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Meet the student loan nerd tackling borrower questions one email at a time.
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First, some good news: we made our membership goal, friends. Thank you to all of you who became sustaining members of Death, Sex & Money!

It's especially meaningful at a time when we're hearing a lot from you in our inbox about debt and money anxiety. Thanks to so many of you for making the choice to pitch in to help us make this thing! (Also, I'm obliged to say....if you meant to donate but haven't yet, just click right here and it'll be off your to-do list). 

Speaking of choices, our episode this week is about a woman who made a very clear one that has helped hundreds of people. I talk to Betsy Mayotte, who for years worked in the student loan industry helping collect on loans, until she decided to leave that work behind to help borrowers full-time. She started a nonprofit because she could see that people needed more help navigating the labyrinthine maze of payment plans and rules. She answers emails and questions on Reddit every day, and so far, she hasn't taken a salary. 

Yes, there are people like Betsy in the world. 

** ALSO! ** If you will be in San Francisco on October 24, join me for a night of music, conversation, and confronting death. I'll be hosting and interviewing writer Anne Lamott (!) for the opening night of Reimagine End of Life, a community-wide festival to explore death and celebrate life through conversation and creativity. Use the discount code "ReimagineAnnaSale" for 20% off your ticket here. 

-Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
Betsy Mayotte knows that the student loan system is overcomplicated—she worked inside of it for 20 years. These days, the self-described "student loan nerd" runs a nonprofit dedicated to helping people understand the convoluted red tape surrounding student loans. In our new episode, she tells me why she left her work as a compliance officer to help people out from the other side, and answers your questions about the parts of your debt that still feel utterly baffling.
Your Stories: Student Loan Solutions
Whenever we talk student loans on the show, we always get a flood of responses from you (including on our interactive map!). One listener told us this was his second time around listening to these episodes, and that hearing them again made him think about how the way he attacked his debt changed in the last few years:
"Those episodes in 2017 got me excited and interested in paying more down on my loan instead of paying just a little bit more than the minimum monthly payment. I forgot that your show was a factor in my impetus to pay it off. And I paid off my loan this past March!

It took me 13 years to repay $22,000. In 2017, I had a little over $11,000 to pay off, so technically I paid off that $11,000 in 15 months.  

I made a major payment via a bonus from my job, and in 2018 I got roommates, so the extra money I had from my reduced rent I allocated to loan payments, doubling my monthly payment. Then, I made a bunch of smaller additional payments. I discovered that sticking to grocery budget really opened up a lot of free cash and I could make random payments from cumulative extra grocery money."

— Craig, 36, GA 
A listener named Lisa also reached out, about how hearing these stories for the first time changed the way she's thinking about her kids' future student loans: 
"I had passed on this episode/series when it first released. I honestly did not have an interest and felt I would not be able to relate. My husband and I never went to college, something we have both always regretted. We have worked our way up in modest jobs that provide a decent living for us and our two children. We have a home, take family vacations and have 401ks.  

While we have always said to our children NOT going to college will NOT be an option, we have absolutely nothing saved for them. Knowing we have nothing put away for college, I knew student loans were going to be part of the deal. After hearing the stories on this podcast, I am so ashamed as a parent! This is what I am subjecting our kids to?! The reality is this will be our debt too! I had no idea how out of control this type of debt could be. 
 
Our oldest entered high school this year.  I've never wanted him to feel like we couldn't 'afford' college. He's a straight A student and wants to attend an expensive private university. I know there is no way for complete damage control at this point. But this definitely triggered me to start considering some immediate financial actions." 

—Lisa, 46, TX
And a listener named Steven wrote to tell us about a strategy for avoiding debt altogether that he wishes more high schoolers were aware of:
"I just listened to your two-part episode on college debt,  and it does pain me to hear all the stories of not only those struggling with their debt, but also those who spoke about how to get their children through college. 
 
I am a project manager with a construction group and I am part of a group that informs kids that there are great careers that don’t require a college education. The construction industry is in dire need of skilled workers (carpenters, electricians, metal workers, welders, etc.). You can go to school to learn these trades and make a fantastic living doing so. 
 
Yes, this may not be for everyone. But most don’t see or believe this is an option. The industry is starving for these workers and hiring at large rates. These jobs are well-respected, and there is a lot of pride in the work being performed
not only to see the fruits of your labors, but knowing someone else is in need of it.  
 
I myself did receive a college degree and was fortunate to do so without college debt. But I realize I am a very small minority. And had I not had the financial aid I did, I may have taken a different route. But the knowledge that there are other paths in life before jumping into debt for a degree is good to have." 
—Steven, 33, KS

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And if you were into Felicity, Addy, Samantha or any of the other American Girl dolls or books—boy oh boy, do we have a podcast rec for you. American Girls is hosted by two historians in their early 30s (both Molly fans, by the way) who are reexamining into the American Girl series book by book...while also managing to work in sidebars about The Bachelor and Fyre Fest. 
A little update on our Podcast Appreciation Month membership challenge...
we beat it!


Like, really beat it. Thank you so much to the *262* of you who became monthly supporters of the show!
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