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Okay, I Am Being Debt Judgmental

This Dear Wendy letter at CNN Living, I’m Afraid to Date Because I’m $190,000 in Debt, brought out my judgmental side.  Here’s how I see it:

A 31-year-old guy has $190,000 in student loan debt but he’s not a doctor.  He actually writes,

Aside from that scary number, I am financially responsible and have a promising career with a high income trajectory ahead of me. How I arrived at that $190,000 is moot, but what isn’t is the psychological handicap I’ve developed.

Blah, blah, blah – he’s scared to date because he scared of chasing women off with this OH-MY-SWEET-JESUS debt.

Well, DUH.  I’m not even in the dating pool and $190,000 of student loan debt seems like a dang big hurdle to me.  I almost choked on my sweet tea when he said “I am financially responsible” and “How I arrived at that $190,000 is moot”.  Excuse me?

That kind of debt leads me to believe that he is definitely NOT financially responsible and I doubt any of his future dates would think the why to be moot.  I sure don’t.  WHY?  WHY DO YOU HAVE $190,000 IN STUDENT LOANS?

I’ll just ponder on that for a second.  My 4 year college education and living expenses cost about $70,000.  About 50% – 60% of that and was covered by scholarships and my parents.  I worked 2-3 part-time jobs at any given time to cover the rest.

That means he ran up almost 3 times as much debt as what my education cost in total.  Did he not apply for any scholarships at all?  Grants?  Any jobs?  What’s scary is that he might have and really spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars in college.  That makes me slightly ill.

Maybe he really has some awesome reasons, but we’ll never know because he deems them moot.  So yes, I am being judgy.  But, I bet I am not alone.  I also bet that he is very right and will have a limited dating pool.  Women interested in dating big debt either have no plans on marrying big debt or don’t mind big debt for moot reasons of their own.  Either way, I don’t see a lot of security in his future.

Am I being too harsh?  What were your first thoughts?

36 thoughts on “Okay, I Am Being Debt Judgmental”

  1. Everyday Tips

    I am guessing Mr. Debt went to a private school, and got zero scholarship money. He probably lives with mom and dad, which also might be a drawback to finding dates. Maybe he is George Costanza with a fancy degree?

    He owes more on his education than many do on their homes (myself included). If he has a snazzy job and loan payments are no issue,then he should be able to pick up chicks. If he got an unemployable degree and has all this debt, then his future dating prospects may be slim to none.

  2. T. Derscheid

    Could be worse, he could have married someone equally clueless…

    Here’s an oldie but a goodie of mine:

    Basically, two acupuncturists whine about their $350k combined debt.

  3. Rachel

    Except for the $190,000 in debt, he’s very financially responsible?

    “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

  4. Eric

    I have about that much in student loan debt. By the way, I am an acupuncturist. 🙂 The reasons aren’t “moot” but are too complicated and personal for either a blog post or a newspaper column/letter. Probably, this was just a careless way on his part to say exactly that.

    In my case, I am about to be married for the second time to a wonderful woman with less debt. While I’m putting words in her mouth, I don’t think she ever seriously contemplated not dating me, or accepting my proposal, because of my debt load. I actually can’t even imagine that. God brings people together, and when you know that the person is the right one, “Oh I have 100k plus in debt” just doesn’t seem to calculate. Call it financially irresponsible if you will.

    Of course, there’s just a lot of context missing for us with this guy. Same as it is missing for all of you as you read my blog comment. I’m a very responsible person, but I wasn’t in my early twenties. Then throughout my college years I was solely responsible for raising my daughter, and student loans were part of what allowed me to do that. I got scholarships, fellowships and grants. I budgeted. I went to a state school. But, I got a bachelors and masters degree, and then went to medical school. I am now a business owner and my income has almost tripled over the last year. I’m careful, conscientious, even frugal.

    I think that financial responsibility is very, very important. But, I also think that people come from varying circumstances and learn as they go. Before I judge someone for their debt load, I’m going to evaluate them as the person they are NOW. Sometimes that person is going to be irresponsible, financially ridiculous and prone to doing stupid things and those traits are precisely what got them into big debt. But, I have to say, I’ve met a whole lot of ridiculous people who do stupid things who have no debt at all. 🙂

  5. Nicole

    People change.

    A lot of 18-22 year olds don’t really understand the magnitude of big numbers. It’s just like 50K seems like a huge salary to someone just getting out of school, and so does 70K and so does 100K… it’s hard to really figure out how those numbers are different. I imagine it’s the same with school debt, especially high interest unsubsidized debt, and easy to fall into traps.

    After being out in the real world for a while we learn a lot and change a lot. Who we were when we made mistakes isn’t necessarily who we are when it’s time to get married. We learn. We try to move on. Whether this guy has or not who knows– like Eric said, one little article never gives the full story.

    So I totally judge your judging.

  6. Crystal @ BFS

    @Everyday Tips, that pretty much summarizes up what I was thinking.

    @T. Derscheid, acupunturists make good money if they build up their business. $350,000 of debt would make me gag though…

    @Rachel, hahaha!

    @Eric, okay, but come on. $190,000 of debt and no medical degree?! What the heck is he going to do to pay it off?

    My opinion is that if your debt is less than 1 year of your salary, then it made sense to take it on in college…if it’s 2 years, that’s going to be hard, if it’s 3 years or more, I wouldn’t date him at all. Having a mortgage worth of student loan debt and not making at least 6 figures is just scary for a couple starting out.

    My financial responsibility is directly tied to my personality, which is in charge of my libido. HUGE, hard-to-pay-off debt would be one of the biggest turn offs ever to me. Obviously, your soon-to-be-wife would disagree, which is great. That means the guy in the letter has a shot a couple-hood too. But I bet if you are truly as financially responsible now as you think, you’ll have the debt paid off quickly and she knows that. 🙂

  7. Crystal @ BFS

    @Nicole, totally within your rights to judge, lol. Like I said to Eric, even if the huge debt was because of past mistakes, I’d have a hard time dating the guy unless he had a plan toget rid of it quickly. He’s worried he can’t find dates – I think he can just not with women like me.

    BTW, just to be extra annoying, if $50,000 sounds like a big salary, why would $190,000 not sound like a lot of debt?

    When I was 19 and paying for college myself, I had to look into loans. By the time I graduated, I owed $8000 and that sounded like a freaking lot to me. Thankfully, those loans were forgiven, but if $8000 sounds like a lot to someone who worked their way through college, I don’t see how anybody could see $190,000 as a drop in the bucket.

    Even if it was immaturity, that would mean that I personally would not want to date him…that much immaturity would seem really hard to grow out of. Now, if I met him 10 years down the road and his debt is paid off and it is all a story of how silly he was in his college years, that would be way less of a “caution ahead” scenario to me.

  8. Invest It Wisely

    Where I live we have a college/university system ( waste of time IMO ) so I spent a total of 7.5 yrs after HS (though HS is 1 or 2 years shorter than the US, I think). I was living on my own for about 5 of those years, and I estimate the total tuition and books to be around $20,000 or so, and my living expenses to be another $70,000 to $80,000 if not more (Dorms don’t exist here, so I had my own apartment and I also made the mistake of buying a new car). So in all, I think I spent around $100,000 while pursuing an education.

    I was not eligible for government aid nor grants nor school bursaries because my parents’ income was too high, though they barely contributed a dime. However, I had help for the $20,000 in tuition and books from my grandmother, and much of the rest of the $80,000 I covered through part-time work during the semesters, full-time work during the summers, and paid internships. I did sacrifice the grades a bit due to this, so I will be helping my own kids more IF they take their school seriously. I also made some financial mistakes along the way, but unless someone is studying to become a doctor I don’t think that it’s necessary to go into that much debt!

  9. Invest It Wisely

    Just as a disclaimer, no two situations are the same. I don’t like it when my girlfriend judges people just for things like they’re in debt when you don’t know *why* they are — maybe they were stupid, but maybe they were in a situation that they couldn’t control or that they just had to deal with. It’s like when she judged me for having no money during college — well no, I didn’t have help from my parents and I had to live on my own and pay for it!

    So, in general while I think such high debt is avoidable… I also think that one doesn’t benefit from judging others and doesn’t always know all of the facts, so I judge the judges. 😛

  10. First Gen American

    Can someone be arrogant and insecure at the same time? Debt aside, those are 2 reasons this guy would be a no in my book.

    Career with a high income trajectory..does that mean he doesn’t have a high income now..after spending almost $200K on his education? ROI was one of the first things I looked at when going to college. If I was going to bust my butt for 4 years, I wanted something that was going to pay off in the end. I really can’t imagine spending that much on anything without understanding the pay back period.

    I may have been young and stupid when it came to the kinds of guys I dated, but never with money.

    Do you really think he’s not dating because he’s ashamed or because he can’t afford to take someone to the movies because of his $2000/month student loan payment?

  11. BeatingTheIndex

    Perfectly normal to be judgmental since he did not give us an idea of how he got all that debt! Did he study in the Sorbonne? i just don’t get it!

    He’s also right to be afraid of dating, who would want to date a guy with a hole in his pocket?

  12. Crystal @ BFS

    @Invest It Wisely, see! You also had a lot to pay for but you did what you could to lessen your overall debt burden! I’m wondering how this guy ran up that much debt – even if he couldn’t get help because his parents made too much, didn’t he think of a part-time job?

    I actually judge judgers usually too, so I get that. Have fun. I just can’t fathom this guy’s situation…there are no circumstances that I can think of other than a lack of maturity that would explain this sort of student debt with no medical degree involved…so yes, I am judging. Hence the title, lol. 😉

    @First Gen American, I think he’s not dating because he is embarrased of the reasons that he has $190,000 in debt. Obviously he could find someone that doesn’t care about debt, but I think he’s not ready to admit why he has that much on his shoulders. If it didn’t embarrass him, he’d be able to date in a heartbeat – just not me or you or Everyday Tips. 🙂

  13. Crystal @ BFS

    @BeatingTheIndex, it’s nice to feel justified. 🙂 I knew this would be one of my most controversial posts ever simply because I am am showing my judgy side. I think it’s only fair you all get to know what goes through my head when I read stuff like this, lol.

  14. Nicole

    Sorry– I wasn’t clear… In college, it’s hard to tell the difference between 50K and 70K and even 200K. You’ve spent all your life with little numbers and the big numbers just kind of blur together. So it seems like a big number, but how big a number? People take on a lot of debt for college but how much is normal, how much is safe? It is difficult to judge. If you’ve already got 50K in debt, what’s another 25, etc.

    disclaimer: my parents paid 100% of my college and I just had to work for incidentals. The first time I saw all my loans etc. together was at end of college financial aid information session. I had no clue about any of that and just trusted my parents to take care of it. (Which they did.)

  15. Crystal @ BFS

    @Nicole, I agree and I don’t agree. I agree that I knew a ton of college kids that really just had no idea or didn’t care. I disagree that it should be excused. So what if he didn’t really “get it”? That still means he’s not a guy I want to shack up with right now – maybe after he’s worked out his debt and learned something, but anybody who could call the reasons for nearly $200,000 of debt “moot” is not someone I’d throw my lot in with. Would you?

  16. Newlyweds on a Budget

    I don’t understand when people say “I’m not here to judge.” We’re human and are naturally inclined to judge, even dogs judge other dogs choosing who to play with and who not to play with! We judge who we date based on character, morals and even income. We’re meant to judge, people! So yeah–if I met a guy with 190,000 in debt, all student loans, and he wasn’t a doctor or lawyer, you bet your ass he’d have some serious explaining to do.

  17. Crystal @ BFS

    @Newlyweds, it’s nice that you’d stick around for the explanation. I would listen as a friend, but romance would be the very last thing on my mind ever with him. 🙂

    I know that people value different things and he may find someone who really doesn’t mind, but he does. He wouldn’t have written the letter if it wasn’t bugging him. That means it’s not just debt but also psychological baggage I wouldn’t want to deal with…

  18. Squirrelers

    Interesting topic, Crystal.

    At first glance, if I had met a girl who I knew had $190,000 in debt, it would have made me want to run for the hills, that’s for sure! I don’t know any guy that would want to deal with that (or girl who would want to deal with such guy either). I wouldn’t care if she looked like the world’s hottest supermodel, if I knew this financial issue of hers up front, I wouldn’t want to deal with putting myself in debt by taking on her irresponsible debt. Again, that’s my first impression.

    That said, I do think that people can be really nice, well-intentioned, and able to learn from experience. If someone has made mistakes, it’s best to be honest about it, and see where things go from there. You never know – if you get to know someone who’s a great person and they admit their mistakes and are actively working to rectify them, maybe it’s not a deal breaker then?

    I suppose it’s when this information is discovered that might play a role in determining whether or not it’s a dealbreaker.

    I would like to say that money wouldn’t be my driving force for marriage or a conscious dealbreaker, as it never really was. Of course in reality, I say all that realizing this particular situation, it probably would have been a dealbreaker anyway since that’s a lot of money and it would scare me as to what she would be like in the future. But I’m a personal finance blogger and I’m probably more money-focued that the “average” person!

    That said, paradoxically, if I had met someone who made a ton more money than me, I would have thought twice about it too. More is ok, but a lot more meant I would have been likely to avoid a situation like that too. Not sure if it’s socialized personal male pride or some base level of hardwiring, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be financially dependent.

    I acutally have a piece on money and marriage that’s coming up, which will be timely after this discussion!

  19. Crystal @ BFS

    @Squirrelers, that’s true. As personal finance bloggers, we probably value financial stability differently than other people do. That said, it’s part of who I am and this guy would be a no-fly zone.

    I think it’s hilarious when men or women care that their spouse makes more. Mr. BFS would literally dance a jig if I made double what he made and be bugging me to be a stay-at-home hubby. In his defense, if he made more than $100,000, I’d be bugging him into letting me blog full time too, lol.

  20. Nicole

    @Crystal… It depends on what he’s doing now and what has changed. There’s not enough in the article to do a really thorough job of making any sort of condemning or praising.

    And you don’t have to date him. Decision to date is an interaction between him and your preferences, not a condemnation of him. If my husband had been left with 190K in student loan debt because his parents were taking care of everything, I still would have married him. Heck, the 10K he did have was a nice surprise for us the fall after we wed (“Your parents took out unsubsidized loans at 8.5%? Were they crazy?”).

  21. Crystal @ BFS

    @Nicole, my personal take on him is just saying “You are totally right dude, I would not date you.” I also think it was pretty dang stupid to write in a letter asking for advice and then decide the reasons you were in the mess were “moot”. Why write at all?! Did he just want a pat on the back? Well, I think it’s dumb. No pats from me.

  22. jim

    Not enough data.

    We don’t know how he got the debt. There may be some legitimate reasons. We don’t know what he does for a living and how much his income is. Maybe he makes considerable money.

  23. Lisa @ Cents To Save

    Good God!!! 190,000.00 in Debt And he thinks he is financially responsible… No… not so much. How long was he in college??? If he did make a considerable income, don’t you think he would mention that? Based on the info provided, I don’t think you were “judgy” at all.

  24. Money Reasons

    If I met a girl while in college or thereafter, and she had almost $200,000 in debt. I would walk, no run away!

    Unless such a girl really knocked me off of my feet by her brilliance and was the total package… I would pass.

    Life is short and economic times can go bad. Way to risky for me, unless she makes a great income! Besides if almost $200,000 doesn’t bother the person, they might be tempted to run up debt normally… What’s $50,000 in debt when you’ve been in debt before for $190,000…

    Now if I had 20 million in net worth, then it wouldn’t bother me so much…

  25. Mark

    That’s a massive amount of debt. He must have went to a top notch Ivy league institution so his earnings may be very high as well. He could theoretically come out of school earning six figures depending on his major.

  26. Crystal @ BFS

    @jim, I thought he would be making big bucks by now, but the line “I am financially responsible and have a promising career with a high income trajectory ahead of me” makes me think he isn’t there yet.

    @Lisa, yep, you are pretty much having the same reaction I had, lol.

    @Money Reasons, that is so funny! My coworkers and I decided that the only women who wouldn’t care are the women who are so rich that $190,000 isn’t daunting at all or the women who could not care less about debt…limited pool indeed.

    @Mark, like I replied to jim above, the way he worded his letter makes me believe that he graduated a while ago (he is 31) and hasn’t started making the big bucks yet…

  27. retireby40

    I wouldn’t date a girl who has $190k debt unless she is making enough to start paying it down quickly. The 190k debt already told me we are not that compatible. I guess if it’s a student loan, I would be a bit more forgiving.

  28. Penniless Parenting

    I have to say that I totally understand why you judge the person with that much student debt. For me, I have to say that I would never be able to marry someone like that because they don’t seem to be financially sound and put too much value on education and not enough value on money smarts…
    Some say that my opting out of college is stupid. I say otherwise (and have posted about it). I and my husband may not be making much money, but whatever money we make is ours- it isn’t going to repay student loans.
    My mother graduated with a masters from an Ivy League school. (Bachelors and Masters at two different Ivy’s). My dad is a doctor. Yes, my parents both brought in a lot of money, but it ALL got eaten up paying back those college loans for many many years. My parents were professionals with nice salaries, but we had to live very frugally just to get by.
    My husband and myself life frugally now. But that’s fine. We didn’t waste years and money getting an education only so we can spend the next 20 years paying it back. I don’t see the point in spending so much on an education, that’s for sure.

  29. Crystal @ BFS

    @retireby40, yeah, it could have been $200,000 of credit card debt…

    @Penniless Parenting, I never saw it that way. Thanks for the different point of view!

    I was raised in such a way that going to college was simply expected. Of course, my frugal parents also believed in applying for as much help as possible and working off the rest as you go. It was tough.

  30. Penniless Parenting

    @Crystal, you can bet that with my parents’ educational background, going to college was simply expected. I broke the mold because I thought it was silliness. I especially didn’t go to college because I felt a woman’s place was at home raising children and I wanted to be a mother full time, so any college degree I got would most likely remain unused and be a waste of my time and money and I wouldn’t have the means to pay it back. I believe college is such a waste of time that I ended up turning down a full scholarship that I got based on merit. Some would call that stupid. I call that not wasting 4+ years of my life.
    My parents still think that I made a bad decision. I’m happy with my choice though, 4 years down the road. Perhaps I’ll think differently in another 10 years. Who knows.

  31. Rob Ward

    He’s got some issues to work through…

  32. Crystal @ BFS

    @Penniless Parenting, if I thought I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn’t have gone to college either simply because it was generally a waste of time except it got me in the door for interviews. I might have earned a degree slowly from home just in case I ever had to work, but I wouldn’t have dedicated every day of 4 years of my life to it like I did…

    But I knew I didn’t want to have kids and my husband-to-be was a college kid too, so two salaries just made sense. Hopefully I can grow my 3 blogs enough that I can blog full time from home and never need a degree again, lol.

    @Rob, that’s what I was thinking…

  33. Money for Regular People

    I was very troubled by this comment the subject of the article made, “How I arrived at that $190,000 is moot…”

    This is a critical flaw in this man’s thinking, because self-awareness is a HUGE (and oftern underestimated) part of successful personal finance. Until one is willing to face reality then how can they progress? I don’t think that they can.

  34. Kellen

    I have a friend who went to a private university in New York City. Her tuition was around $30,000 a year and her living expenses were who knows what. (Rent for a tiny apt was about $1200 a month there.)She could easily have racked up a similar debt.

    But having $190,000 of debt from a high-ranked private college doesn’t necessarily imply you will get a well paid job. She studied Dramatic Literature, and works in a ticket office now.

    On the other hand, another friend of mine racked up huge debts going to a top-10 law school. But going to top law school, you are on a good track to either making good money. In her case, she knew she wanted to be a public defender, but the school she went to will pay your loan off for you if you take a job like that, so she planned for that.

    I wish we could ask the guy who wrote this letter more questions. I think my judgment would change depending on:
    Whether he applied for and/or received any scholarships
    Whether he had a clear career goal in mind when he decided on an expensive program
    What kind of plan he has now to pay off the debt, and how well he’s putting it into place.

    On the surface, with what he’s given us, I am very judgy though. He doesn’t seem like he has a justification for the debt, and it doesn’t seem like a plan to pay it off is foremost in his mind.

  35. thefrugalcheapskate

    To borrow the post that a previous poster used ….

    “”….Except for the $190,000 in debt, he’s very financially responsible?

    “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” ….””

    But, to the guys credit, or defense, he could be the next Bill Gates and having $190K in debt is a weekend retreat in Switzerland for him and his family.

    Depending on what he plans to do with himself until he starts rolling in the dough (doe?) … he’s either got (to have) rich parents/family or (imo) there’s some details that either aren’t quite right, or untold. And at the government interest rates for SKool Loans these days … Ouch.

  36. Jack

    That’s a lot of money. Listen to those who went through it. There’s always going to be “problems” in a relationship where someone owes $190,000. It’s close to 350-$400,000 after interest…without defaults. That’s the reality of it. There really aren’t any “bright sides” to it. $50K…very workable. $100K with a VERY lucrative career…possible, more than that-good luck! There are lots of lawyers and doctors with 100K in debt who will never pay it off. Even with a “mere” 50K debt, is the person really capable of paying it off? What is the persons character like.

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