"I owe how much money?" I could not believe my ears. After four years of attending college, graduating and receiving a minimal-salaried job, I had just received the news that I was in thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt. This couldn't be reality. I didn't sign up for this.
I am not alone. There are millions of students each year who struggle with the burden of student loan debt. In fact, student loan debt soared from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.2 trillion in 2014 leaving many students wondering if they would ever be able to dig themselves out of what many refer to as good debt.
So what exactly is good debt? According to one site, good debt is defined as an investment that will grow in value or generate long-term income. Student loans are considered good debt but for how long? What if your good debt never generates long term income? What if it never grows in value? Does that suddenly make that good debt, bad debt? These are questions that many students have been forced to ask and unfortunately no one has been able to give them good answers.
Recently, researchers at the University of South Carolina and the University of California Los Angeles conducted a study about the correlation between student loan debt and depression. The reports were astonishing to lawmakers but not surprising to students who have dealt with depression as a result of an increased amount of loan debt.
Now that it has been discovered that student loan debt depression is a real thing what exactly can one do to fix it? Certainly, words of discouragement such as: "get over it, every student in America is in debt" do not work and it certainly doesn't make things better when people tell you to "just pay it off," especially when the money isn't there. How do you address it? The same way you eat an elephant, one piece at a time:
Take a Deep Breath
Knowing you have student loan debt and lots of it can be depressing all by itself. Take a deep breath. Reflect on life and remind yourself that things will get better. Viewing your debt as a mountain that you are willing to conquer vs. viewing it as a mountain that has conquered you will help you keep pushing on those days you feel like giving up.
Determine How Much You Owe
Calling the student loan debt collector is one of the scariest calls you will ever make. Not the scariest, but one of the scariest. I'm not sure if I want to know what the scariest one is. Making this one call can be intimidating, especially if you have been throwing away your bills or ignoring their calls. Get the call over with in order to begin prioritizing how and when you can begin making payments.
Seek Out Companies Who Will Pay Your Loans
Believe it or not, some companies will pay for your student loans. Yes, pay. When seeking out fresh opportunities be sure to ask if they would be willing to cover a portion of your student loans in exchange for your years of service to the company. There are also several nonprofits who are willing to forgive a portion of your debt after only a short period of time working with them. If your company doesn't advertise paying off student loans, ask. Sometimes we miss out on our greatest blessings because we didn't ask for what we wanted.
Just because you don't have the hundreds of dollars that student loan companies may be asking, for do not fret. You can begin payment with as little or as much as you would like. There are several companies out there who will even let you pay as little as $10.00 a month on your student loan debt which is music to the ears of many who work minimum wage jobs.
There's a song that I love that always reminds me to encourage myself. When tackling my student loan depression, I have to do just that. When I have reached a pivotal milestone in my payment plan, I encourage myself to keep pushing. Though I sometimes regret not being more financial literate before taking out the loan I remind myself that I took the loan out as an investment into my future knowing one day it would pay off. You may not be a millionaire (yet) and you may not have your dream job (yet), but keep encouraging yourself, it will get better.
How have you addressed your student loan debt depression? Leave your comments below.