I get a very official-looking letter in the mail that basically says I might qualify for a reduction in my student loan payments. I call the number and talk to a very nice man for a long time. He puts in all my information about my income, other monthly payments, my (awesome) credit score. At the end of the conversation, he lays it out for me that I could be paying over $100 less a month AND pay it all off in a shorter span of time. All I have to do is pay a fee of $700. Up front.
I say thank you, I’ll think about it and call you back. I then do what I always do in these types of situations. Call my Mom. Sounds a little shady to her, but worth looking into.
I take this as, let me email Stephen, and he can look into it for me. Because I have no idea what I’m doing. We go back and forth through email and Stephen sends me a bunch of links to different sites and asks me a bunch of questions that I don’t have the answers to. In the end, he tells me to definitely NOT pay a fee to do something that I can potentially do on my own.
So that’s that. I look at all the sites he sent me and really start to look at all my finances. My debt. How much I owe to the world and how I’ve been paying it off all these years. Here’s what I concluded:
I’m a fucking idiot. I’ve been doing it all wrong. Why didn’t anyone tell me?? Here I thought I was so responsible, paying my bills every month, on time, keeping that credit score high (did I mention I have a great credit score?). Yea, well, fuck that. Paying the minimum on all my bills every month isn’t doing shit for my debt. It’s just getting deeper and deeper.
So I look at my credit cards, my interest rates (that I never pay attention to), how long it will take me to pay everything off. At the rate I’m going, it will take FOREVER. Literally. I call Mygreatlakes, which is the student loan I owe the most on ($215 a month). I ask the lady, is it possible to not pay my loans for a while, and then pay a larger sum at a later time? “No. You have to make your payments every month.” OK well, if I don’t make my payment on time, what’s the late fee? “There is no late fee.” But what’s the penalty? “There is none. You just have to pay it off.” I say thank you and hang up. This seems too easy. I can just not pay my student loans for a few months while I make higher payments on my credit cards to pay them off faster. I call Stephen to confirm.
He does not. “Lindsay, do not fuck with student loan payments. You can’t just stop making payments.” But there’s no late fee! I can just pay it later! “No. You can’t. They will come after you.” I am listening my brother. He knows all too well about NOT making payments on time. He learned the hard way. “Just apply for forbearance.” What’s that?
I hear a very audible sigh on the other end of the line. “Jesus Christ, Lindsay… You can put a hold on your payments for a period of time and pay them later. That way you don’t fuck with your credit and you don’t piss them off.” Oh. Well, that’s basically what I asked the lady and she said I couldn’t do that. “Then she’s a fucking liar. Call back and see if you can apply for forbearance… But look it up first. So you sound like you have some idea of what you’re talking about.”
OK, Stephen. I go online and apply for forbearance. The longer you want to stop payments, the higher the accrued interest over time. I ask for six months. The next day, I get an email. I’ve been approved for forbearance.
Yea, no shit. I’ve been making my payments on time, every time, since 2006. So this is great. I spend most of my afternoon figuring out how I’m going to pay off my credit cards.
The next morning, Brian is over and I can’t help but tell him all about it, knowing full-well that he is really going to think I’m an idiot. Brian is really good with money. I am not.
He starts asking me questions…. that I don’t know the answers to. I’m beginning to feel like I’m talking to my brother, except my brother already knows how little I know about this stuff. Brian is seeing it for the first time. Incredulous is the word that probably best describes his reaction as a whole.
The more he finds out, the dumber I feel, and the funnier it gets. He’s very helpful and is really just trying to help me figure it out – and he does – but at the same time, I’m sure he’s just like, what the fuck is wrong with this girl.
I tell him that I use my American Express card for EVERYTHING. I literally put everything on that card, and I have to pay it off in full every month. His first question is why. I respond with my most common answer to his questions – I don’t know. “Are you even part of a Rewards Program?” Uh, yea (duh, of course I am). “What are the rewards?” I start to smile, knowing how dumb my answer is but I say it anyway..
…. I don’t know, points?
He stops mid-tying his tie and stares at me. “How are you alive?” I start hysterically laughing. “Seriously, how old are you?” I can’t stop laughing. I really don’t know how I’m alive sometimes. “You need a safe. Do you have a safe?” No. “I’ll buy you a safe. What do you do with all your cash? That you get from waitressing?”
I don’t answer. I just start to smile again, embarrassed. “I swear to God if you say you keep it in your sock drawer…” I burst out laughing. That is EXACTLY where I keep it (well, not after this blog).
So, yeah. I’m a mess. Brian might as well find that out sooner than later.
I’ll figure it out someday!!