Imagine carrying the heavy burden of student loans, only to realize that you are being overcharged. That’s exactly what happened to Sara Hamilton, an employment and litigation lawyer who currently practices in Atlanta. The servicer assigned by the Department of Education capitalized Sara’s loans at the wrong time, resulting in the loan being miscalculated in the servicer’s favor. Sara was able to get her loans revised after realizing the miscalculation, but said that the experience was a learning lesson.
“The error justified why I want to continue to learn as much as possible about financial products and encourage others to do the same. You’re the only person that can look out for yourself,” Sara said.
Sara explained that the reason she discovered the error in the first place was due to her desire to tackle her loans head-on rather than letting her loans control her. After receiving messages post-law school about paying back her student loans, Sara decided to check her statements each month and learn about the terms most people don’t pay attention to. Accrued interest, capitalized interest, and amortization—Sara speaks the language of personal finance like a pro.
As a lawyer, Sara has a natural inclination to do her research well. What started as research about the federal regulations governing student loans led her to the topic of student loan refinancing. She quickly realized that she was paying 7.5% to 8.5% interest on her federal loans when the cost of money in the general marketplace was cheaper, and decided to find a way to pay the market price. After shopping around, Sara settled on DRB and refinanced her loan to receive a shorter loan term and decrease her monthly payment.
“It was a no brainer to me,” Sara explained. “Refinancing my loans was like returning my overpriced product to one store, then going out and buying it for 35% less at another store. It surprises me that so many people will drive across town to save a few cents on gas, and compare prices of TVs and cars at numerous stores, but when it comes to financial products, they don’t have that same attitude of wanting to get the best deal.”
Sara’s interest in solving problems is just one of the reasons she decided to be a lawyer in the first place. Despite coming from a family with no lawyers and having little knowledge of the practical aspects of being a lawyer, Sara jumped right in. With an interest in people and a natural curiosity to understand how things work, the law was a natural fit. After interning with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sara found her calling in employment law.
“Employment law is perfect for those who are good with people. I enjoy helping companies develop policies and solutions with regards to their human capital,” Sara said.
Outside of work, Sara likes to play the piano, travel with her boyfriend, and is currently taking on a new venture: learning to cook. Personal finance continues to play an important role in her life, and she spends a lot of time encouraging her peers to become financially literate.
“I am in the process of creating a website with my colleague about debt and investing for lawyers, as well as speaking with the local and national bar associations about student debt,” Sara said. “Personal finance isn’t just about making the best decisions about debt, but also about looking at other financial products to best prepare for the future.”
Written by Priyunka Maheshwari