How this Millennial mom saved $40,000 on her student loans

refinance student debt


So many mom work so hard to get ahead, doing everything they can to give their families a great quality of life, and also be strong, passionate role models for their sons and daughters. Unfortunately, student loan debt is often an albatross around their necks. I love this story about a young mom who didn’t listen to the naysayers in her life and put herself through graduate school and now earns a multiple-six figure salary, and is saving on her student debt along the way.

Maria Renee Williamson was Ivy League and medical-school bound when, the summer after high school, she became pregnant with her boyfriend.

“Life happened,” said Williamson, today the proud mom of Ryan, 9 (her relationship ended soon after the pregnancy).

Various people — mostly men — advised her to give up her dreams and go to technical school. Instead, she enrolled in University of Southern Florida on scholarship and worked 70 hours weekly as a bartender, server and for various small businesses — all while caring for a newborn-then-toddler.

“Taking that on was a very hard decision — I’d work until midnight, then have to come home to Ryan sleeping and write a paper, or get up at 4 a.m. to get my school work done before he woke up,” she says.

Williamson graduated with a biomedical degree — with honors — and just $5,000 in student debt.

“I’ve always paid close attention to my finances,” says Williamson, 28, whose own parents are separated. “As a single mom, I never wanted to get myself into any situation I couldn’t get out of by myself — especially financially.” 

Grad school was another thing all together. Instead of more non-stop years of intense study of medical school, Williamson opted to become a physician’s assistant, a 27-month program that required 22 credit hours per semester. This left zero room for a job, and required Williamson take on $145,000 in student loans — which grew to $160,000 by the time she graduated two years ago at the 7.9% interest rate.

“It was painful to take on so much debt,” she says. “It made me sick.”

For the past two years, Williamson has been a physician’s assistant in anesthesiology at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla., earning a high six-figure salary. Her monthly student debt payment was $2,600 per month at 7.9%.

Last month Williamson refinanced her loans with Sofi at a fixed 4% for 7 years. Her monthly payment fell to $1,800 and she will save $40,000 in interest thanks to the Sofi refinance.

“It’s crazy to think about,” Williamson says, when I asked about her new, big salary. “I was making way below the poverty level for years, sticking to fine budgets so tightly, and driving my old, 2002 Toyota. Now it’s completely different.”

Still budgeting and living frugally, Williamson and Ryan now drive around in a Lexus IS 250 Sport (“I chose it because of the red leather interior), and last year took a week-long Disney Cruise to the Bahamas (“The first vacation I took in my adult life.”).

As for her student debt, as uneasy as it made this frugal mom several years ago, she knows there is no way she could enjoy providing for her son as she does without making that investment — an investment made easier thanks to her recent Sofi refinance of her student debt.

“By saving $40,000 from the refinance of my student debt means I have $40,000 towards a downpayment on a home, or a vacation, or saving for Ryan’s education, so he won’t have to work so hard.” 

Williamson said the student debt refinance process was quick and simple. Her credit score was not terrific, and of course her work and salary history were short. “I told the Sofi support person what terms I was comfortable with, and they were quick and flexible,” Williamson says. “They say they look at each client on an individual basis, and that is really true.”

Learn more about refinancing your student debt with Sofi here.

Nearly 7 in 10 students who graduated college have student debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower — sometimes with as many as a dozen loans. When does it make sense to refinance that debt? And what are the advantages?

When should you refi your student debt?

The first six months after graduating is a great time to start exploring your options, but it’s never too late.

How do I know if refinancing is right for me?

“Sit down with all of your loans, and write out the principal, due date, and interest rates. If the list is long, you are probably a good candidate,” Rosica says.


Is it ever a bad idea to refinance a student loan?

As long as the new loan meets your goals, and your interest rates are indeed lowered, then private loan refinancing is often a good option. One exception is if you plan to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a program that erases your remaining federal loan balance after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working in a public-sector job. Also, private refinancing federal loans means you give up the original debt’s federal deferment option, which can be granted in times of unemployment and other economic hardship. Other benefits that are unique to federal loans could also apply to you; make sure you understand what those are before you make the decision.




This post was created in partnership with Sofi, which has an A+ rating with the Better Business


Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

2 thoughts on “How this Millennial mom saved $40,000 on her student loans

  1. I refinanced my graduate school loans with Sofi as well and dropped my super high interest rate. I hate sounding like an infomercial, but the process was super easy and it’s been painless. It was an excellent decision for me, and it sounds like for this mommy as well. Make smart decisions and invest in yourself!

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