Debt: Your New BFF
Debt is a four letter word that should not be feared.
Students who learn how to manage debt during university are paying themselves a great investment. You may be hearing horror stories of friends of friends who are paying off student loans years after graduation. Even the media pitches in and tells tales of students with debt so large that it seems unlikely they will ever pay off.
No one wants to start out in life saddled with debt, but this could really be the best thing you do for yourself.
Good Debt vs. Bad Debt
A $1000 handbag or watch from your favourite designer is bad debt. $1000 towards books and supplies is good debt. Debt that goes towards something that will benefit you in the future is fine. Using borrowed money to earn your degree will only guarantee yourself a chance to earn much more than someone without a degree or diploma.
Dr. Richard Settersten and Barbara E. Ray’s book Not Quite Adults highlights this fact, “taking on a little debt for a bigger payoff down the road is smart”. Settersten and Ray also shared Nobel laureate, Milton Friedman’s advice: people should borrow the most early on when their earnings are the smallest, save a lot when they are in their highest earning years in midlife, and then start spending all those savings after they retire.
BMO Financial Group surveyed students across Canada and found that half believe that they will graduate with zero or less than $10,000 debt. This doesn’t quite match up with the findings from Statistics Canada, which states the average student graduates with $18,800. Be realistic when you’re borrowing money and always know how much you’ve taken out and how much you’re spending.
Arthur Chan, who took out Canada Student Loans for fives years at Carleton University to complete his engineering degree, graduated with a debt of $21,000. He wasn’t able to find a job in his field until 8 months after graduation. Now, 2 years in a full time position with the government of Canada, that massive loan is all but a distant memory. How did he do it?
Just because you’re able to borrow a large amount of money, doesn’t mean you have to spend all of it. Arthur lived at home during university and took public transportation everyday to keep costs low. He also worked part time retail jobs during summer vacations. When he wasn’t able to find a job right away, he applied for interest relief on his student loans. Once he was able to secure a job, he used his earnings to get rid of the debt as quickly as possible. The key is to learn how to save as much as you’re able to borrow.
With tuition costs rising across Canada, sometimes adding everything up really discourages prospective students. Don’t let debt deter you from getting the education you want. Remember: education is a right, not a privilege.