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Question 3

Do you have student loan or credit card debt?

Photo prompt #3: Take a picture of the most expensive thing you own.

Quite frankly, my parents never told me how all-consuming student loan debt could be. And I’m sure that before they had two kids to put through college, they didn’t really know. They are accustomed to living with debt and going without when need be, as I’m sure I will be when I have a family and a home of my own.

The difference between my parents and me is that I don’t have to wait for kids and cars to be living from paycheck to paycheck with thousands of dollars hanging over my head. To my mother’s credit, she did try to warn me. She always told me that I should just choose what I want; she and my dad would find a way to pay for it. At that time I didn’t think “find a way” would be such an operative phrase and that when she said “me and dad” she meant all of us.

This is the most difficult question yet for me because the subject matter inherently brings up all kinds of negative emotions. I am angry and confused, and sometimes completely overwhelmed. When I got out of college and into repayment, I didn’t know which of my five loans were private or which had been sold to a different servicer. Nor did I know if the amount of my payments was in any way negotiable or normal. To this day I am not as informed about my own debt as I know I should be, and I am just too scared to really find out what I am up against. What if it is too much?

When I say that student loan debt is consuming, I don’t just mean it ties all of my money up in principle and interest payments, I mean that loans are the measurement on which I gauge family wealth and the lens through which I perceive someone’s financial hardship. I sometimes feel bad even thinking it, but it is hard for me to commiserate with another’s financial situation if they do not have student loan debt.

Maybe I just don’t know enough about how things can be hard, but I do know that I won’t be able to have a car, that I am nowhere near having my own apartment, and during the summer when I have just one job instead of three, I won’t even be able to keep current on my payments. To me, this is as bad as it could be for a gainfully employed person in my age bracket. I did what people always told me I should — I went to a good college, did well, and got a job. I am angry that what I have to show for it is debt, and that it’s not like this for everyone.

In comparison, credit card debt has little to no bearing on my financial situation or outlook on my situation versus someone else’s. Those payments are manageable.

I know that I have credit because I chose to have a credit card, and my relationship with Capital One is not nearly as wrought with animosity as my relationship with Sallie Mae. However, it is exceedingly annoying to have only paid off 7 percent of a credit card balance, which I reached buying a laptop that I accidentally knocked over when trying to reach something high up. Even though I am not far along in the process, I am optimistic about paying off my balance; I take any opportunity to make a payment over the minimum due.

Debt is hard for me to think about and discuss.

When things are hard I have always fallen back on comforting myself, and others, with the assurance that these things don’t last forever. I have always been one to just put my head down and trudge along until I reach the finish line. But in this case, I am genuinely worried that my debt and the hardship I feel because of it will last forever and that, no matter how many payments I make on time, there will always be one more lined up directly behind it.


  1. shwoodbury at 2:49 pm, October 23, 2012

    I’m in the exact same boat. I identify with you on so much of your struggle. My parents had no idea how all consuming private student loan debt is, I had no idea when applying for aid the difference between private and federal loans, plus I’ve been in repayment for 8 years and the balance never seems to go down. I certainly hope there’s an end in site for students currently in school and those of us shackled in repayment. Hopefully there’s a solution before we waste our lives and thousands of dollars paying back an unmanageable debt. If this helps you should subscribe to StudentDebtCrisis.org.

  2. Brendan Leahey at 9:49 am, October 24, 2012

    I know you mentioned you have private debt but any public debt should be eligible for Income Based Repayment and with your income you would little or no payment.

  3. Cheyenne Postell at 4:22 pm, October 26, 2012

    Its good to hear that other people came into this same kind of situation as unprepared as I was. Of course I knew that loans accumulated interest and that people were very forthcoming about not being able to handle their student loan debt, but I never thought it would be me. And no one told me it could be.
    And now that so many mortgages are being exposed as unmanageable I am very worried about not being able to pay down my debt. I always thought that you didn’t buy things you couldn’t afford, without realizing that people can convince you of things that are not true, and that an education is in fact something that you buy.
    I am trying to be positive through these weeks, and as bad as it sounds it does make me feel better to know that a lot of people may have been dealt a hand that had a few too many cards.

  4. Cheyenne Postell at 4:24 pm, October 26, 2012

    Thanks Brendan. It took me longer than I would like to admit to realize how I could lower my payments. But I have made some headway in that department. Right now I have so many loan providers that my first order of business is to consolidate my loans to as few as possible and then work on getting Income Based Repayment. I appreciate the advice!