The Student Loan Dilemma
Many students are hesitant to take out student loans.
Is improving your human capital through further education a good reason to take on debt?
The Changing Times
In 2002 there was $300 billion federal student loans outstanding in the US.
Today it’s more than $900 billion.
Part of this dramatic increase is due to the extended period of low interest rates which creates incentives for people to take on more credit (loans,) as well as the ability to refinance student loans to secure more favorable terms.
The other reason is that the western world feels more entitled to creature comforts and luxuries than ever before.
Of course I’m generalizing but when our parents went to college their dorms were small and simple. They ate cheap pizza and baloney sandwiches. They saved more of their own money to pay for things instead of using credit cards. And they didn’t rely on the government for financial aid. If they didn’t have enough cash to buy a TV, they simply wouldn’t buy it. Period.
But today young people like myself live in nice apartments. We eat steak, sushi, only drink quality craft beers, and enjoy posting photos of our Bloody Caesars on Facebook for the world to see. Some people even purchase gym memberships on their credit cards, which puts them further into debt.
But it’s okay, because they have to impress their friends right? 😉
There’s a cost to everything. The older generation funded their lifestyles by saving and producing real goods and services. But today most of our lifestyles are funded by debt.
Debt isn’t seen as a bad thing anymore. It’s actually necessary if we want a normal life. As long as we go into debt for the right reasons and not waste it on frivolous spending then every dollar we borrow today will be an investment in our future.
Corporations WANT us to keep spending. Universities WANT more enrollment. Financial institutions make their profits via interest on our debts. Even our governments (despite what they tell us) WANT us to continue carrying debt.
Everyone Wants you to have Debt
If you think it’s better to pay off your current debt than to take on more student loans then prepare to fight an uphill battle. Everyone in the economy from small restaurants, to large corporations and government bodies are against reducing personal debt. If everyone started to pay off all their debts we would create another financial crisis like in 2008.
I think the answer is to just go with the flow and don’t feel bad about borrowing money.
Don’t fight the trend. Go ahead and apply for those new credit cards and student loans. Why limit yourself? 🙂
After all if everyone is in really deep debt, then no one is in really deep debt, right?
Here’s an analogy. If everyone else is speeding on the freeway then it must be okay for you to speed too. In fact, if you adhere to the actual speed limit and drive slower than everyone else then you are more likely to cause an accident!
The majority is always right even when they’re wrong.
In Canada home prices have been buoyed by excessive lending. It’s the highly leveraged risk takers who bought homes with a small down payment and took on huge mortgages that have benefited the most from the last 15+ years – often at the expense of others who were more financially responsible.
In the United States, all the renters who didn’t buy into the housing bubble still had to bail out the mortgage insurance companies in 2008. The reckless borrowing and unimpeded addiction to credit of some people has created moral hazard. Families who did nothing wrong still had to bail out the US banks.
How is it fair to punish the savers for the mistakes of greedy borrowers? It’s not. But unfortunately personal accountability doesn’t mean anything anymore.
The majority wins. And right now they’re inundated with debt. So follow the majority, and you’ll have nothing to worry about as history has shown.
My Personal Take
Debt reduction comes from an outdated mentality. All the cool, young people of this generation are going into debt up to their eyeballs to pay for iPhones, all-you-can-eat sushi, and higher education.
Holding debt is just another part of life and not something you HAVE to pay off anymore. This is the new normal. 🙂
For some of you readers it may appear that I’m doing quite well financially for a millennial. I own a condo, a vehicle, a six figure stock portfolio, and even have some rental income. But the realty is all these amenities and assets I have were acquired primarily using debt and not through legitimate savings, or earned income, or heaven forbid actual hard work, haha.
I’ve joined this new movement of buying instant gratification on credit & have no regrets. Who else is with me?