A piece of advice I’ve heard from a few economists lately, whom I couldn’t verify through the radio but I was sure were wearing monocles and top hats, is not to borrow more in student loans than you think you’ll make out of college. So if you’re getting a bachelors, don’t borrow more than, say, $35,000.
For those just out of high school and thinking about college, this is a great rule of thumb. For literally everybody else in the entire world, it’s total poppycock.
Not only have these words of wisdom come about five years too late and meant only, I’m sure, to mock those like me who are already buried under debt, but they play in direct contrast of what students have been told, over and over again, the past few decades.
These Monday morning “quarter”-backs (Get it, quarters? Because of finance? It’s called comedy, folks.), they’re no better than the nutritionists who can’t decide whether margarine is healthier than butter or if it’s a bonafide weapon of mass destruction.
Just a few years ago, this was the scene.
MONOCLED FINANCE GURU: Greetings, my boy! Here for a loan, are you?
STUDENT: Uh, yeah. I’m going to a local school and thought I’d apply for some aid. Not much, just—
MONOCLED FINANCE GURU: Nonsense, my boy — I shan’t hear of it! (He pulls brown sacks of money from under his desk and flings them over.) Nothing but the best for such a fine, young chap! Out-of-state, private school! Graduate semesters! You’ve prepared your whole life for this!!
But now it’s been five years to the month since the market really went kerplunk, and the British Monopoly Man at the bank has gone soft. He’s trading in the “College at any cost” mentality for more of a “Well, college, maybe ... or Costco” five-year plan.
My favorite part about the Great Recession, though — well, aside from its Opposite Day-style name; it’s like when restaurants get clever with their meals: you order the “Not-So-Hungry Breakfast” and they serve you 45 pancakes, a pan-fried pig and some fruit, which you immediately put the side because it’s obviously garnish (Psych! This recession isn’t “great” at all!) — is the news stories.
If you’re ever in the kind of unfounded good mood that comes so far out of left field that it just annoys you, kick yourself off your own high horse by skimming through a few recession-retrospective stories.
FLORIDA (CNN) — It has now been five years since Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were taken over, and Lehman Brothers went under, and although the job market shows signs of improvement, forty-hundred-and-twelve percent of employed college graduates with master’s degrees still begrudgingly wear aprons to work.
NEW YORK (Forbes) — You may not realize it, but approximately eleventy-thousand post-2008 college graduates have still yet to make a single payment on the principal balance of their student loans — and they can’t afford cable TV, either.
CHICAGO (NPR) — You’re only 26, and everyone you’ve ever known — yes, I’m talking to you — has given up on their dreams.
It’s rough. But hey, new grads, there’s always entrepreneurship! You’re never too old to open your own lemonade stand — right there at the end of the driveway at your parents’ house, where you’ll be living the next 20 years or so. Or maybe start gardening; that’s cheap. You can grow vegetables and sell them at the Farmers’ Market, and if your stock plummets, just ask the government for a bailout.
You can call your booth: “Too Big to Kale.”
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR