Having student loan debt is like being a member of one of the country’s saddest, least-exclusive clubs. More than 43 million Americans have student loan debt, and the share of college graduates who finish their degrees in debt is steadily rising. Twenty years ago, less than half of people with bachelor’s degrees had student loans, but that increased to about 64% of graduates by 2005 and 71% by 2015, according to an analysis from student loan and financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz.
Sure, those education loans helped people get college degrees they might not otherwise have been able to afford, and doing a good job managing debt can help people build credit, but for the most part, there’s not much to love about student loans. They’re mostly just a huge pain.
Here are 13 things that the lucky minority of debt-free college grads will never understand.
1. There’s that falling-off-a-cliff feeling you get when letters start rolling in after you’ve left school, telling you it’s time to pay up.
2. You quickly realize your disposable income is also going to fall off a cliff.
3. Then there’s the confusion of dealing with a loan servicer whose name you don’t recognize, because you borrowed money from the Department of Education.
4. Once you log in to set up your account, you see your loan balance and think, “Holy crap, that’s way more than I borrowed.” Interest is a soul-crushing beast.
5. You stress out every month about your payment arriving on time, even though you set up automatic payments.
6. But when the payment goes through, you’re pissed because you just gave away another couple hundred dollars you could have saved for a down payment on a house, or to replace your run-down car, or for that emergency fund you know you need, or to take a vacation or a million other things you don’t have the money for.
8. There’s the sad familiarity you have with your student loan servicer’s phone number, because you’ve probably saved it in your phone so you know who’s calling you incessantly about paying your bills.
9. And even if you’ve been making payments for years, you feel like exploding at the sight of your account balance — because that pesky interest and decades-long repayment plan seems to keep you from making any progress toward getting out of debt.
10. But you keep paying anyway, because it seems like there’s no way out of repaying your student loans, even if the rest of your financial life collapses around you.
11. Then, after you’ve gotten used to sending your payments to one place, your loans are transferred to another company and you have to set up everything all over again.
12. Then there’s that moment each month when you’ve forgotten about how much you hate your student loans, only to get an email about when your next payment is due, or there’s a message you have to log in to read, or some other annoying bit of communication that’s probably meant to be helpful but you’re certain it exists solely to torture you.
13. And, eventually, there’s the ridiculous joy you feel when you make your last payment and you’re finally free of student loan debt.
If you’re having trouble paying your student loans, it’s important to find a workable solution so you don’t default on them. For the most part, student loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy, and falling behind on your payments can hurt your credit and may even lead to wage garnishment. (If you want to see how your student loans are affecting your credit, you can get a free credit report summary on Credit.com.)
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