A Harvard MBA Pays Down $101K Of Debt

In his blog, Mihalic lays bare all the financial detail of his life

Was Harvard ultimately worth it? Mihalic says he has no remorse at having gotten an MBA from Harvard, regardless of the cost. “Harvard,” he says emphatically, “was a great and awesome experience.” Or as he put it on his blog, ” HBS will forever hold a special place in my heart. There aren’t enough gigabytes on this blog to list all the reasons to attend HBS.”

His conclusion is obvious, yet filled with truth. “A lot of people in this country–regardless of socioeconomic status–have an unhealthy obsession with things and experiences and statuses. We shop brands; we drop names. We try to keep up with the Joneses. We comfortably tolerate an unhealthy level of debt.”

WHEN HE FINALLY PAID OFF HIS DEBT ON MARCH 29TH, HE WAS FLAT BROKE

That was something Mihalic couldn’t quite tolerate. One of his loans–for $26,101–was at an interest rate of 7.9%. Another couple of loans–for a total of $43,068–carried an interest rate of 6.8% (see table above). So he was extra anxious to ditch the debt. Each day during his challenge, Mihalic would pore over a spreadsheet that tracked his progress. The negatives, when he went over his budget, were marked in red, and the positives were in green. On March 29th, after much discipline and patience, he made his final payment on the debt, three months ahead of his ten-month deadline. Mihalic says he then had to ask his roommates for their rent a few days early so he could meet his mortgage payment for the month on time.

“I felt good,” he recalls, after sending in his last check. “I knew that the reward would be worth it. I got misty-eyed looking at the progress I made and all the work that went into it. My heart was beating so hard and I was still in shock that I had done it. On that day I made that payment, I had nothing. But every day I go to work now I’m actually increasing my wealth instead of reducing my debt.”

DON’T MISS: MBA DEBT: THE BURDEN GROWS HEAVIER & GETS SCARIER or THE CLASS THE LOANS FELL ON

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  • kbreezy

    You’ve really bought into the narrative, haven’t you?

  • Jimdetejas

    Great story and love the lessons of making sacrifices to accomplish a meaningful goal! Amazed and disappointed at haters and their negative comments… Jealousy is so ugly.

  • yolo

    He did have an obstacle, his car got towed costing him ~$200.

  • Mhyder1

     What you say is true but I think he was more concerned about the $42,000 than emotional satisfaction. An now he can contribute to his 401k as much as he likes. I think it was a good move.

  • thekiyote

    It says he got the rent money early from his roommates so he could pay off his mortgage.  However he collected the rent, it most likely fell after the mortgage payment was due.  He probably went for broke to pay off his student debts, leaving him short for mortgage payments.

  • Lol

    how does the single guy who makes 6 figures pay off his harvard grad school debt?!

    i’m sure he’s on the verge of homelessness and helplessness that so many of us are facing.

    I. NEED. TO. KNOW!!!

  • Barf

    so, you’re saying…despite having NO obstacles to overcome (other than his own privalege and over-spending habits), this young, straight, white, male, harvard-business-school-educated, guy made it??

    shocking!

  • moc

    you all are running ur mouth as if u ur selfs dont
    have debt. I dont care about his financial history i give im major respect for
    doing something that most american dont even have the discipline to do. So to
    all of you haters talking as if you graduated from Harvard can go some were
    with ur debt infested lives

  • Smi_josepha

    Well, he has gotten the attention he was looking for.  I would never hire a clown like this.  Went to Harvard and couldn’t do the math until 2 years later?

  • Jake

    I’m confused why he had to ask his roommates for the rent early. I read the month 7 progress report a few months back when he originally wrote it and he didn’t mention needing to do this. I’m guessing he probably spent too much on entertainment per usual and couldn’t make his rent payment for the following month.

  • Filippova T

    I could tell that having business education you need to be smarter then purchase everything after being graduated.
    Good example for many! 
    I could add: in countries where no credit cards exist people are really smart to live using cash only.Without Harvard education but without bright future also. 😉

  • SM

    I thought that quote was strange as well. The only thing I can think of is this: when you pay off your mortgage you then own the house. Same when you pay off your car loan. But when you pay off your student loans there isn’t this sense of “owning your education” because you already have the education and the diploma in your hand. I hope that makes sense. Maybe someone should leave a comment on his blog asking for clarification.

  • Liz

    He calculated that he’d pay $42,000 extra in interest over the life of the loans.
    Where in the world did you get 3.13% interest?  There are many different kinds of student loans available and there are different kinds of loans offered at different schools and to different types of degrees.  He borrowed $25,000 with 3.13% interest, and I’m assuming that was the cap amount for that loan.  Lucky him, the best interest rate I could get in 2008 when I started grad school was with the Stafford, 6.8% interest.
    Almost $70,000 of his debt was thru Stafford, both subsidized and unsubsidized (I’m guessing he didn’t qualify for subsidized loans the first year?), which is 6.8%-7.9%. 

  • GGt2

    So, he had $10,000 in disposable income every month? And it took him two years to figure out he should direct more of it toward paying off massive debt instead of buying a second car, a huge 3-bedroom house, a motorcyle, and god knows what else? He clearly didn’t even need to launch those side-businesses; he was just taking away work opportunities from people who probably didn’t already have $100,000/year day jobs. Am I supposed to feel like I should be following his example?

  • “Student loans are a strange animal,” he reasoned. “Unlike a payment towards a car loan or a mortgage, a student loan payment doesn’t go towards something that is benefitting me in a direct way.”
     
    Huh?!  He doubled his salary by earning an MBA and yet his student loan didn’t benefit him in a direct way??  Seems like it should be easier than that for him to connect the dots. And lest anyone feel sorry for him, it appears a good chunk of the $101,000 in student loans he borrowed went toward expenses beyond just tuition and basic living expenses while he was in grad school. He likely could have gotten through his MBA with far less debt if he had been self-disciplined, then his extravagent lifestyle after graduation was just a continuation of those habits formed while at Harvard.  But perhaps he’s learned his lesson now. 
     

  • Shirleyaschen

    He really didn’t do much damage (not contributing to his 401k while he was paying off his debt).  It was only for 7 months.  Now he has even more money with which to invest because it is not going to student loan payments.

  • Dc111263

    I think he made a great decision to pay off all of that debt.  It would have taken him 10 years to pay it off if he just paid the minimum payments.  I believe it was the smartest move he’ll ever make in his life!

  • Guest

    Keep in mind he matriculated B-school with roughly two years of work experience with a $52K pre-tax salary givining him minimal opportunity to save.

    Someone with 4-5 years exp making $65-$70K (the year before they matriculate) who has been somewhat responsible will have more personal resources to tap during B-school.

  • buoy-slayer

    not the sharpest tool in the box if only making 100 clicks, I’d stay in bed lmfao!

  • Sonavm

    The best story I’ve ever read!!

  • Graeme Harrison

    Great Story, well told, with lessons for all!
    Graeme Harrison (HBS MBA ’79)

  • Guest

    This guy made some counterproductive financial moves.  Even if the interest rate was 10%, you would still want to contribute the max for your 401k match before paying off debt.  Having 0 debt is emotionally satisfying and all, but he could use some additional tips on personal finance.

  • David

    Rushing to pay off 3.13% interest loans? That is a bit extreme and probably would have been better used on his mortgage. Nice story though.