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All,

I haven't posted here for a while, and I still haven't caught up on all the posts after a couple of business trips and vacation days. But, I just want to say:

Today, I paid off my biggest college loan! (Ok, not really. Since I live in Japan what I actually did was execute a wire transfer for the money to go to my US checking account. Once it hits the account I have to actually write the check to SLSC to pay off the loan. Then they have to cash the check. So a cold-hearted person could easily point out to me that the loan balance is still there for another 2 weeks or so. But I don't care. In my book I did it!).

Some of you might recall that I had asked for guidance about paying off a student loan (actually 3, a different loan for each year, with year 1 already paid off) vs. investing if the loan was about 8%. I got lots of interesting and good advice, but in the end we made the decision that our #1 priority is to be debt-free. This may not be the right answer for everyone, but it was right for us.

We actually had a challenge which many of you might not have faced which is fluctuating exchange rates. Since I am paid in yen it is very often impossible to know exactly how much yen I will have to use to buy enough dollars to pay off the loan. This was an extra challenge but we accomplished it by setting our budget at a fairly conservative exchange rate, and dipping into savings/emergency fund whenever the exchange rate stayed favorable (vs. the budget) for any significant period of time. This can lead to savings/emergency being a little light at times, so it's a calculated risk. In fact, you could see it as borrowing against yourself, and I don't know exactly how Foolish it is. But on my brainpower I couldn't think of anything better, so that's how we handled it.

Now, the only debt I have in the world is $1750 @ 5% which is a loan borrowed directly from my college. My current plan has me paying that off by December this year, so I will be completely debt free by the year 2000 (and age 28)! If the exchange rate swings in our favor (everybody now: "weak dollar, strong yen!") we will probably be able to set aside a little extra to go towards the RP4 which we will be renewing in December. That's a "nice to have" goal, so we're taking it in stride and really concentrating on the "must have" goal of loan repayed by 12/31/99.

Yes I know 5% at such a low balance isn't a bad deal, and many of you would leave it there and concentrate on investing. But again, we've really got our hearts set on owning nothing to noone (so to speak), and we have it in our sights, so we are going to go for it.

Thanks to everyone on this board for inspiration, knowledge, guidance, education, and everything else. I was one of those people who ran up a stupid CC debt in college, living on borrowed time. Even though after I graduated and got a job I had (and have) the means to pay the debt back at a fairly good clip (and in fact I now have 0 CC debt), until I discovered this board it never really hit my how stupid I was being to let that money just sit there cranking up interest. I just had no idea. This board rescued me from that idiotic situation and I am this close (see me holding my finger and thumb about half an inch apart) from being beholden to noone. Awesome feeling!

Thanks again,
JCKelly
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