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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by U.S. mail at Jessica Hopkins, PO Box 2745, Salem OR 97308.