Hearing of borrowers getting their student loans forgiven can be hard for those who paid all of theirs off, but here’s why it’s good for you.
With regularity, there are stories coming out that more and more people are having their student loans forgiven.
A recent announcement came out regarding reports that the Biden administration will be bringing roughly 3.6 million student loan borrowers three years closer to loan forgiveness as part of their Income-Driven Repayment plans, or IDR.
IDR, if you’re not familiar with it, allows for lower monthly payments depending on your income, and, more importantly, promises loan forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.
This program and programs like it has had its share of troubles. The biggest issue is that many people have gotten to the end of the program and expected to get their loans forgiven, only to find that through some administrative error or oversight, they weren’t eligible, and didn’t find out until years later.
And up until recently, the amount of income that’s forgiven was taxed, leading to a potentially massive tax bill.
But regardless of all that, the current administration is continuing to remedy some past ills, in effect, “adding years” to borrowers’ total years of payments, which in some cases is putting people over the threshold into getting their loans immediately forgiven.
All of this is great and all, depending on your vantage point.
If you’re a student loan borrower, stuck in what feels like an eternity of repayment, such announcements, even if they fall short of actual student loan forgiveness, still feels like an oasis of hope in a desert of bills.
But if you’ve already repaid your student loans in full, you may be looking at this with some other feelings.
In short, you may not be happy about this at all. You may even be downright livid.
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Why aren’t you happy?
“I paid my bills, and now these people don’t have to!”
Many people who were once under the thumb of student loans but aren’t any more are feeling envy, and maybe a little aggrieved. There is definitely a sense that someone else got something they didn’t earn or deserve.
At first glance, it really does feel unfair.
Accompanying this might be a sense of feeling like a sucker. This one is especially common in those who only recently paid off their student loans. You did all the right things, but if you hadn’t been as on top of your finances, you could have gotten away with not paying off your loans.
Does this sound like you? Do you have this mixture of envy and disdain? Do you feel like other people are getting a free ride?
It’s understandable to feel that way, and I can’t blame you in the slightest.
But your understanding of the situation is misguided.
Why you’re wrong
Yes, you had it tough. And you’re right.
But those who are younger than you have it much, much tougher.
The generation wealth gap is real, and probably growing. For example, according to a report in 2019, “The average millennial’s wealth in 2016 (ages 23 to 38) was 41% less than those who were at a similar age in 1989.“
And while we’re at it, in the same report: “Households headed by someone under 35 in 2016 had an average net worth of $10,900, which is $8,000 less than it was in 1995.”
College tuition has been rising at about 8% a year for many years now, well ahead of inflation. And, as we know because of the Rule of 72, that means that the cost of college is doubling every nine years.
So you have a situation where, as your schooling days recede, those younger than you are making less money and having greater student loan expenses than you did, by an increasing margin.
And this is not even talking about homeownership, which due to a host of factors, is also becoming more and more out of reach. And considering that this is where most of us keep our wealth, this is also screwing our younger cohort.
So, the reason why you’re wrong is because you’re comparing your situation to someone else’s, always a dangerous game, but in this case is a demonstrably false equivalence.
Why you should be happy
I can’t convince you to be happy for others if you’re not predisposed to do so. But I can offer some ideas to ponder.
These loan forgiveness programs are designed to “level the playing field”, to make things slightly more bearable for those who have had a bad roll of the dice.
That alone should make you feel a sense of justice being served, rather than justice denied.
Also, I’ve written of the scarcity mindset before, which appears to be designed to keep us at odds with each other, instead of banding together to demand better for all of us (that whole “united we stand” thing).
But also, if self-interestedness moves you, consider that this societal largess may be coming your way soon. Perhaps you own a home and there’s mortgage forgiveness in your future. How would it be for you to have some or all of your mortgage forgiven when others paid them off? Would you refuse it, on the grounds that it was unfair in your favor?
Other people’s student loan forgiveness is good practice for you
Fairness does not mean equity. I never grow tired of saying that. Something that is numerically equal may not be fair, and something that is objectively fair may not be equal.
So consider that if something feels equal to you (as in, everyone paying their student loans off without forgiveness) may not be fair (as in, different generations of people had structural benefits and challenges).
It’s good practice to remember the difference.
It’s also good practice to try some raw, unencumbered compassion for a change. Maybe think less about how something relates to you, and instead just revel in how nice it is for someone to have something nice happen to them.
And if none of this moves you, then the least you could do is shut the hell up about how other people don’t deserve certain things. You really have no idea, and neither does anyone else.