Student loan payments aren’t just a check you send each month to the lender. Being massively in debt can have a profound psychological impact on a person.
I’ve found the two genders tend to view it differently.
In general, I find women to view debt as something unfavorable, almost like a blemish, while for men it’s just something that’s there as part of life. I recently had a meeting with a female attorney, one so despondent about her overwhelming debt that tears came to her eyes. I reassured her that this debt is a good one to have, and that she should be proud of the investment she made in her education and her career. “But Sara,” she responded, “It’s just so…ugly.”
Women tend to worry about the implications of being in debt much more than men do. I consistently have heard female attorneys resist consolidating their federal loans because they fear losing the three years unemployment protection that these loans offer. I’ve never heard a male attorney express the same concern. In other words, the men tend to be more inclined to pursue a refinancing that would create a lower interest rate and allow them to pay down debt faster. They’re more likely to take that risk than the women I know.
Also, the women I talk to have seemed reluctant to pursue other aspects of life until their debt is gone, while the men are willing to move forward while paying down debt simultaneously. When I share with women how I waited until later in life to have children, most of the female attorneys I talk to agree that they would rather experience financial stability and live debt free before having a family. Perhaps we have this attitude because we haven’t completely come to terms with our equality. It’s possible that subconsciously we’re worried the effects of life events on our income, such as marriage, children, and workplace discrimination due to bearing children. Or maybe it is because being in debt makes us fear losing our independence.
Ironically, however, women seem to be the better debt managers of the two genders. They are more likely to seek debt counseling than men (maybe because of less ego), and less likely to default on payments. Women tend to carry less debt than men as well.
So in other words, we women take on less debt, manage it more thoughtfully, and get ourselves into less trouble than men. Why is it, then, that we are the ones with the anxiety about it? Maybe it’s because we’re more subject to our emotions than men. If so, ladies, then let’s use this emotion as a positive motivator rather than a hindrance to getting ourselves on the right side of the balance sheet!
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