I came across an article last week on The Huffington Post that focused not on the school loan debt that most students graduate with, but the credit card debt. According to Sallie Mae, college seniors graduate with an average of $4,138 in credit card debt. When you’re paying off $20,000 in credit card debt, $4,000 doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but most of these students are beginning their financially independent lives already in debt.
I mean, I graduated from college without any credit card debt and still ended up buried in it. Though my path is slightly out of the ordinary, since I went straight to graduate school and I will be in graduate school for a long time, I suspect that most of these students will get further in debt before they start paying any of it off. Even for the declining few who get excellent jobs right out of college, there will be other expenses, including especially bills for student loans that will start arriving six months after graduation.
I am very political and very liberal, yet my reaction to these circumstances (my own and all recent graduates) is not that something must be done with these credit card companies or even that students should graduate with more knowledge in basic economics, but rather what a terrible way to start your independent life. Debt is like an anchor that pulls you down. You can get by for a long time, going further into debt to do the things you really want to do, but it will catch up to you eventually. It caught up to me in the months before I decided to get out of debt.
While it’s hard to be optimistic about American attitudes toward debt changing large scale, I grow more optimistic all the time that debt doesn’t have to be permanent. For too long, I let the idea that everyone was in debt comfort me as my own debt grew out of control. I guess I have had to give up certain things to get out of debt. It was a lifestyle change to stop spending and to start working like crazy. But, it isn’t permanent and to me it’s worth 14 months of really hard work to have financial freedom.
I’m not quite on the Debt is Evil platform, but I am on the It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way platform and especially the, It Doesn’t Have to Stay This Way platform for those of us who are already buried.