October 5, 2022

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Florida couple paid off $190K in student loan debt in 27 months: ‘Get a budget’

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Student loan debt is a hot topic right now among millions of Americans. 

The Biden administration recently announced it will wipe away the outstanding student debt for all those who attended schools operated by Corinthian Colleges, formerly one of the largest for-profit education companies. 

The administration also has floated the notion of forgiving other student debt. 

But people who have worked hard and played by the rules in order to live debt-free have their own thoughts about the idea of student loan forgiveness.

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Florida resident Sherman Merricks thought his student loan debt was a burden he’d never get rid of — yet he finally did. In an interview with Fox News Digital, he spoke about his debt total of $203,000, which was mainly from student loans. 

“I really had no financial plan to go to college,” he said. 

Sherman Merricks was carrying a total debt of over $200,000 — and nearly $190,000 of that was from student loans. (Merricks Family)

Sherman Merricks was carrying a total debt of over $200,000 — and nearly $190,000 of that was from student loans. (Merricks Family)

He said he assumed he’d “go to college and figure it out when I [got] there. They make it fairly easy for you to take out all those student loans at 18,” he added. 

Merricks graduated with an undergraduate degree in psychology from a private university before continuing his education and earning his master’s degree in biomedical science. 

Merricks, a small business owner, said he was paying $300 minimum each month on his loans and expected to continue paying that for the rest of his life. 

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On top of the nearly $190,000 student loan debt, Merricks and his family added other debt by purchasing a vehicle, though they paid that off fairly quickly, they said. 

Cristina and Sherman Merricks of Gainesville, Florida, own two small businesses: a CrossFit gym and a sales marketing firm. (Noah Avery Photography)

Cristina and Sherman Merricks of Gainesville, Florida, own two small businesses: a CrossFit gym and a sales marketing firm. (Noah Avery Photography)

Merricks and his wife, Cristina, have owned and operated a CrossFit gym in Gainesville, Fla., for about 10 years. 

To try to increase their income, they also opened a sales marketing firm just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. “We started the second business and it took off,” he said. 

The family came up with a tight, strict budget — saving everything they could. 

Merricks said that is what made him believe that one day he might be able to pay off his loans entirely. 

With a paused interest rate increase for student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic, Merricks said everything went toward paying down the debt. The family came up with a tight, strict budget, saving everything they could. 

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The couple also took Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace University course at the beginning of their marriage — which they credit for their new understanding of debt and how to get rid of it.

Cristina and Sherman Merricks paid off $203,000 in debt by doubling their income and doubling down on making payments. (Merricks Family)

Cristina and Sherman Merricks paid off $203,000 in debt by doubling their income and doubling down on making payments. (Merricks Family)

Megan McConnell, senior director of public relations for Ramsey Solutions, said the course gives step-by-step guidance for how to pay off debt. 

It also teaches people how to save for emergencies and for the future while also building wealth. 

With every $1,000 the couple paid off, the kids filled in a space on an at-home chart.

“I am a checkbox, motivated type of person, so I could actually see the student loan balance going down,” said Merricks.

“I hadn’t seen the number go down in forever. That was a big motivator for me.”

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The couple even got their three children — Kayden (14), Ariana (11) and Judah (8) — involved in the project.

With every $1,000 paid off, the kids filled in a space on their at-home chart. 

Merricks said this helped the kids understand why “no” was sometimes their parents’ answer when the kids asked for things; the process also showed the children how to set and achieve a goal. 

The family created a chart for the children to mark off each time a $1,000-payment was made. (Merricks Family)

The family created a chart for the children to mark off each time a $1,000-payment was made. (Merricks Family)

In just 27 months, the couple said they paid off $203,000 in debt. 

They give credit to their faith — and believe they were extra blessed during this time. 

“I really do feel that was just the Lord’s blessing. He was just blessing our business,” said Cristina Merricks. 

The family of five lives in Gainesville, Fla.; Sherman and Cristina Merricks are shown with their children (from left to right): Kayden, Ariana and Judah. (Noah Avery Photography)

The family of five lives in Gainesville, Fla.; Sherman and Cristina Merricks are shown with their children (from left to right): Kayden, Ariana and Judah. (Noah Avery Photography)

When asked if they would do anything differently, the couple responded with a firm “no.” 

For those who are in the same position as they were, the couple recommends making a strict budget and finding ways to increase family income.

Sherman Merricks believes if the government does choose to forgive student loans, then the taxpayers will be the ones paying for it. 

Regarding the conversations these days about the potential of wide student loan forgiveness from the Biden administration, Sherman Merricks believes that is simply talk. 

“The government will lose too much money, and we know the government’s not going to lose money,” he said. 

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Merricks believes that if the government does choose to forgive student loans, then American taxpayers will be the ones who wind up paying for it.