It is no secret that I have student loan debt. And while it is the bane of my existence, I don’t have it as bad as most. You see, both my undergraduate work and Adam’s was covered entirely by scholarships. That means that we both walked away with 4-year degrees that didn’t cost us a penny. I wasn’t as lucky with law school.
In law school, I was careful to only take out the money I needed. I paid for tuition, housing, and other necessities. After the first year, when I was finally allowed by school rules to work again, I began working the maximum 20 hours a week each and every semester to make ends meet. I didn’t want to take out a penny more than I needed. After three years, when interest was compounded and added to my total, I walked away a little over $63,500 in debt.
It was crushing. I worked so hard to do everything right and I still owed that much money. I resolved myself to save and put as much towards my debt as I could. I reasoned that it was like owning a luxury car and surely, I could pay that off right?
Wrong. For the last year, I’ve sent Great Lakes a payment of over $500 each month. That payment became crushing to our monthly budget at one point, so I sought a reduction based off my income. I received it and now pay a little over $400 each month. And despite shelling out nearly $5,500 in the past year, my balance on my law school student loans are…. wait for it, $62,472.29. That’s right! In the past year of on-time payments, I’ve managed to pay off only $1,100 of the principle of this debt.
Does anyone else think this is CRAZY!?!! (Spoiler, I’m not alone. The Federal Government stands to make over $113 Billion (yes, Billion with a B) on Graduate students in the next 10 years! )
How in the world can our generation “stimulate” the economy when our student loans have us by the balls? I thought it would be fun to put together a list of all the things I could do or buy if I didn’t have Uncle Sam demanding repayment at over 6% interest:
1. Adam could have a new car. You know, instead of driving a car that is almost 15 years old and has no air conditioner. Without my monthly student loan payment, Adam could actually have a basic, 4-door sedan. How great that would be!?
2. We could have taken a summer vacation. The last vacation we had was our honeymoon thanks, in part, to my crushing student loans. So thanks Feds. I mean, I’d prefer to stimulate the economy by traveling, seeing the country, supporting the tourism industry and all that. But I guess you had other plans for me and my couch all summer.
3. We might actually build the pantry we need. While a pantry space was on our “must-have” list before we started the remodel on our new house, it had to be scrapped for budget issues. We swore we’d get back around it to this year, but honestly, we haven’t had the cash flow.
4. We wouldn’t have a second-hand Christmas tree. Oh yes, this year we’re borrowing a Christmas tree from my mom second hand. I’ve always had the dream of buying a beautiful, tall artificial tree for our first home and using it forever. But well, that’s not possible thanks to monthly payments on a debt that never goes away. So for the foreseeable future, we will be borrowing one of my mom’s older trees with missing lights and branches. Cheers!
5. We could save for retirement more. As it is, Adam and I live pretty frugally. We spend as little as possible (most months) and then stick any excess back into a savings account. We’d like to have at least $10,000 stuck back at all times in case of any major emergencies (we’re not there yet…). However, if we weren’t paying egregious amounts of interest to the Feds each month, we could also throw ourselves into saving for retirement. We could make sure that we both aren’t working well into our seventies…. but no. Apparently, that’s too much to ask for.
I don’t normally like blog posts to come across as bitter as this one. But you know, this topic really ticks me off. I know that I’m super lucky to have come out of school to find a job at all, much less one that pays a decent wage and provides good benefits. Still, it is really hard to get past the fact that so much money is being made off an investment I took in myself. To me, education isn’t a privilege. It’s a right. And presumably, my higher education status would mean that I should have a lot to offer our society. But alas, all I’ll be offering for the next 10-20 years is interest earned while I just manage to stay afloat. And friends, that’s a little troubling to me.
So, is your student debt crushing you?