I know the title of this post is funny, but shit is about to get real. So, hold onto your hats – my sassy side is coming out.
Let me give you background a in (semi) chronological order, yes?
At 11 years old I started assistant teaching at my dance studio to help with dance bills (and because I wanted to, duh).
At 15 I started teaching my own classes.
At 17 I was still teaching dance, dancing 7 days a week and took on a part-time retail job. I kept my grades up, was on danceline, a member of most clubs (German club, student council, band council, chess club and more). I also was inducted into the National Honor Society.
When I graduated high school I decided to go to Ohio University. I chose Athletic Training as my major and quickly realized that it was strongly discouraged to have a job. When you weren’t in class, you were working with one of the sports teams. There was absolutely no time. So, I took out a lot of student loans to cover tuition, room and board, plus living expenses. After 2 years (including a summer), I realized I was digging myself into insanely deep debt and I couldn’t continue this way. I transferred to a smaller state school and carried three part-time jobs (plus, dance) the remaining years of college. I still required loans (mostly private) to pay for tuition, but I was able to pay for my living expenses with my pay from jobs.
Yeah, I didn’t live with my parents while in college. Due to some personal stuff, it wasn’t an option for me. At 18, I left home and never moved back. I have been responsible for my living expenses ever since. And no, my parents didn’t help with college tuition. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the money for that.
When it was all said in done I had $115,000 in student loan debt. This is between federal and private loans, but mostly private. For an undergraduate degree. Oh, were you thinking I am a doctor or lawyer with that amount of debt? Hilarious.
Think it’s a shitty situation? Yep, I agree. Think it’s unique? That’s where you’re wrong. I’m 31 and haven’t made a huge dent in paying down these loans. Since private loans don’t have to adhere to any sort of rules around interest, they can raise them as they please. Thus, making each payment more about paying interest and less about paying down the principle.
So, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the problem.
As I said, I have a great job and make a good amount of money. I’m not married and I do not have kids. I rent (living in a decent-size city is not cheap). I lease my car because the monthly payment is cheaper and it’s covered under warranty the length of time it’s in my possession; thus, eliminating any possibility of unexpected breakdowns that could cost me money I wasn’t prepared to spend.
Downpayment for a house? Funny.
Friends’ weddings out of town? Yeah right.
Giving to charity? Ok, this I do a bit. But not as much as I’d like.
Stocks? Investments? Bonds? I wish.
Botox? Lip injections? haha, jk (I’m not).
You see, I’m not contributing to the economic health of this country. A “mortgage-amount” of money goes to student loans every month. Savings?! That’s a silly thought to me right now. I’m barely getting by – even while working my ass off doing freelance work when I’m not at my full-time job.
I’ll be paying these for the next I-don’t-even-know-how-many years. Ten? Eleven? That puts me over 40. By then, I should have a house of my own, kids, money to help them with college, stability and extra money to spend on enjoying life – vacations, concerts, activities for kids, etc.
But I’m nervous. I’m nervous that I’ll stay on this path of having no savings or extra cash for anything. Because what is going to change? I already make a pretty ok salary – I don’t see that doubling in the next five years. If I can’t afford a house, I’ll have to continue to rent, which isn’t a real investment. I’ll never feel comfortable having kids because, you know, they’re expensive and unpredictable.
I promise you, this isn’t a “woe is me” situation. I’m telling you my story to put a face to the story we all read about in the news daily. I’m not lazy. I have worked my ass off for as long as I can remember. Yet, here I am, unable to afford things that most 31 year olds are expected to. Look around the room you’re in – I bet at least one person has similar debt. This is a gigantic problem in this country.
So, if you were lucky enough to have your parents pay for college – thank them (and stop criticizing us for something you will never truly understand). If you went to college before it cost as much as a house – be thankful (and realize that things were different then). If your job paid down your student loans – enjoy it. But if you don’t know what it feels like to have them cripple your adulthood – don’t put us down for it. Stand up for us. Stand up for your future children. Let’s figure out this problem so that we’re the last generation to be punished by it.
Want some scary facts? http://collectivelyconscious.net/articles/18-sobering-facts-about-the-unprecedented-student-loan-debt-crisis-in-the-united-states/
Get more info here: http://studentdebtcrisis.org