I first heard of Aja Dang from this story in Yahoo Finance about a woman who paid down $100K in student debt. As I have kids in college, this story really attracted my attention. When I think of “influencer”, I think of beauty influencers like Michelle Phan and people on Instagram projecting the “perfect” life, but a student loan debt influencer? Intrigued, I decided to see what she was all about it and to figure out 1) how she accumulated $200K in student debt and 2) how she paid off half of it.
First, I asked my kids about her. Number One Son follows her (not surprising as she was a 2011 Maxim Hometown Hottie and as does The Daughter does, while Number Two Son has a friends who do although he doesn’t. The Daughter said she became interested in Aja Dang after the personal finance and debt videos started coming out. When I looked at her YouTube channel, which Dang says is her main avenue of expression, I found she had some videos you might expect, such as travel videos, beauty tips, and music video parodies. But also there were finance videos, where she goes over her monthly budgets. She even posts spreadsheets of her monthly budgets online. Seems like a weird area for an influencer to make a living, but many of the commenters on her visitors find them useful and even inspirational.
How did she accumulate $200K in student debt? In this interview (and in the video above) she says that she borrowed money to cover undergraduate private school, and then borrowed more for a masters at USC. Does she regret going to college? Not really, although one of her recommendations is that people who not sure if what they want to do should take a gap year to figure it out. She reminds that people that they don’t have to go an expensive private school, as she did twice.
My other question was how she paid down $100K in around a year. I took a look at her budget spreadsheets, and she made substantial amounts of money with “brand” deals. Her YouTube income and her side hustles (I found her video on side hustles to be very interesting) are much smaller in comparison. In the above video, she is doesn’t have that brand income yet and is scraping by making debt payments by doing things like dog walking. Her spreadsheets show that the life of a freelancer is extremely unpredictable, with very large variations in income month to month.