Where's my party?
By Jennifer M. Latzke
I did an amazing thing last month.
I paid off one of my student loans.
It only took me 13 years of scrimping and saving and making do, but now I can officially say that I just have one more federal loan left to pay off and then I’m free.
I never thought this day would come. So, you can imagine my excitement over the occasion. I posted the news to Facebook and Twitter and stopped complete strangers over my lunch hour to brag. I called my parents (Mom and Dad are thrilled and even more thrilled that they themselves didn’t have to contribute). I even skipped through the halls of High Plains Journal with my hands raised over my head in a triumphant victory lap of joy.
Although, being a Friday, there were few in the building to appreciate my spontaneous choreography.
I wanted to mark this momentous life event, but I realized that there are no cultural protocols in place to celebrate the completion of fiscal servitude to the federal government. There’s no shower, party, gala, ball, announcement, or festival to mark the day when one pays off a student loan. There’s no wild night with the girls in Vegas. There’s no gift registry or special cake. No merit badge, or medal or certificate of completion. If the 13th wedding anniversary gift by tradition is lace or textiles, what’s the gift for 13 years to pay off a student loan?
This is an untapped social gold mine for our economy, people.
Consider this. According to the Federal Reserve Board of New York, there are about 37.1 million student loan borrowers with outstanding student loans today. As of the first quarter of 2012, there are 14 million borrowers under the age of 30 and 10.6 million between ages 30 to 39. The FRBNY estimates about $902 billion in total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S., and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau says it’s roughly $1 trillion.
And according to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, two out of five borrowers are delinquent at some point in the first five years after entering repayment. About 37 percent of borrowers from 2004 to 2009 managed to make timely payments without postponement or delinquency.
Paying off a student loan is a major life achievement and we should celebrate it like every other milestone. Think about it.
First, we had the graduation party rounds. Those were followed by wedding season with the engagement parties, the bridal showers and the bachelor/bachelorette outings, the rehearsal dinner and the reception. Then, staggered at monthly intervals through my 20s and 30s were the baby showers and second marriage events. And, sprinkled throughout there are the children’s birthday parties, and house warmings, and fundraisers, and the holiday backyard barbecues.
People, I have a friend who threw her dog a “Bark Mitzvah.” Really?
But why is it that when we meet a goal of fiscal responsibility we all look at each other and shrug? What does it say for our society—our country—that meeting our fiscal responsibilities isn’t momentous enough for even a Hallmark card category?
And they have cards for EVERYTHING.
Look, I know that I’m a lucky graduate. I have a career in my chosen field. I live in a part of the world with a low-ish cost of living. I am single without children and therefore I could focus on paying off my debt unlike a lot of other folks.
I’m just saying that maybe it’s time for a “Holy-Cow-You-Paid-Off-A-Pile-O-Debt-Before-You’re-40” celebratory tradition to start sweeping this nation.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.