Firstly, if you have found your way to this letter, thank you for taking the time to read this. Obviously, I am not a professional writer and tend to go on and on, but I’m just writing from my heart.
I have made many piss-poor decisions (PPDs) over the course of my lifetime (one of my father’s favorite expressions) and fortunately have learned from many of them. But made a big PPD, you know, “wrong thing for the right reason”, which in the end is still a PPD.
This major PPD I am speaking of, I made on behalf of my children. I think this is fairly common, right? Parents want the best for their kids, and emotions often time, cloud the decision making. “Pay now or pay later” along with “hindsight is 20/20” are great sayings for a reason.
A little history. I married fairly young by today’s standards at the age of 23 in 1980 and we were blessed with three wonderful children within 6 years. Money was tight, as my husband was the only one working outside of the home. Like many, we lived paycheck to paycheck and did not have a lot to contribute to savings, or the biggest pipedream of all, “college savings”.
Years later when Child-1 was accepted to college, she took out student loans in her name, and the balance was borrowed through “Parent-Plus” loans. Child-2 started college when Child-1 was halfway through. Thinking back, might have been a wiser idea to have them four years apart, but thought at the time, “how wonderful to have them close together so they could play”. Same thing, more Parent-Plus loans to get Child-2 through college. Child-3 started college when Child-2 was halfway through too. Same horrible PPD to continue borrowing and adding to the balance.
Clearly, I was in denial of the magnitude of this decision. I justified this PPD, as I believed in my heart, and still do, that having your children’s lives be better than your own, is worth every sacrifice. I would do anything for my children, would die for them. My parents could not afford to pay for college for me or any of my 5 siblings and I would be damned if I didn’t get my kids through college, no matter what. I started community college and eventually dropped out as working a full-time job and school while pregnant was becoming too overwhelming for me in a young marriage. I wish either of my parents was alive to see what beautiful human beings their grandchildren are. Unfortunately, my mother died 32 years ago and my father 27 years ago, though, I know they are proud.
Their father and I had always told our kids that if they worked hard through their school years, stayed out of trouble, and worked as much as they could in college, that we would pay for their degree. If they chose to have any further education after completing their degree, they would pay for that themselves. They held up their end of deal. Bottom line…. $130,000+ in Parent-Plus Loans. All children did well in college, graduated, and went on to pursue higher education, which they are paying for. I am profoundly proud of them more than words can ever express. Believe me, they are all smarter than their parents, so there is that to be grateful for.
My husband started his own business providing general contracting in 1990. Feast or famine, but he managed to keep it going and I went back to work when the youngest was in school. He began having mental health and depression issues about twenty years ago, alcohol and drug issues started about five years later and he went steadily downhill. He resented the pressure of having so many financial and parenting responsibilities. He began working less and less, stating that it was my turn to carry the load, he was done with the parenting and the marriage.
We split when I was 57. From the proceeds of the sale of our home, after paying off a 2nd, he did give me about 20K to find a place to live and get myself situated. He stated that I applied for the parent loans, and he did not sign anything and had no idea of the balances or the lenders. It was all my responsibility. He claimed retired, moved out of the country and I have received no support from him after 34 years of marriage. The lender sends everything to me.
I blame myself for not fully researching or reading the pages of small print on these loans. I wonder how many other people are in the same PPD boat as me. I hear the numbers on student loan debt is in the trillions of dollars but hear little of the loans parents and grandparents have taken out for the benefit of their children and grandchildren. Older parents and grandparents do not have many years of money making to payback these loans. These loans cannot be “forgiven” due to financial hardship. The only forgiveness is in the death of the borrower. The parent loans are at a fixed rate, over 6%. Been paying on this for years and the balance is still over $110K.
So that is my story. 6 years later, here I am at 64 in a few months, humbly, reaching out for any help in paying down my debt as I am getting further and further behind and I continue to struggle to make the payments. With Covid hitting last year, I had a cut in pay but, I am so grateful that I did not lose my job. I struggle with other debts I was left with and must prioritize my car payment after rent, so I can go to work. I will not ask for money from my children, they work hard to pay their own student loans and are all starting their own families. I will not burden them.
No retirement plans in the near future for me, which I am fine with. I will continue to work as long as I am healthy and will continue to pay my debts as best I can, as I accept these obligations.
I know there are people in the world, generous people, that have the means to help others and are willing to do so out of the goodness of their own hearts. The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. Everyone has different blessings to share and blessings come in many different forms.
Anyone who has the means to help, in whatever amount or way, I would be truly grateful.
My dream, that at some point is that I can help someone else out, financially or with the life lessons I’ve learned, pay it forward as they say.
If you made it to the end, thank you for reading.