The Beginning Of The End
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The Student Loan Debt Bubble Is Creating Millions Of Modern Day Serfs

Every single year, millions of young adults head off to colleges and universities all over America full of hopes and dreams.  But what most of those fresh-faced youngsters do not realize is that by taking on student loan debt they are signing up for a life of debt slavery.  Student loan debt has become a trillion dollar bubble which has shattered the financial lives of tens of millions of young college graduates.  When you are just starting out and you are not making a lot of money, having to make payments on tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt can be absolutely crippling.  The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has now surpassed the total amount of credit card debt, and student loan debt is much harder to get rid of.  Many young people view college as a “five year party“, but when the party is over millions of those young people basically end up as modern day serfs as they struggle to pay off all of the debt that they have accumulated during their party years.  Bankruptcy laws have been changed to make it incredibly difficult to get rid of student loan debt, so once you have it you are basically faced with two choices: either you are going to pay it or you are going to die with it.

But we don’t warn kids about this before they go to school.  We just endlessly preach to them that they need a college degree in order to get a “good job”, and that after they graduate they will easily be able to pay off their student loans with the “good job” that they will certainly be able to find.

Sadly, tens of millions of young Americans have left college in recent years only to find out that they were lied to all along.

As I have written about previously, college has become a giant money making scam and the victims of the scam are our young people.

Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600.

Today, it is over $35,000.

Why does college have to cost so much?

At every turn our young people are being ripped off.

For example, the cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade.

Has it suddenly become a lot more expensive to print books?

Of course not.

The truth is that an entire industry saw an opportunity to gouge students and they went for it.

The amount of money being spent on higher education in this country is absolutely outrageous.  One father down in Texas says that he will end up spending about 1.5 million dollars on college expenses for his five daughters before it is all said and done.

Unfortunately, most young adults in America don’t have wealthy fathers so they have to take out large student loans to pay for their educations.

Average student loan debt at graduation is estimated to be about $28,720 right now.

That is a crazy figure and it has absolutely soared in recent years.  In fact, student loan debt in America has grown by 511 percent since 1999.

And student loan debt will follow you wherever you go.

If you do not pay your loans when you graduate, you could end up having your wages, your tax refunds and even your Social Security benefits garnished.

In addition, your account could be turned over to the debt collectors and they can be absolutely brutal.

The student loan debt bubble is the best thing to happen to debt collectors in ages.  The following is what one professional who works in the industry said in a recent article that he wrote for a debt collection industry publication….

As I wandered around the crowd of NYU students at their rally protesting student debt at the end of February, I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represented – for our industry.

It was lip-smacking.

At my right, to graphically display how she was debt-burdened, was a girl wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the fine sum of $90,000, another with $65,000, a third with $20,000 and over there a really attractive $120,000 was printed on another shirt.  Guys were shouldering their share, with t-shirts of $20,000, $15,000, $27,000, $33,000 and $75,000.

There is no way that our young people can afford to take on those kinds of debt loads, and that is one reason why student loan delinquency rates continue to surge.

In fact, the student loan default rate in the United States has nearly doubled since 2005.

Today, one out of every six Americans that owes money on a student loan is in default.

One out of every six.

And it is going to get a whole lot worse.

At this point there are about 5.9 million Americans that are at least 12 months behind on their student loan payments.

So could the bursting of the student loan bubble do tremendous damage to our financial system?

Don’t worry – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is promising that the student loan debt bubble won’t cause a crisis.

And you can trust him, right?

For those living with the burden of unpaid student loan debt, life can be really tough.  Some try to avoid the debt collectors, but it is easier said than done.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

Hiding from the government is not easy.

“I keep changing my phone number,” said Amanda Cordeiro, 29, from Clermont, Fla., who dropped out of college in 2010 and has fielded as many as seven calls a day from debt collectors trying to recover her $55,000 in overdue loans. “In a year, this is probably my fourth phone number.”

Unlike private lenders, the federal government has extraordinary tools for collection that it has extended to the collection firms. Ms. Cordeiro has already had two tax refunds seized, and other debtors have had their paychecks or Social Security payments garnisheed.

The biggest problem, of course, is that there are not nearly enough jobs for the hordes of college graduates that our system produces each year.

During 2011, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.

So without a good job, how are those young people supposed to service their student loans?

Once upon a time, a college degree was a guaranteed ticket to the middle class.

Sadly, those days are long gone.  Today, millions upon millions of college graduates have taken jobs that do not even require a college education.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).

You probably know young people who have experienced the “wake up call” that comes as a result of entering the “real world” in this horrible economic environment.

It is not easy out there.

And this can be extremely disappointing for parents as well.  How would you feel if your daughter got very high grades all of the way through college and ended up working as a waitress because she couldn’t find anything else?

Even those that pursue advanced degrees are having an extremely challenging time finding work in this economy.

For example, a Business Insider article from a while back profiled a law school graduate named Erin that is actually on food stamps….

She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers. She can’t afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.

“That has been really hard for me,” she says. “I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven’t been able to pay loans. It’s scary, and it’s a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money.”

And the really sad thing is that the quality of the education that our young people are receiving is very poor.  I spent eight years attending U.S. universities, and most parents would be absolutely shocked at how little our college students are actually learning.

Going to college really has become a ticket to party for four or five or six years with a little bit of “education” thrown in.

But our society has put a very high value on those little pieces of paper called “diplomas” so we all continue to play along with the charade.

Some college students are finding other “creative” ways to pay for their educations other than going into tremendous amounts of debt.  For example, an increasing number of young women are seeking out “sugar daddies” who will “sponsor” their educations.  The following is from a Huffington Post article about this disturbing trend….

On a Sunday morning in late May, Taylor left her Harlem apartment and boarded a train for Greenwich, Conn. She planned on spending the day with a man she had met online, but not in person.

Taylor, a 22-year-old student at Hunter College, had confided in her roommate about the trip and they agreed to swap text messages during the day to make sure she was safe.

Once in Greenwich, a man who appeared significantly older than his advertised age of 42 greeted Taylor at the train station and then drove her to the largest house she had ever seen. He changed into his swimming trunks, she put on a skimpy bathing suit, and then, by the side of his pool, she rubbed sunscreen into the folds of his sagging back — bracing herself to endure an afternoon of sex with someone she suspected was actually about 30 years her senior.

Of course that young woman will probably deeply regret doing that later on in her life.

Once graduation comes, millions upon millions of our young people are discovering that it is really hard to be financially independent if you are drowning in student loan debt and you can’t find a good job.

So what are they doing?

They are moving back in with Mom and Dad.

One poll discovered that 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.

Ouch.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

53 Percent Of All Young College Graduates In America Are Either Unemployed Or Underemployed

If you are in college right now, you will most likely either be unemployed or working a job that only requires a high school degree when you graduate.  The truth is that the U.S. economy is not coming anywhere close to producing enough jobs for the hordes of new college graduates that are entering the workforce every year.  In 2011, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.  Millions upon millions of young college graduates feel like the system has totally failed them.  They worked hard in school all their lives, they went into huge amounts of debt in order to get the college education that they were told they “must have” in order to get a good job, but after graduation they found that there were only a handful of good jobs for the huge waves of college graduates that were entering the “real world”.  All over America, college graduates can be found waiting tables, flipping burgers and working behind the register at retail stores.  Unfortunately, the employment picture in America is not going to get significantly better any time soon.

All over the United States, “middle class jobs” are being replaced by “low income jobs” and young college graduates are being hurt by this transition more than almost anyone else.  Massive numbers of young college graduates are now working jobs that do not even require a high school degree.  Some of the statistics about young college graduates are absolutely astounding.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).

Can you imagine working really hard all throughout high school and college and always getting good grades and then ending up as a bartender?

Sadly, many hard working college graduates cannot seem to find a decent job no matter how hard they try.  The following is one example from the CNBC article mentioned above….

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever sent out resumes week after week, month after month, only to get absolutely nowhere?

Many recent college graduates are being advised by “career counselors” that they should go back and “get more education”.

But is that really the answer?  The truth is that there are lots and lots of unemployed and underemployed Americans with advanced degrees too.  For example, a recent Business Insider article profiled a law school graduate named Erin that is actually on food stamps….

She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers. She can’t afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.

“That has been really hard for me,” she says. “I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven’t been able to pay loans. It’s scary, and it’s a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money.”

But what “more education” will do is that it will get you into even more debt.  Student loan debt can be one of the cruelest forms of debt, because it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

As I wrote about a few days ago, total student loan debt in the United States recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.  Students keep on racking up student loan debt in the hope that they will find “the American Dream” at the end of the rainbow.

Sadly, many students do everything “right” and still end up in the middle of a nightmare.

But it is not just young college graduates that are suffering in this economy.

As I wrote about a while back, the U.S. economy is not producing enough jobs for anyone at this point.

The mainstream media keeps telling us that unemployment is going down, but the truth is that the percentage of working age Americans that are employed is not increasing.  In March 2010, 58.5 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  In March 2012, 58.5 percent of all working age Americans had a job.

Does that sounds like improvement?

Of course not.

Unlike what we have seen after every other recession in the post-World War II era, the employment to population ratio is not bouncing back, and that is really bad news.

The main reason for this is because of the bad economy, but also it is important to understand that we are transitioning away from an “employment economy”.

Today, most large corporations view employees as very expensive “liabilities”.  The goal for most large corporations is to minimize those “liabilities” as much as possible.  In fact, these days some large corporations lay off huge numbers of workers even while they are making huge profits at the same time.

Once upon a time, Henry Ford made a conscious decision to pay his workers enough money so that they could afford to buy the cars that they were making.

Today, most corporations simply do not care about the living standards of their workers.  They simply want to maximize profits to the fullest extent possible.

Many small businesses would like to hire more workers, but the federal government has made hiring workers so complicated and so expensive that it has become exceedingly difficult to make a profit on a worker.  Most of the time it is simply easier to try to do more with what you already have.

The number of Americans that can work a job (“just over broke”) and still live “the American Dream” is steadily shrinking.  Increasingly, the financial rewards in our economy are being funneled to the very top of organizations and workers are finding that their living standards continue to slowly go down.

At corporations that belong to the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, CEOs earn 380 times what the average worker makes at those companies.  In 1980, CEOs only earned 42 times what the average worker made at those companies.

A fundamental shift is happening in our economy and it is not going to be reversed any time soon.  Workers are not valued at most companies anymore.  No matter how much of yourself you give to your company, when the day comes that you become “disposable”, you will be cast aside as so much rubbish.

That is why I try to encourage people to start their own businesses and to be their own bosses.  There is no job security anymore.  The job that you have today could be gone tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the federal government is actually spending your money to train foreign workers to take our jobs.  The following is from a recent Daily Caller article….

While the president has been urging “insourcing,” the government has been sending money to the Philippines to train foreign workers for jobs in English-speaking call centers.

According to New York Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop and North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, this is unacceptable and “shocking.”

The pair are calling on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to immediately suspend what is known as the Job Enabling English Proficiency (JEEP) program.

Can you believe that?

Over and over again, our politicians talk about the need to keep jobs in the United States and then they go out and do things that have the exact opposite effect.

It is truly maddening.

So what are the hordes of American workers that cannot find jobs supposed to do?

Well, one thing we are definitely seeing is a huge rise in the number of Americans that are dependent on the government.

For example, at the end of the Reagan administration the ratio of workers on Social Security disability to active workers was about 2 percent.

Today, it is over 6 percent.

During the first four months of 2012 alone, 539,000 more Americans were added to the Social Security disability rolls and another 725,000 submitted new applications.

Another federal program that is experiencing explosive growth is food stamps.

Last year, one out of every seven Americans was on food stamps, and the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the number of people on food stamps will continue to grow through 2014.

It is so sad to see what is happening to America.  Our economy is being dismantled all around us and the future looks incredibly bleak.

Right now there are millions upon millions of Americans that are sitting at home wallowing in despair.  They don’t understand why nobody will hire them and they are rapidly running out of options.

The following is a comment that a reader left on one of my recent articles about the middle class….

I cannot believe my present situation…

I worked hard in school and college so that I could escape the low income uneducated mess I grew up in.

I made all the correct decisions with my career, finances, etc. I cannot figure out how I got to where I am at now.

In late 2008 I was laid off in the IT field. I was a go-getter, and I didn’t let anyone tell me the economy would make it difficult to find a job. I had another within 4 weeks.

Was laid off from that job last year. I qualified for unemployment, but then my employer decides to bring a bunch of lawyers and fight my eligibility. After I won again, they appealed again. I finally couldn’t afford to keep paying attorney fees. I finally lost the appeal. I had to pay all that money back.

I’m still trying to find a job in my field. Being the go-getting I am, I immediately took a job waiting tables which amounted to a 75% pay-cut.

I had saved 6 months of expenses and that is completely dry. I have completely drained my retirement and savings. Still cannot find a livable wage job after almost a decade in my field.

Things are slowly going into default and it feels utterly hopeless and stressful. My pristine credit rating is gone, my savings and everything I worked for is gone. I haven’t missed a payment on my mortgage, but it is coming. I can’t cut anything more than I already have.

I just can’t figure out how this could have happened to me. I played by the rules and made all the right choices. I skipped vacations and time off to prove I was a good worker and had what it took to be a valuable employee.

I really am just at a loss at this point. I’m single and have no family. This is really make-or-break for me. I have no fallback plan. The feeling of failure is just gut-wrenching.

Please say a prayer for that reader and for all of the other hard working Americans out there that are desperate to find a job.

If you are at the end of your rope, please do not give up.  Even in the darkest moments, there is always a way to turn things around if you will just keep on fighting.

Sadly, way too many people are giving up on life because of the economy.  In Europe, economic conditions have deteriorated so badly that there has been a dramatic increase in suicides.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”

When the next major economic downturn happens in the United States, we will probably see a similar thing happen here too.

But people need to realize that our lives are not about how much stuff we own.

Even if every single thing is taken away from you and you are left with nothing that does not mean that your life is over.

Even if you have not been able to find a job for years, that does not mean that you should give up.

In life, everyone gets knocked down.

But unless you are dead, there is always a way to get things turned around in a more positive direction.

One thing that I have learned in life is that you must never, ever, ever, ever give up.

The years ahead are going to be really hard for the global economy, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be horrible years for you.

The years ahead can be the very best years of your entire life, but that will never happen if you decide to simply give up.

Why Are Record Numbers Of Young Adults Jobless And Living At Home With Mom And Dad?

In the United States today, unemployment among those age 18 to age 34 is at epidemic levels and the number of young adults that are now living at home with Mom and Dad is at an all-time high.  So why are so many of our young adults jobless?  Why are record numbers of them unable or unwilling to move out on their own?  Well, there are quite a few factors at work.  Number one, our education system has completely and totally failed them.  As I have written about previously, our education system is a joke and most high school graduates these days are simply not prepared to function at even a very basic level in our society.  In addition, college education in the United States has become a giant money making scam that leaves scores of college graduates absolutely drowning in debt.  Many young adults end up moving back in with Mom and Dad because they are drowning in so much debt that there are no other options.  Thirdly, the number of good jobs continues to decline and this is hitting younger Americans the hardest.  Millions of young people enter the workforce excited about the future only to find that there are hordes of applicants for the very limited number of decent jobs that are actually available.  So all of this is creating an environment where more young adults are financially dependent on their parents that ever before in modern American history.

Since the start of the recession, the percentage of young adults in America that are employed has dropped like a rock.  In 2007, the employment rate for Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 was 62.4 percent.  Today, it is down to 54.3 percent.

Yes, there are certainly many out there that are lazy, but the truth is that most of them would like to work if they could.  It is just that it is much harder to find a job these days.

And it isn’t just young people that think that the job market has gotten tougher.  According to one recent survey, 82 percent of all Americans believe that it is harder for young adults to find jobs today than it was for their parents to find jobs.

But if they cannot get jobs, then young adults cannot financially support themselves.  So more of them than ever are heading back home to live with Mom and Dad.

In the year 2000, 8.3 percent of all American women between the ages of 25 and 34 were living at home with their parents.  Today, that figure is up to 9.7 percent.

In the year 2000, 12.9 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 were living at home with their parents.  Today, that figure is up to an astounding 18.6 percent.

Take a moment and let those statistics sink in.

Nearly one out of every five American men from age 25 to age 34 are living at home with Mommy and Daddy.

When you look at Americans age 18 to age 24, it is even worse.  Among Americans age 18 to age 24, 50 percent of all women and 59 percent of all men still live with their parents.

Those are very frightening numbers.

Part of this has to do with a fundamental cultural shift.  An increasing number of parents these days expect that they will have to take care of their own children beyond the age of 22.  The following is from a recent article by Pew Research….

When asked in a 1993 survey what age children should be financially independent from their parents, 80% of parents said children have to be self-reliant by age 22. In the current survey, only 67% of parents say children have to be financially independent by age 22—a drop of 13 percentage points.

But what accounts for the tremendous gender disparity that we see in the figures above?

Well, one major factor is that young women are now far more likely to pursue a college education than young men are.  According to an article in the New York Times, women now account for approximately 57 percent of all enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities.

The less education you have, the more likely you are to be unemployed in America today.  So that is certainly a significant factor.

But many that have gone on to college are also moving back home.  When you are a young adult with no job and no prospects and you are swamped with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, it can be incredibly difficult to be financially independent.

After adjusting for inflation, U.S. college students are now borrowing about twice as much money as they did a decade ago.  Many students that go on to graduate school end up with more than $100,000 in total student loan debt.

Sadly, those degrees often do not pay off.  In fact, in America today one-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that there are millions upon millions of angry, disillusioned and frustrated young adults out there today.  A recent USA Today article told the story of 32-year-old Dennis Hansen….

After a year without work, Hansen, 32, was hired to monitor Lake Michigan and Lake Superior water for the state and federal governments over two summers. He also had short stints as a census worker and as an extra post office hand during one holiday crush.

It hasn’t been enough: Hansen says he has a $13,000 credit card debt and that’s just for basics — his $600 monthly mortgage, heat and food.

“It’s definitely a roller coaster,” Hansen says, with the ups coming when he’s done well in a job interview and the downs when there’s a rejection: “That’s when I’m frustrated, angry and wondering why I went to college for 10 years.”

If the economy was humming along on all cylinders, it would be easy to blame our young adults for being too lazy.

But these days most young adults have to scramble like crazy just to get a really low paying job.  Large numbers of very talented young adults are waiting tables, flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.

And this reality is reflected in the overall economic statistics.  Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

The “wealth gap” between younger Americans and older Americans is also growing and recently hit a new all-time high.  U.S. households led by someone 65 years of age or older are now 47 times wealthier than U.S. households led by someone 35 years of age or younger.

But this is not good for our society.  When there is civil unrest, it is not those 65 and older that take to the streets.

We desperately need our economy to get healthy again so that our young adults can get good jobs, get married, set up households, raise families and be productive members of society.

Instead, the percentage of young adults that have jobs is near an all-time low, the percentage of young adults living with their parents is at an all-time high, the proportion of adults in the United States that are married is at an all-time low and we have hordes of angry, frustrated young adults with plenty of time on their hands.

You don’t have to be a genius to see trouble on the horizon.

What is going to happen when the next major financial crisis comes and the economy gets significantly worse than it is now?

In the end, we are going to reap what we have sown.  We have fundamentally failed our young adults, and those failures are going to produce some very bitter fruit.

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