Look, Mom! I’m on TV!

“If they cleaned this place up, it could be pretty nice.” —My mom's take on NYC.

This week my mom was kind enough to take some time off work and accompany me to New York, where I was a guest on one of her favorite shows, “Fox & Friends.”

“Did you know Gretchen Carlson won Miss America?” my mom asked me when I first told her about the interview. She would then tell me this every day for the next three days.

Kristin Wong

See Kristin's interview here.

At any rate, Fox invited me to discuss a piece I'd written for GRS: My student loan story: How I paid it off in a year.

To be honest—maybe too honest—I'm surprised at how helpful people have found this article to be. Of course I thought it would be somewhat helpful, otherwise I wouldn't have written it. But I mostly thought it would serve as anecdotal evidence that the rules of personal finance really do work: Live below your means. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Make your debt a priority. I figured we all already knew this and my story would just serve as a cute little reminder.

But not everyone lives in the world of frugality. Not everyone's a Get Rich Slowly reader. Not everyone finds time to put much thought into their finances when they're so overwhelmed by them.

In fact, when I was determined to pay off my loan, it was less about financial responsibility and more about OCD. I can't enjoy things without other things being sorted out first. When I was a kid, I couldn't watch a movie at home unless the living room was spotless. I was a weird kid. And that weirdness carried over into adulthood with my student loan debt. Taking a vacation with negative $12,000 was like watching a good movie in the middle of a bad mess.

But back to the interview. There are a lot of issues about student loan debt that you can't cover in a 60-second TV spot. Fidelity recently sent me a study outlining some of these issues:

  • The average college debt for recent graduates is now $35,200. That's quite a bit more than my $12,000.
  • On average, recent grads think it will take 10 years to pay off their debt, and 7 percent of them think they'll never be able to pay it back.
  • A recent MSN Money article discussed how college students aren't able to pay off their student loans. Grads can't find jobs because would-be retirees are staying in jobs longer, as they can't afford retirement.

Obviously, there are a lot of variables that I didn't have to deal with in 2006. I sat awake last night thinking about whether I was oversimplifying advice for these poor grads, who are probably drowning in debt and may be desperate for a job—any job.

Then I thought about the importance of financial education. We get into tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt to learn about journalism or literature or biology, and oftentimes, we go through our 20s (or beyond) without knowing anything about personal finance.

I first stumbled upon GRS after reading a career-related post. I can't quite remember which article it was, but I've been reading the site ever since. In a short amount of time, I've learned so much about personal finance by reading the articles, considering the comments, and now writing my own stories. I've always been frugal, but I probably would've made a lot more money mistakes had I not taken the time to educate myself about personal finance.

If we're going to get into debt for the sake of education, then we should educate ourselves on how to get out of it. And that's where I think the basics of personal finance begin: live below your means; prioritize your debt, etc. Yes, it's simple, but it's a good start.

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My Financial Independence Journey
My Financial Independence Journey
7 years ago

Congratulations on getting on TV. How does it feel to be a celebrity?

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago

Thanks!
Haha–it feels a lot like being a non-celebrity… Weird, huh? Is it too soon to use, “do you know who I am?”

Financial Samurai
Financial Samurai
7 years ago

Looking good Kristin! Congrats on the TV spot. Nice natural interview. You might enjoy an article I wrote last week on why the media ignores Asian folks. Kristin represent!

Sam

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago

Interesting! I just found and bookmarked it. I’ll check it out for sure. My mom and I have had this conversation before, too.

Thanks for the heads up and the kind words!

Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries
Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries
7 years ago

Wow, congrats on your interview on Fox and Friends! Even though you may have had less loans than the typical grad today it’s still an impressive feat to pay what you did in a year. There are several people I know graduating today who don’t believe they’ll pay their loans off until their 40’s if at all!

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago

Thanks, Kyle!
Hopefully this post didn’t read as too dismissive or anything. I’m running on four hours of sleep and a twisty doughnut and didn’t have much time to edit!

Free Money Minute
Free Money Minute
7 years ago

Congratulations on paying off your debt and getting a spot on Fox and Friends.

Lisa W
Lisa W
7 years ago

I think that the reason that people focus on the average debt of a graduate and think that it will take 10 years to pay off their debt is precisely *because* they don’t want to face the requirement to “Live below your means. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Make your debt a priority.” My husband and I graduated two years ago with about $180k (principal and interest that accumulated while we were in school) private education loans. Most of our loans have interest rates of around 9%. We currently live in a high cost of living area (So. Cal) and we make… Read more »

Debi
Debi
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa W

You have clearly sat down and made a plan to pay off your debt. Good for you! I believe that much of the current attitude of never being able to repay student debt comes from being to lazy to sit down and figure out how to repay the obligation coupled with a sense of entitlement. There seems to be no social stigma attached deadbeats these days.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa W

Good plan, Lisa! That’s impressive! Yeah…my student loan debt really wasn’t that much, so I really don’t know how much more difficult it is for the 35k average and above. But situations like yours prove that if you make it a priority and sacrifice and have a plan, you don’t have to spend the rest of your life paying off your debt. So I tend to agree that it’s overemphasized, I just feel bad saying that, because my debt was lower than most. Oh! I got a really inspiring email from an old high school friend last night. Her husband… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

Heeeeeey! Congrats! You did great, looked great, sounded great! I’ve seen your MSN videos and I knew you’d some day be famous! Ha!

Anyway here is the link to the actual clip (I was looking for it in the article but didn’t find it, so I’m posting it:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/2400869194001/how-to-pay-off-your-student-loans-fast/?playlist_id=930909787001

Yeah!

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Haha! Thanks, El Nerdo. Oh! I read your recommendation (The Money Book). Good suggestion!
It’s a really handy resource for the self-employed. Also, I read the bit about Hugh Chou and am now addicted to his online calculators.

Lisa A
Lisa A
7 years ago

That’s so cool, Kristin! Congrats!

Spencer
Spencer
7 years ago

Good job spreading the word about how with a little determination and setting some realistic goals, you can achieve astounding financial success! My wife successfully paid off her student loans (totaling over $45,000) in one year as well, in 2011. She used the same techniques you did: she spent less than she earned and she made saving a priority. It was tough to live like a college student while her peers were partying like it was 1999, but they’re still struggling to pay their student loan debts, while she’s debt free! It’s a powerful thing when YOU get to decide… Read more »

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

A few years after I graduated, I got a windfall and paid off about $16K in student loans. It seemed the obvious thing to do with the money, but I’d be willing to bet some people would have gone out and bought an expensive car. (The amount of the windfall was around $43K, and I did buy a truck with some of the rest, but after I had paid of the student loans). BTW, I love the line towards the end of the article which states: “If we’re going to get into debt for the sake of education, then we… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Of course! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Jasmine
Jasmine
7 years ago

Wow! You are stunningly beautiful, Kristin! So nice to see your face, and hear your story. Student loan debt is recently becoming an issue here in Japan, for various reasons. However, one nice thing is that young people still tend to stay with their parents until they marry, which lessens the problem somewhat.

Anyway, good for you! Hope to see more of you around.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

That was my first thought, too– That Kristin is so pretty!

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Jamie

You guys are too kind! Honestly, there’s a lot of makeup going on here. Had they put me on how I came in that morning…it’d be pretty scary. Haha! I’ll take the compliment, though!

Carol C
Carol C
7 years ago

Great interview! Hopefully you motivated some people out there. Thanks for sharing with us.

Debi
Debi
7 years ago

“Live below your means.” “Save, don’t borrow, to buy what you want.” Those are two important lessons that I learned from my parents. We lived it everyday. When I became an adult and realized that borrowing and being in debt seemed to be accepted as the norm in life I was astounded. So many people don’t have any mental barriers to spending more than they have on wants: Should I buy a new couch OR should I go on vacation? I can afford one or the other but not BOTH. Because of the lessons I learned as a little girl… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

Wait, are you a UH grad? Go Coogs!!! I love finding other alumni success stories!

Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce
7 years ago

Very exciting. And maybe she could get used to NYC!

Edward
Edward
7 years ago

Wow, not only frugal, smart, and a great writer, but you’re completely gorgeous!

No, you didn’t oversimplify at all. Under your formula the $35,200 should still be able to be paid back in about (or under) 3 years. That should be doable in anyone’s mind.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago

Congrats on the interview, Kristin! I always love the clarity of your writing and advice. It’s great to see you get recognized for your frugality and communication skills. And you’re so humble to boot 🙂

Campers Journal
Campers Journal
6 years ago

I like your blog. Interesting, clear and precise. Very valuable information Kristin.

Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
6 years ago

Probably too soon to say don’t you know who I am? Good advice. But will you ever be able to relax? I mean, if you buy a house…will be not until its paid off? If you buy a car, will be not until its paid off? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing as its always better to operate from a position of financial strength (pay cash for your car, etc).

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