My plan is working. I’m finally making progress with my student loan debt. And I owe it all to Lyft for empowering me with hope for a better way.
There are tons of rideshare driving women in LA, most pursuing their own side hustles that companies like Lyft and Uber help make possible.
I owe almost $100K in student loans.
I’ll spare you the sad details that led to my financial ruins. All you need to know is that I was drowning in student loan debt the minute I graduated college. I applied for as many deferments and forbearances as I possibly could. I weaseled my way through whatever loopholes I could find, even went “back to school” for a semester, all as a means for putting off payments I couldn’t afford.
The way I saw things, I had two choices: pay rent or pay student loans; I couldn’t do both. I chose rent until about 2012 when I started burning out from working as many as two or three jobs on any given day. There’s gotta be more to life than this, I remember thinking to myself.
In 2013, I finally swallowed my pride, moved back home with one of my parents and made the conscious decision to stop making payments on my student loans. I had reached a point of no return in my life when I found myself freelancing full-time, barely scraping by with enough work and enough income to afford basic living expenses like food and gas.
Fuck you, student loans!
I wasn’t trying to blow off student loan debt; I had every intention of paying it back. But my lenders made me feel like my only choices were to make good on my debts and starve to death, or feed myself so that I can live long enough to make good on my debts. My private student lenders were backing me into a corner. I basically said, Fuck off! I’ll pay you when I can. And I eventually did! I called in once every six months as a courtesy check in.
Right around this time, another decision I made was to finally pursue a full-time career as a self-employed freelancer and consultant since I was having a hard time finding a steady job. I was already dabbling in freelance and consulting work on the side, but I was always afraid of the instability that came with the freelance life. Some months are good, some are bad. Some clients pay upfront, others never pay you on time. You’re still living paycheck to paycheck, just not in the traditional sense.
The year I decided to default on my student loans was also the year I started realizing that the only job security I will ever have is the one I create for myself. I find this kind of ironic considering how volatile the freelance marketplace can be. During this time of exploring life as a freelancer full-time, I also realized that the 9 to 5 life just wasn’t for me, especially when considering how the afternoon hours aren’t exactly my best hours for optimal productivity.
Freelancing for freedom
I made less than $10K my first year as a full-time freelancer, but I was already feeling happier, freer and more in control of my future. I got to choose my clients, only work with people I wanted to work with, create my own schedule and dictate my work environment. It was awesome. My mom, on the other hand, thought I was a deadbeat just coasting through life. She didn’t understand what I was trying to do, let alone what kind of life I wanted to create for myself. In her day, people got a job and worked for the same company for 20+ years until they retired. Job security doesn’t exist for people like me without a highly technical degree or trade skill. I’ve had to carve my own path ever since I graduated college.
Sometimes I envy my friends who get really cool jobs doing what I would love to be doing for these really big notable companies. I look at their Facebook and think, that’s job security. Then you talk to them and it’s not all roses and peaches like all the pictures and status updates may have led you to believe. Everyone is still reaching for something beyond themselves. We all just have different ways of going about getting the things we want in life. I may be willing to take more risks than the people who rely on a day job, but those people that take day jobs are willing to endure more bullshit than I care to deal with in a traditional work environment. Call me crazy, but I kind of like being a lone ranger. But I also still like being part of a team and feeling like I am making a bigger contribution to society as a whole.
How Lyft is helping me improve my credit score
At this point in my story, I’m sure you’re wondering where Lyft fits into the picture. Well, earlier this year, I found myself turning to Lyft as a last resort to make ends meet. None of the companies I wanted to work for seemed to want me working for them, so I came up with a plan to attract the kind of work I wanted to attract by taking a values-based approach to opportunities. If a project didn’t resonate with any of my core values, I started saying no. This gave me the freedom to say yes to more projects that I knew would help me focus and develop my craft while delivering more value to the clients I was already working with and building my personal brand.
As part of my plan, I decided to start driving for Lyft to solve a cash flow problem I was having with my business. Lyft gives me the flexibility to work around my own schedule. It also gives me a sense of security knowing that a direct deposit will go into my account every week if the income from my business isn’t coming in fast enough for me to pay my bills on time. I also started seeing Lyft as an opportunity to promote myself when people inevitably started asking me what I did when I wasn’t Lyfting.
After keeping spreadsheets of my activity as a rideshare driver for a few months before my business started growing by word of mouth, I discovered how easy it would be to allocate Lyft income to monthly payments that are always tough to make in on one lump sum payment without really feeling the blow on the rest of my finances. I finally had a plan for catching up on student loan debt.
The plan was to break up my monthly student loans payments by week and make that my weekly income goal for Lyft. I already knew how to make $1200 a month driving for Lyft part time, so I knew it would be super easy to make at least $100 to $200 a week with minimal effort on my part.
I filled my dad in on the plan since he was my co-signer on the account. He knew I couldn’t afford the payments so he pretty much took it over, but he only paid enough to keep it out of completely defaulting since it has been perpetually six months past due since 2013. But I also know my dad has his own debts to stress about so I decided it would be in the best of both our interests to work together to get my student loan current. He’s got property taxes coming due. I also read about a way to pay down his mortgage faster using a strategy I picked up from Tony Robbins’ book about mastering the game of money.
Hiyah, student loans!
According to my estimations, if my dad continued to pay the monthly minimum, while I matched that in the form of weekly payments, we could get my student loan back in good standing within three months time. It’s been two months and my plan is working! I just sent my dad a text message saying that with one more month of his help, I will have successfully taken over the payment from him and he’ll have an extra couple hundred dollars to make an additional payment towards the interest on his mortgage every month.
Win, win for everyone! And that is just one thing I’ve been working on this year to improve my credit score and lessen the burden of debt. Now, to make more money… Business has slowly been growing, so much so in the recent month that I’ve had to re-evaluate my entire business and start raising my rates so I can start building a team of my own. If I don’t, I’ll have maxed out on my working capacity, my growth will be stunted and so will my income. I don’t except that.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lyft for being there for me at a really low point in my life, when I felt like I had nothing going for myself. After two years of freelancing, I was about ready to call it quits and lead a miserable life working a soul-sucking job for someone who also hated their job. Lyft gave me hope when I needed it most, gave me the stability of a super supportive parent and taught me how to take ownership of my life.
Lyft helped pull me out of my slumps by solving a real problem I was having with a reliable solution that drove me happier than the brand’s new CMO could have ever hoped for.
Thank you Lyft for helping my business grow by putting the wheels back in my hands.