Tag Archives: student loan refinancing

Top 3 Things to Do TODAY to Quit Your Job and Travel the World

5 months ago, I was trapped by a lengthy commute to work, the grey walls of a prison cell, errr, cubicle, and the typical degradations that come with a corporate gig.  My insides would try to claw their way out when I used all my willpower to remain seated in my ergonomic office chair.  On countless random weekdays, I had half a mind to get up from my seat at 3 p.m., pulling an Office Space and just walk the hell out.  I would fly to a tropical beach, order a Mai Tai and work on creative things that inspired me!

A Tropical Beach and a Mai Tai a Lot Like These
A Tropical Beach and a Mai Tai a Lot Like These

But I didn’t.  Why not?  Well, the corporate world is a gnarly beast to free yourself from.  If I just walked out randomly, I’d likely be crawling back begging for a job again very soon because there are chains that come with corporate life.  It requires a hefty financial commitment just to do the work.  You need to commit with a second set of corporate clothes, money for transportation, typically at least 10 hours of your weekdays and an expensive lifestyle that accommodates for your lack of free time.  A corporate job then becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, but there are things you can do today, right now to put you on the path to GTFO.

I’m writing to you today from Japan.  2 weeks ago, I was in Taiwan picking up delicious scallion pancakes for breakfast from a small alley shop.  One month ago, I was spending Christmas on Patong Beach, Thailand having cocktails with a bunch of Swedes.  6 weeks ago, I was crewing a sailboat from Malaysia to Thailand.  2 months ago, I laughed so hard I wet my pants in Ireland listening to stories with new friends over dinner and drinks.  4 months ago, after a bit of preparation, I pulled an Office Space.  That is, I left work after putting in a couple weeks’ notice and long after doing these next steps.  These are things you can do Right Now and they make sense to do even if you don’t eventually knock down your cubicle walls.

Escape to Paradise: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Escape to Paradise: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

1. AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS — If you’re not going to have a steady income, you’re obviously going to draw from your savings for a while lounging on that Thai beach.  Time to fatten up your account!

If your employer offers direct deposit to multiple accounts as a payment method, this can be a ridiculously easy step.  As I slowly realized that quitting my job and not having another one to jump to was a definite possibility, I bumped up the amount that went to my savings account.  I think I started with $50 from each paycheck, then $100, then $200.

Automatically allocate as much as you can to a savings account and try not to touch it unless you have an emergency.  By having your savings separated without you thinking about it, it’s easier to forget about.  Consequently, you’ll more easily live within the means of a new budget: your slightly smaller checking account.  Meanwhile, your savings account grows and you barely notice the pinch!  It really works.

Why it’s smart even if you don’t quit your job: in this volatile world, it’s just smart in general to have padded savings.  Do you have enough cash to cover at least 6-months worth of living expenses?  Lay-offs happen.  Illnesses happen.  Shit luck happens.  There are no guarantees other than at one point or another, it’s going to be good to have more in savings than you could foresee needing.  CYA!

2.  GET A FRESH PASSPORT — Getting a passport takes a while, and you’re not going to want to wait around for it when you’re ready to make the leap.  Apply for it today!


Even if you have one now, when you travel, you often need your passport to be valid for 6 months from when you arrive in a country, or even several months after you intend to leave.  Luckily, you can renew your passport now, even if it hasn’t expired.  Go to this U.S. Department of State link for more info:   https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/renew.html

Why it’s smart even if you don’t quit your job: you can still be spontaneous even if you work full time!   If you don’t have a passport, though, your spontaneity is drastically limited.  Plus, there are new U.S. rules about ID’s coming out that will make life in general more of a pain if you only have a driver’s license from certain states as ID.  You can see a current list from the Department of Homeland Security about which states’ ID’s are cool with Big Brother here:  http://www.dhs.gov/current-status-states-territories

3.  REDUCE YOUR DEBT — Debt, specifically student loan debt, was the biggest burden holding me back from quitting my job and traveling the world sooner.  There are 2 easy ways you can start hacking away at the binding ties of debt.

For typical credit debt, say a credit card you carry a balance on, it’s best to automate the payments.  It works just like the method for fattening up your savings – you have as big of a chunk as you can manage pulled from your available cash without your involvement.  Then, when you look at how many dollars you have in your checking account, your mind will automatically work within the new budget.  Bump up those payments as much as you can tolerate!  You want to be 100%, completely free of credit card debt if you quit your job.

For student loan debt, there are some fantastic, new refinancing options out there!  If you just want to pay down your debt faster and don’t plan on quitting your job, you may be eligible to dramatically reduce your interest rate.  6 months before I quit my job, I refinanced with the goal of paying off my student loans as soon as possible.  I chose terms that were as fast as I could manage.  That means, I chose terms with the highest monthly payments I could afford.  Typically, the shorter the payback term, e.g., paying back in 5 years versus 15 years, the less you pay per month in interest.

Later, when I realized I would not be jumping to a new,  better-paying job, I went the opposite way with my student loans.  Knowing I would likely not have an income soon, I refinanced with the longest terms possible.  This pushed my final payment way out to 20 years in the future, and raised my interest rate slightly, but I was paying over $200/month less, and that means I could stretch my savings out a whole lot farther.  Plus, I was STILL paying less in interest than if I had stayed with Sallie Mae/Navient.  Refinancing to get away from those companies was a no-brainer.

Check out the rough estimate chart below for examples on what you could save per year.  If you reduce your interest rate by 1%, 1.5%, 2.0%, etc., in the column on the left, you can follow the row over to the right to see about how much you would save per year on a loan of $10,000, $15,000 or $25,000, etc.

Annual Savings Estimate from Student Loan Refinancing

Annual Savings Estimate from Student Loan Refinancing

I’ve tested out 2 companies myself and had great results.  If you use THIS LINK to refinance with SOFI, it counts as a referral from me.  I get a finder’s fee and you get $100!  DRB is another great company where you may be able to get slightly better terms and rates, and you can get referred by me by sending me your info here.

You do need excellent credit to qualify for both of these refinancing options, so do it now, while you still have a job!  Check out both companies and see which gives you the better offer.

Why it’s smart even if you don’t quit your job: paying interest is like flushing your money down the crapper!  Why pay more than you have to?  The faster you pay off your debt, and the lower the interest you are charged, the more cash that stays in your pocket.  That just plain makes sense — no matter what your situation!

It takes a lot of planning to successfully pull off the type of sabbatical many of us dream of, but these 3 things are huge yet simple steps to take to make it possible.  Plus they just make sense in general!  Do them early.  Do them now!

Hi, From Freedom! Come Join Me!
Hi, From Freedom! Come Join Me!

If you have more questions about taking a much-needed sabbatical, money management, or anything else, please let me know in the comments below.

Female Engineers: 5 Tips for Getting More Respect at the Office

In September, I reached my tolerance limit for sexism at the office and peaced-out.  For years, I tried to determine whether the disrespect was just the regular kind or because I had lady parts.  Finally, enough evidence amassed to tell me, “no, when people regularly neglect to invite you to important meetings where your expertise is vital, don’t make eye contact when talking about technical subjects, don’t ask for your technical assistance when you are the assigned matter expert, and when high-ranking employees vocally make distinctions about candidates and audiences because of their gender, it’s your vagina that’s getting in the way”.

I still find it hard to understand, as I was treated with so much more respect earlier in my career, when I obviously had less experience and knowledge, and fewer stories of technical Goliaths slain.

I’ve had a lot of time to think here, though, alone and jobless in the woods of Ireland.  Maybe there is an extra 13% of effort I could have put in beyond the 110% I expended each day refraining from stabbing myself in the eyes.  Below is an instructional video with 5 things I now realize I could have done differently to earn more respect.  Hopefully it can help female engineers currently struggling.  Please share if you know any.

If none of that advice appeals to you, and you think bailing is your best option, make sure you’re paying as little as possible in interest on your student loans while you still have great credit!  CLICK HERE to be referred for student loan refinancing with the best companies I’ve found.

How Much Money Can You Save Refinancing Your Student Loans?

When I refinanced my private and federal student loans this year, I saved over $1,000 per year!  That’s all cash that would have been handed over for just interest payments – not money paying down what I owe.  If you’re paying more than you need to in interest, you’re throwing your cash money dollars down the crapper.  It pays to investigate whether you can get better rates!

What follows is a detailed review of 2 really great places to refinance: SOFI and Darien Rowayton Bank.  I refinanced through both.  You’ll also find a chart to easily get a rough estimate on how much money you could save next year.  All info is current as of 11/8/15.

If you’d rather skip the following info and go right to starting the refinancing process, please go HERE to be referred by me to either company and possibly earn me a finder’s fee!

I first refinanced private loans with horrendous interest rates through SOFI.  One of the loans charged over 9% interest annually before I switched over!  At the time, my goal besides saving money was to pay off my loans faster.  By the way, the shorter the repayment term (the faster you pay it off) the lower the rate you will generally be charged in interest.

I chose a 10-year, variable rate term.  For variable loans, SOFI bases the interest rate they charge on the one-month LIBOR index, which can change monthly.  It’s a bit of a risk, but considering I was already paying over 9%, not much of one for me.  The rate will never go higher than what SOFI states as the cap – which as of today is advertised at 8.95% APR for 5, 7 and 10 year terms and 9.95% APR for 15 and 20 year terms.

I hemmed and hawed over picking a rate, and called up SOFI’s customer service about it.  I was told I could refinance at any time, so if I chose to go to a longer repayment term later, no worries.  (That ended up not being exactly true, by the way.)  If you remove my decision-making time, the total refinancing paperwork and disbursement time was about a month.  That’s really good!

The interest rate they ended up offering after all the paper pushing on their end was 4.055% variable APR for the 10-year term.  After a 0.25% discount for setting up automatic payments, the rate became 3.805% variable APR.  This was for a loan of over $11,000 to pay off multiple loans, with the average rate for the whole ball being something over 7% fixed APR.  So, I looked at that and was able to roughly say, hey I’m probably saving at least 3% next year on a >$10,000 loan, so that means I’m saving at least 0.03x$10,000 = $300.  That’s $300 more in my pocket versus the bank’s pocket over the next 12 months, while paying about the same monthly amount.  Winning.

One of the reasons I stalled on deciding a repayment term, was I thought one’s salary would impact the rate offered more than credit score, and my salary needed to increase dramatically anyways.  After I received my final offer package from SOFI, my hunch about how income would affect rates seemed to be confirmed.  I found out I had SHOCKINGLY good credit: 833 FICO!  It was especially surprising considering how hard the Great Recession had screwed me years ago.  Yet, somehow, I wasn’t even offered the mid-range of rates for that repayment term – it was higher than the middle of the range.  I talked with other SOFI customers at a mixer they through in Chicago, and some of them shared my hypothesis.  I can’t say for sure how much income is weighed vs. credit score, but it’s something to keep in mind.

For an idea of how good an 833 FICO score is, here is the chart included in my offer package from SOFI in April 2015:

FICO Chart Reported in My SOFI Loan Approval Packet - April 2015
FICO Chart Reported in My SOFI Loan Approval Packet – April 2015


Several months later, I decided I wanted to change strategies.  Instead of paying off my loans as fast as possible, I wanted to push out my payment term as far into eternity as possible, thereby lowering my monthly commitment.  You know, in case I decided to quit my job and live off my savings in a foreign country or something.  I still had about a $400 monthly ball chained to my leg, and that’s almost a month’s worth of rent in some places!

I tried to go back to SOFI and push my 10-year term out to a 20-year term, because the process had gone so smoothly.  For whatever reason, when I tried to refinance the same loan again, they no longer offered me a 20-year term as an option.  That’s when I turned to Darien Rowayton Bank, or DRB.

The rates were better than what SOFI offered, as I’d read many other people experienced, but be forewarned: they have more demand than they can handle, and it could take a very long time to process.  It took about 2 months for my first loan to be refinanced, and their online application process is a confusing mess.  I got several “oops” emails from the automated system saying I needed to submit things I had already submitted weeks ago.  BUT, those rates!  And once you set everything up, it should be smooth sailing afterward.  So, if you can deal with a bit of annoyance and some extra time to get things started, it’s totally worth it.

This time, I got my hellish Sallie Mae loans – the bulk of my student loan debt, about $30,000 – repacked into something much friendlier.  Sallie had me by the apples for over $260 each month and charged over 6% interest.  I asked DRB to give me a ridiculously long 20-YEAR variable rate loan for the whole shebang.  They offered a 4.03% variable interest rate with the same 0.25% deduction if you do automatic payments, so 3.78%.  My monthly payments are now about $180/month for this chunk.  DRB bases their rate on the 3-month LIBOR (as opposed to SOFI’s one-month), and it’s capped at 10%.  There is an extra bit of complication with DRB here, as you need to open a checking account with DRB for automatic payments, but that part of the process went relatively smoothly.  The DRB checking account can automatically deduct from another personal checking account you hold with another bank a few days before your loan is due and then make your payment automatically and on time.

With DRB, I saved around 2.7% APR on about $30,000.  So, that’s 0.027x$30,000, or over $800 that will be going to my bottom line instead of the bank’s over the next year.  Of course, as the principal gets paid down, I’ll be paying less in loan interest anyways, but this still serves as a good rough idea.  Plus, who are we kidding, I was barely making a dent in my Sallie Mae loans anyways.

The credit score DRB found for me through TransUnion in August 2015 was 810.  This was lower than the 833 SOFI found for me, but still very good.  I’m not sure if the difference stemmed from different credit checking sources or just the fact that the SOFI refinancing required a pull on my credit score, or both.  Otherwise, my financial picture was exactly the same, if not a little better, as I had more cash in savings in August.  Whatever the case, if one company turns you down or gives you terms you don’t love, it may be a good idea to try out the other.  Here is the very different credit score chart included in my package from DRB:

FICO Chart from DRB Loan Packet August 2015
FICO Chart From My DRB Loan Packet – August 2015


After I found out DRB would still offer me a 20-year loan term, and at great rates, I refinanced my SOFI loan through DRB, as well.

After all my playing around with the loans, my final savings in interest payments was over 1,000 bucks per year, and my monthly payments went from around $400 to $250.

So how much money can you put back in your pocket?  Well first, here are the rate ranges and terms offered by SOFI and DRB as retrieved online 11/8/2015.

SOFI Rates and Terms, pulled 11/8/2015 from THIS LINK:

SOFI Rates
SOFI Student Loan Refinancing Rates Retrieved 11/8/2015


DRB Rates and Terms, pulled 11/8/2015 from THIS LINK:

DRB Rates
DRB Student Loan Refinancing Rates Retrieved 11/8/2015


If your current rates are higher than these, you can subtract your current rate by something in the stated ranges and see roughly what you could save in a year.  So, for example, if you wanted to refinance a loan for $30,000, and you expect to still owe about $25,000 worth of it in 12 months, you can use the $25,000 column under “TOTAL AMT. of SAMPLE LOAN” below.  Then, you can see what lower APR’s could save you in cash for a year.  Say that $30,000 loan is sitting in Sallie Mae’s hands with 7% APR fixed rate.  If you want to see what going to a 5-year fixed rate loan at SOFI could save you, subtract 7% APR by something in the range listed in the charts above.  If you assume you’d get a 5% APR with SOFI, that means the difference in APR is 7%-5% = 2.0% Difference in APR.

So, take that $25,000 column, follow it down to the “2.0% per yr.” Difference in APR row, and you get a super rough estimate of $500 savings for you over the next year.  If you want a more precise estimate, the refinancing companies have calculators as you’re going through the process, but this should give you an idea if it’s worth your time in the first place.  And remember, you’ll be saving over the life of your loan, not just over the next year!  …But you’ll (hopefully) be  saving less as time goes on because you’ll owe less.

Annual Savings Estimate from Student Loan Refinancing
Annual Savings Estimate from Student Loan Refinancing

If you’re ready to look into refinancing with either SOFI or DRB or both, please let me refer you.  If you follow through with the refinancing, you could score me a referral bonus, and I would appreciate it very much!

For SOFI, you can CLICK HERE and get started right away.

For DRB, you can CLICK HERE and fill out the form.  I’ll manually refer you and DRB will contact you from there.

Some caveats:

  • You need Amaziballs Credit
  • You need either a specific degree (DRB) or to be a graduate of a preferred university (SOFI)
  • As of info posted today (11/8/2015), the minimum amount you can refinance is $5,000 through DRB or $10,000 through SOFI
  • The rates and terms posted here are subject to change

Good luck and feel free to ask any questions about student loan refinancing!

Turning Myself into a Box of Fruit Loops

With plenty of time and unprecedented levels of freedom at my disposal, I decided to paint myself every color in arms’ reach.

If sitting along the River Liffey for the afternoon was done to please my inner child, I did this to please my inner teenager.  19-year-old me is SO PSYCHED we could finally do this!  Gray, corporate environments are so stifling and lame.  Now, I finally don’t have to play by their rules for the first time in my adult life!

If your student loans are as stifling as corporate culture and the payments are too high for you to entertain doing anything else with your time, look into refinancing!  There are some great companies out there now which may not have existed last time you thought about it.  To be referred to SOFI or DRB by me and possibly earn me some cash, please go here:


Life After Quitting My Job and Moving to Ireland: Old Man of the Mountain

Life is different now that I no longer trudge into a freezing cubesicle every weekday, and instead awake to  views of an Irish mountainside.  For one thing, I grew out a beard.

Becoming Old Man of the Mountain Means You Stop Tweezing
Becoming Old Man of the Mountain Means You Stop Tweezing

For another thing, I’m paying WAY LESS in student loans after I refinanced through DRB.  Whether you want to become an old hermit too, or you’re just paying too much in student loans, it makes sense to look into student loan refinancing.  You might be eligible for lower interest rates, meaning more cash toward actually paying down your loan or lower payments, and/or better repayment terms which change how much you owe each month.  DRB (Darien Rowayton Bank) offers the best rates and widest range of payment plans I’ve personally seen, second to SOFI.

If you’re interested in refinancing please sent me a message via the CONTACT tab at the top with your name and e-mail address and let me know!  I can then refer you to DRB and possibly earn some cash from them for doing so — meaning at no cost to you, you’ll be funding a way for me to leave the mountain and have a pint of Guinness with real, live people.  AND I WOULD APPRECIATE IT SO VERY MUCH!

Or, if you know people who are also choking on student loans, please share this article or the video below!  You’ll be doing us both a big favor.

For more insight on my new life, watch the Old Man of the Mountain take you through his day: