When to keep your student loan debt a secret or when to sing it out loud

January 25, 2020

Josh Sheen (not her real name) escaped default on his student loans and paid off his $ 77,000 student loan debt. Sheen wrote a blog post about her success and even tweeted the news to her over 100 followers.

Only Sheen is a pseudonym, and the person behind the very real refund is a little timid as to why.

“It’s something I get asked,” Sheen said. “It’s because of my full-time job. I am in a space that might be sensitive to some of the things that I share.

It highlights a sensitive issue for borrowers, even those without websites and social media presence – or a big comeback story like Sheen’s. When does it make sense to share your student loan experience, and when should you keep it zipped?

Reasons why people keep their debt close to the waistcoat
The case for singing your student loans out loud
Be smart about your student loan debt, don’t be ashamed

Reasons why people keep their debt close to the waistcoat

Sheen isn’t ashamed of being a secret, especially since he’s not the only borrower in hiding. The Everygirl blog, for example, recently posted 28 snippet stories written by readers who are no longer in debt – and all 28 have chosen to remain anonymous.

Here’s why they might be playing cool when it comes to student debt:

  • Student debt is a hot topic: Whether out of fear of judgment or something else, it is clear that many consumers struggling with student debt consider their situation to be personal. In fact, America’s most taboo financial topic is student loan debt, according to a 2019 survey by The Harris Poll. And 40% of borrowers never discuss their debt with their families, according to a 2019 TIAA study. Not talking about debt can be a personal choice, but it also limits that person’s ability to ask people for help. whom she trusts the most.
  • You worry about negative perceptions at work: Working in the financial services industry at a Fortune 500 bank, Sheen worried about the impact if rumor spread that he had mismanaged his defaulting student debt. “When you bring up the subject of debt, the mind can go in many directions ranging from medicine and gambling to stupidity and ignorance of money, as I did,” he said. he declares. “I have no desire to sit down and explain my story to those with a superficial interest.” You may also be less open about your student loans in the context of your career. Like Sheen, you might be afraid to disclose your debt to a coworker or boss who could determine your employment and income. For her part, Sheen said that “if a coworker shares an equal passion for personal finance like me, then I would certainly be open to sharing my struggles and my successes… because there would be immediate understanding.”
  • You are concerned about the impacts on personal relationships: You might be afraid to share your debt with a new friend or loved one. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 borrowers say they have kept their partner’s student loans, according to our “Debt in the Bedroom” survey. Only you can decide, using your best judgment, when it is wise to open up.

“Disclosing debt is like disclosing an STD at this point in the dating world,” said Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist who works with borrowers to adjust their mindset around student loans. “We expect you to talk about this sooner rather than later. “

The case for singing your student loans out loud

For every tight-lipped borrower walking the tightrope of repayment, there is a peer ready to talk. There are legitimate reasons why you too could be more open – and perhaps benefit from it.

  • You are applying for a job: During the interview, you could highlight your repayment while talking about the challenges you have overcome. Keep in mind, however, that your student loan situation may not stand out. “Most students have significant debt when they graduate, so that’s not a differentiator among applicants,” said Diane Wilbur, CEO of Soft Skills Training Group. “I wouldn’t recommend talking about it in an interview unless the candidate has a reason why [it] would be of value.
  • You ask for help with your debts: If you’re a seasoned and valuable employee, convincing your boss to offer repayment assistance might not be that difficult. “With more and more companies providing ways for employees to pay off this debt, we can expect this to open the door to a conversation about student loans as applicants navigate the interview process,” said Tiffani Murray, a seasoned human resources manager. Of course, crowdfunding your debt online would likely require sharing your real name and background as well.
  • You enter into a serious relationship: Telling your partner about your debt might not be your favorite thing to do, but it could put you both on the same page before it’s too late. As Martinez said, “A lot of people take their partner’s debt into account when making decisions about the sustainability of a relationship. Hopefully, you find a willing listener who will support you emotionally (if not financially) with the repayment.
  • You’re tempted to project success, but you need reality check: Ignoring your student loans might encourage you to be something that you are not. Sharing it (and owning it) could then bring you back to earth. Consider again the case of Sheen, who blamed his default, in part, on his refusal: lived with negative net worth for at least a decade.

Be smart about your student loan debt, don’t be ashamed

You’re probably in no rush to show your savings account balance or the performance of your stock portfolio. With student loans too, excessive sharing exists. Since the current political climate is preoccupied with the debate on proposals such as the free university for all and the mass cancellation of loans, you might feel the need to speak out and share your truth.

Sheen’s advice is to think twice, at least before you tie your name to your debt beyond family and friends. “Think about the possible ripple effects of what sharing your loan situation could do for you and possibly your family,” he said. “Sometimes perception is reality.”

If naming your debt isn’t right for you, don’t suffer in silence. Even if you don’t have to go so far as to create an alter ego, as Sheen did with the help of her parents after launching her OMG My Money blog in May 2018, you may want to consider starting an blog. However, this is just one of the many ways to reduce student loan stress.

You can share your story with the Death, Sex & Money podcast (which created a spinoff series of Student Loan Secrets) or, for more support, join a Debtors Anonymous reunion. If it makes fiscal sense, you can also refinance your student loans with a lender like SoFi who provides social support through member events. Among all the ways to deal with student loan stress, find the right one for you.

Whether anonymously or officially, joining the conversation about student debt helps loosen its grip on us all. As Sheen said, “I know there are others out there… It would be interesting to hear from them as well.”

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