I want to talk about student loans…especially old ones that never seem to go away. Especially those old ones still hanging around from undergrad even after the age of 30. Or 40.
The whole student loan issue may be totally irrelevant to you or it may hit way too close to home, but what’s scary is that these behemoths of debt depend on a decision you made when you were 17. That’s really rough- especially when you think about how young 17 year olds look to you now- isn’t it incredible how short and little high school seniors are? Even a lot of college students seem small and young. Didn’t you feel so big and grown up when you were that age?
I’m one of those people who finished undergrad with an over $100,000 student loan. That’s a lot of money. It hurts to even think about that amount of debt. Especially when I’m already 30 years old and the loan is still around. It means that I’ve lived in the grip of student debt prison for almost 10 years, even as the amount I owe slowly dwindles.
My loan wasn’t for Pharmacy School or Law School or Med School or anything where there was the possibility of a laid out track to recovering my money. My loan was for a drama degree. I remember graduating school and saying to the head of the drama department, “I don’t know what to do now. I have no idea where to go from here.’ And she said to me, ‘Yep. That’s tough.’
It wasn’t exactly a comforting moment.
Since then, I’ve worked on many artistic projects and had many jobs that I’ve loved. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’ve conquered many obstacles in life. But there’s always still been the obstacle of my loan hanging over my head, going down way too slowly and never seeming to disappear.
The loan is such a big part of my world that I sometimes feel like I’m reliant upon it; it drives me forward at the same time that it fences me in. When I’m not sure if I should take a job, or work a certain day, I think: “This money will go toward the death of my student loan. Die loan, die!!” And then I take the job with a smile. But sometimes I want to take a trip somewhere and I think “Nooo..that’s money that won’t go towards killing my student loan. Die loan, die!!” And then I don’t take the trip.
I dream about what I’ll do with all the money I have once the loan is gone. My heart races happily at the thought of finally funding my Roth IRA to the max, hitting my 8 month savings goal, and opening up an investment account. I geek out giddily to investopedia.com and every book Suze Orman ever wrote.
My challenge (and my gift) is that my loan has made me into such a frugal money saver that once I finally conquer the loan, I may be too scared to spend any of my money. I just won’t know what to do with it besides hold on to it- I’ll just want to save it and save it forever. I can imagine cashing it out all in ones (or hopefully hundreds) and jumping into a big pile of it like Scrooge McDuck. And then locking it away again.
Hopefully one day soon, this student loan part of my life will come to an end. I don’t know who I’ll be then, but I know that at least now I’ve begun my journey towards financial wisdom. I’m excited for the day the loan finally dwindles down to a big fat zero; a day when more than half of what I earn won’t go towards paying off this ridiculously expensive thing I bought over 10 years ago.