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Here’s how a Philadelphia couple paid off $150k in student loan debt

By the time Celeste Hernandez Revelli graduated from Loyola University in 2008, she had $90,000 in student loan debts. Her future husband, Tom Revelli, also had a student loan debt of $60,000 from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, giving the couple a massive $150,000 to pay off. And that’s just what they’ve done, along with getting married, going on trips and opening their own brewery. It sounds too good to be true, but the couple focused on working hard, and now Revelli, director of eMoney Advisor, wants to help others with their finances.

Picking a loan

Celeste Hernandez Revelli’s mother was a single parent who brought her daughter and son to New Jersey from the Philippines. She always wanted to work in finance, but it wasn’t a traditional career path, so she became a nurse to support her children, with the hope of putting them through college. She took out a federal Parent Plus loan, not really understanding how much it would cost them in the long run. Revelli, now 32, says “I would have researched all the options for college instead of loans – such as grants, scholarships, and financial aid. Or perhaps I should have gone to a community college for two years. I would have looked much more closely at the costs ahead of time, calculated the loan repayment schedule. Now that’s what I do for financial advisers.”

How they paid off their debts

Over the course of a decade, the couple have paid off almost all of their debts, with husband Tom just having a few monthly payments left. Even better, in 2017 they opened Urban Village brewery in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Celeste says, “a lot of money that we would normally have been saving went toward paying down more debt each month.” So she contacted her lenders, went on an income-based repayment plan and started working at restaurants and tending bars in the evenings and at weekends as additional income. Every dollar that they brought into their household had a job, even going into individual envelopes, such as one for loans and one for rent.

You can do the same

Revelli believes that many millennials think that they can’t save anything because the cost of living is too high and there’s pressure from social media to go on vacations, have a big wedding and splurge on luxuries. Prioritizing hard work in the present can help you save and pay back debts for a more comfortable future. Research your financial options, such as combining current debts into one for lower interest rates, which will make it cheaper and quicker to make repayments. Revelli recommends using budgeting apps and speaking to financial advisers, like herself. The reality is that people can save, and even if it’s only $5 a month it’s a start that can make a big difference.

Ultimately, working hard and making sacrifices will pay off in the long run, and being free of student debts can be a huge relief. Celeste and Tom have both tripled their income over the last 10 years, which has made it easier to pay off debts and live comfortably, all because they prioritized their finances well.


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