I’m happy to report that I finished paying my student loans before I started drawing Social Security benefits, but barely.
I didn’t borrow much — about $5,000, but when I graduated, I didn’t make much — and my first teaching job paid $17,000.
Even adjusted for inflation, it’s still not much.
My husband had loans, too, and I thought we’d never get through paying them, but we did. We were careful not to borrow heavily for graduate school, but a recent conversation with my primary care doctor literally made me sick.
She said her $270,000 in student loan debt was sucking the life out of her, and she might have to do/take on something else.
This troubled me deeply, because she hugs me when I arrive instead of standing in the door and doing diagnosis from there. She’s thorough almost to a fault, and she treats me like a person, not a statistic. Losing her would be devastating.
Sadly, she’s not the only one grappling with these crippling numbers. Some borrowers owe what seems like the national debt, and it’s affecting all kinds of life decisions — buying a home, the kind of job you can afford, when to get married, everything — so President Joe Biden’s efforts to help borrowers is a welcome relief, no matter what the critics say.
I would’ve loved a no-interest loan. I’d still probably be doing a li’l holy dance if somebody announced at my commencement that all my student debt was erased, as a few select graduates experienced during the pandemic.
But that didn’t happen, either. I paid until I received the “Paid In Full” stamp on that long-forgotten paperwork.
Critics are concerned that this relief will increase inflation — folks smarter than I am have tried to craft a fair and equitable system to help those who need it most. African Americans and Hispanics tend to earn less, owe more and suffer because of it.
But my position is let’s start with this relief and keep working to fix/improve the system. Start first with no-interest loans, since that is a major problem, and we must keep working to make pay more fair and equitable.
If I work beside someone and because I am an African American woman, I make less, something’s wrong with this picture.
According to a www.cnbc.com gender gap poll in May 2022, women are still paid 83 cents for every dollar men earn.
As Women’s Equality Day passed this past week, I rejoiced, but decided to keep beating this drum: equal pay for equal work must be the norm, not the exception, today and every day afterwards.
While I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate, and any excuse will do, we have to ponder why we still need Women’s Equality Day, or Be Kind to Humankind, National Wellness or Happiness Happens designations during August.
I suspect these and others we recognize throughout the year are to simply remind us that all is not perfect, and we must pay attention if the world is to get better.
Be Kind to Humankind goes without saying, but I’m saying it: be kinder than you have to be, lend a hand, smile, help — if we put our hands and hearts together, everybody wins.
This year, the wellness piece is more important than ever. We’re taking more medicine, carrying more weight, getting less exercise, eating fewer fruits and vegetables — in too many instances, we have thrown caution to the wind and we’re letting it all hang out.
Like with the loan forgiveness, today is a new beginning — let’s be kinder, eat healthier, be well on purpose and go forth triumphant.
CYNTHIA A. BOND HOPSON of Cordova is a native Tennessean, educator, author and mentor. She and her husband, Roger, lived in Paris twice. Her email address is email@example.com.