This relates to a series of posts I did awhile back (1, 2, 3). My Generation of mid 20 somethings to 30ish were largely sold a pack of exaggerations and outright lies by our parents, teachers and society at large. We were told that the roads are paved in gold and if we get a college degree or a skilled trade (mostly a degree) it is going to be easy and we will quickly settle into very comfortable lives a la the American Dream.
My values and beliefs do not allow me to absolve people of responsibility for their actions. Somebody who chooses to go to a private school and take 50k in loans to get a degree that correlates with a job whose starting salary is 27k is in a tough spot of their own choosing. A person who makes 30k somehow got a loan for a 350k home then go figure can't pay it is a fool who deserves their misfortune.
It is hard to look beyond what most parents, almost all teachers and society tells us. Especially for teenagers who are sold a dream of how awesome a private college, or college at all it is hard to see the truth.
The thing is that baring programs at a few elite schools which get you internships that lead to crazy high starting salaries things aren't cake, even for those who manage to leave college with that piece of paper. When people graduate or otherwise enter what I call the big boy job market there is a choice. You can get stuff/ whatever rather quickly by borrowing money or you can wait and slowly accumulate things by paying cash.
A person with a normal albeit modest starting salary who goes out and buys a new average but respectable car (Honda Civic, Toyota, etc) and furnishes their apartment/ townhouse on a store card then gets a nice entertainment system on a payment plan will have some nice things 2 months into their job. However they will be paying for those things forever with lots of interest. Also they will be so busy paying all those loans, not to mention their student loans as well as rent, food, utilities, insurance, etc. That means instead of getting ahead they are just trying to catch up to the stuff they don't need they already have bought.
If you follow this blog halfway you already guessed we went the cash route. I am not going to lie it kinda sucks. There are times I get pretty down on the whole thing. Some days the knowledge that you are making the right move doesn't matter much when you have a hard time getting your piece of S car to sputter its way to work, come home after a long day to sit on a beat up hand me down couch your parents bought 25 years ago and try to watch a piece of junk TV without a remote control. I work hard and save and don't have much to show for it. You worked hard to get through school and get a solidly respectable job, made the right choices and things just come so darn slowly.
Life is so often two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes it is one step forward and two steps back. We scrimped and saved for a long time to have a half of a decent emergency fund. Wifeys car died and that cash became a low end used car. That used car four hundred dollar'ed us a couple times and then proved entirely unreliable and died. So we had no emergency fund AND no second car. We started saving again and finally built up a comfortable 3 month emergency fund. We then saved up and bought a decent used car which should run well for a long time. We put money aside every month for furniture and slowly but surely our house is filling up with halfway decent stuff. In a year or so it won't look like a college kid apartment anymore. At least in our life things are slowly but surely coming together.
We are now focused on getting my student loan wiped out in about one year instead of the projected three. In the last two years we will save what was going to the loan and that will be a solid down on a modest home. We will then work to pay that home off at an accelerated rate as well as saving and other such stuff.
Even though it sucks some days I like that we only have one outstanding debt. Student loans suck but since it got me into a job with a solidly decent income and benefits it was a worthwhile investment. No car payments and couch payments and TV payments or whatever. Of course I would love if things could go faster but I am happy with the direction we are moving in.
As a final thought if we look at history with some perspective we are all just a bunch of whiners; blah blah blah it takes a long time to pay off a student loan or yadda yadda yadda I can't afford a 4,000 square foot mansion on a janitors salary, I can't afford to buy a fancy boat and lastly, I never saved anything and now at 60 when I want to retire it is somebody else's fault. Seriously do a little bit of reading or just google terms like siege, crop failure, famine and black death. Heck take a walk in an old cemetery (pre 1900ish) and read some headstones. I do not know a family who lost 5 kids to cholera or was wiped out by smallpox or influenza or starved to death in a famine. Seriously we have it pretty darn good.
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