Things That Matter

A Latina Paid Off Her $102K Student Loan In 6 Years And She Honored The Moment With A Funeral

“DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD????,” Mandy Velez, 28, announced to her friends and family on social media. “It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight.” Velez shared the extent to which she penny-pinched, side-hustled, and made advances in her full-time career. That might mean that Velez put away an average of $17k every year for the last six years while working and living in New York City. The real story is far more impressive.

To celebrate, Velez asked her childhood friend, Mike Arrison, to bring his photography gear and meet her at a cemetery. She wore a long, black tulle skirt, and a black lace crop top. Her prop was four $.80 silver foil balloons that read: 102k. She even pulled off a viral, low-budget funeral for her student loan debt.

“I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills,” Mandy Velez proudly shared.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

The good news is that Velez is holding her strategy close to the chest. She opened up about her whole journey on Instagram. “It began in 2013, when I graduated with a total of 75K in student loans,” she shared. “I moved to New York, but I made sure to pay more than the minimums, which totaled to $1K a month. It was like another rent. I took jobs not based on what I really wanted but what could help me survive. I did this for five years straight.”

At one point, Velez was laid off, but she still never missed a payment. 

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

“Even after a lay-off during this journey, I hustled like hell and never missed a payment,” she confessed. “It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills.”

She savagely “killed the last 32k of debt in EIGHT months.”

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

Velez felt like her life was “on hold” and reaching a breaking point. She wanted to do more with her money than pay off debt. She wanted a house and a family. That fueled a shocking final blow to her debt and paid off the last $32,000 in just eight months. It wasn’t easy.

Velez lived off a third of her monthly salary to save that $32k.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

“Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton,” she wrote in a caption. The rest of her story does sound like murder. “I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice,” she revealed. 

“I said “no”—my God I said no—,” she continued. “To making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future. Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.”

Velez thinks the system is rigged, and that America needs significant policy change to freely educate their citizens.

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

“Lots of people will see my story and say, see if she could do it, so can you. But I don’t think that,” she said. She acknowledges that she was lucky in being able-bodied and healthy enough to miss entire nights of sleep and work three jobs. “Not everyone can do this,” she warns. Why? The game is rigged. “Only those who play know it,” she says.

Velez is sharing her story because she doesn’t “feel we student borrowers deserve the hardship that comes with these loans: high interest rates, sketchy providers, yearly tuition hikes, the list goes on.” She hopes that her story will inspire those who are in the game to murder their loans. She also hopes it better informs those who are considering playing. Finally, she wants you to vote for “policy that makes the system much more fair. Any little bit of action helps.”

Of course, what’s a celebratory funeral without endless gratitude to the Puerto Rican mami that supported her through it all?

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

“To my mom who saved me from a year more of debt by encouraging me to go to a state school first,” she begins her Instagram tribute, “even though we sobbed together when the financial aid to Syracuse and Boston wasn’t enough. I’m sorry I gave you so much trouble. I am so grateful for your foresight. I love you always and forever. Thank you, everyone, for cheering me on.”

What’s next for Velez? Girl’s finally taking a much-needed vacation.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

First thing’s first. She has an emergency fund set aside. Next, she’ll set aside money for taxes for all the dog walking and other side gigs. Then, she’ll start saving money for a down payment on a house. Finalmente, Velez has her “Sights set on Sicily next year” and is taking recommendations. The cherry on top of a successful slaying and funeral? “A cool thing about paying off debt is now having that extra income for ME. And the things *I* want to save for. Not filling the pockets of predatory lenders with insanely high interest rates. Feels amazing.????”

Our deepest, gratifying condolences to you, Velez. Felicidades.

READ: Wells Fargo Is Being Accused Of Denying Loans To Undocumented Students

I Have $150k in Debt — Here’s What Financial Experts Told Me To Do

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I Have $150k in Debt — Here’s What Financial Experts Told Me To Do

Suriyo Hmun Kaew / EyeEm / Getty Images

Money is a topic that is difficult to talk about. Traditionally, society has told us that there are three things that we should not talk about in polite company: religion, politics, and money. Well, politics seems to be the only thing anyone talks about these days. As for religion, well, I’m of the “to each their own” policy. But money is something that we often still ignore — especially when it comes to frank discussions about debt.

Nobody likes to admit that they have debt. Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or paying off cars, most of us have something that we’re keeping quiet about. According to CNBC, 70 percent of college students are graduating with a “significant amount of loans” which total $1.5 trillion in debt for the over 44 million Americans who have student loan debt. In fact, a recent survey revealed that two-thirds of millennials have at least $10,000 in student debt and more than a third admitted to over $30,000 in debt, according to Inc.

Even worse, 42 percent of those that had more than $30,000 in debt were women and 11 percent of millennials have over $100,000 in student loan debt. Unsurprisingly, credit card debt is actually even higher for millennials (at 46 percent) and car loans come in just behind student loans (at 34 percent). Then there’s also medical debt to think about, as well as the 20 percent of millennials who actually have a mortgage.

Some of us, like me, have debt in all of the categories.

When my husband and I met and moved in together just six weeks into our relationship, we did it because we were in love and knew we wanted to be together for the long haul.

ehplusmoney/Instagram

However, what we didn’t know at the time (and came to learn very quickly) is that we both came with a heaping amount of debt. Now, two and a half years into our relationship and nine months into our marriage, I can tell you that our debt has only increased: Collectively, we have around $150,000 in debt — about $100k of that in student loans, $40k in car loans, and another $10k in credit cards and medical bills. Add to that the fact that we just bought our first house and, well, our financial situation has gotten a bit more complicated.

It’s not easy to talk about finances, and it’s especially not an easy thing to do with someone you love. Sadly, money is often cited as a common cause of marriages falling apart — which is precisely why my husband and I are trying to tackle these issues sooner than later. I know that we won’t get out of debt any time soon, but having a secure financial plan is a good way to step into our future, together. So, shortly, after getting married, we decided to speak with some financial experts about how exactly to tackle our $150k in debt… WITHOUT driving each other crazy or stopping some of our other personal goals (like traveling together or having kids in the next couple of years).

Nora Dunn, a former Certified Financial Planner and blogger behind the financially savvy travel site, The Professional Hobo, told us that a lot of it depends on what we as a couple are earning and what our goals are. Dunn advised that my husband and I evaluate the importance of each of our goals. Was buying a house more important than taking vacation? How much did we expect to spend on a house based on the market in our area? According to her, it was all about taking an ‘everything in moderation’ plan, where we would examine our take-home income and expenses, and then divide our disposable income between different goals, depending on how our goals are prioritized.

After some discussion, we decided that prioritizing goals, and dividing our income accordingly, definitely seemed like a good place to start. In fact, Shana Bickel, CPA and Financial Coach, mirrored that advice when she told me that “it is not for me to tell the couple how to prioritize their financial goals.” The important thing, she says, is “to identify and get very clear about those goals and then develop a plan to pay off debt while saving for a home and allowing travel that makes sense for their financial health and well being.”

Another financial expert took a more straightforward approach.

black_girl_success/Instagram

“Sell those cars!” said Lynne Somerman and The Wiser Miser. “If you’ve got big financial goals like this, there’s no situation where I can recommend $40K in car loans when you can buy a reliable used vehicle for $10K. Even assuming you still need two cars, that’s $30K that you’ve now got towards a down payment. After that, it would depend on the type and interest rates on the student loans. If they’re private loans, go aggressively after them. If the interest is higher than about 4-5% on the student loans, they’d be my next priority. If their income is high enough, you could do both here.”

However, David Rae, a Certified Financial Planner based in Los Angeles, has a more realistic approach.

“Get those cars paid off and drive them forever!” he advised. “You don’t need a new car every two or three years. My car is paid off, and I plan to drive it forever. Each of those car payments is like a trip to Europe each year. Would you rather have a brand new car or a trip to Europe?”

He’s definitely right about that, which is why we have made paying off our cars our #2 priority (after paying off our credit cards), since we’d also like to save for an international trip in the near future. Rae also reminds me that, although student loans are important, so is saving for retirement.

“The student loans are going to take a long time to pay off. Get serious about them, but make sure to contribute to your retirement at least enough to get a company match,” he said. “This will be like free money from your boss, and the government will give you break on your taxes.”

Meanwhile, Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a money coach who runs The Fiscal Femme, said that it is all about opportunity cost.

“We can only use or spend each dollar we have once, no matter how much or little money we have,” she reminds me. “How can we use it in a way that will maximize our joy per dollar in the shorter and long-term? It’s about looking at each option and choosing consciously. If a couple is paying down their debt and that’s really important to them but they also want to travel, they might decide to let go of expenses in other areas to make that work. What expenses aren’t bringing them much joy? Would they rather live in a less expensive apartment for the time being so that they have more money to travel? When we take a look at each expense annually (including our bills) it’s much easier to see where our money is going and decide if we want to allocate it any differently.”

Taking a look at our overall finances, my husband and I were able to use this advice to devise some financial goals, set some priorities, create a payment plan, and figure out what we want to save for.

barefootbudgetmama/Instagram

It took some serious negotiating but we came away with a clearer picture of our finances. It’s not going to be easy, mind you. Having debt as a couple is difficult, but unfortunately, something that almost all of us face these days. If you don’t have student loans, then you might have a car payment or credit card debt or medical bills from that time before ACA when you didn’t have health insurance and ended up in the hospital (guilty!). But ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to your finances, whether you are coupled up or not, is to do the work to figure it out.

As Rae put it, “Get serious about your finances now — it won’t get easier when you have kids. You may make more money but you will be busier and tired. Parenting is hard. Just saying.”

University Student Arrested For Creating Meme Account Calling Out New Government

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University Student Arrested For Creating Meme Account Calling Out New Government

Suchel 2.0 / Facebook

On the last day of 2019, Bolivian officials arrested a university student for creating a popular meme account that criticized the controversial change of government. Bolivia saw a change from long-beloved indigenous President Evo Morales to the self-declared Conservative Christian Interim President Jeanine Añez Chavez. The arrest of María Alejandra Salinas comes in the wake of rising concern of the stability of the democracy after military personnel violently ransacked President Morales’ home. Morales is currently living in exile in Mexico City, his new asylum home. Now, those who were concerned about the new right-wing government are troubled to learn of Salinas’s arrest in what they perceive as a violation of free speech. Salinas, herself, was worried before she was even arrested. She deactivated her account just days before her arrest for fear of her own personal safety after receiving numerous death and rape threats.

The new government actions are prompting civilian debate about whether it’s okay for the government to censor and arrest citizens for sharing differing political views.

María Alejandra Salinas ran the meme account Suchel, which reached over 10,000 followers until she shut it down.

CREDIT: GUSTAVO GARECA / FACEBOOK

A graduate student in feminist studies at La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Salinas decided to join the mass protests after the forced resignation of former Bolivian President Morales. She protested in her own way by creating a digital meme account called Suchel that garnered 10,000 followers since Morales’ exile on Nov. 10. If you’re reading this, you probably already understand the art of the meme. Using humor to give cutting insight into political opinions, #Suchel became emblematic of an Internet subculture of Bolivia’s pro-Morales, pro-Indigenous movement.

The government’s move to arrest Salinas only seems to validate Suchel’s followers’ concerns: that the state is seeking to maintain its power by any means necessary, including violating free speech rights.

Others are celebrating the arrest of Salinas, calling her a “digital warrior” seeking to “destabilize the government of our President Jeanine Añez.”

CREDIT: SUCHEL 2.0 / FACEBOOK

A Facebook group called “¡El 21-F SE RESPETA!” that had reached an equal size to Suchel’s leftist group is celebrating her arrest. The right-ist group seems to also employ the same use of memes to spread their political ideology. Still, members are celebrating Salinas’s arrest, claiming that she “comes from a bourgeois family that enjoys the honey of capitalism and defends socialism.”

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reported that a bot campaign was employed by far-right government factions to influence public opinion in their favor. The CIDH found that 68,000 fake accounts posted over 1 million tweets during a week-long period before, during, and after the coup. Suchel became one of the few authentic informative accounts that indigenous and liberal Bolivians could rely on. 

“They say that I promote hate, indoctrinate people,” Salinas later wrote in a social media post. “This is just a page that doesn’t even reach 10 percent of the population in Bolivia. I have no power over people,” she added. 

According to Salinas, four men physically assaulted her and threatened to rape her if she didn’t give them her phone password.

CREDIT: @WYATTREED13 / TWITTER

Four men who knew that Salinas was the Suchel administrator ganged up on her and physically held her down in front of two police officers. When she refused to give them her cell phone code, they attempted to rape her. Later, when she confronted the police officers who “did nothing,” they told her “it was my fault because I had not listened to them,” according to a shocking social media post in Spanish (pictured above). Salinas was already the victim of sexual assault and death threats and deserved protection rather than persecution. On Dec. 28, Salinas announced that she would be shutting down the Suchel accounts for fear of her and her family’s safety. “Due to the lack of guarantees, I decided today to close Suchel on Facebook, at least until I am sure that my life and that of my family is not at risk,” Salinas posted to Suchel, according to Pagina SieteThree days later, she was arrested.

In a public statement in Spanish, CIDES demanded that “the corresponding authorities give the unrestricted respect for [Salinas’] rights during the legal process that is being carried out and taking into account the risks that due to the gender condition usually involve in these cases,” according to a local outlet.

Already, Suchel 2.0 accounts have popped up on several social media platforms.

CREDIT: @PAGINA_SIETE / TWITTER

The government’s attempt to control the online narrative of its administration’s rise to power and subsequent human rights violations appears to be unsustainable. While Salinas remains detained by authorities disdainful of her political views, Bolivians continue to raise their voices and seek community on and offline.

READ: An Angry Group Of Anti-Morales Protesters Attacked This Bolivian Mayor Ripping Off Her Clothes And Cutting Her Scalp