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On Obama’s Student Loan Reform

25 Apr

President Obama said something awesome yesterday.  No, I’m not talking about his slow jamming the news on Jimmy Fallon last night, although if you haven’t seen it, click that link and watch.  Whether you like Obama or not- that is a funny video.

I am referring to the fact that President Obama, while speaking to university students yesterday, said “…check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States—[I] only finished paying off [my] student loans about eight years ago.”

Let’s pause for a moment and do some quick math.

President Obama graduated with his J.D. in 1991 (thanks, Wikipedia).  That’s twenty-one years ago.  He says that he finished paying off his loans eight years ago.  That means our President, who spent 7 years as a State Senator and 3 as a US Senator (and I think we can all agree those are not minimum-wage type jobs), took THIRTEEN YEARS to pay off his student loans.

Thirteen years, people.  That’s a long time to be stuck owing someone money, especially when that someone is a faceless company with an army of lawyers and form letters at their disposal.

Anyway, after I heard President Obama’s speech, I wanted to know how much his student loans had totaled.  As that’s not a sum that Google easily spits out, I did some quick research and came up with some numbers of my own.

  • President Obama spent two years at Harvard Law School.  At roughly $14,500 per semester in 1990, President Obama would have paid $58,000 in tuition.  Add in standard university fees, and President Obama’s Law degree from Harvard in 1991 likely cost about the same as my Public Health degree from Emory in 2011- $60,000.
  • Before that, President Obama spent four years at Columbia University.  In the 1980s, the average yearly tuition at a four-year private school was just over $8,100 (thanks again, Wikipedia).  Since we’re talking about Columbia here, let’s bump that up to an even $9,000 per year.  That’s $36,000 over four years.
  • If President Obama only used loans to pay his tuition and fees at both schools, he would have graduated with a debt total close to $100,000.  Stretched out over 13 years and assuming an average fixed interest rate of 9% (this number comes from here) equals a monthly payment of about $1,089, or a grand total of $169,884.

You know what?  I’m starting to see why President Obama has spent so much time talking about student loan reform.  I’ve only spent two years paying on my student loans, and I talk about them and the need for reform all the time too. (The difference here is that only a few hundred people listen to me.  The similarity is that Congress doesn’t listen to me either.)

The big issue right now is the student loan interest program.  If it expires in July, the average student will pay $1,000 more on their loans in pure interest.  For those who are struggling just to make the minimum payment each month, this could put them dangerously close to defaulting on their loans.  President Obama is urging Congress to not let this program expire.  This is one of those times when even through my congressman can be an elitist … (well, it rhymes with stick), I’m still going to pick up the phone and send an email asking him to vote to extend the program.

Perhaps you could do the same? (Call your congressperson, I mean.  Don’t call mine unless you have to- he’s not a very nice person.)

If you want to know more about the issue, here are some links:

While you all read and discuss, or do whatever it is you do on the internet, I’m going to set a new goal for myself: pay off my student loans faster than the President.

Two years down, eleven to go.

Part 2!

23 Apr

For the second Monday post this week, I offer an update on my loan progress.

First off, I beat Amanda in March at the Amazing Loan Race.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, click the link above, or just know that I’m trying to beat my friend in a student loan payoff contest.  I paid $948 on my loans in March.  Amanda paid $100.  In her defense, she had a feline-related emergency.  The adorable animal in question is doing much better, and Amanda has vowed to destroy me this month, loan-wise.

That’s unlikely to happen. You see, as soon as my long-overdue paycheck arrives (accio paycheck*), I will be paying $1,296 on my loans this month.  For those of you keeping track at home, that’s just $39 under my ideal monthly payment of $1,335.

You guys, this is the closest I’ve come to hitting my ideal monthly payment yet! (cue: cheers and wild applause).  And it only took me four months to do it (cue: slow clap).  A third of the year gone by, and I’m finally almost on track.

 

Second, I mentioned last week (and the week before that) that I needed to get my work priorities back in order.  I’m pleased to say that I’m definitely on the right track.  I’ve talked with my bosses at two of my part-time jobs and made arrangements to remove some of my responsibilities at those jobs.  At one job, I won’t have to work before 2 pm on weekdays, making my schedule much more predictable each week.  At another job, we’re looking for someone to help take some of the workload each week so that things stop falling through the cracks.

It took a lot of courage for me to finally cry uncle, since I had it in my head that to do so was the same as failing.  I knew that I couldn’t do it all, but I felt like I should be able to anyway.  When I finally realized that it was OK to ask for help or for changes to be made, it was a huge relief.  The conversations with my bosses went much easier than I expected, and I came out of both meetings feeling much less stressed (and a bit more like a real adult.)  I also learned that people may be willing to help you, but you have to be the one to ask for it (or conversely: help will always be given to those who ask for it**).

 

Third, I’m thinking of trying out a new feature here: Rerun Saturdays.  I follow a lot of blogs on here (something like 40 at the moment), and I keep seeing great posts each week.  So, I’m planning on reposting my favorite entry from someone else’s blog each week on Saturday.  These entries won’t always be about loans and finances, and there really won’t be a theme to them.  It’ll just be whatever struck my funny bone, or made me go “hmm,” or otherwise captivated me during the week.  If you find something that you think I’ll like, please drop me an email (or an owl***) and let me know.

 

Finally, for those of you who like this sort of thing, my End of April tally.

End of April

$10,074.99 (End of March balance)

+ $46.83 (April interest)

– $1,296 (April payment)

————–

$8,825.82 (End of April balance)

My goal for April was to end up under $9,000.  I made it by $175 (cue: wild cheers and applause again).  My goal for May is to end up under $7,800.  That means a minimum loan payment of $1,025.  Hopefully my new work priorities will start paying off (literally) and I’ll see a rise in my monthly income.  Perhaps I’ll even get to Harry Potter World this year****.

 

 

*That’s one.  (Note- I’m taunting someone with Harry Potter references.  This is what happens when you talk smack about my blog or my mini golf skills.)

**That’s two.

***That’s three.

****That’s four.

Part 2!

23 Apr

For the second Monday post this week, I offer an update on my loan progress.

First off, I beat Amanda in March at the Amazing Loan Race.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, click the link above, or just know that I’m trying to beat my friend in a student loan payoff contest.  I paid $948 on my loans in March.  Amanda paid $100.  In her defense, she had a feline-related emergency.  The adorable animal in question is doing much better, and Amanda has vowed to destroy me this month, loan-wise.

That’s unlikely to happen. You see, as soon as my long-overdue paycheck arrives (accio paycheck*), I will be paying $1,296 on my loans this month.  For those of you keeping track at home, that’s just $39 under my ideal monthly payment of $1,335.

You guys, this is the closest I’ve come to hitting my ideal monthly payment yet! (cue: cheers and wild applause).  And it only took me four months to do it (cue: slow clap).  A third of the year gone by, and I’m finally almost on track.

 

Second, I mentioned last week (and the week before that) that I needed to get my work priorities back in order.  I’m pleased to say that I’m definitely on the right track.  I’ve talked with my bosses at two of my part-time jobs and made arrangements to remove some of my responsibilities at those jobs.  At one job, I won’t have to work before 2 pm on weekdays, making my schedule much more predictable each week.  At another job, we’re looking for someone to help take some of the workload each week so that things stop falling through the cracks.

It took a lot of courage for me to finally cry uncle, since I had it in my head that to do so was the same as failing.  I knew that I couldn’t do it all, but I felt like I should be able to anyway.  When I finally realized that it was OK to ask for help or for changes to be made, it was a huge relief.  The conversations with my bosses went much easier than I expected, and I came out of both meetings feeling much less stressed (and a bit more like a real adult.)  I also learned that people may be willing to help you, but you have to be the one to ask for it (or conversely: help will always be given to those who ask for it**).

 

Third, I’m thinking of trying out a new feature here: Rerun Saturdays.  I follow a lot of blogs on here (something like 40 at the moment), and I keep seeing great posts each week.  So, I’m planning on reposting my favorite entry from someone else’s blog each week on Saturday.  These entries won’t always be about loans and finances, and there really won’t be a theme to them.  It’ll just be whatever struck my funny bone, or made me go “hmm,” or otherwise captivated me during the week.  If you find something that you think I’ll like, please drop me an email (or an owl***) and let me know.

 

Finally, for those of you who like this sort of thing, my End of April tally.

End of April

$10,074.99 (End of March balance)

+ $46.83 (April interest)

– $1,296 (April payment)

————–

$8,825.82 (End of April balance)

My goal for April was to end up under $9,000.  I made it by $175 (cue: wild cheers and applause again).  My goal for May is to end up under $7,800.  That means a minimum loan payment of $1,025.  Hopefully my new work priorities will start paying off (literally) and I’ll see a rise in my monthly income.  Perhaps I’ll even get to Harry Potter World this year****.

 

 

*That’s one.  (Note- I’m taunting someone with Harry Potter references.  This is what happens when you talk smack about my blog or my mini golf skills.)

**That’s two.

***That’s three.

****That’s four.

When The Bubble Bursts

26 Mar

Here we are at the end of March.  Everything seems a little brighter lately, doesn’t it?  The weather is warmer, the birds are chirpier, and everything is covered in a soft yellow blanket of cheerfulness.  Wait, scratch that last part.  It finally rained last week.  (If you’re not from the South of the US, that was supposed to be a pollen joke.)

When art imitates life...

I was feeling pretty despondent over my loans this past week.  A quarter of the year is gone, which means just 9 months left to pay off $10,382 + interest (because I’m not good enough at math to calculate that out. My loans have two different interest rates.)  As I said in my post two weeks ago, that means a monthly payment of $1334.  That’s a $373 increase from my original ideal monthly payment.  It went up because a) I failed at math and forgot to factor in interest each month, and b) I didn’t even hit the $961 ideal payment for January and February.  Thus the despondency.

However, I’ve found support in some unlikely places.  Those of you who are new to this blog likely found it because of Facebook.  A friend of mine posted a link to my blog, which then got reposted by someone else, and reposted again by a third person.  After that I lost track of the link, but 276 of you viewed my blog in two days (as compared to 250 views in all of February), so I figured I’d struck a nerve.  If you’re reading this now, thanks for sticking around.

I also found support from the Huffington Post.  In the last week, they’ve posted at least three articles on student loans.  One article stated that the average 20-something carries $42,000 in debt, and 50% of us so-called Gen Yers have educational loans.  Another said that the federal student loan debt is over $1,000,000,000,000.  Yes, that’s 12 zeros.  There is over 1 TRILLION DOLLARS in student loan debt in the US.  A third article discussed how a large percentage of student loan borrowers don’t fully understand their loans or repayment schedules.

Those articles astounded me.  If you didn’t just click on the links above, you should.  Go read those articles and tell me how you feel about this issue.  To me, it’s all saying the same thing- Gen Yers got duped.  We were told to go to college to improve our career prospects, but by the time we go out of school, the job market had bottomed out.  Now we’re stuck living at home again, working part-time or minimum wage jobs, and running on the never-ending treadmill of loan repayment.  It’s like the home ownership crisis all over again, except instead of 60-year-olds being forced out of their homes, it’s 20-somethings being forced out of their first apartments.

I’m going to level with you.  I didn’t get angry over the foreclosure crisis.  I felt like, at some base level, those people who bought too much house should have known better.  I know, I know- it was a terrible thing to think, and that actually very few people who lost their homes were being extravagent, but there it is.  I did feel sympathetic for those who lost their homes, and I even watched my neighbors get foreclosed on. (Note- I lost all sympathy for the neighbors after they threw a wild party and trashed their house on the eve of their foreclosure.  After that, I was glad to see them go.)  But the entire thing didn’t touch me personally, so I didn’t get angry.

I am angry now.

The student loan bubble is about to burst, and you’d better believe that I’m standing right in the splash zone, along with a few million others.  The federal interest rate program is about to expire, and the rates on our loans are going to skyrocket.  People are going to be defaulting and declaring bankruptency right and left, and setting the tone for their entire financial future based on one decision they made when they were 18 years old.  I don’t know about you, but that seems really, really unfair.

So yes, I am angry now.  But probably not for the reasons you think.  I’m not angry that I got tricked into taking student loans, because I don’t think that I did.  I read all the information, I understood that I would be paying interest on the loans, and that interest would accrue even while I was in school, and I understood that the only way my loans would be forgiven would be if I a) paid them all back, or b) died.  (No joke- I have a promissory note that says it just like that. “Full repayment or death.”) 

No, I am angry because other people got tricked into taking loans that they didn’t understand.  Student loan providers preyed on my classmates like credit card companies used to before colleges got wise and started banning representatives from their campuses.  But more than that, I am angry that even though we all endured four years of hard work, we can’t even earn enough to repay the chances we were given to succeed.  A college degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but  it sure costs a heck of a lot more than it used to.  That’s some twisted financial logic right there.

So here’s what we do.

1) Write to your congressperson.  Tell them to not let the federal student interest rate program expire.  Bust out some fancy mathematical skills and show them how much extra we will have to pay (hint- look at the articles linked above.  $5,000 over a 20-year repayment plan for a student who borrowed $23,000.  That’s almost 20% extra in interest alone.)  Casually remind them that college students are allowed to vote, and perhaps thrown in that said students know that congressional members are up for election every four years.

2)  … I don’t actually have a number 2 yet.  I mean, the obvious thing is that we all get really angry, pool our resources, take over the job market, and pay our loans back early in protest.  Rob the lenders of their cushy interest rates.  But since most of us are struggling to find a job that will cover the rent, let alone minimum payments, this might be a crazy plan.

Or is it?  Think about it and let me know.

Until then: I present End of March figures.

End of March

$10,980.16 (end of February balance)

– $658 (initial March payment)

+ $42.83 (March interest)

– $290 (Secondary March payment)

———————–

$10,074.99 (End of March balance)

My goal for April is a balance under $9,000.  And to beat Amanda.  This month I paid $948.  I’m still waiting to hear her final payment.  I bet I won, though.

Post For Monday (Written On A Sunday)

19 Mar

It’s Sunday afternoon around 2 as I write this.  I’m getting a jump start on tomorrow’s post as part of my new devotion to time management (see last week‘s post for clarification.)

Sorry.  I apologize.  I thought I could say that with a straight face.

I really am writing this now so that I won’t have to do it in the morning.  I can also post it earlier, and not have it take any time away from other jobs.    But in all honesty, I’m writing this early because there’s a Mutemath concert tonight.

For those of you who don’t know, Mutemath is the only band for whom I will voluntarily shell out $70+ dollars and buy the VIP package.  For that price, I got all kinds of cool stuff including a first-in-line and meet-and-greet pass.  Of course, I’d pay $70 just for the chance to go to a Mutemath show (no one tell the Tabernacle that, though- I really enjoy those $20 tickets).  They’re amazing musicians and their shows are so high energy that you have to wonder if the guys have stock in Monster energy drinks, but most importantly they are just cool guys who have remained humble despite their success. That’s a big deal in today’s musical scene.

Since I have the meet-and-greet pass, and that doesn’t start until around 11:30 tonight, it’s going to be early morning before I finally drag myself into bed.  This means that by the time that I sit down at the computer at 10 am tomorrow to begin the workday, my brain probably won’t be up to anything more advanced than the cutting and pasting that my job requires.

Really, I’m writing this early FOR YOU.  You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve spent 250 words explaining why I’m writing this early, I should probably write the actual post.

I’ve been babysitting a lot this past week.  Four days with two different families- one with two little girls under 2, and another with three boys all well past the diaper phase.  I kept the girls from 8-5 for two days, and spent a few hours with the boys on two different nights.  These were very different jobs, but I enjoyed them both.  These are all excellent kids, and their parents are clearly doing a great job raising them. (I’m not sucking up here- I don’t think either set of parents reads my blog.  I’m just really glad that there are good parents out there.)

All together I made $290, which is going to make a nice month-end payment.  My goal this month was to be under $10,100.  This final payment should put my balance around $10,085, accomplishing my goal by $15!  I’ll let you know for sure next week.

Also next week, Amanda and I will be tallying up our March payments and comparing them.  A winner for the month will be announced.  If you’re confused as to what I’m talking about, you can read about the Amazing Loan Race here and here.  You can also just click the Amazing Loan Race category on the right side of the screen.  Whichever works best for you.

One final note- You’ll notice that it was a disapproving bunny above, and not a cat.  The threat of posting cat pictures if people didn’t click Like or Share seemed to work well last week.  As such, no cats appear in this blog post.  You’re welcome again.

 

PS- I was right about the time thing.  It’s 2 am and I just walked in the door of my house.  Still brushing confetti out of my hair.  There was a lot of confetti.

Like I said, there was a lot of confetti. I don't lie when it comes to airborne paper particles.

Life As A Ball Pit, or Beginning of March

5 Mar

I woke up this morning half-dreaming about building a giant ball pit. (Bear with me, this story is going somewhere.)  We all remember those square pens of netting and foam-encased steel, lined with a trampoline and containing hundreds of pieces of the most perfect childhood ammunition since the paper airplane- the hollow plastic ball.

The hollow plastic ball was a wonder of safety engineering.  Its brightly-colored exterior was soft enough to not dent a child’s skull, while its empty innards made sure that no matter how much force you put behind it, that throw was not going to make it to the end of the pit, let along clean through your younger brother’s head.  There was never a less throwing-friendly ball invented.

Sorry Mr. Ryan- even you couldn't get one of these things across the plate.

However, even all the brains of the adult generation couldn’t compare with the ingenuity of blood-thirsty children.  It didn’t take long to figure out that those soft plastic hollow balls provided more molding opportunities than a new cup of play-dough.  A grip of the fingers, and that ball morphed from a perfect sphere with the flight capability of an obese emu into a canoe-shaped weapon of mass eye-putting-out destruction. (Bonus points if you found the stress line and got the plastic to split open at one end.)  You still couldn’t take your younger brother permanently out of commission, but you could sure teach him a thing or two about breaking your favorite toy pony. (Sorry- getting a bit personal here.)

All in all, the ball pit was an excellent place to learn a thing or two about the real world (See? I told you there was a point).  Think about it for a minute.  You show up at the entrance, all excited to play and make friends, and then someone hurls an oblong piece of plastic at your face.  You have two choices: duck and cover, or stand up and fight.  You could try to crawl through the balls along the bottom of the pit and grab your enemy’s leg, jerking them down to your level among the contents of a hundred children’s pockets and the occasional lost sneaker.  Or you could grab your own ammunition (it’s a BALL pit after all.  Running out of ammo is an impossibility) and defend your right to play with the big kids.

Paying student loans off, or really paying any kind of debt off, is like being stuck inside a giant ball pit for the duration.  You show up, all flush with excitement at the wads of cash in your pocket/ new degree in your hand, and the loan company hurls a promissory note at your face.  You have two choices: sneak around and try to pull them down to your level, or stand up and fight.  Either way, just remember that no one’s mom is going to call them to come eat their chicken nuggets.  You dove into the ball pit- now make sure you have an exit strategy.

 

The money stuff.

Beginning of March

$10,980.16 (end of February balance)

– $658 (initial March payment)

+ $??? (March interest)

– $??? (Secondary March payment)

—————–

A balance under $10,200, with any luck.

 

 

For the morbidly curious: Where I Should Be

$11,530.13 (amount owed at beginning of January)

+ $307.41 (accrued interest)

-$961 (January payment)

———

$10,876.54 (end of January balance)

+$110.03 (rough interest for February)

– $961 (February payment)

——-

$10,025.57 (End of February balance)

 

I am $954.59 off where I should be going into March. Essentially, one full payment behind.  The good news is that I might have some extra money coming my way this month from babysitting jobs, if everything goes according to plan.  I know that each month I talk about making a second payment, but so far it hasn’t happened.  I’m going to try really hard to change that this month and boost that payment into the $800 range.  Mainly because I have to beat Amanda, who has accepted my Amazing Loan Race challenge.  But also because I’m an adult and I can’t throw hollow plastic balls at those who stand in my way anymore.

 

At least, not literally.

In Which I Throw Down The Metaphorical Gauntlet

7 Feb

In every movie set in medieval times, it’s a certainty that someone is going to issue a challenge to someone else by hurling a metal-plated glove (gauntlet, for the uninitiated) in the challengee’s general direction.  In the good movies, the challenger slaps the other with the gauntlet.  In the mediocre movies, they throw it at the challengee’s feet.  In the bad movies, this scene gets left on the cutting room floor.  But in any case, when the gloves come off, you know it’s a pivotal moment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have reached that pivotal moment.

If you’re interested, Amanda’s blog can be read here: http://artofcombiningrandomness.blogspot.com/

See?  I told you this could get interesting.  (Hit the like or share buttons if you agree.)

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