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A Midlife Victory Over Debt – a True Story

Dallas native, Elizabeth Amerine, holds a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology (the study of the relationship between behavior, emotion, and cognition on the one hand, and brain function on the other – I had to look it up). How does such a smart lady end up at 72 years old still owing $185,000 in student loans from a degree earned 30 years earlier?

Life doesn’t always work out as we plan.

Career options and thus income didn’t pan out as expected. After years of interest and penalties, her initial loan of $50,000 ballooned to $185,000. She continues working to afford the payments and doesn’t expect to ever be debt free in her lifetime.

Her story – in the video below – is hard to watch, but she’s not alone. A growing number of seasoned citizens are still repaying student loans into retirement years. 20% of the outstanding loans were taken out for their children. Whoa – not cool!

While the overall percentage of Americans over 65 with student debt is small – 4% (comparatively speaking) – the total amount outstanding has jumped from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $18 billion in 2013. Not a good trend. More effort should be made to educate borrowers about options to refinance their student loans in an effort to lower interest payments. Imagine how much of that outstanding debt could be alleviated by refinancing.

Students loans are one debt that can follow us to the grave.

  • They can not be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Social security benefits can be garnished to recoup loans in default status.
  • Government collection agencies do not need a court order to garnish wages.
  • A disability waiver from student loan payments is extremely difficult to receive.

As we talk about dumping debt, it’s important to focus particularly on student loans because they exist under a different set of rules. Let Ms. Amerine’s story be a wake up call for making student loan repayment a priority.

There is always hope.

Amerine’s predicament reminded me of a conversation with Jeff Ehrlich of the Debt Free Squad. He and his wife didn’t complete their debt free journey until the age of 61. He reminded us that debt freedom is possible at any age or stage of life. Getting out of debt is part dedication and part motivation.

Jeff shared his inspiring journey out of debt in a Midday Money Show podcast. It’s never too late to start.

Check out our New Year New You series for debt dumping stories at all phases of the journey.

Do you expect to be debt free before retirement?

Toni Husbands, Financial Coach

I'm a financial coach with the Debt Free Divas on a mission to help 1 million families dump consumer debt. My family dumped over $100K in debt and you can too. Instagram: debtfreedivas

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