I sat in class, learning. All the while, shaded—but not entirely unseen, my debt was increasing—-minute by minute, Always growing along with a 6.8% interest rate.
While I slept at night, that debt speedometer kept rolling onwards, like a boulder picking up snow down a mountain.
I wasn’t entirely ignorant of the situation. I knew what I was getting into, to some extent. But numbers on a screen or even a paper statement don’t fully show how far in you are.
Then one day I graduated from graduate school. I was handed a diploma and a short grace period before I had to start repaying my six figure plus student loan debt. My Wife left graduate school with $50,000 student loan debt of her own. That’s when we first realized just how much trouble we were in: we would have to pay $1,700.00 a month in student loan debt for the next decade, maybe two. We were, in a word: student loan poor.
We grow up being taught not to gamble, but every time you’re taking out student loan debts you are gambling, even if it’s gambling on yourself.
Being Student Loan Poor
When we entered graduate school, it was 2006. The economy wasn’t perfect, but we had certain income expectations that the 2008 Recession somewhat tempered. My wife and I have been lucky to always have gainful employment and we’ve managed to pay down a decent chunk of our debt. But we still owe close to $160,000.00, and it does seem like we’re paying mostly interest. When we get extra money we try to pay more than the minimum due, but the debt is daunting to say the least.
We now also have a mortgage, though not any children as yet. It’s hard to start a family when your finances are so unsettled. You don’t want to wait too long and miss out, but you also don’t want to move too quickly when you’re not sure if you could afford the extra expenses associated with caring for another. There are some weeks where it’s hard to support just ourselves and our dog.
I’ve done my fair share of freelance writing to help pay down debt, and my wife grabs every extra opportunity that comes her way as well. I’m lucky she’s so resourceful and that is particularly true now that I have started my own business. When you’re self-employed there are times of feast and famine, and when you’re first starting out it’s more of the latter.
I’ve always felt a deep stirring restlessness. I’m not sure if that will ever pass and sometimes I think it grows each year. I expect a lot out of myself and sometimes feel that I’m just meandering along when I could be doing something more. Lately I’ve been feeling a sort of inner resurgence—a deep need for knowledge and to get my life more in order. Maybe it’s the hope to start a family soon, and knowing that things have to be placed in their right places before that can become a reality. Maybe it’s just a natural reaction–a form of maturity that comes with aging.
But I know that so long as I have such a large amount of student loans around my neck, that I will never feel fully free. I hope that by sharing this experience, I’ve helped some of you deciding whether to take on more student loan debt. Because you can’t change the past—and a lot of student loans can sometimes make for a difficult present and cloudy future.