Every time I post about my student loan debt through social media I get really mad at myself because I know that 95 percent of my network is so sick of me talking about it.
In the past year, I've been obsessing over my loans in an attempt to get rid of them faster. My husband and I have joined forces to restrict our lifestyles in order to pull off this feat, but outside of our little family bubble, we feel really alone.
One of the defining characteristics of a millennial is our desire to share, and yet for a generation famous for its student loan debt, it's surprising that no community exists to unite us all. In designing for this challenge, here's a list of qualities that would speak to millennials in need:
One of the reasons I hate posting about my debt on Facebook is that I often feel embarrassed. My social network is so broad that half of the commenters are often judgmental. I need a safe space where I can share what I'm going through with people who are in a similar situation. I guess I'm looking for a community kind of like Weight Watchers -- a group that rallies around a specific goal where everyone is living the same hardship and collectively trying to achieve the same thing.
Play Games With Me
I linked my student loans to my Mint.com account and was really disappointed by the results. I thought I was going to get some great new motivator that would help me stick to my plan day in and day out, but not so much. I think what I was really hoping for was the financial equivalent of Nike+: a place where I could log my progress, compete with friends and win trophies -- all with a playful interface to make the hard work feel more like fun.
Show Me the World
Transparency is a redeeming quality for any service, but it's great when it goes the extra mile in order to give a glimpse into other people's lives without jumping through hoops. I love the newsfeed on Venmo that allows you to see everyone's latest payments. This is especially important for a financial service because people don't make transactions every day. Being able to switch views from your own small network to a larger one provides a never-ending stream of content to keep you engaged.
It may seem a little big brother-ish, but GPS tracking has opened up a new world for so many services. Why should finances be excluded? In the way that Find My Friends allows your trusted network to know your exact location, why couldn't a debt community get to know everyone's danger zones -- the places they often regret spending money? By simply dropping a pin on a map where my local café is, my network could help me refrain from buying that extra cup of coffee. It would be like the financial equivalent of an AA sponsor.
Connect Me IRL
One of the weird things about millennials in the student loan debt situation is that our parents can't really give us advice because most of them never went through this. We could seek advice from a financial planner... but we can't afford it. In the way that Meetup allows people with common interests to find each other in cities around the world, why couldn't a debt community have the same function? An organizing feature could enable us to find nearby debt-ridden alumni, or anyone in our area looking to share information on how to best tackle student loan debt.
Dealing with overwhelming amounts of student loan debt is an emotional roller coaster ride that millennials will be on for years to come. We need support, guidance and a way to turn our problems into something manageable... and maybe even fun!