Last year (2018), 44.2 million Americans had student loan debt or approximately $1.48 trillion dollars worth.
On average, loaners owe $350 per month. It’s common for potential students to ask themselves whether school is really worth it, considering the amount of money that will be owed post-graduation. The pressure to find a good paying job immediately out of college becomes even greater with debt hovering overhead.
The term ‘digital nomad’ has become a hot topic of conversation for millennials in the last fews years. According to Investopedia, “digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job; the term is most often used to describe people who are living or traveling abroad while working”. When you piece together remote work, travel, and massive student debt, something does not connect. I think it’s fair to say that it is close to impossible for a majority of post-grads to travel, work, and pay monthly student loans.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel with a program called Remote Year and simultaneously work for my company, Ansel, over the last year. In those 12 months, I was able to sufficiently pay off my student loans ($40,000). This wasn’t, by any means, easy. However, there are ways to do it; several tips and tricks to afford nomadic and productive lifestyle. Here’s what I’ve found:
Take advantage of the tax benefits
This is huge. If you’re outside of the USA for 330 out of 365 days in the year, you can qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exemption (talk to a tax professional to see if your situation applies). This income exemption covers your first 101.5K. If you were to make $101,500 – you’d be paying $26,246 in taxes. That’s a lot of money to be saving. There are expat tax experts online who can really help with the filing process.
Take advantage of digital tools
When you’re working as a digital nomad, it’s important to make sure you’re extremely organized. That maintaining client work, invoices, expense records, contracts, and accounting. There are so many tools out there that can help simplify these tasks, allow for more freedom to travel independently, and help you focus on the work that matters more to your bottom line and, in turn, pay off those student loans. There are apps like Mint and Acorns to help you monitor your daily / monthly spend and provide tips to save small amounts of money. After time, this adds up and lets you have a little wiggle room in regard to spending. AndCo is a great accounting software that manages everything from invoices to proposals and expenses.. I’m also constantly on the lookout for new tools that simplify my workflow on ProductHunt – where new digital tools are released daily and are voted on like posts are on Reddit; only the best make it on to the frontpage.
Visit less expensive countries
According to NerdWallet in 2016, Milennials spent $48,576 per year (on things like food, shelter, alcohol, entertainment, transportation). That’s about $4k per month. However, if you live for one month in Thailand, you can easily survive on $1000. In Medellin, Colombia, an average taxi ride is about $4, a bus ride is 60 cents, and the above-ground Metro system charges only 80 cents a ride.” There are also places throughout Europe that are extremely affordable and very cool. Prague is 55% cheaper to live than London and a studio apartment in an expensive part of town is around $850USD. In the US, we have so many expenses that are, to a certain extent, mandatory to maintain. When you travel, you are able to pick and choose your destination and in turn, pay lesser premiums and save money.
As student debt numbers continue to rise, post-grads continue to search for more unusual and unique experiences. Traveling is definitely something that should be considered in an effort to expand cultural and professional values and ideas. Hopefully these tips will help provide some sort of foundation to begin thoughts around a remote work career.
It’s impossible to put a price tag on how important this last year of travel has been for my overall development of business and personal life. The places I have lived, from Mexico City to Cape Town and Lisbon provided me with invaluable experiences that have only helped to increase my productivity and ability to save money to pay off my student debts.
John Lim is a contributing writer at Grit Daily. He is the CEO of Ansel.