By Chris Vasquez

“We thought if we lived like students for one more year, we could then go forward and have the life we wanted without the pressure of debt…” -Christin Vasquez

My wife, Christin, worked hard to pay off her $35,000 balance in law school student loans over the 13 months after passing the bar exam.  When I walked the stage in 2010, I was debt-free.  We are both millennials.

Most of the articles I see paint my generation with a wide (and mostly negative) brush.  Those who were born between 1982-2004 have been characterized as narcissistic, drowning in debt, and the killers of dozens of industries (chain restaurants, home ownership, and department stores– just to name a few).  I’ve always felt that there were some millennials who didn’t fit this description – especially the part about drowning in debt – but our stories just weren’t being told.  Recently I stumbled across this article (Inside a swanky New York party for graduates who paid off their student loans).  I thought to myself, “Too bad we don’t have more stories like this about millennials…and too bad I didn’t know about this when Christin paid off her student loans!”

When Christin graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in May 2010, she owed Sallie Mae $35,000.  During the three years of law school she lived a frugal student lifestyle.  While her peers were embracing a “YOLO” (“you only live once…) lifestyle, Christin carpooled to save money on gas, worked during the summer, and found thrifty forms of entertainment like $3 matinee movies. After graduation she took her first job in the legal writing department of a law firm in Houston, and for the first time her monthly income increased significantly.  Together we looked at her financial situation.  After crunching the numbers, we found that we could realistically pay this debt off in about a year.  The only catch? Continue living like a law school student – keep in mind that she had spent the past 7 years as a student.  We determined that her living costs were going to be equivalent to about half of her monthly income.  The rest of the money was used to pay towards her student loans, which we ironically deemed “Great Aunt Sallie Mae”.  In the summer of 2010 Christin sat for the bar exam and learned that she passed a few months later!  With her new official credentials, she became an attorney at the same law firm and was able to negotiate a higher salary.  You probably guessed it – that additional income was put toward paying off student loans.  Christin’s discipline and determination paid off – 13 months later, we received a farewell letter from our favorite aunt, indicating the end of our relationship.

While keeping delayed gratification in mind was difficult in the moment, and the “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”) was real– skipping pricey after work happy hours and always packing a lunch, for example – what was unexpectedly more challenging was combatting the negativity and discouragement that some of our colleagues and peers threw at her.  When Christin became a lawyer, suddenly her nine-year-old Toyota Corolla was the victim of some snide remarks from her colleagues.  All around her, legal assistants and attorneys were purchasing new cars, and participating in every lunch event and happy hour that took place.  While sitting out on these events was difficult, Christin was keeping the end-goal in mind.  Attorneys who worked with Christin who had been with the firm for years shared their stories of making payments on their own student loans well into their 30’s and 40’s. When sharing her own goal of paying off her loans in a year, instead of receiving congratulatory remarks and positivity from those people, she was met with shock and disbelief.

Lucien, Stirling & Gray describes our ideal clients as those who live below their means, and most importantly, have faith in the future (read more about that here: Faith in the Future).  We believe there are millennials who are behaving their way to success – just as Christin and I have done. Those millennials, in particular, are the people Lucien, Stirling & Gray hopes to work with someday. Christin and I knew that being debt free in our 20’s would set us up to be more successful in the life transitions we were expecting. For us, that’s included getting married, purchasing our first home, and welcoming our daughter in October 2016. A lot of hard work and sacrifice was put into shaping our life to be what it is today. If you’re a millennial who is behaving your way to success but you’re exhausted by the bad rap our generation gets, tell your story! We’d love to hear it!  Moreover, if you are a person or couple looking for a professional team to assist in making decisions that lead to successes similar to ours, never forget, we are here to help.