Student Loan Debt


The Solution to The Student Loan Crisis All Posts / Saving Money / Student Loan Debt

The average college student now finishes school with nearly $40,000 in student loan debt.  Those with advanced degrees, such as master’s, doctorates, or professional fields (medicine, law) often graduate with six figure debt.

Many articles have been written about the student loan crisis, and some have predicted that student loans will be the next “bubble” to burst.  Others have argued that the student loan crisis is not a “real” crisis.

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that my husband and I started with a combined total of $117,000 of student loan debt that we are trying to pay off as quickly as possible.  You can probably imagine how I feel when someone diminishes the struggles of millions of Americans by claiming that student loans aren’t that big of a deal.

People who think that the crisis is “exaggerated” typically say that the reason for this “exaggeration” is to encourage “free tuition” political policies.  Student loans are a hot topic and a politically charged issue.  On the far left, politicians advocate for student loan forgiveness and making college tuition free in the future.  In contrast, those on the other end of the spectrum call for personal responsibility.

I’ve read quite a few of the comments on articles about the student loan crisis.  Of course, it’s typically the people with the most extreme viewpoints who are the most vocal.  Some say college is a “right” that should be provided for free.

Others say things like “No one put a gun to your head and forced you to take on student loan debt.  You’re a f$@$#&! idiot for taking on that much debt for a useless major”.  Then, the person typically boasts about how smart and financially successful they are because they didn’t go to college and didn’t take out student loans.  Interestingly, these comments are often riddled with poor grammar and awful spelling.

Odd, right?  How is it possible that people who can’t even construct a basic sentence are somehow making smarter financial choices than brilliant students who have earned doctorate degrees?  Clearly, intelligence isn’t the issue here.  So what is the issue?  What differentiates those who succeed financially from those who end up buried in debt?

Financial Education

From my own observations, there is one factor that seems to determine, better than any other factor, whether or not someone will succeed financially.  That factor is financial education.

Those who have avoided debt or have built wealth in their twenties often have one thing in common: their parents taught them how to manage money.  It is a privilege to be raised by parents who encourage you to avoid student loans, to build an emergency fund, and to pay cash for everything.

Some parents teach their kids about money from a young age (with things such as Dave Ramsey’s class Financial Peace Junior), and these early money lessons typically stick.

For those who didn’t grow up with money-smart parents, financial education still plays an important role in determining their financial fate.  As a personal finance blogger, I’ve read hundreds of PF blogs.  For bloggers who started off in debt, the story is almost always the same.

Some type of financial education sparked an “aha” moment for them – it may have been reading PF blogs, discovering an inspiring book such as Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, taking a personal finance class, or learning from a money-savvy friend.  Whatever it may have been, there is usually some type of financial education that inspired the person to start getting out of debt and building wealth.

In our society, debt is normal, excessive consumerism is rampant, and the idea of paying cash for everything is practically taboo.  Without any kind of financial education, we often do what society expects us to do.

We listen to our parents (who didn’t have student loan debt and have no idea what it’s like) – even if they’re terrible with money.  We listen to our teachers and advisers who tell us that a four year degree is the only path to success.

We take out student loans for impractical majors.  We don’t want to flip burgers for the rest of our lives (as if that’s the only way to avoid student loans).  We do what we think is “normal”.  We believe that our “investment” will pay off when we’re “successful”.

If we want to solve the student loan crisis, we need to stop doing what we’re doing.  Relying on politicians to forgive our debt or to make college free probably won’t help.  Calling people idiots (when they’re already buried in massive debt) definitely isn’t going to help.

We need to start educating high school students about student loan debt.  Personal finance classes should be a requirement in high school.  It’s time to stop teaching students that a 4 year degree is the ONLY path to success.  For many, community college or vocational school may be a better (and more affordable) option.

We need to understand that being book smart without being money smart is a dangerous combination that often leads to mortgage-level student loan debt.  In addition to teaching kids how to be book smart, we need to teach them how to manage money and avoid debt.

What do you think is the solution to the student loan crisis?

Other stuff you might like:

My Personal Finance “Aha” Moment
How to Start a Blog in 5 Easy Steps
5 Dumb Things We Did With Our Student Loans
How to Ditch Your Student Loans with the Debt Snowball
Which Debt Payoff Method is Better – The Snowball or The Avalanche?

Personal Finance Resources:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
YOLO: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life by Jason Vitug
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
It’s Only Money and It Does Grow on Trees by Cara MacMillan

Blogging Resources:

How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup
365 Blog Topic Ideas for the Lifestyle Blogger Who Has Nothing to Write About by Dana Fox
Secrets to Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income by ProBlogger


5 Dumb Things We Did With Our Student Loans All Posts / Saving Money / Student Loan Debt

*This post may contain affiliate links.

I have two main goals with this blog.  The first is to inspire those who have student loans or other forms of debt to live below their means so that they can pay off their debt as quickly as possible.

The second goal is to reach those who are currently in college or will be heading to college soon.  Many young people believe that attending college immediately after high school is the only path to success.  If their parents can’t afford to help them pay for college, they often think student loans are their only option.

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Which Debt Payoff Method is Better – The Snowball or The Avalanche? All Posts / Saving Money / Student Loan Debt

If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, you might not be familiar with the concept of the “debt snowball.”  So, what the heck does that even mean?

A “debt snowball” means paying off your smallest debts first, while making the minimum payments on your larger debts.  Once the smallest debt is paid off, you then move on to the next smallest debt, and proceed with this process until all of your debts are paid off.

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How to Ditch Your Student Loans with Debt Snowball All Posts / Saving Money / Student Loan Debt

When you think about your student loans do you feel anxious, depressed, or trapped?  Does it infuriate you when you review your bill and realize that only about 50% of your payments are going toward the principal balance, while the remainder is going to interest?

Unfortunately, there is no magic secret to getting rid of student loan debt.  Lowering your payments by switching to an income-based repayment plan is not a good solution for most people – your payments will be lower, but you will be paying a fortune in interest over time.  Can you imagine being 50 years old when you make your final student loan payment?

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Who is More Entitled: Baby Boomers or Millennials? All Posts / Student Loan Debt

“When are you getting married?”

“When you are going to buy a house?”

“When are you going to have kids?”

 If you’re a millennial, you probably hear these questions from older relatives all the time.  You probably get uncomfortable, smile awkwardly, and say “we’ll see.”

Oddly, these are often the same people who say things like:

“Millennials are so lazy and entitled.”

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7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Grad School All Posts / Saving Money / Student Loan Debt

Four years ago, when I received my acceptance letter to a graduate program at a prestigious business school, I was elated.  The school is known for being highly competitive, and I wasn’t sure whether or not I would get in.

At the time, I believed grad school was my ticket to a better life.  I had received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I had heard many horror stories about psych grads who were working multiple retail and restaurant jobs just to get by.  I was terrified of trying to find a decent job with a BA in psych and five figure student loan debt hanging over my head.

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