My Money Story: How Michel Valbrun Paid Off His $32,000 Student Loan Debt
My Money Story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview people who have successfully paid off any major debt (i.e student loan debt), saved, or overcome any financial hurdles.
The aim is to inspire, encourage and motivate you to take hold of your personal finance because “financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It is a reality if you’re willing to pursue it and embrace it.”- Will Robinson
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Michel Valbrun also known as “Money Makin Mich” and I am a Certified Public Accountant, Financial Expert, and Empowerment Speaker.
I was born in Miami, Florida and my parents are from Haiti. Growing up as a first-generation American, there was a lot I needed to learn about personal finances and how to create wealth in the United States.
At this stage in my life, I am on a mission to provide financial empowerment to over 1 million.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
My “sick and tired” of debt moment was when I graduated with over $30,000 of student loan debt.
Living on my own in Atlanta and trying to manage my finances quickly became challenging and I knew it was time to find a way to improve my financial situation.
I got into accounting because I thought it would give me a better understanding of how money works. As I began researching online, I became aware that my accounting degree was only the tip of the iceberg in my financial journey.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
I acquired the debt in various ways, the majority of my debt came from all the student loans I took on. At the time, I was in graduate school and did not want to have a job so I can focus on studying.
Since student loans were so easy to acquire, I requested and received way more than I actually needed.
For anything the student loans did not cover, I used my credit card. In retrospect, I should have worked part-time and reduce my loan amount. I do not regret it though, because it pushed me to learn more about finances.
How much debt did you pay off in total over what period of time? Also, do you know much money in interest and time you saved?
In total it was about $32,000 in around 4 years.
I could have paid it off sooner, but I did not begin taking my finances seriously until the 2-year mark and at that point, I was pretty much paying interest.
By year 2, I aggressively paid it down by contributing about $1,500 per month. I’m not sure how much interest I saved during the loan pay off, but I do know I significantly reduced the original pay off period.
How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?
When I started I was making about $50,000, then I gradually received raises which helped speed up the process.
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to pay off your debt?
Instead of saving a bunch of money, I focused on paying off the debt as quickly as possible.
I also downgraded my lifestyle and become more cost conscious. I avoided using credit cards and stop purchasing clothes which were things I used to spend a lot of money on.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
From time to time, people would question my financial decisions and call me “greedy”, “cheap”, or “selfish”, but I was committed to achieving my goal and paying off my student loan debt.
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track? Or where did you find your inspiration to stay on track through your journey?
Yes! I got my hand on every personal finance book I could find and either read or listened to the audiobook. My favorites were Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”, Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”, and Robert Kiyosaki “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt free now?
I only keep one credit card on me for emergencies. When I do use my credit card, I have a goal of paying it off within 24 hours.
If you could go back in time and advice your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give him?
I would say don’t sweat the small stuff and the best is yet to come.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and looking to be motivated?
I tell my clients to take baby steps and do not allow the total debt amount intimidate you. Be honest about your situation, break it down into small goals, and take consistent action. Also enroll support from your friends, family, and mentors to keep you accountable.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
You can connect with me on most social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube). Feel free to reach out to me @michelvalbrun.
Congratulations Michel. We wish you much success in your financial journey!
Do you have a money story? Would you like to share your money story to motivate, encourage and inspire others? Send an email to here with the subject line “My Money Story” and we will be in touch.