I hope this has been covered here before but I wanted to share my experience to try and help others from going down the same path.
Rule 1) The most important thing to remember is to NEVER trust anyone when it comes to money and yes, this includes your own family. Always know your financial status, especially if you are going to be the one footing the bill later.
Rule 2) Manage your own financial aid while in school. I know it is more work and sometimes it can be too much to take if it is your first time but this gives you experience in handling loans and you will benefit from this later. Plus, you know exactly what you are in for once you graduate. need assistance? That’s what the financial aid office is for. Only involve others when it is an absolute must and for god sake don’t give your financial login info to your parents or anyone else for that matter.
If you follow these simple rules, you should be able to avoid the mess I have gotten myself into.
Now story time:
While in school, my parents took it upon themselves to manage my money. They made sure I had my school expenses covered and that I had enough overage to cover my living costs, etc. I thought all was fine. I mean I did struggle sometimes at the end of a semester where I ran out of cash, but they would eventually give me a little “help” to get me through (keep this in mind, it becomes important later). I did find it odd that anytime I asked about my financial situation, they would give me an excuse and would never really let me take a look, but, i mean, they are trustworthy, right? I mean they raised me after all. Boy was I wrong
Fast forward to graduation (2010).
Loans are coming due and I have no job. So, I didn’t really push my parents about getting my loan info. However, whenever I did, I thought something was odd since my parents tried to hide some of my loan information from me or they just wouldn’t give it to me. They said not to worry about it though and that they were taking care of them and would start to pay them back for me.
At this point, the grace period is up for my loans. I push my parents for my student loan info. They finally give it to me, turns out, they haven’t made a single payment and I am overdue for all of my loans. They say i need to get my shit together and get these loans under control. This is typical for my parents, being a root cause and blaming others, so i didn’t really think that much about it.
I did finally get most of it ironed out and figured out I was close to $90,000.00 in debt. Now, at first, I just normalized this and thought everyone graduated with this much debt over their heads (in state public uni). I mean, it did take me 5 years to graduate after all. So, I stopped looking into my loans and just started paying them.
Fast forward to present day.
Here I sit, about 8 years after graduating. still in debt and still piecing the puzzle together of why I owe so much. There were some red flags that I should’ve caught but didn’t. However, recently, I found out about nslds, the national student loan database. I highly recommend using this. From here, I found out that I did have grants that covered most of my college tuition. Furthermore, I found that my parents, including grant money, took out over $25,000.00 per semester for my last year. After covering the semesters tuition, books, and rent, it still set me up for over $2,000.00 a month in spending money. Remember when I said I ran out of money at the end of the semester? yeah, that should’ve never happened.
It turns out, they were pocketing most of the overages.
Now, I know this looks bad but really, It’s because it is. My parents were going through a financial hardship at the time (dad was laid off). However, this never gives anyone the right to take money from you. They pretty much made their problem my problem.
The issue is, in my opinion, your family is more apt to take advantage of you than anyone else. They have already gained your trust and you look to them for life advice and guidance for most of your childhood. This is where I messed up, I should’ve never put that much trust into anyone.
However, the fault is both ways. From what I have seen, parents, in particular, are even more apt to take advantage. They tend to justify it to themselves fairly easily. For example, when they originally did this, they most likely thought this would get them by until they were able to pay my student loans. They kept telling me that they wanted to help me pay and that they wanted to pay for my college….they just seem to over estimate what their financial future will look like and have never been in a position where helping me was an option. Now, here I am suffering from their lack of money management competence.
If I was more willing to deal with my student loans myself, this would have been something that I could have immediately caught. I mean, how hard would it have been to see THAT much in overages?
In conclusion, just don’t trust people with money. They may have good intentions at the time but that’s all it turns out to be. Be vigilant. know what your expenses are and only take what you need and finally, if someone is taking care of your loans for you and won’t send you an overview immediately when asked, you should stop everything and figure out what is going on.
I used to be one of those people who were always saying, I would hate to be one of those people who’s own parents screwed them over….turns out I was one all along. The student loan racket just makes it too easy for parents to take advantage. Don’t let this happen to you. No matter how much your parents say they support you, your paperwork could say something different. money is just a special niche and makes people do things they may not have done otherwise or things they “think” they can correct before anyone would notice.
EDIT 1: a lot of people are saying I am making large generalizations that don’t apply to most situations. That’s the point. I know I am. It may not apply and I didn’t think it would apply to me either. It is why I am in this mess and why this is a cautionary tale. Not only does doing your own financial aid help you understand and better manage your loans after graduation. It helps you from people, as close as they may be, from taking advantage. So, really, you are the one that benefits.
Other than that, I am sorry for anyone else who has been in the same situation. good luck to you! However, this has really opened my eyes to just how rampant this is. all the more reason to take care of it yourself.
EDIT 2: wow. I was really not expecting this but thank you all for the support! For all of the speculation out there, no, I do not have a relationship with my parents anymore, other than the occasional visit once every year or two. and yes, of course this is fraud. However, as others have stated, with student loans it is a niche thing. it is not as black and white as if they just took a regular loan out in my name. I wish it was but it is just not. This is the point of this post. I would never wish for anyone to be stuck in the situation that I am. I have made my mistakes, I just want people to learn from them, that’s all.
As far as any remaining questions go, I will try and answer them but this was way more than I could’ve ever imagined so it might take me a little time.