This alarming CNN article got my attention this morning: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/bennett-student-debt
Now, what I am interested in is achieving financial goals, and helping or inspiring others to do the same if I can. It’s about personal strength, independence, and happiness. I have not been bothered by any of the larger effects of student loans in general.
So the article shocked me with its comparison of the “national student debt situation” to the recent, calamitous mortgage loan bubble. Which is ironic for me because I have been mildly wondering these past 5 years why people would sign a mortgage that they clearly could never afford, just because it is being offered. And yet that is exactly the type of research I skipped in signing up for all my student loans.
My parents tried to warn me about graduating with loans. But it doesn’t matter to a 17 year old. You could have told me explicitly that I would be coming out of college with $250 per month or $500 per month in loan payments, and I would not have comprehended it. I just needed to have the top education the whole world was pressuring me to get.
So it is ironic to think think that in a small way I have contributed to a potential loan crisis comparable to the historic, embarrassing (in my opinion) mortgage loan bubble. You may think I am not contributing to the crisis effect, because I am not defaulting or delinquent on my loans. But my original personal choice, with the help of many others’, has contributed to a thriving economy of over-priced education and untenable government subsidies. Because whatever is in high demand is sought after.
I started out getting a kick out of paying my loans because it gave me independence from the loan companies and would “stick it to them” in a zero sum fashion. But now I am also realizing it is also a social choice: to say loans aren’t ok. I am not going to live with them. They are not fashionable.
And for the sake of our economy, as well as for the sake of future generations of individuals who will aspire to not live at home, get married, and have a life, I hope this level of loan debt really does go out of style in a way that gets through even to teens.
Maybe the bubble will actually burst, but over the parade of the tuition fees. Or maybe people will stop dragging their loans behind them shamefully, and start realizing that our decisions have a broader impact and the course can be changed any time. I am not clever enough to even guess, but I do wonder what would happen if all of these 1 out of 5 households in the US decided to pay down the debt in the next 3 years.