When this blog was first created, just over five years ago, my goal was to make student loan management just a bit easier. Figuring out how to deal with my law school debt was way more complicated than necessary, and I figured that I could post a few articles and help people find the information they needed a little faster.
That original goal is still the primary goal of the Student Loan Sherpa, but over the years we have learned a lot of lessons.
Lesson #1: This Is A Subject That Should Be Discussed More
Talking about finances has always been forbidden in polite company, but it is time to change the rules. One of the best lessons a parent can teach their child is about financial responsibility. Friends from school can be an excellent resource in student loan management because they often find themselves in very similar situations. The collective wisdom of a group of people will usually be better than one person struggling on their own.
Lesson #2: Don’t Expect Washington To Care
When the national student loan debt hit a trillion dollars, I really hoped that it would force our elected leaders to start acting. Too many Americans are in a desperate situation with their student loans. Unfortunately, the trillion dollar mark came and went. In fact, last month we hit $1.5 trillion… just another number.
It may seem like the lobbyists run our government, but at the end of the day, voters still hold the ultimate power. If you have student loans be sure to vote in every election. If the people elected don’t address your concerns, vote for someone else. Election participation is extremely low and there are a ton of people with student debt. The numbers say student loan borrowers carry a lot of influence if they start showing up every November.
Lesson #3: Things Can Change Quickly
When this site was first created, the Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan didn’t exist. The creation of REPAYE has helped a ton of borrowers, but it also made things a bit more complicated for the average borrower. Earlier this year, new legislation was passed to help people who might not otherwise qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This was an unexpected development, but to the people who might qualify for PSLF sooner than expected, it means everything. Changing politics in DC and evolving economic conditions are a recipe for constant change in the world of student loans.
Due to the evolving nature of life with student loans, we created the student loan mailing list. It is something that goes out once a month and it covers any important developments. Some months we may not even send one out if there is nothing important to cover. However, it should provide an easy way for the average borrower to stay on top of the news without having to obsess about student loans.
Lesson #4: Don’t Ever Be Surprised By Lenders
Over the years we have seen lenders sneak some absurd language into student loan contracts. The reality is that consumer protection laws in the student loan world are much weaker than they are for things like credit cards and mortgages.
Borrowers need to be careful to deal with reputable lenders and always on the lookout.
Lesson #5: Every Situation is Different
When it comes to managing student debt, things like marital status, income, financial goals, risk aversion, the economy and other debt all factor into student loan decisions.
The absence of a one-size-fits-all approach means borrowers need to take some time to educate themselves so that they can fully understand their options and the pros and cons of various approaches.
Goals for the Next Five Years
2013 seems like it was just yesterday, but 2023 seems like an eternity away. Yet the math is clear that they are both 5 years removed from the present.
By 2023, my hope is that consumer protection laws for student loans are more robust and that borrowers are far more active in their elections. My goal for this site is to continue to be a resource for people to better educate themselves and to enable them to manage their student debt with confidence. If you ever think this site is falling short of that goal, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has contributed to this site. Your emails of encouragement and insightful article comments are greatly appreciated an essential ingredient to making the site what it is today.