The emotional side of student loan debt

For many borrowers, having student loan debt just doesn’t make them feel right. In fact, a 2013 study from the University of South Carolina found a direct correlation between a student’s rising loan balances and stress-related issues.


Similarly, a 2012 study involving graduate students concluded that feelings of anxiety and even shame related to owing money can be so overwhelming for some borrowers that they find themselves avoiding both their financial reality and crucial conversations about how to handle the debt and their feelings.  


But with over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt outstanding, having student loans has become a more common situation. And not only are borrowers helped by talking about it, more of them are talking. From political candidates to celebrities, people are starting to discuss their student loans, experiences and attitudes toward borrowing publicly. And that can be a healthy thing for everyone.


Celebrity confessions.

Mentioning their level of indebtedness and how long it took to pay off their student debt are two things a number of 2016 presidential candidates have been doing recently, including Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with Democrat Martin O’Malley.


President Obama and his wife, Michelle, have repeatedly spoken about the struggle to repay their cumulative student loans, something that didn’t happen until they were in their 40s.


Actors like Jane Lynch—who says she made good use of consolidation programs—are also sharing their personal experiences. Miles Teller, who achieved recent blockbuster movie success, admitted earlier this year that he still owes his alma mater, NYU, $100,000 in student loans.


What few of those who are talking about debt seem to express is regret. Kerry Washington has directly credited her loans with enabling her to go to college, which helped get her to where she is today.


Separating a financial arrangement from a measure of self-worth.

While the previously mentioned University of South Carolina study concluded many students experienced stress over debt, with some internalizing it as a character flaw, the study also found a segment of its respondents were not experiencing the same issues. They were motivated by the debt.


The difference was in how they thought about their debt. They viewed it as a means to an end—a tool they controlled that would help them achieve their goals. Instead of anxiety, they were motivated by their debt because they associated it with what they expected to accomplish. It’s a way of reframing—seeing the same set of facts differently to attain another, and in this case, healthier outlook.


Let’s talk about it.

The fact is that 70% of students who graduated in 2014 left school with student debt.  And, each did so not for the anxiety but in the belief that it would serve them well over time. Not only is a borrower among peers, they are far from alone when it comes to confronting the financial reality of student debt.


While being one of many may not make living with debt less of a personal financial challenge, talking to a certified financial professional can. From ways to lower monthly payments to the best approaches to take for keeping debt from controlling your life, when you are ready to talk to someone who understands what you are experiencing and how to address any questions you may have, all you need to do is click here.

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