Robert Farrington started The College Investor when he was – you guessed it – in college. While his classmates were diligently taking notes during class, he was in the back of the room figuring out how to make a few extra bucks online.
Those few extra bucks eventually turned into big bucks. And, by age 32, Robert was able to quit his corporate job, become financially independent, and manage his website full-time.
Today, The College Investor is one of the largest personal finance websites in the United States. With about 2 million visitors per month, the website is dedicated to teaching millennials how to get out of student loan debt, earn more money, and start building real wealth for the future.
In this episode, Robert shares how he built and monetized his website to the point that he was able to leave the corporate world, how he was able to save 50% to 70% of his income, and tips for others that want to follow in his footsteps.
He also shares information about a very important project he is working on —one that I’m thrilled to be helping him with—called The Student Loan Debt Movement. The goal of this movement is to inspire the community to pay down $1 million or more in student loan debt in just one month. We’re already halfway through that one month (March 2018), and the movement already has some amazing traction. Listen in to hear how you can play a part in this movement, as well as Robert’s tips for taking control of your financial future.
What You’ll Learn:
- What gave Robert the confidence to leave his corporate job.
- Advice for quitting your job to run a business from home.
- Where to start with monetizing your website.
- How often you need to publish content on your website in the first year.
- The mindset shift that Robert says went a long way for growing his business.
- What The Student Loan Debt Movement is and how to become a part of it.
- Common mistakes people make when trying to get their loans forgiven.
- What helps people stay committed to paying down their student debt.
- Tips for putting yourself in a better position with student loan debt.
Resources for this Episode:
- Robert Farrington: Website | LinkedIn
- The Student Loan Debt Movement
- 80 Different Ways To Get Student Loan Forgiveness
- XY Planning Network
- Consumerism Commentary
- Get Rich Slowly
- Heal App
Thanks for Listening!
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Full Transcript: The College Investor – Robert Farrington on Helping America Pay Down $1 million of Student Loan Debt
Taylor: Robert, you have an awesome story and I’m not even going to waste any time getting into it. You did what I think pretty much everyone dreams of, which is quitting your corporate job at, I’ll just say a young age. I’ll let you decide whether you want to share your age or not, but quitting your corporate job at a young age and now, managing your online business from home I’m guessing, probably not full-time, which is just really amazing to me. First, before we kind of dig into all that I’d like to know a couple things, one, can you just share with everyone what you were doing in the corporate world and then, two, at what point did you realize that quitting your job at this young age was actually something that was achievable?
Robert: Yeah, definitely, so I am going to be 33 this year. I’ll probably be 33 right about when this podcast comes out. It’s my birthday month. In the corporate world, I was a store manager at Target. I worked at Target for a long time. I started in high school as a cart boy. I went to college. I became an hourly supervisor. After I graduated college, I became an assistant store manager and then, a couple years after that I became a full store manager. I managed quite a few local Targets here in San Diego and honestly, I really loved working at Target. Honestly, if you listen to a podcast of me, even like maybe a year and a half ago, I had no idea that I’d be leaping Target. Actually, it is a great gig, great company to work for, I love the people, but my side gig that I had been working on since college, the college-
Taylor: How long were you at Target?
Robert: I was at Target 16 years.
Taylor: Okay, wow.
Robert: Yeah, something like that.
Taylor: Okay, wow.
Robert: Anyways, but yeah, so then I started the website in college just as a hobby side project. That just continued to grow. It grew and grew and grew and it got to this point, where leaving my day job was definitely doable. It replaced my day job income about two and a half years before I left. It just got to this point where I asked: “do I really want to do another holiday season in retail?” Like I said, I love my job, I love the people I worked with, I had a great boss, everything that you could think of at the time and a great salary, but my family really was important to me. That’s why really we marinate on this for a long time, but it was like, “Let’s set a goal of not having to do another holiday season again at retail.”
Taylor: Were you just a really, really good saver over those 16 years because even if you’re able to replicate that income through this side hustle, through this website, like a lot of people would still keep their corporate job just in case something happened to that side hustle. Over those 16 years, were you just an awesome rockstar saver and that gave you the cushion and the confidence to leave?
Robert: Yeah, I mean definitely, so when I left, I mean we were definitely at financial independence. We saved probably 50% of our income since I was 22 and so pretty much everything plus like 50% of Target, I mean I think like our peak years we were like 70% if you include our side hustle income.
Robert: That was just going towards saving and investing. At the same time, we’ve been debt-free. We don’t have a lot of debt. We do have a mortgage still, but it’s just a super low-interest rate right now. My wife and I talked about like what if the internet turned off tomorrow, you run an online business, but it’s like we were at a point where we definitely could live off of our savings and investments comfortably even if I had no side hustle income coming in.
Taylor: Was your wife working at this time?
Robert: No, my wife actually stopped working four and a half years ago when our son was born, so that was a blessing and that was allowed by the side hustle and the day job together.
Taylor: Interesting, so I’ve mentioned a few times on this podcast and you probably know this that our behaviors and attitudes towards money start as early as like age seven. It’s really hard for people at later stages of life to reverse some of these bad money habits, but like you’ve learned these things really early on, where did this come from?
How Robert Farrington Created a Side Hustle as a Kid to Develop Good Money Habits
Robert: I’m definitely more of an earner, not necessarily a saver. I love money. I’ve always been side hustling, so I remember some of my earliest memories aside hustling were in middle school. My mom and I used to go to Costco. She’d do our grocery shopping and I would buy the 24 packs of Snickers and 3 Musketeers Bars, like the king size ones.
Taylor: And resell them?
Robert: Darn right, I’d resell them. I’d take them to middle school in my backpack and then I’d be selling them for likes 50 cents, 75 cents a bar and double my investment. Then, I did it again the next week. I’d always be side hustling. I’d always been interested in it and I was blessed because my dad was very responsible with money.
Another early memory I have of money is that my dad always had Quicken. Quicken is a personal finance software. We kept track of everything on this old computer that we used to have when I was growing up. Imagine a big computer screen – like a big box computer – and it was really old with Windows 3.1, like the basic format, but I remember my dad would be entering his checkbook transactions into Quicken. I used to sit in the room and I’d watch him and I’d ask him about it and different things. I’d always just been interested in money and felt pretty comfortable with it. I like to earn it. I like to spend it. And it’s just always kind of been something I’ve been passionate about.
Taylor: Yeah, you just said something interesting that I think you and I talked about a couple weeks ago which is you’d rather find ways to earn more money than save more money. Maybe I’m saying that incorrectly, but can you talk more about that philosophy?
Robert: Yeah, definitely, it’s not that I don’t want to save more money, but I do realize that there is a point at which you can’t cut anymore. I definitely don’t believe in living beyond your means. I don’t believe in spending what you can’t afford, but if you’re trying to put together a budget and you’re trying to really be conscious about your spending, there really is only so much you can cut. You’re still going to have to pay a rent or a mortgage and you’re still going to have transportation costs. Even if you don’t own a car, you still have transportation costs. You’re still going to have food costs. There’s so much that you can cut till you get to a point, where you can’t cut anymore and that’s why I love earning more money because earning more money doesn’t really have a limitation to it.
Yes, you might not have the skills or the different tools and tactics on day one to earn infinite amount of money, but as you start side hustling, as you start earning more, you start learning what it takes to earn more and whether that’s time or effort or building up skills, the path to earning more is pretty infinite. That can really be a lifesaver when it comes to achieving your financial goals, whatever that is. If you’re trying to get out of debt, like earning more can be a great path to that. If you’re trying to save for early retirement or financial independence, earning more money is definitely a clear path to that. That’s why I really do love earning more money versus trying to save or be as frugal as possible.
I think you do have to do both, but I think you’re going to get so much more return on your investment for earning more money than you will from cutting. I’ll use a little Ramit Sethi here and say, “Cutting your lattes isn’t going to help you necessarily in the longer run.”
Taylor: Right, so when did that start for you? You said you were in college and you started this website, thecollegeinvestor.com and it really didn’t become anything for a couple years. But did you sit down one day and say like, “I just want to start a side hustle to make some extra income,” or was there something bigger you were going after? Did you have a message you wanted to share? What was the catalyst for saying, “I’m going to start this website.”
Robert: No, honestly that was kind of like the intersection of all my passions I think. I had been side hustling before that. I went to college. I went to UCSD. I was site hustling. I was working full time too as a supervisor at Target and I would still side hustle. My first “side hustle,” was selling stuff on eBay and Amazon. I’d go to yard sales and estate sales and I buy stuff to resell it. I was still doing that too, but–
Taylor: You were like the original Gary V.
Robert: Seriously, I didn’t realize how much of that he did, but yes I was doing a lot of that early on. I was in class and I would be doing random things. I was doing like Amazon Mechanical Turk or survey sites and stuff like that to earn money. I could earn like $5 a day when I was in my classroom by just killing time on the internet because I was that guy in the back of the class. I had my laptop open and wasn’t totally paying attention to what was going on, but I would read financial blogs.
When I originally went to college, I wanted to be a computer science major. I ended up changing majors into political science and economics, but I was always passionate about tech. I was always passionate about money and I was reading other people’s personal finance blogs and I was stalking some friends from high school on Facebook. A couple of them were doing this internet marketing thing, where they were like starting blogs and websites. I was like, “You know what, I could do this too.” I researched a little bit about how to do it and that’s how I started it.
Taylor: Were you one of those online bloggers, what year was this by the way?
Robert: This would have been 2009 when I started.
Taylor: Okay, so I mean there was a lot of people that still didn’t know what a blog was back then.
Taylor: Were you one of these online bloggers, who had no audience, where your mom was your only reader and if so, how long did that take till you actually started to build traffic to that website?
Robert: That was totally the case. I started this blog. I didn’t tell anybody about it for like a long time. I don’t know if I had any readers because I honestly don’t think I installed Google Analytics or any kind of tracking software either. I didn’t know who was coming to my site for at least like a year because if I failed, I didn’t want anyone to know about it. It was really bad. It was so bad. It was really just like my random thoughts on money that had no cohesion, no like anything. They were like super short like one paragraph blog post. They were terrible man, they were so terrible. After about a year of doing this, it’s just practice. You learn how to write better, you learn how to do a little bit more on your internet website and stuff. By about 2011 – so it took a solid two years – I finally started earning a little bit of money and by a little bit, I mean a little bit of money.
Taylor: That was from what? Running ads on the website?
Robert: Yeah, so it was getting Google AdSense put on my website. I think in my first month that I started like actually earning money in 2011, I made $25.
Taylor: Wow! That’s what? Five lattes, right?
Robert: It only took two years, but it was also a hobby. At that point time, I didn’t think of this as a business. I just thought it was fun. I had a website. I thought it was cool. I had these dreams, but I didn’t know what the path was to get there.
Taylor: Sure, so can you give me an idea then how the website started to grow? How it’s grown over the years? Can you give me an idea of website traffic, revenue figures, even if they’re vague, what are you comfortable sharing?
Robert: Yeah, so I mean in that first year that I actually made money in 2011, I made $7,700 on the website.
Robert: I know, right? Like it actually started growing quite a bit once I started figuring things out and that was through AdSense. It was also through doing affiliate stuff and if you’re not familiar with affiliates that’s where I receive a commission if someone signs up for a product or service that I recommend. There are just these different ways I was learning about monetizing a website. I couldn’t tell you what the traffic was. I wasn’t great about tracking then, but I think I was getting like maybe 10,000 visitors a month.
It was nice, nothing amazing, but it was starting to at least be something that was paying for itself. It was kind of starting to be a little bit worth the time. I remember telling my wife, “I earned some money.” She’d be like, “You’ve been doing this for two years, it’s like about time you did something with it.” I’m like, “You’re just watching random shows that I don’t want to pay attention to.”
Taylor: Wait a second, I mean 10,000 visitors a month is a lot of traffic to your website. You went from blogging to your mom or nobody to 10,000 people. I mean, that had to feel pretty good, right?
Robert: No, it definitely felt good. It definitely started like I said being a hobby that was like worthwhile and worth the time that I was [inaudible 00:12:51] because it was definitely like I could do something and I could see some income from it. I was learning a lot too, so about 2011 is the time that I started like connecting with other bloggers online, other people in the personal finance space. I started learning more about like business and different ways to improve my site, treat it more like a business, start earning more revenue, so on, so forth. It really came from that networking and connecting and learning more as well.
Taylor: Sure and can you share a little bit about where the site is today and kind of how it’s grown since 2011?
How The College Investor Grew Site Traffic from 10,000 Visitors Per Month to 2 million
Robert: Yeah, so I mean it’s grown substantially. For last month, we had 2.5 million visitors in one month.
Robert: You could see it significantly increased from there. Last year, we finished the year at about half a million dollars in revenue and this year, we should be over seven figures. It’s definitely come a long way.
Taylor: Yeah that is absolutely amazing. I’ve shared figures like that with other people that this is possible in this industry and people’s just jaws or on the floor. They don’t believe it. It’s pretty it’s pretty amazing. I’m curious how that kind of traffic gets to your website, is this just organic, is this just people googling around?
Robert: Yeah, a good chunk of it is organic search. I would say it’s 60 to 70% organic search traffic, but then the rest is social. We have a lot of social media. We do a little bit of advertising. We have our own list and push notifications and different things, but 60% search, probably 30% social and then, 10% is direct in terms of our newsletter and different things like that.
Taylor: We kind of jumped ahead here, but what kind of information is on the website, who can it benefit, who would find the collegeinvestor.com really helpful?
Robert: Yeah, so when I started this, I had no clear vision of what this would look like and like I said, it was really my random thoughts, but today we have really focused on how to get out of student loan debt and start investing in building wealth. The goal is to do this as early as possible, but I understand that that’s not going to be for everybody. We actually see a lot of 20, 30 and 40-year-olds that are finding us because they do want to get out of student loan debt and at the same time, they know they need to invest, they know they want to start building wealth. We kind of put all that together for people that want to get out of that debt and start earning and investing.
Taylor: Okay and we’re definitely going to jump into the student loan debt arena here in a few minutes. Before we get there, I just want to stay on the business side of things. The site has grown tremendously. Revenue is off the charts. I’m sure you’re having a ton of fun. There’s another side of owning a business too, things don’t always go perfectly, so can you share some of the challenges you faced along the way and kind of lessons learned?
Robert: Yeah, I mean the biggest challenge I faced was I had no idea what I was doing when I started. It was really self-imposed that I didn’t know what I was doing. The big turning point I think for the blog and, eventually, the business was just getting out and networking with other people in the space. I think I had this view that other personal finance sites were competitors. Some of the big sites at the time were Consumerism Commentary and Get Rich Slowly and these personal finance sites. I was like, “Oh my gosh, like they’re my competition and I shouldn’t talk to them or anything.” The one thing I’ve learned over time is that that is total BS. I think this applies across the board. It’s not competition, it’s community.
If I go out and talk to these people, they’re doing their thing and they have a different reader and an audience than I have. And Taylor, you have a different listener than I have. We’re all going to be in this community together and I think the old saying goes something like “a rising tide raises all boats.” If we can learn from each other, if I can learn from them, they can learn from me, and we can get our message out to a lot of people. That’s really the big takeaway I got: if I get out and network and learn, I can better my own website, my own business and they learn. They better their stuff and we all work together. That’s gone such a long way to growing my site and growing my business.
Taylor: I love that. That can be applied to anyone and into any industry. It reminds me of myself like six, seven years ago. I came home and I told my wife, “I’ve got an idea. Once a week, I’m going to have lunch or coffee with another financial advisor in our community.” She was like, “The heck you are, like why would you go spend your precious time with ‘Your competition?’”
I just looked at it differently. It’s like, I can learn from these people. I’m not perfect. I haven’t been in business for 40 years. I can learn from a lot of people and just like you, I came to find out like everyone is willing to help and be collaborative and share ideas. I mean I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me in my business and just personally grow over the years. I really, really think that’s good advice.
Robert: Yeah and like I said, I think we just have this preconceived notion, but there are so many people out there and everyone has their own idea of what’s going to work for them. One person’s not going to solve it all. A couple of people aren’t going to solve it all. In the personal finance space, I found that a personal finance blog is so personal and what people want to read and some people like women personal finance personality, some people like Christian slant, some people like funny, some people like financial independence focused or retirement focused or they’re trying to get out of debt. Or they like Dave Ramsey style getting out of debt.
There are infinite possibilities of different styles and different philosophies around money and people should be attracted to that. Your story is yours. No one can take that from you and there are so many people out there that need help with money and are going to look up personal finance topics that there’s no competition here. It definitely is a community.
Taylor: Yeah, I 100% agree. Is there anything else along the way that you’ve experienced, have you ever had that day where you woke up and like your website’s down, nobody can get to it or I don’t know, any other challenges in that online space?
Robert: I totally had that. I had that last week. I mean last week was like one of those weeks that you hate as a business owner. My website was hacked. I had a virus on it and my email server got shut down for the student loan movement, which we’ll talk about was like blowing up and for whatever reason, it triggered like red flags that like they shouldn’t have this many signups and different things. It was one of those weeks from hell. You get those, but at the same time, I’m very blessed for everything that’s happened. I just think that’s part of life like I dealt with that at Target for years and years and years that we call it putting out fires. One of the things I learned in retail is like you really never know what to expect. You could walk in and like … I’ve had a day at Target, where literally like I had like five minutes to when we were going to close the store, two buses of people pull up and they hop out and they just tear up the store. The same thing happens online. It’s more just about being resilient, adaptable.
I also take everything with a grain of salt because I am very blessed and I don’t put a ton of time in this and some days, you do have to put the time in it to just get things done.
Taylor: Yeah, I was going to ask like how do you handle stuff like that? You meditate, do you have a mentor that you lean on, what sorts of things you do to deal with some of the challenges that you’re faced with?
Robert: Yeah, I mean honestly I don’t meditate. I don’t have a great morning routine. I know a lot of people are all about those things. My stuff is really like getting my family out the door, so family first is huge for me. I get online after I take the kid to school and my daughter to daycare, whatnot and come home, have some coffee. I don’t have a necessarily a mentor, but I do have a lot of great peers, a couple masterminds that I’m in that really solid people that I can bounce ideas off of. Then, I do have a great virtual team that it definitely can take care of a lot of this stuff for me if we need assistance. It all kind of works together and my wife has been fantastic as well. I lean on her for a lot of just like bouncing ideas off of.
Taylor: Great, well I mean it sounds like you don’t take things too personally. I mean it’s just a website. I mean it sounds like family and kids is a little bit more important to you, so I can definitely relate.
Robert: It is, it’s one of those things like it’s definitely important to me, it’s a passion, but at the same time like it is just a website. Family is definitely number one and you do the best you can every day. That’s all I can do.
Advice From Robert Farrington for Entrepreneurs that Want to Follow in His Footsteps
Taylor: What advice would you give to someone who would love to follow in your footsteps and quit their corporate job and run some sort of business from home?
Robert: I would say side hustle as much as you can and do it for as long as you can on the side until you are super comfortable that your day job doesn’t even make a difference anymore in terms of your financial and maybe your emotional life as well because I see too many people that try to take that jump way too early and most of the time, it does not work out well. Then, when it doesn’t work out well, it’s even worse because like you have to go back to the corporate world or go back and get a job and usually you’re like very demoralized. You think you’re a failure, even though you’re not like most businesses do fail and it’s a good lesson learned, but it’s a really tough pill to swallow. I think in today’s world with so many different ventures available online that you can side hustle all the way up like I said my side hustle was earning more than my day job for at least two years before I left. I think that’s a very doable for a lot of people. Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight. It definitely takes time. You heard I took 16 years and nine years of the College Investor on the side, but that’s what my advice is work on the side as long as you possibly can.
Taylor: Okay and what about someone who wants to maybe start a website and maybe start to learn how they can monetize that website? Any advice like a beginner 101, where do they even start?
Robert: Yeah and that’s a just start. The cool thing about starting a website is it’s so cheap. You can get hosting right now from whatever your hosting provider is, but usually, it’s like five bucks a month. You can get a free theme. I think the big thing for anyone who wants to start a website is you have to start it and you have to at least publish content three times a week for one year. If you do it three times a week for one year, a few things happen. One, is you outlasted 95% of people that had the idea to start something and then fizzle out. You’ve built yourself a good enough product that has made it past 95% of the competition. By publishing three times a week for a year, you’ve also probably built up your skills substantially because your first [inaudible 00:23:40] are going to suck. No one’s going to read them, like you just have to accept that fact. It’s the same thing pretty much everywhere, but if you just keep doing it and keep practicing it, you’re going to get more readers, you’re going to get better at writing, you’re just going to see results. They will come, but it does take that time and that consistency and you have to put in the work.
Taylor: Yeah, we talk about that famous quote, I don’t know who it’s from, but perfect is the enemy of good and sometimes, people want their website to look perfect and that first blog post to be perfect. Then, you end up just doing nothing at all. I think that’s really good advice is just do it.
Robert: Just do it and the cool thing about the Internet is that nothing is permanent. We’re not publishing books here, so your first blog post can suck, but you could go back and edit it if you really wanted to and the same thing with your website, like you can continue to iterate and change or maybe you don’t like your logo after a year, well get a new logo. Maybe you don’t like the way your site looks, well just change it, like we’re not talking about anything that’s actually published in print here that’s permanent. It’s the Internet, you can change all that stuff.
Taylor: Yeah, no, really good advice. Before we switch gears here, what are your goals going forward for the collegeinvestor.com, what are you hoping to achieve in the next 5-10 years?
Robert: Honestly like I just want to help as many people as we can get out of student loan debt and start investing and building wealth. I think student loan debt is going to be the biggest challenge that we’re going to face over the next 5 to 10 years. I think that politics around it make it actually harder, not easier. I think that it’s holding a lot of people back financially, but there are a lot of options and I think it’s just something that we got to educate and then, we also need to inspire people to take action on. Then, I really do want to see people start building wealth at an early age. I mean you know this in the financial planning space is that time in the market is better than timing the market. Even if I can get people in their 20s to start investing, maybe $50 a month like that can go a long way and you’ll be so far ahead of the people that don’t start investing until they’re 30.
Taylor: Yeah, compounding interest is extremely powerful.
Robert: Absolutely and I think if you could balance the two, like if you can balance your debt pay down with a little bit of investing, like I think it is a phenomenal way to go.
The Student Loan Debt Movement
Taylor: Sure, do you have any goals in terms of website traffic or revenue? I mean if everything just stayed as is two and a half million visitors, same revenue, I mean is that okay with you or do you have goals to double and triple those numbers?
Robert: Yeah, I definitely want to keep growing. I mean we’ve been growing at two to three times the pace every single year. It’d be phenomenal to keep that up, but in terms of growth, it’s more about people taking action and it’s like I really want to measure the results, which is like pretty impossible to do, but at the same time that’s why I really like things what we’re doing with the student loan debt movement, where people are reporting back with how much student loan debt they’re paying off. That’s like so exciting to me because I can talk all week, talk about what you should do and what you could do, but it’s so much more rewarding to me to see what people have actually done.
Taylor: Yeah, no, 100%, I mean accountability is a big part of that too.
Robert: Oh absolutely.
Taylor: I could go hire the best personal trainer in the world and that person could give me the best workout plan and the best nutrition plan, but what are the odds I’m actually going to go and do that, but if I hire that person or have someone to hold me accountable to go to the gym and do the exercises right and actually eat correctly, then I can actually start to see results. That’s what I love about the Student Loan Debt Movement is there’s some accountability built into it. Let’s talk about it. I mean I think it’s really, really cool, you’re getting some awesome traction in a short period of time. What is the student loan debt movement, maybe let’s start there.
Robert: Yeah, so this is an idea that I’ve been marinating on for a while now and it’s like how could I encourage people to actually pay down or reduce their debt because I publish a lot about what tactics you should do or where to find programs, but I never like actually got to see what results people were doing. I had this idea with a big goal to pay down, reduce, eliminate a million dollars in student loan debt in a month? It’s the month of March and I am trying to get as many people as I can to join the movement and commit to taking action on their student loans to see if we as a community can pay down a million dollars in student loan debt in one month. It’s been super exciting to see and we’ve been combining the best of everything we can.
I put up a lot of great educational tools, but at the same time, I have things there too like kind of put the carrot out there and really inspire people to take action. We’re doing a weekly giveaway. We have a leaderboard, where people can share the amount they’ve eliminated with the highest [inaudible 00:28:28] eliminated as of right now when we’re recording this, someone already paid off $22,000 in debt halfway through the month already. It’s really exciting to see all the different actions that people have been taking. As of right now, we’ve paid off $290,000 in debt and we’re not quite at the halfway point of March. I’m really excited.
The momentum is growing and so I’m hoping that we get to that goal of a million dollars this month.
Taylor: Yeah, so how do people get involved and take action? If I have student loan debt and I want to be a part of this and I want to record the debt that I’m eliminating, what do I do?
Robert: Yeah, go to the studentloandebtmovement.com and you can sign up to join the movement. It’ll enter you into our weekly giveaways and you will get some education in there, but you’ll also learn how you can take action and share how much debt you have paid off this month, which we’re also giving away some cool prizes for people that are reporting back on their debt as well.
Taylor: Is it every day or every week I log in and record the debt that’s been paid down?
Robert: Yep, as much as you want to. I know there are some people out there that are recording almost every day, like I hope they’re out driving for Uber or doing some kind of side hustle, but they’re saying like, “I’m paying off $100 more today,” which is cool to see. I know some people have emailed me and said that they’re going to report at the end of the month, but really just report as much as you can. I want to just hear how much student loan debt you are taking action on this month. There are also cool things that you could do. I know some people that have refinanced and they have saved $10,000 in interest over the life of their loan by refinancing their loans. I know some people have found student loan forgiveness programs that they had no idea they would qualify for. There’s a lot of ways that you can … That’s why we also say, “It’s not just paying down, but could you reduce or eliminate your student loan debt as well by getting educated on the best course of action for your loans.”
Taylor: Sure and is there a place in there, is there a forum or a community of some place, where they can ask questions and get ideas and bounce things off each other?
Robert: Yep, so we have a private Facebook group as well. When you sign up, you’ll get links and access to that. I’m doing twice a week Q&A sessions on Facebook Live, so you can ask me anything you have, but you can also send emails and post in the forum if you have any questions as well because I know some people are still a little like leery about hopping on Facebook Live and asking questions live.
Taylor: Just to be clear, you mentioned weekly giveaways, like it’s not anything small, you’re giving away $500 a week, right?
Robert: We’re giving away $500 a week just for being a part of the movement, which is like awesome, like even if you only pay off a 100 bucks this month or something, like you get to be part of that giveaway. Then, if you participate in the leaderboard and you share your results, we’re giving away over $3,000 in prizes to people that participate in the leaderboard and it’s not just for whoever pays off the most, it’s for everyone that participates. Don’t feel like there’s no point in contributing to the leaderboard because you’re not going to do $22,000 like the leader is, there are still prizes available there as well.
Taylor: Got it, okay. Let’s assume you hit your million dollar goal, which I know you will because you’ve got an awesome community around you. You hit your goal. What’s next? I mean is it going to be 2 million next month?
Robert: I don’t know. You know like this is one of those ideas that I’ve been marinating on for so long that I push this out the door and now, I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s like actually working,” which is really exciting to see. I think we’re going to do it again, but I don’t know what that goal is going to be. I’m excited to see what we’re doing so far.
Taylor: Okay, no, it’s super cool. I’m glad to be a part of it. Thanks for including me and we’ll definitely blast this out there. It’ll definitely be in the show notes. I’m glad this episode will be published this month, so we can continue to help you reach your goal. Yeah, thank you.
Robert: No, thank you. This is awesome, I’m super excited. I’m just excited that people are making as much progress as they are on their student loans. I think that’s the key.
Taylor: Yeah, absolutely, I mean you probably know better than I do, but there’s more student loan debt out there than credit card debt.
Robert: Earlier this week, I think we passed $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt like-
Taylor: Oh my gosh.
Robert: It just keeps rising and rising, it’s crazy.
Robert Shares Actionable Tips for How You Can Reduce Your Student Loan Debt
Taylor: It’s insane. Well, speaking of that and I want to leave listeners with some actionable tips, even if it’s not for them, maybe they have a child or a cousin or a friend, who’s in student loan debt. I’d love for you to share just a few of your favorite student loan tips, things that people can go home and do today to put themselves in a better position with their student loans. Do you have a few you can share with us?
Robert: Yeah, I mean I’ll start with the basics, so step one is just get organized. I can’t tell you how many people are not organized when it comes to their student loan debt and maybe your listeners are already ahead of the curve and I hope so, but too many people have no tracking mechanism. They don’t keep track of their income expenses and they don’t even know their loan balances or where their student loans are located. I would say whatever your personal choice is, whether you like free financial software like Mint or Personal Capital or you’re old-fashioned and you want a pen and paper and a calendar or you like Excel spreadsheets, like I don’t care, I just want you to sit down and get organized, put all your loans and all your accounts in one spot, so that you could have a really good picture of what you owe, what your loan balance looks like. If you don’t even know where to start, if you go to the Student Loan Debt Movement, I do have a student loan tracking spreadsheet that you can use. It’s there, it’s downloadable, so that could be a good starting point for your student loan debt as well.
After that, I think most people would need to come up with their plan and I don’t care what your plan is and everybody’s plans going to be different. Whether that plan is you’re going to get on an income-driven repayment plan, you’re going to go for public service loan forgiveness, if you are going to refinance your student loans and you’re going to side hustle and try to use that money to pay it off, like come up with a solid plan. Here’s the important part though is you have to stick to the plan because I see too many people go down a path of like two or three years of potentially qualifying for public service loan forgiveness, but then, they deviate and they start doing other things. They’ve given up like a third of the way through getting their loans potentially forgiven.
I know it’s a hard thing to do like committing to something for maybe 10 years, but you have to commit because it will cost you so much more if you don’t because all of a sudden if you like bail on your income-driven repayment plan and you start making more money, well you’re going to have all this interest that capitalizes. You might have $70,000 in student loans that now is $90,000 in student loans because you changed your plan at two, three, four years in. It’s just really something to think about, like you have this debt and whether you’re going to be on a Dave Ramsey style like debt snowball or you’re going to go for public service loan forgiveness or you’re going to go for IBR and take 20 years, like I just say come up with a plan and stick to the plan.
I know it’s not an incredibly sexy tip, but I see too many people that change up too far along and it really is costly for them.
Taylor: Is there something somebody can do to make sure they stay committed, is it hiring somebody, is it having a spouse or a friend act as an accountability partner? Anything you’ve witnessed along the way that helps people stay committed?
Robert: I’ve seen it all and that’s the thing is everyone’s so different. I personally like I’m a mathematics focused guy, so I love just seeing the balances go down. That’s my style and I know there’re people like me, but I know there are also people that need that psychological assistance and whether that is an accountability buddy or a friend or a spouse or a financial planner to help them keep them on the right track. You have to really just kind of understand how you operate not just financially, but it’s almost how you are as a person. Do you need that external control? Do you need the internal control? Do you need to share openly? I mean some of the bloggers that we know in this space like literally started their blog to have their readers be accountability buddies for them. You’ve got to figure out what that looks like for you. It’s a hard thing and when you’re 22 years old, looking at your first student loan payment, you might not even have the slightest idea of what that takes for you.
Taylor: Sure, I’ll use this an opportunity as well to say this I mean sometimes you have to spend money to make money or to maybe pay off debt. You don’t need to be a millionaire to hire a financial planner. There’s actually a network out there called the XY Planning Network. This is a network made up of 600 financial planners around the country and a lot of them have a specialty in getting people out of student loan debt. Robert shared a ton of resources with you today and his website has a ton of resources, but if you feel like you need a professional to either help hold you accountable or help put together some strategies for you, there are affordable financial planners out there that don’t have these big minimums. They have this specialty in helping with student loans. Just an idea, if you did feel like spending a little bit of money to help get you out of this debt, xyplanningnetwork.com is a good resource to go find a professional.
Robert: Love it. Yeah, I mean it’s just really about what works for you. I think you’ve seen this as well as that everyone has their own style and philosophy and what works for them. Like I said that’s another thing that you just have to dive into and figure out.
Taylor: Yeah, great, any other tips, anything actionable that you’ve noticed that’s really helpful or something maybe people don’t know a lot about?
Robert: Yeah, well, like I said, there’s a ton of forgiveness programs out there. We talked briefly just a second ago about public service loan forgiveness, but I actually just put together a guide this week about 80 different ways that you could get student loan forgiveness. There’s over 80.
Robert: I know and they might not pay off all of your loans, but some of these are student loan repayment assistance programs, where you could get $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 towards your loans, which that could go a long way for some people. You could check it out on the site, but at the same time, realize that there could be student loan forgiveness programs for you. There are student loan forgiveness programs just for living in certain areas, so just realize that there’s a lot of different options out there that could give you some type of assistance for your loans.
Taylor: If you don’t want to spend money to hire somebody to help you, at least spend some time digging around and searching for some of this free money that’s out there.
Taylor: Great, well, hopefully, you could share a link to that guide and we’ll provide it in the show notes.
Taylor: I think you made a good point too like you just need to start and get organized, I mean that speaks to most people when it comes to finances, but I mean even for myself, my wife has a really small student loan, but we’re getting our taxes together for tax time here. She didn’t even have her username and password for her student loan, so not only do we not have a spreadsheet or anything like that like she just didn’t even know her username and password. Start somewhere like at least know how to log in and view your student loan. That would be a good first step.
Robert: Absolutely and you know that’s so common and I’m so glad you share that because I think people might feel like they’re the awkward ones, but like you sign up for these loans when you’re like 18 or 19 years old and like you just don’t think twice about it. You’ve probably moved like six times by the time you’re even looking at repayment. You live one place your freshman year and then, you move your sophomore year. You’re moving around, you’re not even worrying about it and then, finally, it’s like maybe you’re in your 20s and you got to start thinking about like paying your bills, but maybe you set up your repayment plan once. Then, you just never look at it again. You just assume that everything is going well. Even if you’re down the path a little bit of repayment, I think it’s important to dive in to really assess if you’re doing the right things, could you be doing better, could you repay this off faster, could you save some money on interest? Just make sure that you’re comfortable with what you set up when you’re 22 because I know by the time I was like 27-28 years old, I was like a totally different person than I was at 22.
Taylor: Yep, no, absolutely. I want to be clear. We have a plan first our student loan, but it’s just funny how you just lose sight of some of this stuff and something as simple as a username and password can just slip through the cracks.
Robert: Absolutely and it’s so common. [inaudible 00:40:40] they shouldn’t be embarrassed by that like just start taking action right now and like you said, tax time is a great time. I love this time of year because people start getting all their financial documents mailed to them, so they might get like their student loan interest statement. I think it’s just a great reminder to like log back in and see what’s going on because it’s like money’s kind of fresh on the minds right now.
What is Your Favorite Up and Coming Company in San Diego that Nobody Knows About?
Taylor: Yep, well this is all really, really, really good information. A couple more questions here and we’ll get you out of here. One of my favorite questions I’m getting some great answers to and I’m learning a lot about San Diego, what’s your favorite up-and-coming company here in San Diego that nobody knows about or maybe a hidden gem that you and your family go to that just kind of flies under the radar?
Robert: I would say my favorite company right now that nobody I know knows about is called Heal, H-E-A-L and it’s actually an app. What it is it’s a doctor that comes to your house. I have two young kids, I have a four-year-old and the one-year-old. They get sick. They get ear infections and whatnot. If you get this app, you could have a doctor come to your house in San Diego and they will do everything that you would normally see at a doctor’s office. They take your insurance, so even if you had no insurance, it only cost $99 for an office visit, but like they take our insurance, so it costs us $20. Then, anything that you would normally get like our flu shots and stuff that you would get for free at your doctor’s office, well they do for free as well. I mean I had them come to my house, they gave our whole family flu shots this year. When my son was sick, it was 20 bucks, like they came to the house, they could digitally send the prescription off like it’s fantastic. I do not ever want to go to a doctor’s office again for basic routine things.
Taylor: Wow, okay, it’s pretty incredible.
Robert: That’s my tip for you, Heal, it’s an app for your phone, but they’re here in San Diego.
Taylor: Okay, cool and they’re headquartered here, huh?
Robert: I think they’re headquartered in San Francisco like all the other tech startups in the world, but I think they’re only in like San Francisco, LA, and San Diego.
Taylor: Got it. Okay, well, we’ll definitely link to that.
Robert: There you go.
Taylor: My last question you’ve probably heard it before, wealth means different things to different people. To some, it’s in the traditional sense of money and making more of it, but for most and I know this is the case for you, it’s something much more than that. My last question is what is living a wealthy life mean to you?
Robert: It’s being able to achieve what drives happiness for you I think and that could be different things for everybody. For us, it’s spending time with family and doing fun activities and going out to dinners and spending time together. That’s really what wealth to me is, it’s not necessarily money, but it’s that underlying happiness of you’re satisfied, you’re with your family, you’re with whatever is driving that for you.
Taylor: Perfect. Robert, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast, sharing your story, opening up, talking to us about the Student Loan Debt Movement and how people can get out of debt. It’s super important and I don’t think we’re talking about it enough, so thank you for all that you’re doing. Thank you for supporting this project. Thanks for being a friend and look forward to catching up with you soon.
Robert: Yeah, definitely this was great.