’ve worked hard enough the VA will fund it. Your ideals seam socialistic and unfortunately you usually get what you work for here in America. This place already provides a secondary education par none if properly executed by both the Parents and Children. No one gets a free lunch in life, so to continue to coddle young adults who choose to live in debt (on borrowed money) doesn’t help them either 30 years down the road, when their health finally gives out. We all pick our own avenues in life, own the one you pick.

    • #39 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:07 AM

      define communism and socialism (without looking it up) and then we can talk.

  12. #40 by mark on May 22, 2012 - 3:21 PM

    I make 50k a year. I live on 15k a year. I don’t see your point. His message can apply to anyone. He makes 100k a year and lives on 35k. Pretty much the same ratio that I am at. Someone who makes 35k a year ought to be able to live 10.5k a year. That’s coming close to pushing it as there is a bare minimum amount that is needed to buy food and you can sacrifice the nice apartment for the ok apartment, but I wouldn’t go so cheap as to live in a dangerous area unless I absolutely had to.

    The original poster is just hating on someone who cut his expenses and decided to pay off his loans. Granted I think living on 35k a year is ridiculous and easy, and not worthy of media praise, when you’re making 100k a year, it would be very easy to spend twice what he has been spending.

    • #41 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:15 AM

      15 k a year is the poverty line. 15 K a year is around 1250 a month. How on earth you are able to live on around 1250 a month is beyond me. (unless you are getting help from someone or living at home) or are probably not eating well etc. Becoming a glutton of punishment and living in utter destitution to pay off debt given to you at draconian rates just so you can get an education is not heroic, it is sad and pathetic. This is not how a graduate of a college ought to spend the first 5 years or more of their existence.

      • #42 by Karl on June 5, 2012 - 10:04 AM

        Popreflection, a salary of 15K/yr already puts you in the top 12% of humanity. Just think about it, what YOU consider as a draconian punishment could be viewed as living in luxury by the other 88% of humanity.

        It’s all about lifestyle adjustments.

        • #43 by popreflection on June 5, 2012 - 10:38 AM

          What a truly ignorant statement and just flat out false comparison. This is akin to the argument that Nike should employ child labor because for those children a job is better than none.

          And your strawman argument is deeply flawed because the point of the article is not global wage comparison and assessing lifestyles, the point is student loans in the United States and that someone making a 6 figure salary with substantial assets at their disposal does not represent the typical university graduate loaded with debt and meager salaries. I am sure a $15,000 salary in Zimbabwe would make for a royal living, but not in the United States of America.

  13. #44 by Heather R on May 22, 2012 - 1:22 PM

    If you don’t think it’s a big deal at all that he paid $100k of student loans in under a year, you must not have read through his blog. He made sacrifices and major cutbacks to his spending. Those are things that everyone can do regardless of how much they make. You seem to be one of those people who criticize freely but offer nothing positive of your own.

  14. #45 by Sarah on May 22, 2012 - 7:05 AM

    What frugality tips did you think were good in his blog? I read the blog more for the entertainment value because I think he’s a good writer and I also live in Austin. I think he showed a lot of discipline in paying off his loans because he went from this big income/big spender lifestyle to big income/put every last cent of discretionary income towards his loans. His blog didn’t start off as a model to inspire people, it started as a joke and a way to keep him accountable but people started getting inspired. To me the theme of the blog wasn’t to complain about his salary not being enough to cover his expensive lifestyle it was more about his transformation. He changed a lot in 7 short months.

    • #46 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:17 AM

      wow. You totally missed the point of the article. Anyway re-read it again and/or look at the responses above to other similar dim readers. You guys seriously are so dumb, you don’t deserve student loan reform and affordable education.

      • #47 by Dan on May 24, 2012 - 1:28 PM

        So, if we ALL disagree with you, we’re dumb? Okay. Sound logic. Thanks for being judge, jury and executioner on student loan reform and affordable education. I’m pretty sure everyone with a decent reading ability and mild creativity can figure out how to apply Joe’s success to their own lives.

        • #48 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 2:48 PM

          Yes dear. If you miss the point of the article and misrepresent it, then yes I question your mental faculties. I suggest re-reading what I wrote, which is not that this guy is either a bad person or incompetent, but more that his situation does not truly represent the reality for most people graduating school. Making a 6 figure salary and slumming it to live like everyone else is an option available to him; an option that is not available to most people who graduate and are loaded with student loan debt. You do understand the concept of having a choice right? A real choice which money afford you, and lack thereof doesnt. How much of a sacrifice is it when you make 125 k a year and get 14,000 in bonuses to be living in less luxury for 6 months? And is this something someone making less than half of that – no one third of that – can do? Especially if they have children and medical bills and expenses that arent of the “living the luxurious” life type. I am sorry this is beyond you and that you just dont get it or like it even.

      • #49 by Dan on May 24, 2012 - 3:01 PM

        Thanks for calling me dear- kindly condescending.

        First off, he doesn’t make 125K – if you want to stretch the numbers, go ahead, but deceit certainly doesn’t help your position here. The most well thought out opposition to Joe being a poster boy (not that he wants to be) goes to Amanda Deschamps, further down.

        If we’re talking about reading comprehension, let’s talk about literature and its applications. I’ve read the classics, and I’ve read plenty of other books. I don’t identify with every character, but with those I do, I can draw parallels and see an insight into my own life. Literature expands your mind and allows you to see different viewpoints into your own life and experiences that you most likely would not encounter otherwise. How is this different? When I graduate college, I will hopefully have a paid internship. After that, I hope to have a job making about 40K. Like Joe, I live in an area with low cost of living. However, I will most likely make far less money than he does. This doesn’t eliminate me from succeeding. I can live on 12k, and I have for 3 years. I anticipate graduating with about 12 to 15K in student debt. I know that for the tens of thousands of students at my university and at others in my state, this is a pretty common situation.

        I know that in many communities near me, people live with large loans on many toys – they have new trucks and cars, new boats, big houses and other amenities. If they’re choking in debt, who is to blame? Not every situation can be applied to every person, but is there ever a perfect example for us to look to? No. We can pluck the best from what we have given to us, and in Joe’s case, there is a lot. I don’t have 2 cars and a motorcycle. I have a ’95 Honda Civic that cost me $500. I’m not able to sell my car. Does that mean that I can’t take his situation and determination and apply it to myself? Hardly. I don’t have a 401K, I don’t have any savings to throw at my debt. So? I can still cut back on stupid spending and live more responsibly. For most college grads, this is true. Most kids graduate with a degree that can get them somewhere.

        Once again, if you think everyone is stupid, they may have a point that you’re missing.

        • #50 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 3:26 PM

          Since you have eaten quite a few books lately, here is a quote that springs to mind when reading your comment; a quote by John Steinbeck “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

          And I did not say every human being is dumb, I said you are. You and the commentators posting here. You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts and frankly, half the stuff you say – no all of it – is completely unfounded garbage. And I am sorry I should not use the word dumb, I meant ignorant. You seriously believe all the unfounded trash about the American dream and about hard work and don’t think there is anything inherently flawed with the system. Educating you is not my job and goes beyond the scope of this comment section. All I can say is that Steinbeck’s quote has never rung truer than when reading your post.

          Not that this particular post was about the 99% or begrudging this individual of his income, but since you moved the discussion in that direction I must say that if you think that by holding the torch for people who dont have your interest in mind unless you are a bank, corporation or wealthy, you are
          doing yourself a favor, you are sorely mistaken. So mistaken that it is not even funny anymore, just really sad and pathetic. Now you go ahead and remember things the way you want to if it makes you feel better and I will remember them the way they actually happened. It seems like you have been
          drinking the kool aid that people in the Bush era fabricated for you. It is very sad that you would support the cause of a bunch of corrupt, highly unethical knee jerk buffoons who couldnt rationale debate the need for water on this planet; just like you it appears.

          • #51 by Dan on May 25, 2012 - 8:04 PM

            And now I’m reminded why I never engage in online arguments — it’s just wrestling in the mud. Agree to disagree, I suppose, but I wouldn’t say you have the right or knowledge to call me ignorant. Certainly I think things could be more “fair” and better, but I’m also a fan of self sufficiency. Maybe the American Dream isn’t the way we all think it is. Well of course it isn’t. I’m not saying we can all become millionaires. I was born in the suburbs in a great public school system, and am being provided with a cheap, high quality university education. Were I born with the average demographic situation in midtown Milwaukee, this would not be the case. Getting out and being successful would be much more difficult.

            The thing is, that’s not what I’m talking about. Perhaps I wasn’t succinct enough; Americans could be more self sufficient, and take from Joe’s example. Most of us aren’t in the same situation when we graduate college, but that doesn’t mean we can’t apply it.

            I find it interesting that you choose to call me ignorant, talk about how I must love Bush principles or whatever and in general insult me. You don’t know my politics, you don’t know anything about me really, except my belief that the average American can be more fiscally responsible. You’ve taken my attitude towards it and put your own view on it. I don’t know your politics, although I can hazard a guess, and my view is this: if you’re this pissed about American politics, there are wonderful European countries to live in that have all the amenities we have here. I’m not saying that in a “get out of my country” kind of way. I’m saying that with globalization the way it is, and how many countries there are that can accomodate Americans with job skills, anyone who is pissed about the banks and corporations in the US can go somewhere more to their liking. Now isn’t that nice? Personally, I’ll do my best in my career to fix something I see as fundamentally broken: healthcare. Politics aren’t going to fix it. Obamacare, Romneycare, neither address real issues. The real beauty of our country is that you can get involved in what you care about and try to make a difference. You can complain about it too, so once again, agree to disagree. I’m no more ignorant than you. I’m just not as angry about it.

  15. #52 by cre8factory on May 21, 2012 - 2:28 PM

    If we all know that, then why are so many people who aren’t starving and who don’t appear to be below poverty level factually below poverty level because we’re upside down in debt? Are you debt-free? And if you are, do you have enough in the bank to last you at least a year or two, in case the economy got even worse?

    Everyone has their own version of sacrifice. For some it’s not eating so their baby can eat. For people like Joe, it’s doing without certain comforts that had become a stable part of his life, and working extra hours and extra hard, to bring in extra money. That’s good old fashioned admirable! When I was a kid, my mother took great pride in saving up part of her salary each week in a series of envelopes. One was for vacation, another was for a new dress, another for a new lamp or what have you. That kind of financial sanity has all but completely fallen out of fashion in this society. If anything, Joe — who by all routine should have been the poster boy for consumerism — has thrown a stake near the heart of same. This video tells his story clearly in just a few minutes. He has done things that everyone can do, to whatever extent. Let’s admire him for what he did right.

    • #53 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 4:32 PM

      if you think that clipping coupons and not eating the dollar menu at McDonald’s and using a bus pass creates wealth so that people can be debt free, you are sorely, sorely mistaken and apparently missed the entire point of this post. I dont care how he saved money, his case is not praise worthy nor typical for people with student loans – unless they have a great salary and get fat bonuses and own a house they can rent out etc.

      • #54 by Chris H on May 21, 2012 - 5:28 PM

        So what is your solution popreflection? It is easy to be a critic and an armchair quarterback, if this isn’t a good example of paying off your debt and being a responsible citizen, please give us a highlight of one you admire. The general consensus in the responses is that people do believe there is something to be admired for here, yet you don’t seem to agree. Agreeing to disagree, I would rather hear your solution that doesn’t involve complaining more about the problems and instead offers solutions.

        How much would you charge for student loans, and if it is less than 6.8% (which is already subsidized by the government), how would you pay for it? If it is less, why should it be less?

        How long would it take you to pay off loans that were 90% of your salary if you had them currently?

        How would you “create wealth” and fix the “bad banks, government, colleges, etc.”?

        Look, not everyone is perfect and rather than find the bad in each story and why it isn’t right or why it doesn’t apply to the general public, the point people are making is why not praise him for what he did and learn from it.

        • #55 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 5:32 PM

          You are missing the point. The point is not that this guy is a bad person, the point is that what he did – given his resources – is no big fucking deal. Period. I would gladly discuss the various ways by which all this can be amended, but that is another post.

  16. #56 by cre8factory on May 21, 2012 - 2:28 PM

    If we all know that, then why are so many people who aren’t starving and who don’t appear to be below poverty level factually below poverty level because they’re upside down in debt? Are you debt-free? And if you are, do you have enough in the bank to last you at least a year or two, in case the economy got even worse?

    Everyone has their own version of sacrifice. For some it’s not eating so their baby can eat. For people like Joe, it’s doing without certain comforts that had become a stable part of his life, and working extra hours and extra hard, to bring in extra money. That’s good old fashioned admirable! When I was a kid, my mother took great pride in saving up part of her salary each week in a series of envelopes. One was for vacation, another was for a new dress, another for a new lamp or what have you. That kind of financial sanity has all but completely fallen out of fashion in this society. If anything, Joe — who by all routine should have been the poster boy for consumerism — has thrown a stake near the heart of same. This video tells his story clearly in just a few minutes. He has done things that everyone can do, to whatever extent. Let’s admire him for what he did right.

  17. #57 by Dan on May 21, 2012 - 1:41 PM

    Sure it’s applicable. Just because it’s not exact doesn’t make it completely unhelpful. I have no idea what kind of income I’ll have when I graduate college next spring, and a few years from now I’ll be trying to get my MHA. I’m going to finish my undergrad with about 10K in student debt, which is nothing, fortunately, but I’m already cutting back to pay off debt. I pay a few hundred every month to get a jump start, because it’s much better than paying the minimum for years and years. I want it gone. I make $11 an hour, but it’s still possible to make progress beyond the minimum debt payment.

    One of my roommates recently said that OWS was a tremendously American thing to do. I disagree. Ingenuity and hard work are typical American ideals, and this fits right into the category. So complaining and saying that this person is out of touch, and see how it applies to you and everybody else. Student debt is expensive, but this is important for people to see. And most people with crushing student debt have great jobs. Look at doctors, lawyers, MBA grads and others. If you get a doctorate in a useless degree, you only have yourself to blame. Even a PhD will make about 80K a year. The point is living within your means and getting the monkey off your back. Doctors make at least 150K a year, usually much more on average, but their student debt is usually at least 200K. They pay it off for 20+ years. It’s miserable. Being aggressive and cutting back works for everybody. How many people live beyond their means? Probably that same 90% you keep mentioning.

    • #58 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 4:36 PM

      sure. It is always the fault of the people: middle class, grandma with her medicare, teachers, firefighters, garbage man, wage earners, poor people, students and college grads. It is never the fault of banks and corporations. if student loans are a problem for recent graduates with no or little income, it just must be the fault of the kid and not, I dont know…the fault of the system that makes education unaffordable and disburses student loans at prohibitive rates to people. People like you are part of the problem precisely because of the misconception you have that hey, those stupid students probably live beyond their means anyway, so they deserve it.

      • #59 by Dan on May 24, 2012 - 1:23 PM

        We have to take responsibility. I don’t come from money. I’m in debt. I’m taking steps to live more cheaply. It’s not fun, but it’s worth it. We live in a society that demands more and gives less. My generation is very guilty of this. We want more and more from the government, and do less and less to earn it.

        A college education can be pricey, but how many kids start college without even knowing what they want to do? I’m guilty of changing my major, and my last year of undergrad is an extra one because none of my credits transferred. I consider that a worthy 10 grand or so (I go to a great university that is also quite inexpensive). But what about kids that flounder for a few years before settling on something that may not even make any money for them? College is about growth and increase in knowledge, but it’s also about graduating with a marketable skill and getting connections, or at least as a stepping stone to graduate school.

        I really detest this attitude of the 99% against the 1%. They don’t really have that much power. If they do, it’s because we gave it up. I know what it’s like to be incredibly pressed for money, both personally and as a son to my parents during some very strenuous times. We cut back, lived in a rented condo and struggled for 4 years until the ship was righted and we sailed on. It sucked. I consider us very lucky and fortunate that it all worked out how it did. We all have a responsibility to inform ourselves, spend wisely and live within our means. It is our fault. How much more clear can it be? There are always outliers, exceptions and deviations, but for the great, great majority of citizens in America, we have to cut back. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but it has to happen.

        There will always be people who are pressed more than they deserve, and people who are luckier than they should be. That’s life. It’s not going to be “fair,” not ever. If you graduated with a degree, especially a graduate degree, that doesn’t have any market application, you messed up. That doesn’t mean you’re screwed forever, but we have to be responsible for our choices. The government shouldn’t be a bail-out bank for our mistakes. It’s called accountability. Geez. Get some. I have it. We all should. We can all improve our situation. You know, people used to be less dependent on outside resources 50 years ago. Blaming a nameless, faceless corporation or bank is an easy way out. They’ve always acted selfishly. Get used to it.

  18. #60 by Andrew on May 21, 2012 - 11:47 AM

    if you stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the broad scope of the act, it is possible for someone who hustles to pay off their debt. weather its $50 or $500k. it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, as long as you never stop. 7 months is an unbelievable feat for anyone. 6 figures included.

  19. #61 by Shawn on May 21, 2012 - 10:01 AM

    Wow do you sound jealous, the big reason this guy was able to pay off that debt, have a job at Dell, and graduate from Harvard is because he’s disciplined, works hard, doesnt blow oppertunities, and made better decisions than a lot of other people. A good degree, good job, and six figure income isn’t something everyone is entitled to, its something you have to make the right choices and work hard for, which a lot of people aren’t willing to do. Fact is he made the choice and had the intelligence and discipline to be a more successful person than you, so give credit where credit is due.

    • #62 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 4:42 PM

      Right jackass. That is why the article stated that his case is not typical or representative of the average college graduate plagued with little job opportunities in this tanked economy and crippling student loans. Some guy making 6 figures and owning his house and getting fat bonuses and tax breaks without having any other obligation being able to break even is not big deal. And no matter, no one is questioning this guy’s qualifications or begrudging him his wealth and education. It’s the whole “look he serves as a model example” that is bothersome and misleading. I couldnt care less he went to Harvard. In fact, I myself have gone to an Ivy League.

      • #63 by Chris H on May 31, 2012 - 12:33 PM

        Crippling student loans?

        “The median student loan balance is $12,800, according to a separate Fed report. About one-quarter of borrowers owe more than $28,000 and about 10% owe more than $54,000. Only 3.1% owe more than $100,000.”

        It sounds like while Joe may be an extreme case, your continuous use of people with 100k loans is only 3% of the US, while people who make 100k are nearly 16% of the US, something that you fail to point out. You point out extremes and say that this isn’t applicable without failing to recognize that your arguments aren’t necessarily any better.

        • #64 by popreflection on May 31, 2012 - 2:45 PM

          I was drawing a comparison between his debt to income ratio and that of people in his place. In other words, there are people coming out owing something around 100k but they don’t make 6 figures. I acknowledged that most people coming out make around the 35k mark unable to pay off their debt as they should. Making 35k and owing 20,000 is a much different situation than owing 90k but making 100,000+ plus bonuses and all sorts of lucrative benefits.

          The point of the article is not student loan rates, it is the fact that Mihalic’s situation is not representative and also does not provide a blue print for how graduates ought to tackle student loans, much less porvide any clues into how the student loan reform is to happen. According to your numbers, student loan debt seems to be no big deal since “Only 3.1% owe more than $100,000”. Again, that is not the point.

          College seniors who graduated in 2010 carried an average of $25,250 in student loan debt. Meanwhile, unemployment for recent college graduates climbed from 8.7% in 2009 to 9.1% in 2010 — the highest annual rate on record for college graduates aged 20 to 24. And it is not just that. The median amount borrowed by people with professional degrees and doctorates ranges from $44,000 to $71,000 depending on what type of school – public or private – they attended.

          In each school year between 2000–2001 and 2006–2007, an estimated 60% of bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed to fund their education. Average debt per borrower rose 18%, from $19,300 to $22,700 over this time period. In 2007–2008, lenders provided about $17 billion in private loans, a 592% increase from a decade earlier – at high interest rates. Have you ever had a loan with a private company? Speak of your average loan shark.

          Out of the survey of more than 1,000 colleges, 98 colleges said their 2010 graduating class owed an average of more than $35,000, and 73 colleges reported that more than 90% of students graduated with some amount of debt. In New Hampshire, with schools including Dartmouth and University of New Hampshire, students had the highest level of debt — an average of $31,048. That was followed by Maine, where students carried an average of $29,983 in student loan debt. Note that these are just average numbers.

          Again, the point of this article is that borrowing levels continue to increase, interest rates rise and recent graduate salaries decline, therefore increasing the debt burden. Mihalic’s situation, i.e a 6 igure income, top benefits, assets and other financial resources are not the typical situation, by any stretch, for most students graduating and therein lies the problem. It is distracting from the issue at hand making it sound like it was no big deal and people just need to man up and pay their debt.

  20. #65 by Bruce on May 21, 2012 - 9:54 AM

    Wow, the author of this article sounds bitter. Clearly, ANYONE who goes to Harvard must be privileged or have connections, and that six-figure salary was just handed to the guy. Get real.

    We need more stories of people applying brain to life and coming out on top, so that people would be encouraged to emulate those decisions and come out on top themselves. Why is it that when some story of real accomplishment is written, people are quick to say “This doesn’t apply to me” rather than saying “That dude got it done, how can I get to where he is?”.

    • #66 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 10:08 AM

      Went to an Ivy league myself, thanks very much. And I have gotten my load of shit from people who were jealous about my education. Not that this is the point of the article. No one is begrudging this individual their success and academic accomplishments. The point, which most have missed, is that this case is not typical or applicable to over 90% of student loan recipients and recent graduates. And it certainly does not hold the blue print for others to follow. I mean really, having access to money and an abundance of resources to pay off debt is nothing earth-shattering. We all know that.

      • #67 by Chris H on May 21, 2012 - 11:30 AM

        Popreflection, it is very applicable if you decide to stop focusing on the 100k salary and the 90k loans. How about normalizing that to the 90% you speak of that carry the average student loan debt of 25k ( and the average college graduate salary of 41k ( and the numbers aren’t all that different. Sure, do most people have a 2nd car, motorcycle, or 401k to liquidate? Of course not, but their debt is also 1/4th of his. You also discredited his bonus and raise, but his raise was less than 2% his salary, hardly a big bump, and his bonus was right around 10%. It isn’t crazy to expect people who work hard to get a 10% annual bonus. Many companies give these and for an average person, that 4k bonus would put a large dent in that 25k loan.

        Many people’s comments point out that it is in fact YOU who don’t get that what he did is admirable and most people don’t do it. Most people won’t cut their spending by 80% to sacrifice paying off their loans quickly. The blue print is generalizable and the numbers are not, we all recognize that but somehow you can’t seem to see the forest but for the trees.

  21. #68 by Jesse (@quantumtomato) on May 21, 2012 - 9:06 AM

    He does have a mortgage.

  22. #69 by Kirsti on May 21, 2012 - 8:54 AM

    He may be a privileged young man, but he looked at his responsibilities and obligations and made a difficult and determined effort to alter his situation. The story is not that a wealthy man paid off his debt in 10 months; the story is that a young adult recognized that the situation HE had gotten himself into needed to be taken care of. He looked at his resources and then set about doing something about it and making every effort at his disposal to make it happen as quickly as possible. If you take out his advantages, he’s simply a man in an situation that he finds unacceptable and then doing everything he can to change it as quickly as possible. That is a story for all of us – poor and wealthy alike. Take RESPONSIBILITY for the situation you’ve gotten yourself into. Make the changes necessary to change your situation if you don’t like it. Nobody made anyone take out student loans that would bankrupt them – that was their choice. We are all responsible for ourselves and our decisions. If the economy is such that you can’t get a job after taking out $200,000 in student loans, then we need to think again about taking out $200,000 in student loans and maybe live at home and take 3 years of online-school before transferring to a regular school, go to night school and pay for it up front. Yes, it will take a LONG time, but there is nobody to blame but yourself if you take out loans you can’t repay because there are no jobs at the end of your schooling. We need to own our decisions – that is the basic problem in the US today. We pass the buck when the times get tough and blame someone else for our poor decisions. I think his story is admirable and motivational, regardless of the financial situation that anyone reading the story finds themselves in.

  23. #70 by ratay1 on May 21, 2012 - 6:43 AM

    i think the way to look at this is, if you’re committed to ridding yourself of debilitating debt, you can at least chip away at it by focusing yourself cleanly on a specific goal.

    even if you make just $35K/year, it’s possible to funnel most of your income into paying down your personal debt…this guy’s model proves that. with that kind of earning power, going into full austerity mode could enable you to pay down as much as $25K in debt within the first year — if you’re committed to the goal.

    sure, that’s not $90K, but it’s still significant and an example that people can see is achievable. everyone needs to take responsibility for their situation and make the best choices to put themselves in a better position to succeed in the future… your gripe here is misplaced…the lesson can be scaled to any income level to have a material impact on the future financial well-being of those afflicted with huge debt loads & even the greater country as a whole.

  24. #71 by Amber on May 21, 2012 - 6:39 AM

    The story is not that some rich guy payed off his loans. The story is that someone was able to discipline themselves and live within their means. You wouldn’t believe how many people in this country have large amounts of debt not from school, but from simply spending more than they make because they don’t discipline themselves. Yes he had it easy because he makes good money, but it is hard for anyone to change their life style so drastically for the better and we can all take a lesson from that. No matter how much we make, if we try to live within our means, we’ll gain more financial freedom and security. That is the story.

    • #72 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 5:50 PM

      yeah sure. It is easy to be a saint in paradise.

      • #73 by Athena on May 22, 2012 - 3:57 PM

        I would say that the moral of this story is that it’s NOT easy to be a saint, even in paradise. How many people that you and I would consider wealthy nevertheless fail to pay off their debts? The remarkable thing isn’t that some rich kid had the means to pay off his debt, but that he chose to do EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER to pay off his debt. He chose to to take responsibility for himself and sort out his priorities. So no, maybe he hasn’t created a revolutionary model to pay off student debt, but he has exhibited remarkable self-control, responsibility, and a willingness to do the right thing, even when it’s not easy. And that IS a lesson applicable to the rest of the population.

        • #74 by popreflection on May 24, 2012 - 12:10 AM

          No it is not because the point of the article is not that he is a bad guy, but that his situation is extremely atypical and not representative. Anyone in his place would do the same thing – more or less. Or put it this way: doing what he did given his resources is simply no big deal. So yes, it is easy to be a saint in paradise. Money gives you options and this guy had the kind of options most people don’t have. End of story.

  25. #75 by stacy on May 21, 2012 - 6:29 AM

    I am wondering if the original author thought his whole crusade was about getting rid of debt at the beginning but then began to realize that the moral of the story is that excessive spending can really be an emotional burden, whether you have the money or not. The ability to pay your bills/payments is totally different than having no debt at all, regardless of income. Some feel no burden as long as the bills can be paid and others can drive themselves into a depression even though they are making more than their expenses. Obviously numbers play a huge role in managing your debtee(s); however, the emotional and pyschological aspect of owing something should not be forgotten during this discussion.

  26. #76 by chris on May 21, 2012 - 5:00 AM

    Are you fucking kidding me? He completely in touch. All Americans should handle their finances like this guy and we wouldn’t have the looser freeloader culture that has crept into our nation.

    • #77 by popreflection on May 21, 2012 - 5:51 PM

      Right Mitt Romney. Every American can and should be a millionaire and those students drowning in debt, it is their fault for being such fucking worthless losers. Uhh-huh…

  27. #78 by aesop on May 21, 2012 - 4:50 AM

    You’re missing the point.

    i can tell you from personal experience that taking a flask to the bar _does_ save significant amounts of money (and get you kicked out occasionally :p), but that’s not the point.

    I’m all for keeping student loans affordable and in check, believe me. I’ve got a relatively large debt load myself. I’m watching my rates increase over the last few months, faster than my 401k, and thinking about taking the same tactics. And to some folks getting out of debt is just more internally-important than saving for a healthy retirement. But that’s not the point either.

    And admittedly, he’s in a better spot than most college grads, he’s done something that /is/ newsworthy and inspirational. Regardless of the /amount/ of money, he found ways to tangibly and PRACTICALLY change a bunch of bad financial habits into good ones, and thereby made it not only possible, but somewhat easy (at least from my perspective) to get out of a crushing debt-load. … That’s the point.

  28. #79 by Chris H on May 21, 2012 - 4:17 AM

    First of all, I don’t think he was attempting to wow every person in the world with his story, and instead this went a bit viral and now he is a poster child for the current movement against student loans.

    Don’t you think the whole point of his story was that even though he had a “six-figure income”, a 2nd car, a motorcycle, IRA, 401k, etc. that most people rarely actually do anything about their student loans and instead do what you just did? Which is complain about how the story isn’t useful to you and point out ways in which he had a better chance of succeeding than you or someone else.

    To your point about people with +100k in loans with no jobs or more likely, jobs with salaries that pay between 30-40k, I would say they either have very poor parents or went to college with very good intentions and probably switched majors and went to school for 5 years, ending up with a communications/english/history/creative writing/(insert liberal arts degree here). These majors typically pay entry level salaries between 30-40k and thus their parents should have told them it is irresponsible to take out loans for a job that will pay such salary. There are plenty of students who took out loans and got nursing/engineering/computer science/(insert technical degree here) that can afford their loan payments and probably had options for jobs coming out. Now, I’m sure there are exceptions and there will always be people who find their situation different, but I think this is one of the main problems.

    Just as when people blamed the banks in the most recent financial crisis for giving people loans for houses they couldn’t afford, part of the blame still is on the person for being irresponsible enough to sign on the dotted line and realize what they signed up for. This situation is no different. If you knowingly went to an expensive college (read 25k a year or above) to get a degree that only pays on average between 30-40k, then the math simply doesn’t work and that is only the fault of the person doing it. Your interest rate could be 0.0% and you still likely couldn’t pay for the monthly payments. People are always looking for someone to blame (colleges, student loan providers, the government, big business), because it is too difficult to look in the mirror and take responsibility for some of the blame themselves. It is people like Joe who we need more of (people who take action and aren’t looking for excuses) and less of people like you (who like to complain about everything and not provide any actionable advice).

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