The other day I overheard two women talking about debt on the train. Because I’m
ridiculously nosy acutely attuned to conversations about money and debt, I couldn’t help but listen in on their conversation. The women appeared to be in their mid to late-twenties and were talking about student loan debt (something I knew all too well until recently). The basic complaint of both women was how, “crazy” it is that lenders, “give” so much money to students.
One woman confided to the other (and anyone who happened to be listening-ahem) that she owed over $100k in student loan debt and was paying the minimum payment each month. She said she couldn’t afford to pay more than the minimum payment and as a result the total amount owed was going up each month.
She also stated that she refuses to cut her lifestyle, because she already lives like a “pauper” and went on to say that, she would continue paying the minimum payments because “they” (lenders) chose to lend her money knowing that she’d be working in a non-lucrative field, which wasn’t her “fault”. Lastly, she stated that she’s frustrated because she doesn’t have the things that her peers have, because “after so many years of school” she “deserves” to live a “decent” lifestyle.
My First Reaction
Hmm I wonder if she realizes that the lenders don’t give a crap if she pays the minimum payment? It’s not like she’s “giving it to the man” by paying the minimum payments. In fact, I’m sure the lender prefers she pays the minimum payment because that will keep her in debt longer and result in more interest paid.
My Second Reaction
What does a “decent” standard of living mean? and is anyone really “entitled’ to a certain standard of living? I did observe that the “debtor” in question had an iphone and a luxury handbag. I’m not saying that she’s living beyond her means (I have idea what her “means” are) or overindulging instead of paying down her loans (for all I know the iphone and purse might have been gifts). But I would say that iphones and luxury handbags aren’t necessities and if she IS buying those because she thinks that she “deserves” them, that might be part of her debt problem. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of “luxury” goods and I like them quite a bit. But I don’t think that I’m “entitled” to them, nor would I continue buying them while I was paying the minimum payments on my student loans.
My Third Reaction
I agree that tuition costs in this country are completely out of control, but you knew what you were “signing up” for. If you chose to attend a university with an extremely high cost of attendance, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. Nobody had a gun to your head and told you you had to attend an expensive private school. There are plenty of great public universities and community colleges that are affordable. Furthermore, lenders aren’t “giving” away money, you are borrowing it. If you decided to “take” the money, then you’re responsible for paying it back.
My Fourth Reaction
Yes I had four separate reactions to a 3-minute conversation between two women I don’t know. What can I say? I get worked up about student debt! Wouldn’t it be nice if salary was directly proportionate to the number of years in school you completed? Attend high school make $30k, attend two years of college make $40k, attend graduate school make $100k. I don’t know what that woman does for work, but she did admit that she chose a field that isn’t “lucrative” (whatever that means). Personally, I went $30k in debt to obtain a social work degree. Did I obtain a graduate degree thinking I’d make millions? No! Do I think I should make more money? Yes! Do I think I should make more money solely based on the fact I went to grad school? No.
**Disclaimer, I don’t personally know either of the women I was ease-dropping on. My reactions are based on my own personal experiences and assumptions that I’m making based on my own opinions and biases.