Student loan debt and your brain

Before you take out student loans to finance your education you should know what that debt at such an early age will do to your brain. For many young adults a student loan is their first experience with debt. Since you are a teenager and your brain is literally still growing at the time you sign the loan papers, there will be effects…and not positive ones.

  1. Loan Stress – The stress of owing thousands of dollars may not affect you at first. Most students just sign the papers and head off to class. Most students barely understand debt let alone the stress of it. Student loan stress is a slow burn. It’s not like the stress of a car accident which is very sudden, in your face and you have to deal with it right that second. Student loan stress comes slow. Sign the papers, go to class and then years later when you graduate you will start getting student loan bills every month. At that point the stress will increase significantly. Then it’s a car accident every month.  
  2. Rationalizing debt   To mentally deal with your increasing student loan debt load your brain will start to rationalize your debt. After all, it is for a good cause, higher education. It’s an investment in your future. Which is true! It is also true that you are now training your brain to numb itself when you have debt so as not to feel the pain. Some days you will purposefully ignore the debt, some days you will keep saying this debt is worth it, other days you will just be too busy to even think of it. Your brain is training itself to rationalize debt – which is not beneficial when you start to acquire credit cards, car loans and a mortgage.
  3. Taking the easy way out   Face it, by taking out student loans you took the easy way out paying for school.  Sign the papers, head off to class and worry about it later. That’s the easiest way to do it…for now.  It’s painful to hear, but when you stand side by side with a student that worked his ass off in high school to earn enough to pay for college it sure looks like you took the easy way out. Guess what happens to people (teenagers) that take the easy way out?  Yep, they continue to take the easy way out because their brain starts to associate, “the easy way out” as a valid option, often the preferred option.brain

Maybe you are okay with taking the easy way out. Maybe you can put your stress in a little box and put it away in your mind. Maybe rationalizing debt doesn’t faze you now…but what about later? What about when you graduate? You know, when you start to pay back that student loan balance (average is $28,000) that will require a payment every month for 17 years… on top of your credit card payments, car loan payments, house payments and all the other bills associated with living life.

Give your brain a break. A financial plan now avoids financial brain pain later.


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