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Struggling with addiction

Aracely is addicted to electronic cigarettes. In fact, she admitted to spending 62% of her monthly budget on the devices and other minor expenses. Not only has this addiction been expensive, it’s also been hazardous, affecting her lungs and sending her to the hospital.

Over two million young Americans use e-cigarettes and roughly a third of them use these products frequently enough to be categorized as addicted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has previously linked lung injuries to the use of e-cigarettes.

Unfortunately, vaping isn’t the only health issue Aracely is dealing with. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, which require medication.

Dealing with this combination of medical and addiction issues is costly. A little over 40% of U.S. adults have some form of medical debt, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Aracely claimed she’s part of this group with medical debt, although she wasn't sure how much she owes.

"[It’s] enough for them to keep calling me," she said.

Fortunately, Aracely is investing in her education to improve her financial position. Unfortunately, she’s not sure about her choice of career.

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Piling up student debt

Aracely is currently on the pre-medical track at college which should enable her to eventually pursue a degree in medicine.

A medical degree could potentially unlock a lucrative career. Psychiatry, Aracely’s preferred field, has a base pay range of $176,000 to $320,000, according to data from Glassdoor.

This would certainly improve Aracely’s situation. However, she’s struggling to stay motivated on this path. “I started getting depressed and I was like, is this really what I want to do with my life?” she said.

For Hammer, this uncertainty is alarming. He pointed out that Aracely already has almost $10,000 in student loans and pursuing this academic track will undoubtedly leave her with a much bigger debt burden by the end.

“What scares me the most is your career path,” he said. “Saying 'oh this job could be stressful and I might not like it but I'm going to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt’ is not an acceptable life plan.”

The average medical school graduate owes $250,995 in total student loan debt, four times as much as the average college graduate, according to the Education Data Initiative. Even if Aracely drops out without graduating, her financial future could be jeopardized by this accumulated debt.

To avoid a bleak future, Hammer encouraged her to take the time to consider her career path seriously and implored her to quit vaping.

He urged her to reduce her monthly spending and get a job. He said, "Figure out what your exact needs are. Go through my program. Figure out your budget. Follow that to a tee. Track it on a monthly basis."

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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