What $100,000 in student debt feels like

What $100,000 in student debt feels like
What $100,000 in student debt feels like

Loads. Of. Debt.

That's the story of graduates today.

But $100,000? Or more. Any debt counselor will tell you that's insane.

It's a choke-hold on young people starting their lives -- It means putting off getting married, having children, and buying that first home.

The number is so staggering that it's hard to come to terms with it. Maybe that's why one graduate was a little cavalier about it when talking about it with CNNMoney. Here's how he views his debt and the story of two other young graduates, also with a lot of student loans.

millennials student debt bowles

William Bowles (pictured above), 27 years old.

$114,000 in student debt

Bowles is back in school getting a graduate degree despite having had $50,000 of debt after an undergraduate degree. That means he's taking on more debt even as he's putting other big life decisions on hold. His life goals are to start a family, have kids and buy a home.

"That seems pretty far off right now with student loan debts staring me in the eyes," Bowles said.

But he's optimistic that a graduate degree from Columbia University, where he is enrolled currently, will help him pay off $50,000 in the next three years. How?

"Lots of ramen."

Bowles muses he could also work for a nonprofit or the government, where he has a chance of his loans being forgiven after 10 years.

Related: Loan forgiveness? The student loan hack you don't know about

millennials student debt rhea

Rhea Shannon (pictured above), 26 years old.

$54,000 in student debt.

During her senior year in college, Shannon's father passed away while on active duty in Afghanistan.

"He was the one that cosigned on one of my loans, and he told me it would be okay, that we would pay if off," Shannon said.

Now Shannon is not only heart broken, but has to constantly deal with calls from her creditors.

Shannon works as a production assistant at a television channel. Her payment on her student loan is $350 a month, which is about half of her weekly paycheck. She said she regularly misses payments and dodges calls from creditors.

If she could do it over again, Shannon said she wouldn't take out so much money.

"I probably would have taken one or 2 loans, and then I would have hustled. I would have picked up groceries in college, I would have babysat everybody, because they guarantee you a degree, but they don't guarantee you a job, and they still want their money."

Related: 5 biggest student loan mistakes

millennials student debt salvagin

Ashley Salvagin (pictured above), 25 years old.

$75,000 in student debt

Salvagin dreamed about being an actress, and even studied to be one. But she has put aside her dreams, and has taken on two jobs -- as an executive assistant at an advertising agency and at a nonprofit doing events -- to pay off her debt load.

She's managed to lighten it a little -- Salvagin graduated with $95,000 of debt.

Each month, she tries to pay more than the $800 minimum, but sometimes that's all she can manage.

"I've never missed a payment. But, it's a pretty heavy burden," Salvagin said.

Besides her dream career, she has put on hold everything that she really wants to do.

"I love to travel, so the second I'm done paying off all this debt, I have some big plans," she said. "But, in the meantime, I have to focus on it."

Related: Rent vs. buy vs. live with mom and dad

Millennials: What's your most pressing money question? Ask Christine Romans your question here, or on Twitter or Facebook using #askchristine and @cnnmoney. Christine Romans is CNN Chief Business Correspondent and author of Smart is the New Rich: Money Guide for Millennials.

Personal Finance


CNNMoney Sponsors