We Have Nearly $500,000 in Student Loan Debt—Will We Ever Get Ahead?

On this episode of the Money Confidential podcast, host Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez turns to Melissa Jean-Baptiste, the founder of Millennial in Debt, about her journey of paying off $102,000 of debt, and her strategies for anyone else trying to do the same.

graduation caps on a fish hooks
Photo: Olivia Barr

Every Monday on the Money Confidential podcast, host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez, a nationally recognized money expert, delves into your (confidential) money problems and delivers smart, practical, and completely doable solutions that will help you work toward your ultimate financial goals. This is the place to come for real talk about money—and real solutions that actually work.

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On This Episode

Student loan debt can make you feel like you're never going to get ahead, especially when your total student loan balance is hundreds of thousands of dollars, as it is for this week's listener. In this episode, host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez, interviews Melissa Jean-Baptiste, the founder of Millennial in Debt, about her journey of paying off $102,000 of debt, and her strategies for anyone else trying to do the same.

Meet Our Caller

"Harper" is an attorney based in Des Moines, Iowa. She is currently the sole breadwinner for her family, which includes her husband and three kids. Between her husband's medical school debt, and her law school debt, Harper and her husband have nearly half a million dollars in outstanding student loans. The couple has sacrificed certain luxuries, like family vacations, to manage student loan payments, but Harper worries about whether they'll ever be able to provide financial security for their children.

Anonymous Caller "Harper"

"The student loan debt makes me feel like we're never going to be able to get ahead and we'll always be stuck on this hamster wheel of student loan payments."

—Anonymous Caller "Harper"

Meet Host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez

Caroline White Photography

Stefanie is a nationally recognized personal finance expert ready to talk work, worth, and money with unapologetically ambitious women. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Oprah Magazine, and Stefanie has appeared on ABC World News, CBSN, Fox & Friends, Fox Business, Bloomberg, The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, and more to share her smart, practical solutions to any money problem.

Meet Our Expert, Melissa Jean-Baptiste

Melissa Alexandra
Melissa Alexandra

Melissa Jean-Baptiste is the founder of Millennial in Debt, where she tracked her journey of paying off $102,000 of her own debt. She is a first-generation American, has a master's degree in adolescent education, and has been a high school teacher in NYC for the last 10 years. Frustrated with all the barriers around learning about money and paying off loans, she made it her mission to spread knowledge on personal finance to her students and others to teach more people about financial literacy and provide an avenue for generational wealth.

Advice From the Episode

Melissa Jean-Baptiste

"It's just really important—besides getting your numbers on paper—to remember that you're running your own race. Because [your] financial success or independence is different from someone else's."

—Melissa Jean-Baptiste
  • Don't take student loan payment plans at face value—call your loan provider and ask about all of your options. —Melissa
  • In addition to making minimum payments monthly, create a sinking fund (another term for a savings account with a specific purpose) to make a lump sum payment on loans at the end of the year. Set monthly goals to make sure you're putting in enough money to meet your end-of-year goal. —Melissa
  • Find a community to support you in your debt pay-off journey. "If you need to learn from someone else, learn from someone else. But just start building out your network and your community because it's going to be so crucial and so helpful." —Melissa

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez

"Whether you're at the start of your student loan repayment journey or a decade into it, it's worth taking the time to step back and evaluate or reevaluate how your current payment plan fits into both your financial present and your financial future."

—Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez

Links and Resources

Download the transcript for this episode.

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