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Crushing Debt
Sicklerville Native Shares Her Story of Debt in Web Series
By Terri Akman

Amanda Kochey dreamed of making it as an actress pretty much her whole life – that’s why she moved to LA two years ago. Good news is she just booked her first show, with Ashton Kutcher as the producer. The not-so-great news? She got that gig because of the biggest problem in her life right now: crushing college debt.

The 24-year-old plays herself on the web series “Going From Broke,” which features millennials struggling with extreme college debt. Kochey, who grew up in Sicklerville, was working 3 jobs to keep up with her student-loan payments. After graduating with a performing arts degree from Emerson College in 2017, she was $200,000 in the hole.

When filming began, the aspiring actress was working more than 70 hours per week as an office manager, bartender and dog walker. Earning about $5,000 a month, she made ends meet, but barely had time for herself. At the rate she was paying off those loans, she would have paid $372,000 over the next 20 years. To make matters worse, Kochey’s mother co-signed for the loan, using her house as collateral.

The show paired her with financial experts to help her sort through the debt and try to find a way out.

 

Q: Was it embarrassing to reveal so much about your debt?

It was definitely hard having my mother involved because it’s not my place to reveal anything on her behalf. What it came down to was the results the show was offering outweighed the risks of people knowing I’m struggling to pay my bills. It also helps knowing I’m not alone in my struggles.

Q: Did you have any idea how much debt you were getting yourself into when you started school?

Absolutely not. I don’t think the numbers registered. I was going to college, and I knew if you go to college you take out loans. That’s what everyone else does. Every semester I needed to apply again for a new loan and knowing I was already this deep into it, I couldn’t go back. I started realizing it was going to stack up.

Q: How much of your finances did you have to reveal?

I was given a finance sheet by one of the hosts that asked me to fill out how much I spend in different categories. If I really wanted to, I suppose I could have hidden information I didn’t want out there, but I felt that would be cheating myself of what this opportunity was. I didn’t find it too uncomfortable, because in my case I felt like I was doing everything right: work hard – get money – pay bills – save. But I was never coming out with enough to save, and I knew there had to be something I was missing.

Q: Did you find out what was missing?

Host Dan Rosensweig was the motivator. He challenged me to think about investing in myself and start putting money towards me rather than only towards the loans. He assured me that I’m a hirable candidate in the workforce and set me up with resources through his website to find jobs I’m suited for that were higher paying than my current situation. He believed if I worked this way I would end up working less hours for more money which is realistically the only way I’m ever going to catch up on my loans.

Q: How did you get on the show?

I saw it on a casting website and it spoke to me so clearly. They asked for young millennials in debt who can’t seem to get out of it no matter what they try. I initially applied online and filled out a form that asked how much I was in debt and how this show could help me. Honestly, I probably wrote too much because I didn’t want them to miss me.

Q: Are you still working 3 jobs?

Now I’m working 2 jobs. I’m still an office manager for a marketing agency for 26 hours a week, and I’m a nanny for 17 hours a week for one family plus up to 30 additional hours per month for some other families. That brings in about $3,000 a month, which is less than the $5,000 I was bringing in while I was taping the show. Working as a bartender was very taxing for me emotionally, sucking up my whole life and taking up all of my time. I’m making less money now but I have the flexibility to explore my interests in theater and acting. I am now interning with the improv group Second City, which I wouldn’t have been able to have if I was still bartending.

Q: Are you keeping up with your loan payments?

I am keeping up, but I’m not saving anything. I’ve chosen to stress out about those payments less as long as they are getting paid. I’m looking into something of a career change coming up that should bring in more money.

Q: Do you feel greater responsibility because your mom cosigned for your loans?

This has been the biggest challenge. The payment that is under my mom’s name is still the largest payment I have to make at about $1,000 a month. Not only is it a huge burden on my finances, but it’s something I absolutely can’t choose to miss a month because it affects more than me. Unless something like student loan debt forgiveness gets passed or someone hands me a cool $100,000, I don’t see myself paying that off any time soon.

 


You can watch “Going for Broke”on Crackle.

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