Wisconsin man hopes for a debt-free future for his kids

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — Mike Mathison, 36, knows he’s one of the lucky ones.

A recent promotion has significantly sped up the timeframe in which he can have his student loans completely repaid.

“It just opens up a lot of doors for our family and gives us some opportunities we otherwise hadn’t had,” he said. “We’ll have more wiggle room to make those monthly payments and pay them down faster.”

Before this promotion, Mathison would have spent at least 11 years paying back the remainder of his student debt. He borrowed about $80,000 and has $45,000 left, which he plans to pay off within the next two to three years.

“At the end of the day, our kids are the most important things to us and we want them to have the best experiences possible,” he said. “Having that wiggle room allows us to open some doors with what we can do with them, too.”

Mathison has two daughters, 6-year-old Natalie and 3-year-old Ava. Between day care, a mortgage and student loan payments, Mathison and his wife spend $3,000 per month. He said he’s thankful for this recent boost of income and recalled a time when budgeting was much more difficult because of his student loans.

“When it came time to start thinking about getting out of renting and getting a house, that extra cost that you already know is coming every month really changes the type of house you can afford,” he said. “On top of the mortgage payment, you know at least for the next ten years, you have this payment and day care someday.”

Mathison has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. He said it made sense for him to pursue a traditional four-year college track. His oldest daughter will look at colleges in about ten years.

He wants both of his daughters to know there are multiple ways to get an education.

“There are some kids who don’t know what they want to do and they get saddled with all this debt for a degree they’ll never end up using,” he said. “In the meantime, they fall into a career that’s perfect for them and they’re stuck with this debt for years.”

Mathison said he hopes lawmakers find a better way to fund education and hopes more emphasis is put on the benefits of pursuing a trade degree.

“People should be able to get the skills they need to be successful, post-secondary school, and do something they enjoy,” Mathison said. “They should be able to do other things in their life too, like own a house and have a car and all the other things that can be a struggle today because of student debt.”

Mathison has taken advantage of the two-year break on mandatory monthly student loan payments and interest accrual. He and his wife used that time to purchase a new car, after the transmission went out on their old one. They also saved that money to put towards their children’s college fund.

“We felt like once we got past day care and the cost of that, we could use that money to put towards paying off the student loans faster,” Mathison said.

It cost Mathison and his wife $25,000 per year to have two children in day care. Currently, the two working parents only need to pay for one child.

Mathison hopes lawmakers will extend the moratorium on interest and payments on student loans past May 1.

At this time, that deadline remains in place. For advice on how to plan and budget for those monthly student loan payments again, click here.

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