How we accrued over $800K in debt in 8 years!

student debt marriage

“…’til student loan debt do us part.”


Ever heard of “good debt”? You know… good debt! Student loans, mortgage, car… that good debt. The kind that “builds up your credit.”  As the great Bob Marley said, “Don’t let them fool ya! Or even try to school ya!” There is no such thing as good debt. What is so good about owing anybody money? Nothing! Debt is bad. Period!


We followed the rules and got into college. But our parents were blue collar workers, and we certainly didn’t have a trust fund.  We both received partial scholarships, but that didn’t cover all of the expenses of tuition and housing.  I (Nii) remember having some financial difficulty between my freshman and sophomore year. At one point, I thought I might have to transfer to a less expensive school. I remember one of the upperclassmen saying, “There’s no reason nowadays that anyone can’t go to any school… Just take out more loans.”

Right… Just take out more loans.  When you can’t pay your tuition, the financial aid officer becomes either your best friend or your arch enemy.  Nii was told that it was very reasonable to finish undergrad with debt equivalent to that of a new car. Reasonable? Not the word we would use knowing what we know now. Common, maybe, but not reasonable. But once again, another reinforcement of “good debt”.

The financial aid package was heavily weighted with loans. At 20-years-old, you’re borrowing more money than you’ve ever made. All the cash in those birthday cards don’t come close to how much you just agreed to pay back. If only you hadn’t spent that money on GI Joe with the kung fu grip! Alas, hindsight is 20/20.

Despite all the loan debt, we each took some steps to decrease our college expenses. Renée did one year of work study, another year at a local supermarket (a job she hated so much that she would cry on her way to work), and two years as a resident assistant which paid for housing expenses. Nii also did work study, was a resident assistant and assistant coach of the track team.


We still had no clue of the long term effects of signing  all of those promissory notes – $1000 here, $5000 there; it adds up! The debt we both acquired in college was nothing compared to what was in store for us in medical school.  Our first year of school was $35,000. That’s just tuition, not including living expenses. We lived on loans; we each had a modest apartment and kept our expenses as low as possible. Oh… and you can’t work in medical school.  At least, that’s what you agree to when you accept to go. There’s a saying. If you’re working your way through med school, you’re working your way OUT of med school.  In med school, you have one job (which you’re paying for, by the way) – memorize all of those body parts, enzymes, and medications needed to get that “Dr.” before your name. We did have small scholarships to offset some of the costs, but definitely just a drop in the bucket.

While in medical school, we took another debt-filled opportunity and got master degrees in business administration as part of a dual degree program. (Don’t judge!) Signing promissory notes at this point was second nature. It was a good way to practice signing all those future prescriptions! We are proud to say, though, that Renée had zero credit card debt and Nii very little credit card debt after graduation.


When we finally graduated from college, med school, and business school, (oh, and Nii bought a house after graduation) the smoke cleared… When we married, we were staring down the barrel of student loan debt and rental property debt of over $800,000!  If that’s good debt, then what’s bad debt? How does that much debt “build your credit”?

Now, don’t get us wrong. We know that without that debt, we would not have the careers we have today.  But it’s still not “good” to have that much debt. Our goal is to pay it off in 3.5 years, not in 20-30 years like the loan company wants. We will not be indebted to anyone for 30 years. That’s just ridiculous and way more interest than we want to pay.


Team Darko already paid off over $130,000! Stay tuned to learn how we did this in just 6 months and our plan to pay off the rest in 3.5 years! It won’t be easy!

So… What’s your “good debt” story?  Please share in the comments below. Thanks and hope you’ll stop by next week!


About Nii and Renee

A newly married couple in pursuit of financial peace, marital bliss, and career freedom!

Posted on March 27, 2015, in marriage, money and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Wow, $800,000 of debt is incredibly humbling. It sounds like you have a positive attitude and a great work ethic, which should serve you well. I paid off around 400K in 3 years, so with two professional incomes, hopefully you can pay off 800K in the same amount of time. Best wishes!


  2. Physician on FIRE

    Crazy how fast it adds up! I hope you’re still chipping away at that boulder of debt. I know you guys can tackle it, but it’s enough to crush some people.



    • Yes! We’re more than 75% there at this point. You’re so right, though! Too many us think we’ve backed ourselves into a corner. All it takes is some discipline and sacrifice and pretty much anyone can do it. We’re keeping our eyes on the prize! Thanks for reading!


  3. Hey guys! It’s so interesting to hear this from two doctors… Typically people just think of doctors as having more money than they have time to spend, but what you laid out is very real and unlike what most people probably think. Paying off $130,000 is amazing! That’s a huge chunk of what you owe, and I am looking forward to reading more about your progress! Great post – and I am loving your blog.


    • Thanks, Chris! We’re glad you’re enjoying it and will definitely be giving even more insight into what it’s like to be a “high paid” professional with a large amount of debt. Thanks again and stay tuned!


  1. Pingback: Goodbye student loan debt… Hello 2018! | Keeping up with the Darkos

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