My Story

I married and had kids late.  My husband earned good money.  I was a stay at home mom, raising our two daughters, and his two kids from his first marriage.  Then he decided he didn’t want to be married any more.  I hadn’t had a regular paying job in years, so it took months to find a low paying secretarial position.  I felt fortunate to have that.  I already had a college degree, a BA obtained in the 80’s.  I’d quickly paid off the small loans on it. When I was in my 40’s and my girls were in elementary school, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree.  I thought it would lead to a better paying job and improved quality of life for my family.

I worked very hard for nearly three years, parenting, full time job and a graduate program.  I started looking for a professional job six months before graduating.  I figured within six months to a year, I would have a professional job.  I had a plan to pay off my loans early, well before retirement.

But I couldn’t find a job.  I looked for years.  When I hadn’t found a professional position within a few years, I searched for ANY better job.  No luck.  My loans were on financial hardship forbearance.  I simply didn’t have the money left over from basic living expenses to pay on the larger student loan account.

I did begin paying the smaller account, a Perkins loan, a year after graduation.  Perkins loans were only made to low income borrowers.  I will have the Perkins loan paid off a little more than a year from now.

But there was no way I could make the payments on the larger account.  The interest continued to mount, by thousands of dollars.  Finally the servicer told me that I could no longer postpone payment.  I said that I couldn’t make those payments, plus pay rent and buy food.  The guy would even listen to me.  Every time I started to say something, he interjected “You’re out of forbearance,” over and over.  He wouldn’t even let me get a word in.  I finally hung up the phone, sick at heart.  I was informed by mail that my first payment, for hundreds of dollars, was due in two weeks!

Friends helped me out, and I was able to avoid default.  If you default (don’t pay) on these loans, they pile on more fees.  And they can just take the money, by garnishing your wages without a court order.  The student loan lenders are apparently not concerned whether or not you will have enough to live on, they just want their money.

My friends’ help dropped off after a while.  I lived in fear of homelessness.  With the student loan payments, I was barely able to pay my rent.  And I couldn’t manage to save enough to move.  I would have insomnia for weeks at a time.  I wrote and asked them to lower the principal.  Now in my 60’s, the odds of finding a better paying job are slim, to say the least. I got back a form letter saying “We don’t negotiate on the principal.”  I wrote begging for a break on the interest.  At this writing they have added over $12,000 in interest charges!  Another “no” to that request.

Fortunately, I was able to move in with a friend, so did not become homeless.  I am paying hundreds of dollars a month to student loans.  Some of that money, for my future survival, should be going into retirement savings.

I became aware, as I researched the student loan situation, that there are many thousands, if not millions, of seniors in similar trouble.  I decided to try to do something to improve things for others like me.  That is the reason for this blog.  Please share it, and encourage others to do so.  I believe that most Americans have no idea how bad the laws are.  Read my earlier posts and/or do your own research.  Thanks for reading.



First Senior Student Loan Story

The first story sent in by a reader has some similarities to my own.  I’ll call her Joyce,  not her real name.  Joyce is in her 50’s. Like me she had no trouble paying off her first degree, an associate’s, obtained in the 90’s.  Then in the early 2000’s, she went back to school.  The field she chose seemed to be a practical one for finding a job in the future.  Joyce said lots of extra money was offered on top of what was needed for the actual cost of school.  She described it as not easy to refuse or give back.  She discussed it with her husband who agreed they could use the extra for health insurance (not offered by his job) and basic living expenses.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, she decided to go back for a master’s.

Joyce found a part-time job teaching in her career area, but the job didn’t pay very much.  Her student loans became due six months after graduation.  She was mortified to find the total of her student loan payments was nearly as high as their mortgage payment!  Joyce reports she spend a weekend crying her eyes out and wondering what to do.  Then a possible solution came to mind.  Lots of foreclosures were happening.  She decided to withdraw her retirement savings and buy some houses to rent out, using the income to make the student loan payments.  Her husband liked the idea and also put in some money, less than a third of what Joyce contributed.

Sounds like it worked for a brief time.  She was able to make her payments.  Then she found out her husband was having an affair.  The marriage fell apart.  They fought over the rentals, and spent thousands on attorneys’ fees.  Joyce tried to get her husband to split paying back the extra amount borrowed that had gone to health insurance and other living costs.  The judge turned it down since she’d received the degree.  She looked into the repayment plans, and said she realized quickly that they were scams.  The payments would never touch the principal, only go toward interest.

She lost her retirement savings, and most of the rental properties.  Joyce had found another, full time job, but still wasn’t making enough to make a dent in the student loans.  She’d borrowed about $75,000 for the two degrees and paid back about $3,000 before her marriage ended.  As if her situation wasn’t bad enough,  Joyce found that a loan from the 90’s had been handwritten into a consolidation loan requested much later.  She estimates she now owes over $90,000 and doesn’t feel too hopeful about the future.

Over 50 and want to tell your student loan story?  You can send it to me at or by U.S. mail at Jessica Hopkins, PO Box 2745, Salem OR 97308.