I’m not sure what is wrong with me this week. I don’t know, maybe I’m just crabby. Maybe I’m tired of hearing my kids whine. Or, maybe, I’m just fed up with crap. Whatever it is, I’m getting riled up over everything lately…and nothing irritates me more than people making poor financial decisions and not taking any responsibility for it.
Is it me, or have we decided that everybody who makes a bad decision in this country should have the opportunity to blame it on somebody else? We harbor this gigantic victim mentality, helping us to rationalize why our mistakes are never our own doing. Since it is never our fault, we’ve come to believe that we should never have to suffer any of the distasteful consequences for our poor decisions. It’s beginning to make me crazy.
I’ll Take the Diamonds and the Car…For Free Please
The current discussion about forgiving student loan debt has pushed me over the edge. To me, forgiving loans is utter nonsense. What does that say to people who fulfill their obligations and pay their loans on time? Should everybody just stop paying on everything they ever financed and couldn’t afford? In particular, not paying back a student loan is similar to not paying back a car loan…and getting to keep the car. It is ridiculous.
Look, you can rationalize it any way you want. You can try to argue the definition of “responsible” until my ears bleed. But the fact is, if you took out a student loan, it is your obligation to pay that loan back. If you refuse, you have stolen money. Period.
Finding Ourselves Through Student Loans
Look, I’ll even sympathize with you. I understand how you can find yourself in a position where you may be overwhelmed by student loan debt. I really do. When we are young, few of us know what we want to be doing for the rest of our lives. When we graduate, an easy choice for those of us who are still confused is to further our education. After all, the first four years were so much fun! Why not “find” ourselves and get a degree while we are at it?
I almost made the same decision, and I’m glad I didn’t. Why? Because finding yourself through schooling comes at a cost – a literal cost. The financially astute and/or fortunate people are able to pay for their education using cash or grants. The rest of us have to use loans – which we all know we are required to pay back when we sign up for them. Thus, the term “loan” and not “grant” or “gift.”
Borrowing money means that you are assuming some risk. The money will come due at a predetermined date, and it is borrower’s obligation to pay that money back. The borrower knows this before signing for the loan. Therefore, it is the borrower’s responsibility to find a way to pay for it before it comes due.
Warning: Political Commentary Ahead
Maybe its the politics of the thing. Maybe it is simply a way to try to secure votes. However, what we are doing in this country is creating a class of “victims” who didn’t even realize that they were victims. We’re telling people, “Hey, somebody took advantage of you,” when – in many cases – it was simply a matter of the borrower making a bad decision. Yet, we’ve become eager to blame anybody but the individual who asked for the money in the first place.
There was a time when I was proud to be a hardcore liberal. Not anymore. If being a liberal means supplying excuses for poor choices, then count me out. Don’t worry my Democratic friends. I don’t buy the conservatives’ whole “cut taxes on the rich so it trickles down to create jobs” argument either. But, I digress.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling sorry for the banks here. They make gazillions of dollars off borrowers every year. They certainly aren’t hurting. And don’t get me started on the FedLoan Servicing problems. Look,I’m not even saying that the rules governing student loans shouldn’t change. But do I think you should be able to discharge the loan following bankruptcy? No. That would be like keeping the car. Do I think you should be able to refinance them at lower rates like other loans? Yeah, that seems pretty fair to me.
What I’m trying to say is this: It is time for us all to take some responsibility for our own financial lives. We can’t keep bailing everybody out of their financial mistakes. We can’t keep creating a new class of victims every time some of us make a bad financial decision. The majority of people who have made better decisions should not be saddled with their debt. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be monitoring for fraud or bad practices; unfair lending practices should be fixed and frauds should be prosecuted. It means that, sometimes, you have to let people succeed or fail on their own accord.
So, I’m not sure what is up with me. I guess I’m just sick of all of the excuses. I think it is time for us to seriously think about where we are headed. We’ve become a nation of excuses and bailouts. Our personal finances are starting to mirror our government’s. In both instances, it has become “normal” to deny responsibility for our poor spending habits. Well, guess what. Normal is broke.