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4 celebrities who didn't pay off their student loans until their 40s

Student loans can feel like a trap you'll have to gnaw your own leg off to escape. Courage: You're not alone. Even some celebrities were stuck paying loans for decades.

Here are four who didn't free themselves until they were grown, and in several cases, parents, themselves.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks after receiving the 2017 Profile in Courage Award during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, May 7, 2017.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks after receiving the 2017 Profile in Courage Award during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, May 7, 2017.

President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama

Obama became the leader of the free world, but he didn't grow up rich. He and his wife Michelle both had to take out loans to fund their educations, and the couple had "barely finished" paying them off by 2005, when he was 44 and she was 41.

The President told an audience in Buffalo, NY:

Michelle and I, we're only where we are today because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.

And we know a little bit about trying to pay back student loans, too, because we didn't come from a wealthy family. So we each graduated from college and law school with a mountain of debt. And even though we got good jobs, we barely finished paying it off just before I was elected to the U.S. Senate. ...

I mean, I was in my 40s when we finished paying off our debt. And we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha by that time. But we were still paying off what we had gotten, and we were luckier because most of the debt was from law school. Our undergraduate debt was not as great because tuition had not started shooting up as high.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Senator Ted Cruz

While on the campaign trail in 2015 at the age of 44, the presidential candidate spoke at Liberty University and alluded to his experience of having to finance his education: I, Cruz said, "took over $100,000 in school loans, loans I suspect a lot of y'all can relate to, loans that I'll point out I just paid off a few years ago."

Cheryl Strayed and Tim Ferriss speaking at SXSW in Austin.
Photo by Jim Bennett
Cheryl Strayed and Tim Ferriss speaking at SXSW in Austin.

Cheryl Strayed

The much-beloved and successful author of "Wild," which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon, is a literary icon — now. But before a 41-year-old Strayed sold the memoir and Oprah helped turn it into a bestseller, she was just another struggling writer who owed tens of thousands of dollars in both credit card debt and student loans.

BI reports:

With her first "Wild" paycheck, she paid off her student loans and the $85,000 debt. "We went out and had sushi. But our life didn't change. We only got out of credit card debt. But it changed in that way, trust me. As anyone who's been in severe credit card debt knows, it was a nightmare."

And more ...

Actor Kate Walsh ("Grey's Anatomy") told Refinery 29 she only paid off her "thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars" of debt at age 37. Actor Kerry Washington ("Scandal") told Elle she couldn't pay off hers until she signed on to play Olivia Pope in her mid-thirties. Actor Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") only paid off his in 2004 when he was 33.

And, though he isn't in show business, it took Senator Marco Rubio of Florida roughly that long, and a high-profile book deal, to pay off his loans.

Plenty of celebrities past their first blush of youth are also still making monthly payments. Stand-up comedian Kevin Bozeman told U.S. News in 2015 that he's on a repayment plan. And actor Miles Teller ("Divergent," "Whiplash") told Vulture in 2015 that, despite his various Hollywood successes, he hadn't yet paid off his debt: "I still very much have my NYU loans."