There’s horror, and then there’s horror. There’s scary of a specific variety that leaves the hair on the back of the neck standing at attention, the flavor of eerie that leaves you clutching the covers in the middle of the night. There is one flavor of fright that makes adults weep like babies, for it is scarier than all of the Saw and Exorcist movies combined.
There’s your garden variety hack and slash goon in the middle of the night scary, but what we’re talking about here is a different kind of terror. The evil that stokes fear in the hearts of foolish mortals. We’re talking about student loan debt.
While we all know to never go into the basement or keep on walking when someone wants to enter that old spooky house at the end of the street, we’re not so savvy when it comes to our student loan debt. We know to never spend Halloween in Haddonfield, just as we’re smart enough to avoid Elm Street at all costs. Tell us to not spend a bunch of money in college? Forget it! That’s a future me problem.
THE SCARY REALITY, REAL STUDENT LOAN STORIES
But, just as the fortune teller with the crystal ball foresees, you should be mindful when borrowing that cash – you could end up owing a small fortune. We mined the depths of social media and borrowed some stories from the haunted messageboards looking for nightmare scenarios that maybe could save a life or two from the swinging ax of ghoulish Uncle Sam’s claws. Proceed without fear, our frightened friends. It’s safe here. We’re just telling stories around the campfire.
WE CAN’T AFFORD THE BOOKSHELF & SECRET PASSAGE
“My wife has debt. We’re paying it down so we can save up for a mansion full of hidden rooms and secret passages. I guess we’d start saving up to have kids or something lame too, but we would mostly want to put all this loan money towards rooms hidden behind switches in bookshelves. I’ve seen some online tutorials about how to make some cheap looking secret rooms, but I think my family deserves more.
Once I have the secret rooms, I want to fill them with treasures like gold bars and crowns and gemstones and coins. Think the scene from Aladdin when they find the genie lamp, but my room won’t be cursed and there probably won’t be any magic carpets. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t want a magic carpet, I just don’t know any wizards who could enchant one and I don’t think NASA would let me borrow the secret one they’ve been working on in Area 51. If you don’t think NASA has a magic carpet then you are a fool Almost as big a fool as I am for accumulating as much debt as I did.”
$39k in Student Debt
MY BIG SALARY ASSUMPTION WAS WRONG, NOW WHAT?
Check out this terrible tale about how going broke can be quite easy when you’re just trying to get ahead. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
“I graduated from the University of California system (not to be confused with the California State University system) in 2009 with a degree in physics. When I started, all I heard about were the thousands upon thousands of engineering jobs in Silicon Valley that I could easily get paid upwards of $75000/year starting out. Not in 2009. In fact, as the economy tumbled in 2008, I decided to do the “smart thing” and prepare for graduate school.
I had an interest in law and realized that taking physics GREs was incredibly intimidating with little payoff in terms of careers outside of academia. I took the LSAT and applied to a bunch of law schools. I got into a third tier school specializing in Intellectual Property Law and decided to move out of state to commit three years.
My parents (rightfully) cut me off after university, and I decided to fund to the whole thing–$40,000 per year + living expenses–with loans. Being smart in math and science DOES NOT MEAN being smart financially. something I used just to take for granted. Well, I graduated law school in 2012 thinking I’d have around $120,000 in debt, and that a nice $130,000/yr job would be waiting for me in IP law. WRONG.
As interest continued to accrue, as it had been since 2009, no law firms wanted to talk to me unless they knew for certain that I had passed the bar exam. I studied like crazy that summer and took it in July 2012, but wouldn’t hear of the results until November 2012.
After NOT PAYING ANY ATTENTION AT ALL TO MY DEBT FOR THREE YEARS, I finally signed up for an account with the loan middleman service company and realized that my debt was $193,000!!! F**K….MY….LIFE.
I had no income, and that was a bad time to graduate law school. I thought the world had screwed me over. I thought I was one of the smart, responsible ones, thinking things through, making the right decisions, to ultimately become a successful contributor to society. But, I was wrong. I thought Obama and the government had failed me. I thought my parents didn’t paint me the whole picture. I thought my law school was a scam. Something went wrong, and I didn’t know what the hell it was.
I’m not an idiot. I was financially illiterate, but not an idiot. In November, I found out I passed the bar exam in California. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t, and my thoughts went out to those that didn’t…all 45% of exam-takers in California.
I went hard to find a job. I called everyone I knew in the field…parents of friends, former teachers, my law school advisers, even cold calls to firms. That debt was accruing fast, and I was scared. Here’s the worst part: the interest rates! (8.5%, 7.9%, and 6.5% respectively). KILL ME…PLEASE, GOD, KILL ME NOW.
I finally got a job in February of 2013, making a good income of $80,000 per year as an attorney in Silicon Valley. That was okay, but Silicon Valley is expensive. A single bedroom apartment now costs me $1740/mo… and that’s cheap for this area. However, at the time, I went on the “cheap” and shacked up like a college student in a house with five other people for “only” $1090/mo. There was nothing cheaper that was within a 20-minute commute from work. Still, with initial moving expenses and settling into work, I realize I couldn’t afford the 20 yr. monthly payment, so I tied it to my income (10%) BIG MISTAKE!!
One year later, I changed payments back to a 19 yr schedule, and interest capitalized! 10% of my wages weren’t even taking care of interest! The principal on my loans shot up to $202,000!!
I thought I’m supposed to be successful here! I landed a job against the odds! Passed the bar exam! Where did I go wrong?!? I’m earning money. I’m living modestly with other people. Expenses are low (except for housing). WTF?!?
Then I looked closely at my statements. I had been making extra payments, but that didn’t matter. Through trickery and cunning, my standard payment was postponed (all the way through 2017). Hence, the interest capitalized and then those postponed payments were scheduled, and some other weird shit that I don’t care to understand, which is part of the problem.
I worked hard that first 1.5 years and got a few raises (up to $130k). I feel really lucky. Because of this, I decided to move into my apartment. This was not a mistake for me. Having space, I was able to focus on priorities. Judgments aside, that’s a good wage, and I should be able to at least live in my own apartment. One of those priorities was to go apeshit on those loans. So, starting July of this year, I started going crazy man on them. I keep a minor rainy day fund in a savings account of $1,500, and everything else is going into those loans. So, here I am eating Top Ramen in my mediocre 650 sq. Ft. single bedroom apartment. No special amenities. No luxuries. I’m an attorney making good money with a massive fucking debt that’s coming down fast (now at $161,000). There is an end in sight. I’ve set it for four years down the road. The sad thing is, I’m the successful one. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those that:
Went to a worse law school
Didn’t have as good an undergraduate degree
Didn’t have the connections
Didn’t have the social skills
Didn’t pass the bar exam
Got a lower paying job
Got into a worse field (pay wise)
Bottom Line: Went into debt. Accrued to $200k. Got a good job. Paying it down FAST.”
THE WORST STRATEGY EVER: DEFAULT & DENIAL
If that’s not enough to make your heart beat faster or make you feel a little batty, try this terrible tale on for size:
“Wife owes $80,000+ in private student loans and rapidly growing. After years of struggling to make minimum monthly payments of $900+, we finally decided “No way Sallie Mae, you’re never getting another cent!”
Since then she’s been in default, and we’ve been living on the run for the past year. The goal is to wait for the Statute of Limitations (SOL) to run out whereby Sallie Mae and its collection agencies can no longer collect. This is called a strategic default. Many people have successfully reached the SOL: the private lender can’t do anything further to collect.
Also, many people after being in default for a long time have been able to settle their debt for a HUGE reduction. Also, it makes adversarial proceedings much easier (this is where the debtor declares bankruptcy under undue hardship) because the debt grows so large it becomes impossible to pay off. Basically, strategic defaults can give people much greater options than they ever had before. If worse comes to worse, she has family in a third world country where we’d both easily be able to live and work. There we’re guaranteed to be 100% untouchable by the private loan sharks. – NoWaySallieMae via REDDIT
THE UNFINISHED DEGREE & UNRELENTING DEBT
Feeling a little too creepy? Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Check this spine-tingler also from Reddit:
“I went to a public college for undergrad, paid for it with savings and bonds, and graduated at the top of my class debt free. Yay! Then I went to a top-tier grad school in my field. Halfway through, $100k in loans later, my wife had to quit her job due to a complication during pregnancy, so I had to drop out of the graduate program and get a job.
It’s five years later. I have a decent job – just under six figures – and my wife takes care of the kids (two so far, a third on the way).
Even if I was single, I could not possibly pay my monthlies. I have about six to eight different loans with two different providers, and all the monthly payments add up to almost $2000 – a third of my gross income. I put my loans into forbearance as long as I could, and now I’ve been deferring them for the past two years. I’ve occasionally been out of work which has put us into credit card debt so we’ve mostly been focused on paying those off, plus car, rent, etc.
It’s hard to see ever being able to pay off my loans unless my salary hits $200k, which I guess is eventually possible, in theory, as long as my industry (software development) stays steady in my country (USA) and I’m able to keep growing professionally. I might get there eventually.
I’ve considered debt re-consolidation. All of my loans are federal. My understanding is that I’ll lose out on the 4% interest rate a lot of them have, but if I could have a single income-based monthly to cover all my loans – something in the $300 range, say – I think I could be making payments. Obviously, I recognize that it was stupid to take out so much in loans and not even to end up getting a degree out of it, but that ship has unfortunately sailed.” – icantevenaffordthis via REDDIT
FACEBOOKERS WHO NEED SERIOUS HELP
Here’s a grim prospect from the horror show that is Facebook. There, the depravity of student loan debt knows no bounds. Listen to this terrible tale:
“I graduated in 2011 with $100k debt. I don’t make nearly enough to even kind of cover what I owe. I can’t get a refinance because I currently owe more than I can pay off. Thanks to budget cuts across the board in my state, I’m at least 10-15K underpaid, and my bosses know it. It low key depresses me that I won’t own a home and or car till at least I am 40 – if I’m lucky. Even if I did sucker someone into to marriage, I can’t afford a wedding. I squat at my cousin’s place cuz it’s all I can afford. The room I stay in doesn’t have a door or ceiling. But, hey – I have a Master’s Degree.” – K, via Facebook
Who loves frightening hot takes? Here are some quick hits from Facebook that’ll leave you shaking in the middle of the night.
“I owe tens of thousands and will never be able to pay them back, resulting in my daughter left with a massive debt when I die.”
“6.87% interest that’s accruing DAILY is a horror story in itself — I have a second job solely dedicated to paying off my student loans (hopefully done in the next year and a half).”
“I almost had to live in my car thanks to getting an art degree. Thanks, college!”
Do you have any student loan stories that leave you gasping for air? Can you leave our skin crawling? Leave your scariest student loan debt story in the comments. We’re DYING to read them!