Liv­ing with stu­dent loans

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - J.T. JOHN­SON J.T. John­son is a guest colum­nist for The Saline Courier. His opin­ions are his own and do not rep­re­sent this pub­li­ca­tion or its em­ploy­ees.

“Con­gress shall make no law ... abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press ... . ”

— From the First Amend­ment to Con­sti­tu­tion

I’m a 34-year-old man and like mil­lions of oth­ers in this coun­try, I live with stu­dent loan debt. I have other debt, of course. I have a car note and a cou­ple of credit cards that I’ve had to use over the years and they need to be paid off as well.

How­ever, I’m also on an in­come-sen­si­tive re­pay­ment plan when it comes to the stu­dent loans. There­fore, my loan pay­ments are lower than they should be to ef­fec­tively kill the prin­ci­ple of said loans. Most of my pay­ments go straight to the in­ter­est while the prin­ci­ple re­mains largely un­changed after hav­ing paid on time and with­out any late pay­ments for the past 10 years.

When it comes to my other debt, I can at least see a rea­son­able out­come. Ev­ery time I make a car pay­ment, a cer­tain amount goes to both the prin­ci­ple and in­ter­est and I see the light at the end of the tun­nel. When I pay on my credit cards, I also see that prin­ci­ple go­ing down and can see that will also be paid off sooner rather than later.

Yet, when I look at my stu­dent loan to­tal, it barely budges be­cause the only way to get the pay­ment down was to take a lower re­pay­ment plan. When you talk about this with some­one who doesn’t have stu­dent loan debt, they love to bring up that maybe the gov­ern­ment will do some­thing to ease the bur­den. After all, most stu­dent loans go di­rectly through the gov­ern­ment and Con­gress ac­tu­ally con­trols whether your in­ter­est rates goes up or down.

Un­for­tu­nately, this is one of the most in­ef­fec­tive group of id­iots ever as­sem­bled at the mo­ment. De­pend­ing on Con­gress, the Sen­ate and Don­ald Trump to do any­thing about stu­dent loans is like wait­ing for that one drunken un­cle that no one likes to swoop in and save the day. It just isn’t go­ing to hap­pen.

You also have more cyn­i­cal peo­ple telling you that you shouldn’t have taken those loans in the first place if you knew you couldn’t pay them back. The prob­lem with this ar­gu­ment is that they for­get what we were promised. Go to school and you’ll get a good pay­ing job that will help you pay those loans off quicker than ex­pected.

The prob­lem is that for most of the peo­ple who have stu­dent loan debt, they ei­ther have jobs that don’t match the cur­rent cost of liv­ing and/or the thing they were go­ing to school for is no longer a vi­able op­tion fi­nan­cially.

We all know that there is a prob­lem be­cause re­cent re­ports show that stu­dent loan debt in the coun­try has reached over $1.6 tril­lion, more than any other type of debt in the coun­try, in­clud­ing credit cards.

Yet, while we’re able to ac­knowl­edge that there is a prob­lem, it seems that no one wants to do any­thing about it. Sure, the oc­ca­sional politi­cian does step up to say that we need bet­ter pro­grams to help peo­ple pay down the debt, but those politi­cians usu­ally end up not do­ing any­thing or they’re com­pletely ignored by every­one else in Con­gress.

There are en­tire gen­er­a­tions that will never be able to do much beyond work­ing be­cause they have to pay off their stu­dent loan debt.

There are even re­ports of se­nior cit­i­zens to­day that are still pay­ing off their stu­dent loan debt. These are re­tired peo­ple who state that they are hav­ing their so­cial se­cu­rity earn­ings gar­nished be­cause they can’t af­ford to pay off their re­main­ing stu­dent loan debt. That’s a fright­en­ing re­al­ity for those out there that al­ready dread look­ing for­ward into the fu­ture and see­ing a prin­ci­ple bal­ance that doesn’t seem to ever want to budge.

Be­fore I leave, I’ll say this — I ac­tu­ally don’t have a huge bal­ance when com­pared to other stu­dents, but it is enough to frus­trate me from time to time. I even had a dream re­cently where I had some­one leave me a check that could cover my stu­dent loans. I was so ex­tremely happy in this dream and, more im­por­tantly, re­lieved be­cause I saw a fu­ture where things didn’t look so fi­nan­cially bleak.

When I woke up and re­al­ized that it wasn’t real, I en­tered into a gen­uinely de­press­ing state for the day.

It’s times like this where I wish I didn’t have to wake up from my dreams.

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