Here’s an unsurprising newsflash: young people have student loan debt, old people have student loan debt, and they have no idea what to do about it. With student loan debt having surpassed the one-trillion-dollar mark, we’ve officially reached a point where the media is calling this the crisis du jour.
We’ve discussed the dangers of incurring student loan debt time and time again throughout these pages, but it seems that people still don’t get it. They’d like some more — hmm, how shall we put this? — “sage” advice. They’d prefer to publish their woes for all to see on “the most popular and widely syndicated column in the world.”
They’ve chosen to go to Dear Abby for the answers….
Earlier this week, two parents from Pennsylvania wrote in to Dear Abby searching for a clue. Why they didn’t write in to our own advice column, Pls Hndle Thx, is beyond me, but maybe they thought that Abby could somehow be more helpful — seeing as she’s not a lawyer and never went to law school. Makes sense.
So what was their problem? Their daughter “Lana’s” law school loan debt:
My wife and I are 50-year-old professionals who have paid every penny of the cost for our two daughters’ four-year college educations. Our oldest, “Lana,” went on to law school and has incurred well in excess of $100,000 in law school loan debt. She has struggled to find a job as an attorney, and I’m no longer sure she still wants to practice law. Lana is married to a medical student who also has significant student loan debt.
Two nights ago I made the mistake of telling Lana that her mother and I would help her pay off her student loans. I regret having opened my mouth. She and her husband spend their money on frivolous luxuries and are not responsible financially.
My wife and I live frugally. We withdrew money from our retirement accounts to help fund our daughters’ college educations. We now need to increase our retirement contributions and pay for maintenance and repairs to our home that we delayed while paying for their tuition.
Although we have always helped our children financially, we can no longer afford to trade our future financial security and our present standard of living to support them. I would appreciate some advice. This may be an issue affecting a lot of parents at this time.
— Spoke Too Soon In Pennsylvania
They were right about one thing: this is definitely an issue affecting a lot of parents. Thanks to the recession and the ever-shrinking legal job market, once-proud parents of law school graduates have been reduced to nightmarish thoughts of their children living paycheck to paycheck on minimum wage or doc review jobs, or worse yet, moving back home due to their crushing student loan payments. Le sigh, what a world: their kids were supposed to have six-figure salaries, not six-figure debts.
So what was Abby’s advice? She laid it down straight as if she were the William Robinson III of advice columnists: Lana’s parents should have known better than to offer assistance to their daughter. She thinks that Lana’s parents should go back on their word, offer their daughter a much needed wake-up call, and essentially cut her off.
But don’t you think Lana’s already had that wake-up call? She spent over $100,000 to go to law school, and now she can’t find a job. Hell, she doesn’t even know if she wants to be a lawyer anymore. She does need a reality check, but not the one that Dear Abby has offered to her parents. She provided only a temporary solution to her parents’ problem, but not Lana’s (which will ultimately circle back to being her parents’ problem).
If Lana’s parents had written to Dear Staci, I wouldn’t have told them to completely renege on their end of the bargain. Instead, I would’ve told them to delay any monetary assistance until their kid learned how to be a freakin’ human being. Who has money for “frivolous luxuries” when you’ve got a negative net worth? Tell your kid to get a damn Mint account, and learn how to manage her finances. Until then, all bets are off. Lana’s parents get to save money while their daughter figures out how to be a grown-up, and Lana gets to… be just like every other struggling law school graduate. Womp womp.
Seems like a fair trade-off, don’t you think? What advice would you have given to “Spoke Too Soon In Pennsylvania”? Let us know what you think in the comments, or via email.
Daughter’s Law School Loans Weigh on Parents’ Conscience [Dear Abby / uExpress]