Woman Holds A Funeral Photoshoot For $102K Of Student Debt After Finally Paying It All Off

A woman named Mandy Velez just paid off more than $100,000 in loans, at the age of 27. In celebration, Velez dressed up in her finest black dress and went down to Trinity Church Cemetery in downtown Manhattan, then posed for a student loan funeral photoshoot with silver balloons reading, “102K.” That number represents the debt she managed to pay in just six years.

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SWEET FREEDOM ✨🍾 Lots of people will see my story and say, see, if she could do it, so can you. But I don’t think that. Not everyone can do this. Maybe due to lack of jobs, ability or other compounding responsibilities, because truth be told, it’s a rigged game. Only those who play know it. But here’s the thing, people’s futures should never be a game. I celebrate my freedom but I don’t feel we student borrowers deserve the hardship that comes with these loans: high interest rates, sketchy providers, yearly tuition hikes, the list goes on. My hope is that my story inspires people to say “no more” the best way they can. Maybe it’s by finally getting sick and tired and paying their debt off if they’re able. If you can do it, I support you. Maybe it’s by voting for policy that makes the system much more fair. Any little bit of action helps. All I know is, this nightmare, this crisis, needs to end. Being open about my debt, and the hoops I had to jump through to get rid of it, is how I'm trying to help. But after six long years, it's time to celebrate. I have my life back. I changed my life. I changed my future family’s life. I ended the cycle of literally "paying" simply for wanting a better future. For being a “have not.” Well not anymore. It’s all mine now. I'm free. Photos: @120ish ___ #studentloans #loans #studentdebt #studentdebtcrisis #freecollege #studentloanforgiveness #debtfreejourney #babysteps #babystep2 #debtsnowball #daveramseybabysteps #financialadvisor #financialfreedom #financialfreedomstartshere #debtfreecommunity #debtfreemillennials #financialdiet

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The images quickly went viral, as did Velez’s message. She wrote:

DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD💀It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight.

Velez says she graduated with 75k in debt in 2013, then moved to NYC, where she made sure to pay more than the minimum, at least a thousand dollars every month, which she says was like a second rent. She says she worked her butt off to pay what amounted to a second rent, but adds, “It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills.”

Then last year, Velez decided she couldn’t stand being in debt any longer. She set a goal to be debt-free by 30, saying she wanted to start saving for her future. She wants to have a house, kids, and a life that isn’t burdened with debt. She says she paid the last 32k in just eight months. Here’s how she did it:

I cut my budget and lived off of less than a third of my monthly salary. (Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton.) I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice. I said “no”—my God I said no—to making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future.
Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.

Well, she sure looks happy:

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DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD💀 It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight. Let me tell you about my journey: It began in 2013, when I graduated with a total of 75K in student loans. I moved to New York, but I made sure to pay more than the minimums, which totaled to $1K a month. It was like another rent. I took jobs not based on what I really wanted but what could help me survive. I did this for five years straight. Even after a lay-off during this journey I hustled like hell and never missed a payment. It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills. Then last fall, something in me broke. Maybe it was feeling like my life was on hold, but I just remember thinking I was DONE. I didn’t want to owe anyone anything more. I wanted to start saving for my future. A house. Kids. A life. So I made a decision—I’d become debt-free by 30. I’m proud to say I accomplished my goal 2 years early. In fact, I killed that last 32K in EIGHT months. I cut my budget and lived off of less than a third of my monthly salary. (Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton.) I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice. I said “no”—my God I said no—to making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future. Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me. 1/3 📸@120ish ___ #studentloans #loans #studentdebt #studentdebtcrisis #freecollege #studentloanforgiveness #debtfreejourney #babysteps

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While this is definitely an occasion to celebrate, not everyone can manage to pay off life-ruining debt by forsaking Uber. Hearing about the mountain of pain Velez dug herself out from, the most startling thing is that anyone would accrue so much debt in pursuit of an education—and that it’s actually a pretty normal occurrence. Congratulations to Velez on paying off her debt, and on staging a radical student loan funeral photoshoot to celebrate it! Now let’s change the world so young people don’t start their lives off with such an enormous setback.