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Rich grad, poor grad

eleanor-chung-generation-jdMost law school graduates can be placed in two categories: Those that know how poor they are; and those who don’t. A Big Law job isn’t a windfall if it isn’t used to expeditiously pay back loans. A public sector job is a boon if it’s used to make hefty loan payments.

The student loan grace period for 2018 law school grads is shortly coming to an end. Here’s an ode to loan payments and financial planning, plus a soup recipe.

Federal debt forgiveness is uncertain

This is probably the understatement of the decade: The 10-year student loan forgiveness plan might not work out. Forbes reported this week that 99 percent of people who applied for public service loan forgiveness were rejected — that is, they dutifully made their payments over 10 years but were denied debt forgiveness. Moreover, even if one were accepted, debt forgiveness is poor consolation for a life of hardship. You’re stuck waiting 10 years to build substantial retirement savings, kids’ college funds and/or a down payment on a house. (A federal lawsuit brought by the American Bar Association against the Department of Education remains pending.) 

You can actually relax if you’ve considered doom-and-gloom scenarios

Thinking about doom and gloom is obviously a downer. But knowing that you have a plan in the event of doom feels great. Devote a weekend to planning, and then, God willing, you don’t have to think about it again.

The gist of our current situation is that economists are predicting another financial downturn, due in part to unprecedented amount of outstanding student debt. How to back away from the ledge of another financial crisis is above my pay grade. But I do know that, on an individual basis, having as little debt as possible will help us to weather the storm.

My weekend of planning helped me to realize this: if I pay as much as possible ASAP, I won’t be hurt as badly if later circumstances force me to make only minimum payments.  There will be less debt to pay down, and I’ll pay less in interest over time.

Paying off debt is good for your health

I am observing my cohort literally eat their student loan payments — at fast casual restaurants, where the food is neither good nor nutritious. The math of a really aggressive student loan payment plan is like so: income – expenses = monthly payment.

The monthly payment gets higher, obviously, the fewer expenses one has. Basically, everyone who sits for a living benefits from eating more legumes. Beans and rice will make you financially healthier and more physically fit.

As an anthropology major, I’m fascinated with foodways and the development of food culture. This following recipe was born of a financed legal education and long workdays. It’s my go-to breakfast recipe, it’s very delicious, and costs like 3 cents per bowl.

Lentil and Ham Soup in a Slow Cooker

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2-3 cups chopped ham, or 2 chopped sausage links (doesn’t matter what kind)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • 48 oz water

And, if you are fancy,

  • 1 bay leaf
  • A little oregano

Sauté the chopped onion and celery stalks (if you don’t, your soup will taste like raw onion and raw celery). Put the sautéed onion and celery into the crockpot. Add the ham, chopped carrots, lentils, and water (you don’t need bouillon, because the ham or sausage is salty).  Set the slow cooker on high for 6 hours. If you make this at night, it’s ready for you in the morning.