Money, Money, Money

Every time I balance my checkbook, I think of that song by the O’Jays –

Money money money money, MONEY

I tap my foot along with the song in my head – but wait!  Balancing my checkbook isn’t really all that happy of a time.  It’s my regular reminder that I spend between 1/3 and 1/2 of my paycheck each month on my student loans.  I have roughly just under $200K in student loans, mostly to fund my law school education.

Say what??  Yes, you read that right – two-hundred-thousand.

Apparently I am not alone – there were not one but two blog posts on one of my favorite blogs this morning relating to law student loans.  I do consider myself luckier than most – my law school didn’t lie to me about the true cost of my education; I used the money I borrowed to support myself during the summers so I could take advantage of some pretty amazing unpaid internships; I haven’t had to sell my soul to Biglaw; and hey, I don’t qualify for food stamps…at least not yet.

I took the time to do my civic duty as a voter and sent an email to one of my Senators recently to ask him to support the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.  And what did I get in return?  A form email with a list of all of the existing “options” for paying down my student loan load.  Well, Mr. Senator, if you (or even your staff…I’ll take even a read from a staffer) had even bothered to point your little eyeballs at my email, here is why none of your “options” apply to me:

  • Over half of my student loan debt is private loans. So when that great federal student loan program from 2007 asks whether my “qualifying” loan payments each month are X percentage of my overall income, I have to answer a big, fat N-O – my private loans don’t qualify for your options or even count toward the calculation.
  • Law School Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) require that I have a low (a very, very low) annual income (seriously, how do people actually live on that little??).  With my student loan payments, I can’t live on that income, even with the LRAP loan.  However, I will note that I manage to live on only about $1000 over that amount.
  • If I lose my job, or don’t make enough money, I can’t just defer my loan payments – remember those private loans I mentioned before?  Oh yeah, those aren’t deferable unless I’m pretty much on my deathbed or severely disabled.  And since I still have all of my limbs and am therefore able to work somewhere, anywhere, I still have to pay on those loans…

So non-reading Senator (or lowly staffer) here is what you are missing out on by not even taking a look at the issue (much less passing some legislation) – you are missing out on a licensed attorney with an education from an Ivy League university and the law school with the top legal writing program in the country who wants to do things like travel all the way to Liberia to improve the lives of others while being offered only a stipend from the non-profit who needs her help.   You are missing out on educated, talented, young people who want to give back to our country and the world. 

I keep on making the just enough that I need, balancing my checkbook while humming along with the O’Jays, and looking for a way to not only continue to do the work I do but be able to afford to do more of it


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