Who: Bryan Roach, 29 and Ava Kovach, 27
Where: British Virgin Islands
Jobs: Charter Boat Captain and Chef at Port to Vino
Financial Grownup Moments:
Bryan: I had much more debt than Ava had. I put himself through school at the University of Maine with loans so I was kind of right around the $87,000 to $88,000 mark. I am now debt free. I paid the debt off in 4 years of doing this. Because you don't have any living expenses. I don't pay rent. I sold my car when I took the job. So my only two expenses were health insurance which I paid and then my cell phone bill. And of course student loans.
Ava: I took out close to $25,000 in federal student loans while in college. I was grateful my parents were able to help me, keeping the debt load to that relatively low level. I paid off more than $4,000 while still in school, so I had about $20,000 to pay off when I got my diploma. I started working a corporate job in suburban Houston for about 6 months. But I realized I wasn't getting anywhere financially. I was paying the rent and paying the minimum payment on my student loans. I realized it would be about a decade before I got out from under my student debt. I just decided that wasn't acceptable to me. I didn't want to be chained to a monthly payment for the next decade so I took a job down here on a yacht. All our room and board is covered so that allowed me to get out from under my debt in less than two years. That was my goal that I set for myself when I graduated. I finished school in December of 2013, and by January of 2016 I paid off the last of my student loans. I took this job because I loved it but I saw the opportunity. When you are not paying rent that is what- anywhere from $600 to even more in New York City? So if you are not paying rent you can put all of that towards your student debt. I would still be in debt right now if I'd gone the conventional 9-5 route for sure.
Bryan: I don't think either of us came down here exclusively because it was a way to pay down debt. I think we both love to sail. We love the ocean, we love the Caribbean, we love the environment. But that was the biggest perk to it.
Ava: The financial freedom was the best and kind of the most unexpected benefit. But we don't have a 401k working down here. No one is putting money into retirement funds for us. And nobody is supplying us with health insurance so you do have to be pro-active about some of the things that working in the corporate world back home they would provide you with those things.
Bryan: Although this year the BVI just instituted national health insurance so this year we have BVI health insurance. We became residents of the British Virgin Islands.
Ava: So that is nice from a tax perspective as well. Some perks there. We fall under the foreign earned income exclusion.
Lesson to share:
Bryan: Don't get into the debt. Hindsight being 20/20 if I were to go back and do it over again I would have gone to a different school where I was taking out less debt. I think at 18 years old you don't really know what you are getting into. You hear these number oh this is what it is going to be when you get out, or you know ok you can go to school here but it is $30,000 or $40,000 a year and this is what it is going to look like when you get out. But when you are 18 years old it is hard to have that real perspective of what that means until you get out. So for me when I kind of was told, ok, this is the amount of loans you are taking out every year and this was gong to end up to be.
I saw that number but I didn't realize how big it was. This is the craziest thing. I had a high school friend of mine, who bought a house a year out of college for the same amount I had in student loan debt. That was one of those moments where I was like what did I just do.
Ava: If you do get yourself into debt, which most people do these days over college, I would just tell people to be creative. Don't fast track yourself into the 9-5 job that everyone tells you you have to have. Don't rope yourself into the car payment and the house payment and going to bars every weekend, blowing all your money on these lifestyle decisions. Be creative and think outside the box and remember that there are options out there like this. Like fun, amazing, eye opening jobs that will also, that are really lucrative. A lot of people would say that it was irresponsible of us to just pick up and put our stuff in storage and leave our families behind and take a job on a yacht in the Caribbean sight unseen. That seems like kind of a crazy decision but to me it has been the most financially responsible decision I have made in my young adult life. So stay open minded about your financial options, your earning options, your job options. The 9-5 isn't always the safest bet.
Thank you to Ava and Bryan for sharing your story! They will receive a gift card to DonorsChoose.org to give to a classroom in need of supplies to teach financial literacy.
Want to be featured on my blog or even my next book? Share your story at Stories@FinancialGrownup.com and we'll send you a gift card to DonorsChoose.com if it is selected. We look forward to hearing from you soon!