No More Harvard Debt – How One Man Cleared $91,000 in Student Loan Debt in Just 7 Months

His story has been all over the Internet, but in case you missed it – here’s one for your inspiration files!

Joe Mihalic earned his MBA from Harvard in 2009, along with $101,000 in student loans.

He was one of the lucky ones – despite the tanked economy, he landed a (low) six-figure job in Austin, TX. While he immediately started living right to the edge of his means, he also dutifully made his roughly $1000 a month loan payment for two years.

Thinking he was really making progress, he logged on to his accounts – only to see that, thanks to interest, he had paid down just $11K in principle despite having sent in $24,ooo+.

The sickening realization that he’d pay out over $40K in interest if he kept these student loans around for 10 years prompted Joe to try something bold: Commit to paying it off – all off – in 10 months or less.

Joe surpassed even his own outlandish goal and paid off that debt in just SEVEN months, by doing a combination of the following:

  • Getting a second job – yes, he earned six figures, but he still started a landscaping business on the side
  • Eschewing ALL consumer consumption – no new clothes, no restaurants, no movies, nothing
  • Cashing out his savings accounts
  • Ceasing contributions (temporarily) to his 401K
  • Selling a bunch of stuff – including a second car and a motorcycle

Pretty much the same stuff we did when we decided to get out of debt, only his “hole” – aka debt – was bigger, and so was his “shovel” – aka income.

You can argue that it was easier for him because he wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, didn’t have tuition payments or medical bills or sick parents…

But I say kol hakavod for figuring it out BEFORE he had all those things. Sure it was a bit easier, but there’s no amount of “easy” that can take away from the awesomeness of scrimping and sacrificing to pay off $91,000 in just seven months time!

As Joe transitions from debt repayment to “the rest of his life”, he’s going to face some struggles with maintaining his new-found identify as a financially responsible adult. I can definitely relate.

I loved what he said in one of his last blog entries:

When I was living in the admittedly constrained world of [debt repayment], there was no paradox of choice. 9.9 times out of 10, the answer to the question of whether I could buy something was simply no. I had little anxiety about buying things because I simply couldn’t afford anything.

But now I’m opening up the door to the monastery and I’m venturing out into the real world with my new purchasing power and I have real decisions to make that affect not only my day-to-day life, but my future 20+ years from now. Truthfully, a part of me wants to cower inside the monastery and attack my mortgage next and avoid the serpents and adders, the really weighty financial decisions that threaten to collapse my newfound frugal nature.

Anyway – enough from me. Go check out his blog, No More Harvard Debt. I think you’ll like it!


  1. This is truly admirable and a great goal…. but. I am wary about anyone cashing out a savings account in this economy unless she has a backup emergency account or someone who can act as a safety net. I currently have enough in savings to wipe out my student debt… but I also have a monthly mortgage payment. What happens if (g-d forbid) I lose my job tomorrow? I can defer student loan payments if necessary, but I don’t think I can defer my mortgage payments! I continue to pay my loans off in a relatively aggressive manner and still put money in my savings account each month. It is all a financial balancing act.

    • Good points, Aliza. Dave (as in Ramsey 😉 says to bring your emergency fund down to $1,000 – but when he has callers in a precarious financial position (health issues, job instability, etc.) he tells them to “pile up cash until the storm clouds pass”.

  2. You’re right; I do like that blog! I read only the first two posts, but it’s very validating for my current lifestyle. Thanks, Mara. I wouldn’t have heard about it without you.

  3. A big shovel helps, but the method is always the same. Cut expenses, find more income.

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