What IS financial responsibility?

“Be Responsible. Take responsibility for your actions.” It sounds simple, right? But what responsibility means to me has changed over the course of my life.

In fact, there are so many definitions of responsibility that Wikipedia doesn't even have a definition listed on its main responsibility page! There are over fifteen types listed there with links to their respective pages (though to be fair, one is a song).

Since I have approximately $100,000 in student loan debt, I now find myself faced with the task of becoming financially responsible. But what does that mean? What type of responsibility do I face?

Responsibility as Legal Obligation

The law of obligation is the most straightforward. When I took out student loans, I entered into a legal contract wherein I got money up front and in returned assumed an obligation to pay it back at a later date. In some ways, student loans are a pretty onerous and inflexible responsibility because they can't be discharged in bankruptcy.

However, federal student loans student loans are actually one of the most flexible types of debt to have because there are so many types of repayment plans. As long as you're communicating with your lender in good faith, it should be possible to stay in good standing.

Note: Private student loans may not offer the same flexibility. Because of this, some people consider private student loans to be a form of predatory lending, similar to payday loans.

You can opt for the standard repayment (10 years) which results in less interest paid. You can opt for the extended repayment (25 years) which results in a smaller monthly payment. You can opt for graduated repayment, so that you're making smaller payments when you're just starting out in your career.

You can also opt for income based repayment if you have a partial financial hardship. This can help you live within the confines of the balanced money formula even with a high amount of debt. This is because under IBR, repayment is capped at 15% of discretionary income.

Note: You only have to qualify for IBR once; that is, while the amount of your payments may fluctuate over the course of your loan, you can stay on the plan even after you no longer have a partial financial hardship. There are other benefits as well. The federal government will pay accrued interest for up to three years if your monthly repayment doesn't cover it. There is also a limit on the interest that can be capitalized.

There are actually even more options, and you're legally entitled to any of them if you meet the criteria. This enables you to choose the best fit for your situation. Typically, you can switch between payment plans as your situation changes. Additionally, after 25 years the remaining balance is forgiven (though the forgiven portion of the balance may be taxed as income).

Responsibility as Moral Obligation

This definition assumes that responsibility is a matter of honor or duty. According to this definition, “When someone recognizes a duty, that person theoretically commits their self to its fulfillment without considering their own self-interest.”

Moral responsibility typically assumes that individuals are in possession of free will and have a high degree of agency. Someone subscribing to the idea of moral responsibility might conclude that the moral thing to do is to pay off all individually acquired debts (1) in full, and (2) as quickly as possible – even if doing so has a negative impact on one's quality of life.

Thus, even though someone might be legally entitled to income based repayment, such a choice would be considered unethical because society ends up shouldering some of the individual borrower's burden.

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility assumes that there is a trade off between economic and social benefit, and tries to find balance/equilibrium between the two. For example, higher levels of education are associated with longer life. Additionally, more educated people are typically healthier and less likely to participate in criminal activity, especially violent crime.

A society might consider shouldering some of the costs of individuals' higher education to be an acceptable tradeoff. A long, healthy life in a safe environment is a tremendous benefit to citizens. The health problems and crime associated with a less educated citizenry might cost more than education would. In that case, society might even be able to recoup some or all of the cost of providing that education.

Are the tradeoffs reached by any particular society on a given issue necessarily optimal? I am not sure that can ever be known for sure. Society is complicated, and it's impossible for any individual to see the entire picture.

For example, lots of people think the American way of debt is not healthy. However, if it's a social construct, is society responsible for changing it? Does social responsibility lead to a diffusion of responsibility where we all complain but no one works to change things?

Food for Thought

Responsibility is a powerful concept. How do you determine when and where to draw the line?

Human beings are a diverse lot, so there are many definitions of responsibility out there. What do you do when someone else's idea of responsibility is different than yours? Is one school of thought on responsibility more or less valid than another? If so, who gets to make that determination?

More about...Psychology

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
178 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
8 years ago

In the area of personal money management, there are two broad groups of responsibility: The first is external – making payments on time, paying off debt, making sure that you don’t overcommit, etc. The second is internal: what do I do with all the money that’s left over after my external responsibilities have been taken care of? It may sound weird, but many people fear the second kind. These are the people who think of their financial lives in terms of payments. For example, when their car loan is paid off, they simply feel more comfortable getting a new car.… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago

What a great take on this, and one I hadn’t thought of (probably because I won’t be at that point for awhile yet). Very insightful!

Lincoln
Lincoln
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey, one issue I have with your blog posts is that they seem to ask questions rather than answer them. On some level, I think it’s a little unfair/unethical that the comments section is providing more financial advice than the content of your own posts. And this is not said to minimize your perspective as someone at the beginning of their financial path, but . . . it just seems sloppy to ask a bunch of questions based on what you found on Wikipedia. Is Wikipedia really your moral compass?

malcom
malcom
8 years ago

In a couple of months I will go from debtor to investor. I would like to see some articles from people who made this transition successfully.

Savvy Scot
Savvy Scot
8 years ago

I think the vast differences in the interpretation of responsibility is to blame for the current economic state. In the UK, a lot of people will never fully pay of their student loan, living with the minimum payments which leads to the loan being cancelled after a number of years

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

I recall you mentioned about three weeks ago in a comment on your second article (where you articulated your husband’s financial info and disclosed all the debt you guys had to pay off with the money you earned) that you were going to post an article expounding all the changes you and your husband were making to pay off your debt or reduce the hemorrage of your monthly earned income on your daily expenses. Instead we’ve gotten two weeks of more navel gazing. I don’t care about your detailed analysis of responsibility as much as I care about you taking… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Jeez, I would hardly call this navel gazing. I really found this article to be thought provoking, especially the sociological argument of the collateral benefits of educational debt forgiveness.

“Hey guys, I sent my monthly student loan payment, plus $100 towards principal cause I didn’t get a massage this month,” would be a boring article to me.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Right. People’s emotional desire to see Honey self-flagellate does not make for interesting blog reading.

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Also, there are many people trying to understand their options with regards to student loans. This post provides information that others can use, outside of Honey’s personal narrative.

Panda
Panda
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Absolutely agreed. I don’t want to read posts about Honey’s personal progress solely in tactical details. Much more interesting to have a more widely applicable.

Having said that, I’d be interested to then hear what Honey truly decides responsibility means to her. How does that frame what she then decides to do? Let’s look at the broader issues, but then apply them personally.

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago
Reply to  Panda

That’s really what I felt this article was missing. There was musing about different definitions, and questions about what readers feel fiscal responsibility is, but no real conclusion about how Honey sees herself or what she decided responsibility meant to her. Without that, I feel there just isn’t much content to this article.

Pattie,RN
Pattie,RN
8 years ago
Reply to  Panda

We have established Honey’s writing skills, proving that she did learn SOMETHING for all that time in school.
But, again, we have a “compare and contrast” essay for the readers rather than any information about actual , real-world, real-time progress in Honey’s financial life.
The initial posts made me angry and frustrated. Now I am simply bored…

JC
JC
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

I completely agree with Amy. I would much rather take a look at the practical side of Honey working towards killing her humongous debt and helping her husband have a better grasp on what it is to design a budget and stick to it.

Honey, in the words of Mr. Money Mustache, YOUR DEBT IS AN EMERGENCY! You do not have time to wax philosophical. Apparently you didn’t get the memo.

shauna
shauna
8 years ago
Reply to  JC

Dealing with a financial emergency and taking time to understand the thinking that got you there are not mutually exclusive. When did people on GRS get so nasty? I thought we encouraged people to do BOTH?

I was also one of the early critics of Honey’s first article, but I’ve enjoyed hearing about what got her there, especially since I am also working off a mountain of student debt and its a good reminder of where I came from.

Trina
Trina
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

Everybody loves a villain — what would Dallas have been without JR? What better villain for a PF blog than an airhead who blithely waxes philosophical about whether she’s actually responsible for over $100,000 in debt? Thanks for giving us someone we love to hate, JD!

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  JC

That’s one of those things that sounds nice but doesn’t actually mean anything. I mean, maybe it’s motivational for certain people but it’s also pretty hollow. Your debt is something you should be informed and contemplative about, and that you should have a plan for addressing. It’s not something that you need to flail about constantly, or playact terror and panic about, or beat yourself up about. Nor is it something that you need to constantly emphasize the seriousness of to outsiders. It’s . . . a thing. That you should deal with. It’s more or less pressing depending on… Read more »

Susan
Susan
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

“Your debt is an emergency” is not feigned histrionics. It is the title of a brilliant post by Mr. Money Mustache, a PF blogger and early retiree (age 38) who’s got it going on financially and lives in alignment with his non-consumer values. Check it out. We can all learn from him.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I got that it was a quote from a blogger. I still think it’s ridiculously histrionic. I don’t really care how said blogger lives his life; good for him having it together and good for people who are inspired by him. I still don’t think his philosophy is particularly useful.

victoria
victoria
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie
mike crosby
mike crosby
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Wow, I read the article on MMM about debt. Fascinating. Never looked at debt that way. Biblical even. If only the govt. looked at debt that way.

JC
JC
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

There is nothing histrionic about saying “your debt is an emergency” as this is truly how I feel people should perceive their debt. Somehow, over the last say, 60 years or so, it became increasingly ‘normal’ to take on debt. This concept of maintaining a normal quality of life by taking on debt grew in popularity to the point that it is now assumed that every adult person should carry “healthy debt” to help them on their way to achieving a typical north american lifestyle. The way we look at debt as normal baffles me. It is a socially accepted… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

And if you spend the next twenty years in panic mode dealing with your “debt emergency” your life will revolve around waiting. Sure, it would be nice if everyone could save up for twenty years, and then buy a home in their mid to late forties. Two bedroom apartments are great for raising three or more kids. Then again, speaking of kids, you should save until you can afford them, likely in your fifties. Takes care of the apartment issue and modern medicine can see to that, right? Then it’s great getting that beat to heck clunker and having your… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

You’re over-thinking this. Where I come from is with an example of my father – a hard-working, very wealthy man – with a grade 9 education. When one of my brothers racked up a bunch of debts to various businesses in the community where my parents had lived for 50 years and had “financial hardship” (mostly out of laziness), my father went around and paid those debts off (probably more than the amount of your student loans). Why did he do that since he had no legal obligation? As he said at the time “I have to live in this… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

An excellent example of how we might feel responsible to our family (and our community) even in circumstances where we are not legally responsible for something. Your father sounds like an amazing guy!

Tara
Tara
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I wish my mom’s brother felt this same sense of responsibility. His daughter ripped my dad off for $18,000 and he never made any effort to either repay it or work with his daughter to repay it. It significantly reduced my esteem of him that’s for sure.

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago

I’m not sure if I understand what this article is about. You borrowed over $100,000. You are responsible for paying it back. Writing an article detailing different philosophies on debt repayment is not going to change that. Eventually you will probably have to start writing about the actual progress that you are making or people will lose interest.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

I agree. The section on social responsibility hit me the wrong way. I felt like it was saying “It’s not my fault I’m in so much debt – the government should pay for more of students’ tuition costs!”

Sure, we can debate whether governments should contribute more towards the cost of education — but to what end? The point is that students have to make decisions based on the system they’re dealing with, not a system they think should exist.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

For the record, my comment was not an attack on Honey — though re-reading it I realize it inadvertently came across that way. I was reacting to the attitude in general that I see too much of in the news — especially from corporations, not just individuals.

Yes, it would be nice if the government did a better job of x – but until we can get the government to fix x, we have to be responsible for our own choices.

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Neither was mine! That is the problem with the written word. It can be interpreted many ways based on the tone with which it was read. I really do hope that the author gets a handle on her debt…. I just don’t think that nodding and agreeing with everything she says will be particularly helpful to her. The good news is that if she were to choose a job that paid better she could be repaying debt at a rapid pace. And she has a higher earning potential to begin with because of her advanced education. Personally, I hope this… Read more »

Mark
Mark
8 years ago

I have some issues with some things she wrote, but the question of moral or legal responsibility is a serious one. If she can pay the minimum payment for 25 years and have the balance discharged should she? It’s perfectly legal but many would say it is wrong. Same thing with declaring bankrupcy or walking away from a mortgage, it is all legal but I still don’t think it is right as long as you have a way of paying..

It is a relevant question, but it just wasn’t articulated very well, especially the social responsibility section.

KSR
KSR
8 years ago

GRS is fun. It’s fluffy. It’s a good thing to read when the head is still groggy and you’re sipping the morning joe. There are plenty of blogs with kick ya in the a#$ content fronted by intellectual elites and advanced followers. Honey is a beginner. She’s the anti-J.D. I think that’s part of the problem for some. She definitely subscribes to the tenant that the path out of debt is different for everyone.

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago

I do think JD might have gotten someone else to write on this particular topic. All those who are enjoying castigating Honey just aren’t going to think about this post at all, because Honey wrote it. I, personally, have paid off my student loan debts and many others. However, people do need to stop and think about what their feelings of responsibility are for different kinds of debts and bills. For instance, some people regard debts owed to other humans vs. corporations as more urgent. Others consider the raising of interest rates to be perfectly reasonable while finding the raising… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I don’t know how to conceptualize this in a more general form at this hour, but to me, being financially responsible means at the most basic that I own my decisions and their consequences. Being responsible goes hand to hand with being free. If I am free to choose, then I am also responsible for my choices. No more blaming others, the government, the credit card companies, society, the one percenters, my upbringing, corporations, advertisers, predatory lenders, mainstream culture, herd mentality, the Joneses, or anybody else. Being responsible, to me, doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes– everybody makes mistakes,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

I have been stewing over this comment for DAYS– came up in the context of another article but it actually works better here. Financial responsibility, for me, means doing the legwork and taking care of your own financial education, at least as it pertains to the major political decisions that are/will be impacting your finances. It was in the context of JD proposing a series on the upcoming healthcare changes, and someone commented that they wanted to see this academic’s political biases stated straight up, as well as a political viewpoint from each side, so they could get an unbiased… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

If you really want an unbiased answer to see major political decisions that willl have an impact, one way or another, on your finances, then you need to take some responsibility, and read the actual bill(s). Read them as they are written, not as they are fed to you by someone else. I… I see this as a major headache but… YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Maybe. Maybe? I’ve read Joyce’s Ulysses… I supposed I can handle the law. Ha ha ha, owwww… I am having advanced headaches, but I gratefully accept your challenge. Because this was a blind spot for me… Read more »

mike
mike
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Its not possible unless you make it your full time job, how many thousands of bills are brought to the table in a year. Many of which are doomed to failure and are just for show. Even if you just focus on the major ones, they are typically 100’s of pages long and usually there is pork in there somewhere. I tend to focus on articles that pull the bills apart that specifically focus on the facts and how it will impact country regardless of the party that initiated the bill. There are still journalists that can stay neutral even… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  mike

Its not possible

You just had to say that to make me wanna do it so much more, didn’t you? 😀

(we’re not talking about “thousands of bills” here but the ACA specifically)

btw the original link i posted is expired, this one is more definitive:

http://www.healthcare.gov/law/full/

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago
Reply to  mike

I have to agree with mike… Yes, it’s possible to find politically-neutral sources out there to put bills into layman’s terms. However, the fact that bills are 100s of pages long, and full of legalese is why we have a representative republic as a government and are NOT a true democracy. What people need to do (to go back to the OP’s advice), is to ignore the mudslinging ads, go out to the .gov website of your choice (city, county, state & federal level), and read about how your elected officials have handled issues that have a direct impact on… Read more »

EAP
EAP
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Reading the bill directly might not help you have a better, less biased understanding of the bill. The language with which the bill is written is heavily coded/biased so without detailed knowledge an element that sounds good in the bill, in practice makes no sense/plays to special interests. Sometimes, looking at the information pulled together from other sources can help you understand the bias in the original language. If you have the time to check the language of a bill, the special interests writers/sponsers of the bill, existing laws and regs that affect the bill, etc by all means, but… Read more »

W at Off-Road Finance
W at Off-Road Finance
8 years ago

A lot of moral responsibility revolves around family. Making sure they’re taken care of no matter what happens. Moral responsibility to the government on student loans is a distant second as far as I’m concerned. There I would feel only a legal obligation.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

This puzzles me: “A society might consider shouldering some of the costs of individuals’ higher education to be an acceptable tradeoff.” This is so pie in the sky vague. Define “higher education”. Define “acceptable tradeoff”. Who gets to be the “individuals”? If this article wasn’t written by someone 100k in debt, it might be somewhat interesting. But since it was written by someone with 100k of student loans, it sounds pretty odd. The subtext reads like a bunch of rationalization of your choices….and a rationalization for when the rest of us get shouldered with the burden of loan balances. BTW.… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

You say, “Define “higher education”. Define “acceptable tradeoff”. Who gets to be the “individuals”?” That is exactly my point! What do these things mean? Who gets to decide them? I qualify for IBR, though I’m currently on a plan that will have me pay the loans off in full. I haven’t decided whether IBR is something I feel comfortable with. It occurs to me that in some ways, IBR may be the best plan in terms of benefitting the taxpayers, since it gives taxpayers the benefit of all that interest income that they wouldn’t see under the other plans. I’m… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

It’s called personal responsibility and accountability. You define it for yourself. I was surprised at another staff writer who talked about buying organic this and that while also mentioning trying to get out from under the balance from a creditor because they’d ‘long since made their money’ from selling their debt to collections. I called BS on that too. You are married to an attorney, you have advanced degrees. I see no reason that any loan forgiveness should be available to anyone unless there is *clear* hardship. What’s the saying about something being difficult to define but knowing it when… Read more »

Pattie,RN
Pattie,RN
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I totally agree…unless Honey or her husband find themselves with severe medical issues, disability due to accident or mental health problems, or have a severely disabled child…they need to get their a$$es in gear and pony up.

Oh…..and stop playing mind games or feigning victimhood.

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

But isn’t it difficult to entirely place blame on a young, albeit intelligent, individual who amasses too much student loan debt? Having many, most, or even ALL of us here in the US decided that our financial aid system, our education system, and our healthcare system are broken?

The universities put a tuition number out there; the consumer decides whether it seems like a fair trade-off; the banks and the fed decide whether to take the risk of lending the money. It’s like playing with a stacked deck. But who really holds the cards?

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
8 years ago

The mental gymnastics Honey avails herself of in this article is insulting and infuriating.
The different incantations of responsibility is an interesting topic but not in the context of obfuscating the real issue, you have over $100K of debt and it is not apparent that you are making any substantive progress with it.
While that’s not a crime, if you don’t believe your debt is a problem or your responsibility then why did you apply to become a writer at GRS?

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

I always comment first, and then read the comments, so I am not unduly influenced by others. And I always feel a little guilty leaving negative feedback, but now that I have read the comments, I feel a little bit better. It sounds like a lot of us are having similar reactions to this post. If it weren’t for the fact that we have to be subjected to that rotating ad in the right margin, I wouldn’t feel entitled to complain about a GRS post, but in terms of the advertising onslaught that now accompanies this content, we are in… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

You are not in ANY way, shape or form “paying” for this article, that’s taking things a bit far. GRS writers didn’t used to be so entitled/nasty. If you don’t like her articles, don’t read them. Each author has their own perspective, if you don’t like this one, there are many others. Good grief, people need to leave Honey alone already.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

If we’ve used the links that include affiliate programs, we actually are. (and I have)

ShackleMeNot
ShackleMeNot
8 years ago

” The federal government will pay accrued interest for up to three years if your monthly repayment doesn’t cover it.”

The federal government gets its money from US tax payers. So, US tax payers will pay your interest from your loans.

As a tax payer (I’m in the 49%) I wish you would not have gone to school if it’s something that I end up paying for.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  ShackleMeNot

We all pay taxes for things that we would prefer not to. I’d rather pay taxes that go to help educate young people than to pay for drone attacks or destroying countries.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Keep in mind, that with this author, the student loans are not for an undergraduate degree. In a prior post, she said that she graduated from college debt free. Her loans were for her advanced degrees.

I agree that an educated society is a good thing. The article she linked doesn’t talk about the difference between people with college degrees and masters and phds as far as it pertains to their ‘uneducated’ burden on society.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I was definitely feeling that this topic had come up recently, but I had forgotten that it was the same author. This makes me even more frustrated with this post. (Sorry, Honey. The last one was great.)

ShackleMeNot
ShackleMeNot
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

@Sam,
National defense is actually a function of the US federal government. I don’t think they spend the money wisely, but that’s not the issue here.

Paying for Honey’s debts is not mentioned in the US Constitution.

EMH
EMH
8 years ago
Reply to  ShackleMeNot

Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States”

It depends on what you feel “general welfare” encompasses. For me, general welfare includes the health and education of our citizens.

Lura
Lura
8 years ago
Reply to  ShackleMeNot

The part of this post that started me thinking was … “the health problems/crime associated with the less educated citizenery…” and the idea that that may offset the student loan forgivenss somehow.. Of course that would never be trackable. It then made me think of the military and my job and how the veterans I work with have disabilities and it becomes a major stretch for some of them to attain a degree in their 40s.. and become qualified to find a suitable career. It makes me wish we had an education system that was geared to the actual labor… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  ShackleMeNot

@EMH — perhaps it’s a matter of degree? no pun intended! It’s not like the U.S. government isn’t paying anything towards people’s post-secondary education — but how much should it pay? Does it owe people a “free” undergraduate degree? Or a Masters? A PhD? I have no answers – It just depends on where you draw the line. Governments don’t seem to say “we’re going to fully fund x or not fund it at all.” There’s always a question of “how much” — and that’s a moving target. Honey’s situation is unique because she completed her undergraduate degree debt-free, but… Read more »

J
J
8 years ago

Move along now, nothing to see here.

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
8 years ago

I look at financial responsiblity as a big deal, and really a part of a broader practice of being personally accountable for one’s own actions and life. Folks that take on this personal accountability, instead of relying on others or making excuses, tend to be more successful overall. Based on what I’ve seen:)

KT
KT
8 years ago

Being responsible is pretty simple.

Don’t take more debt than you can afford. Pay what you owe.

There, I defined it!

You can Google search “responsibility” all you want, but learning and living the definition is pretty darn easy.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  KT

YES!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  KT

Is it always that simple for everyone? I’m pretty lucky in that I can afford my monthly payments and I’m making progress on my debts.

I analyzed responsibility in terms of student loans in this post, and since higher education is a luxury it’s easy to judge. But it seems there are other situations – medical debt, people who can’t afford to eat – where this interpretation lacks compassion.

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey, do you have medical debts that you have not disclosed? I think it would be helpful to stay on topic and not use hypothetical situations to justify your particular situation or thought processes.

You asked if it was that simple for everyone. I’m sure it’s not that simple for *everyone,* but it really is for some people. Maybe it is an old school thought process, but I feel that I should repay every cent that I have borrowed.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

Exactly. When the poster above said “don’t take on debt you can’t afford” — who would think that was meant to include medical expenses?

Marcus
Marcus
8 years ago

I’m not getting it either. You should repay your debts! Seems like the author is trying to rationalize not repaying?

On the other hand this post sure has gotten a lot of reaction, similar to an earlier post.

KT
KT
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I know your sole goal is to rationalize your irresponsible behavior; I get it. But no one is buying into it but yourself. Borrowing more than you can afford and frittering money away on massages and hair salons is irresponsible; struggling to pay back loans for cancer treatments is not. I don’t need to belong to Mensa to figure that out.

Trina
Trina
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Yes, it is.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Well, what kind of medical debt? Is it voluntary or involuntary? Breast implants: A choice. Pay it. Getting shot in a movie theater: Not a choice. Pay what you can, work out a payment plan, etc. Now, before you try to drag this even more off-topic by saying that someone might really need breast implants because of cancer for their own mental health, let’s get back to Honey Smith’s Massive Debt Load. There was no need for your PhD. None. You willingly signed up for it. It doesn’t matter if the people in academia pulled you into their bosom. It… Read more »

Cara
Cara
8 years ago

Less thinking, more doing, please. When I was paying down my $63,000 law school debt 16 years ago, I made a stack of pre-addressed, stamped envelopes and sent in a check every week or two on top of my scheduled payments. Sometimes it was $15, sometimes it was $150 or more, but those little bits added up. The pre-addressed envelopes made it easy to make an impulse payment, like when I had a particularly bad day at work or when I decided to skip a dinner out. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Stop philosophizing and DO… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

We did the same thing with Mr. Sam’s MBA student loans, but all electronically. I would snow flake any time we had “extra” money available and had that loan killed in 7 mos. which was at $27,000+.

cajh
cajh
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Great advice! I do something similar with my credit card payments (my biggest financial goal right now is to get out of consumer debt). My checking account and credit card are conveniently through the same bank so I can easily transfer $15 here, $50 there…those impulse payments really add up! It’s also a good way of preventing me from spend $5 at Starbucks here and $8 at Chipotle there because I don’t have a ton of extra cash sitting around in my checking account. P.S. Your advice is the type of thing I was hoping to read in Honey’s article.… Read more »

cajh
cajh
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

This is one of my favorite sayings.

Diana L
Diana L
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Cara,
I have copied your quote and have it taped to my desk at home for inspiration. I have a second mortgage for around that amount that I’ve been mostly ignoring (after all, I get that great interest deduction on my taxes and mortgage debt isn’t “bad,” right? ) and this is just the sort of kick I need to move forward.
Thank you!

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I’ll post my own conflict on this. We have investments properties in Florida, at least one of those properties is not worth even half of what we paid for it. I have a good friend who is strategically defaulting on her home while she is renting it out, collecting rent, and she owns two horses. She is fighting the foreclosure in the courts and is expecting that eventually the lender will sell the home back to her at a much better deal, meaning they will cut the principal and the term of the loan and the interest rate. We are… Read more »

Babs
Babs
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

This. Is why I find this blog so compelling. Things are complex. Issues are not black and white.
In the past I have depended on taxpayers to help finance my house using the mortgage tax deduction, help finance my family using the child care credit, help finance my children’s education using education tax credits. (Thanks!)
In return I pay property taxes, my children are semi-responsible adults and they both have jobs in their field. (Thanks again!)
Discussions about responsibility and accountability are important and seem to be sadly lacking in public discourse.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with this post — it wasn’t what I was expected. This isn’t targeted at Honey, but here is what I think it means to be financially responsible or not. Responsible: – avoiding “bad debt” whenever possible. – knowing what you’re getting in to when you take on debt, make an investment, etc. – be willing to accept the consequences of your decisions. (i.e. accepting the risks, planning to meet your obligations) – make saving for the future a priority. – being able to see yourself through an emergency. – understanding how your… Read more »

Cathy
Cathy
8 years ago

A lot of people make money off of debt in this country. One of the factors in the housing crisis was big banks making money off of bad loans. Loans that they should not have made. People are so quick to judge individuals who took out those bad loans but shouldn’t the banks be equally responsible for loaning money to someone who they knew in all likelihood wouldn’t be able to pay it back? I feel the same way when people talk about the obesity crisis in this country. There are companies who make a lot of money selling junk… Read more »

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Cathy

Today, I can go into a bank and get a loan for a $2 MM property, but I won’t because although on paper I could afford it, I know I don’t want to live on mac ‘n’ cheese for 25 years and if I lose my job, it would be difficult to get another position within six months with equal pay.

Sure, the banks offered stupid loans, but they didn’t force people to take them.

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Ann

There was a time (pre 1980) when people would not have been able to get those loans, and banks would not have been able to profit off of bad loans. It’s also about bad banking policy in our country.

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

I’m not talking an interest-only or other exotic loan. This loan would’ve been approved pre-1980. But I have enough common sense to know I shouldn’t do it.

Also, for a country that prides itself on personal freedoms, why is it that when something goes wrong, the first solution is to regulate people from making stupid decisions? Regulations and laws can take years to enact, whereas using your common sense can be immediate.

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Actually, in the case of a number of lenders, the lenders outright lied and manipulated people to take out loans for more than they could afford. In some cases– I know several people this happened to– when the buyer went to settle on the house, there were ‘suddenly’ mysterious fees that coincidentally ate up whatever liquid capital the buyer had, and the lender ‘magically’ was able to increase the loan to cover those extra thousands. Sure, the buyer should have cut and run– thus leaving the seller hanging out on a string. The lender counted on people’s feelings of moral… Read more »

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  Cathy

As long as Fannie Mae was willing to buy up, package, and resell the bad loans the banks didn’t care much if they were bad loans.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

I remember watching a TV investigating program about Fannie Mae several years ago that said that Fannie Mae actually owned the company that did their collections on bad loans. Not sure if it is still the case but they did not care if you were late in paying because they would still make money of doing the collections.

Ann
Ann
8 years ago

This article feels like a delay tactic because the writer doesn’t want to tackle her debt problem. Procrastination doesn’t make the problem go away…unless you’re one of those people who, if given the option, will walk away from their debt.

Personally, responsibility is pretty simple: Can I look at myself in the mirror without flinching?

BTW, if procrastination is a real issue for you, I recommend Piers Steels’ The Procrastination Equation.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago

I am in the middle of reading Joe Mihalic’s e-book “Destroy Student Debt: A Combat Guide to Freedom” (highly recommended, BTW, and per his nomoreharvarddebt.com blog, free from Amazon today and tomorrow only – shameless plug, I know, but I have no affiliation with him, I just like his blog and book). He talks a lot about the mindsets that created debt and how to shift that mindset towards combatting debt. He doesn’t address responsibility because it’s a given that one who borrowed will repay (or one wouldn’t be reading the book). I’m in agreement with most of the responses… Read more »

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

If you don’t have a Kindle, pick up this ebook 😉 There is a free PC app for the kindle allowing you to read Kindle books on any computer (also ipod/ipad apps). I’ve not read the book, but I did just download it 🙂

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I am excited to read that book. I don’t have a kindle, but a friend does so I asked him to download it (hopefully he reads it, he has a lot of debt, too). My first post since being hired as a staff writer at GRS was July 23. I have implemented some changes, thanks to everyone’s feedback. But I wanted to wait at least a billing cycle so I’d have some ACTUAL numbers to report, not just projected ones (since I didn’t think that would satisfy people). I also think that since I am making progress (i.e., it’s not… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

hey, here quickly @ lunchtime to say there’s a kindle reader for all software platforms! and that includes phone apps.

Cara
Cara
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

The systemic problem is already documented elsewhere, including:

http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/
http://scholasticsnakeoil.blogspot.com/
http://studentdebtcrisis.org/

The questions there might be more interesting, but from what I’ve read from you so far, they would be more distracting than helpful for you and a way to feel like you’re fixing the problem without actually fixing the problem. As the saying goes, if you want to clean the world, sweep your own porch first.

Pattie,RN
Pattie,RN
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

You are representative of a small minority of ADULTS who chose to hide in academia rather than grow up and work after four years.

With apolgies to “Animal House”…

“Don’t flatter yourself, Honey. It wasn’t that great!”

Andy Hough
Andy Hough
8 years ago

I have taken a lot of criticism on my blog for using the income-based repayment option. Since the federal government offers this option I don’t see how using it could be seen as morally or ethically wrong. I didn’t ask for this option, but since it is offered I will use it.

Charles
Charles
8 years ago
Reply to  Andy Hough

It can be considered morally or ethically wrong because not everyone delegates their moral and ethical judgement to the federal government. Just because something isn’t illegal or is provided for in a government program does not mean that that thing is therefore moral or ethically correct, and our government is not set up to provide moral and ethical pronouncements.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Andy Hough

Thanks for sharing, Andy. I’m not on IBR at the moment although I don’t consider the program unethical. I understand why others might (it was one of the main points of my article), but one individual doesn’t have the authority to dictate someone else’s conclusions.

EAP
EAP
8 years ago
Reply to  Andy Hough

Yeah, I find it interesting how people can take tax deductions/credits, social programs and find no moral problems in that, but not student loan repayment plans…creating moral codes to suit our self interests, while condemning others for making very similar choices.

PB
PB
8 years ago

Dealing with children and student loans will vary a great deal with the child, looking at it from the point of view of the parents’ responsibility. In our case: Child 1. Went to art school, is semi-employed as an artist/writer, getting to be well known in a small circle, working at a low-wage job to pay the bills. We helped her though school, have paid some of her small loans, and of the remaining, are taking over 75% of them while she is taking over 25%. Child 2. Joined the army after high school, two tours in Iraq, wounded, going… Read more »

tentaculistic
tentaculistic
8 years ago

Although this article didn’t really help me, the comments did. Thanks for the reminder of how you envelope/snowflaked your way to being debt-free. I go back and forth between expanding my emergency fund and paying down my almost-gone student debt. These comments made me log on right now and make another student loan payment (now down to only $3.4K!!). Thanks for the encouragement, this is why I read this and other PF blogs. You guys rock.

Cortney
Cortney
8 years ago

I actually think this article is more interesting than one where Honey would lay out her debt repayment plan. Maybe I’m reading into this a bit, but I see this article as a logical step for someone who practiced financial irresponsibility (accruing $100,000 in debt that they can’t really afford) and is now becoming financially responsibility. If I were Honey, my first question on my journey of financial responsibility would be “Now that I have this debt, what are my options?” And to answer that question, you need to look at all possibilities, rank them (and part of this ranking… Read more »

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

So, you’d be okay if the writer decided to meet her minimum legal obligations and walk away from the debt after 25 years? You think it’s perfectly okay to get rich slowly by abusing the system? I know I sound judgmental, but isn’t this site about doing the right thing even if it’s difficult because you understand the difference between needs and wants? To me, it appears she didn’t just look at her options. She looked at her options, then went further to justify her debt and her decision to not pay back the debt in full if she so… Read more »

Cortney
Cortney
8 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Hi Ann, From an emotional perspective, no, I would not be okay if she walked away after 25 years. However, as long as she meets her minimum legal obligation, she has every right to do so. When loans were made, both sides agreed to all terms — including the option that the borrower would walk away after 25 years. Yes, the taxpayers would end up covering the difference, but we do the same thing every time a company goes bankrupt or lays off employees, and we cover unemployment, welfare, food stamps, etc. If companies can make mistakes and have taxpayers… Read more »

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

In fact, we do it every time a company goes bankrupt, which airlines have been doing regularly to get out of their financial obligations as long as I can recall.

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

I believe in social programs and happily pay into them through taxes. I know they get abused, but they are a need which my family had to depend on when I was younger. But the difference between my family back then and this writer now is that we couldn’t afford the basics (food and shelter in the form of a one-bedroom apartment for six people, not massages) otherwise. This writer is not in the same situation. As for why it’s okay for corporations declare to bankruptcy and not individuals: It’s not okay. I don’t think anyone here ever said it… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

OK Honey, I know that YEARS AGO you wrote about your debt, your now-husband’s inability to budget, and all of these issues on that other blog you kept. The one where you said you with going with a super-long engagement so you would get married without going into debt?

So what has changed in those years? Can you get on with your story rather than trying to rationalize ways to get out of paying off your debt?

sasha
sasha
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

What is this other blog you speak of? Blog address please or link from “way back machine”.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

As GRS entries go, this entry is weak, weak, weak, and needs to be copy-edited to boot.

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

The number one rule for me is that I am responsible for me. This means the following in my relationship to others and society and finances: 1)If I accept help and generosity from others, I owe them gratitude at the very least. 2)If help and generosity occurs in something like a loan or other financial vehicle, and I accept their terms, I repay the entire loan or fulfill the other financial commitment. If later, I wonder whether I made the right choice or not, I still have to remember that I am responsible for me and all of my decisions.… Read more »

Kristin Wong
8 years ago

While I’m certainly concerned about the ethics aspect of financial responsibility, for me, it’s always been about personal responsibility. As El Nerdo mentioned, I like having the freedom of being able to make choices and not having some financial institution looming over my head. A friend of mine recently started paying off his several thousand dollar debt, and he said he didn’t realize how much it had been getting him down. The creditor calling him every day really started to play on his psyche without him even realizing it. He said it was a daily reminder of his financial problems.… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

This. I can totally relate after waging war with collection agencies for years – not our debt, my m-i-l’s. (Even though probate court threw out the claim as it was past the statute of limitations, the bank that issued the credit card simply sold it to collections and they pass it around.) It totally wears you down to deal with daily calls, even with letting them all go to voice mail. Just not enough for me to pay a debt that isn’t ours and that we have no legal or moral obligation to pay.

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

Did not know that any student loan balance forgiven after 25 years may be considered income and taxed. Very interesting.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

I find this post really interesting. For myself, I had roughly $50,000 in grad school loans. My parents and I had a deal for undergraduate: if I was able to get a scholarship that covered at least half of tuition, they would help me with the other half, which I thought was incredibly generous. I paid for grad school on my own (mostly through debt). Luckily, I got a great job out of grad school and was able to maintain my broke grad student lifestyle, so I paid it off after a year. I don’t think it’s fair, though, to… Read more »

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Okay, one final comment before I get out for fresh air. I believe the reason so many commenters are frustrated by this post and this writer is because of her tone and her specific circumstances. No one here is going to go “tsk-tsk” at people who are in debt because they have cancer or had their entire life savings wiped out because they invested in Enron or WorldCom. Bad things happen. This writer chose to pursue master’s and doctorate’s degrees but doesn’t appear to be leveraging them. She took on more debt because she wanted to. I fully support anyone… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Even beyond those health/disaster issues, though, I still think folks are being too harsh. Most of us feel that the best investment that we can make is in ourselves. Honestly, I think that it makes more sense for someone to have huge college loans than home loans or loans for a new car. Even if you do your research, the job market isn’t always what you’d expect it to be/what your school tells you. I just don’t understand why people are being so judgmental towards Honey, I believe that she represents a larger percentage of the population than most would… Read more »

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Let me reiterate: I fully support higher education. Higher education is what got me out of poverty. An investment implies a possible return. This writer hasn’t mentioned anything about leveraging her PhD. Also, previously, she mentioned that she and her spouse were considering moving and purchasing a home and adding a mortgage on top of their student loans and consumer debt. This writer is like that child you have who has great potential but squanders it. ETA: I don’t see why you would worry about people judging your spending habits if you can afford them. You have a sweet-tooth. I… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Ann

You say,

This writer chooses to spend money on items that are clearly wants (I don’t ascribe to an ascetic lifestyle, but there’s a line) instead of paying off the debt that, frankly, doesn’t seem to bother her. (Or maybe it comes across that way because she’s too perky for me.)

I ask,

Who gets to determine the “line” for any individual? Does feeling bad, nervous, guilty, worried have ANYTHING to do with “taking responsibility”? How would being depressed help anything? What if someone’s motivation stems from optimism?

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey, There’s upbeat-whatever, then there’s upbeat-but-motivated. Your writing tone comes across as the former and I interpret that as not being concerned about your debt or paying it off. It’s very much: “Oops! My husband and I have $230k in debt. Heehee! Oh, well.” If I was wrong, which I did imply in my comment, and you are serious about tackling your debt, then I apologize. As for “the line,” I would like to think it’s common sense, but apparently common sense is not as common as I would like to think. And I can no longer address you directly… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Ann, Honey is paying her debts and has stated that over and over. And she appears to be paying them in amounts that are just fine with her lenders. Your issue seems to be that she’s not paying them fast enough. I may agree with that as a personal matter, but I don’t get why it’s a moral one.

BC
BC
8 years ago

Honey, you should have been a professor! You are all hat and no cattle here. Sorry, but I agree with many other comments here that waxing and waning on a topic like this only makes sense after you’ve tackled a good chunk of your debt. It just feels like the light has not gone off for you yet. Responsibility is going to smack you in the face, as it did for me, if you ever have a child. If you are planning to have one, your responsibility is to clear this mess pronto so that they don’t inherit the pitfalls… Read more »

Beth
Beth
8 years ago

I’m interested to see what people think about the public service loan forgiveness after 10 years if they are not a fan of the student loan debt being discharged after 25 years; is there a difference?

Lura
Lura
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

No difference.. Because it is a potentially better use of taxpayer dollars then the health problems and crime that the uneducated cause. That should make everyone feel better about all this.

victoria
victoria
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Personally I don’t have a problem with the public service loan forgiveness. In a lot of cases these people are providing vital services for which they are undercompensated — think of physicians in underserved areas. It’s just another form of compensation. I wouldn’t consider all public sector jobs to be public service, but I think we as a society stand to benefit greatly from this sort of deal.

Lmoot
Lmoot
8 years ago

Stop acting like you all would VOLUNTARILY pay back all $100,000 if it was legal not to. I’m sorry, but they must have thought it worth it to put that clause in there. I don’t know that much about loan forgiveness but it seems there IS a tradeoff….25 years of federal/ social service. How is that any different than paid federal scholarships and education being funded by military. It’s not Monopoly money, it’s also taxpayer money. I don’t believe a single person who has said they would repay the loan. The only reason you would repay it is if you… Read more »

Stef
Stef
8 years ago

I agree as a country we must support education. My cousin and I went to the same school had the same amount of contributions from parents. He was an at risk young man and I was from a middle class family. His school was completely paid for through grants and subsidies. Mine was paid for through scholarships and earned money. He had much more money than I did and actually bought me a few books and food because I was unable to pay for them. The government paying for his education was money well spent. Both he and his wife… Read more »

EQ
EQ
8 years ago

I have read about 6-articles that you have wrote and I just want to let you know that the $100K you spent in your PhD was money wasted.

What a bunch of horse manure. Reading your articles makes me want to literally slap some sense into you.

JM
JM
8 years ago
Reply to  EQ

The scariest part is that these degrees were in writing… while all of her posts here are written terribly and are in need of serious copy-editing. Now that’s what I’d call a huge waste of money.

ipenka
ipenka
8 years ago

This is actually a very relevant topic for a lot of people. We just don’t think about it in a “broader” sense besides personal debt that often. For instance what if you work for a company that received a bailout/loan from the government which it didn’t pay back? Or received an extremely low interest rate? Does society benefit or did the damage just get spread out among other people? Sure it may not be your decision unless on the Board of Directors of such a company but what if you continue to work for them? If you work for say… Read more »

Chasa
Chasa
8 years ago

More Kristin Wong, less Honey Smith. Why do I feel that she’s trying to rationalize walking away from her debts? Also – walking away from a ‘bad mortgage’ is NOT accepting responsibility for your financial choices. Can’t stand her. Won’t even be reading comments.

Lmoot
Lmoot
8 years ago

I don’t normally speak out against internet rudeness (there are only 24 hours in a day), but I can’t help but feel that a lot of the hateful comments towards Honey is coming from a bandwagon-jumping, pitchfork, rabble-rabble-rabble mob mentality. Really? You have that much hatred and disgust for a random person on a blog simply because you disagree with them? If you do then maybe you should find a soul-sustaining hobby. I mean I can be rude; of course when I do it I like to believe the rudeness matches the offense. I can’t help but think if Honey’s… Read more »

KT
KT
8 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

I don’t think it’s mob mentality. I think it’s a genuine frustration and disappointment. Many writers auditioned for a staff position, and instead of thoughtful, helpful articles, we get Honey’s about her disastrous finances, her refusal to make changes, and her musings about philosophy. There is nothing in her articles that I feel can help improve my finances. If her story was a cautionary tale, I could understand, but instead, she’s a staff writer who is supposed to be informing us, not asking for advice! Throw in her denial attitude, and quotes from her about how she has “empirical proof… Read more »

Cara
Cara
8 years ago
Reply to  KT

This. Now I’m kicking myself for not auditioning for a staff writer position. Even though I’m a “millionairess next door,” I figured I had nothing to contribute because my circumstances (high-paying job to get rid of the law school loans, single, no kids, etc.) admittedly made the journey easier. On the other hand, not everyone would go to a school they didn’t like, major in something they hated, get a roommate, and work in ill-fitting jobs for 16+ years just to create a comfortable financial cushion for the future. I don’t know, maybe I’d get my share of criticism too.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

I would never criticize you for that path – it sounds extremely admirable. I would criticize you if you wrote a post for this site stating or implying that that is the only valid or responsible way to deal with law school loans. I think Honey is a valuable addition to this site because it reminds us that people prioritize things in different ways, and while we might disagree with those priorities, it’s often worth remembering that different views exist.

Brooklyn Money
Brooklyn Money
8 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Hi Cara,

Congrats on your success! I am on a very similar path. Single, no kids, higher ed degree that I paid off in a year, high paying job that I do for the $ to create a safety net for myself. I love to hear about women (especially single ladies) making it.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  KT

I also think part of it is that Honey seems to take all the comments so cheerfully. It almost makes it seem like she is “in on the joke,” if you know what I mean. Maybe in reality the comments are really upsetting her, but it seems as though whenever someone questions her financial choices, she has a rationalization (and some smiley faces) at the ready.

Plus, I find myself continually refreshing this page whenever she posts, which has to be at least part of what JD was going for.

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago
Reply to  Ramblin' Ma'am

I admire Honey’s responses. It takes a lot to respond gracefully when someone is attacking you.

shauna
shauna
8 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

Thanks so much for saying this. It needed to be said. GRS has some great articles, and some not so great, but I’ve never seen people rally around hating the writer like they are doing with this person.

JD – can you please let Honey continue writing under a different name, or find some other way to hit the reset button on this whole thing? The vitriol is enough to make me want to stop reading. Please take a more active role in managing the comments, or this blog runs the risk of losing one of its more valuable components.

William
William
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

Keep Honey!

I love seeing the hatred. She’s better than reality TV. Which i don’t watch, because i don’t watch TV. Of course.

Still. I mean i love her posts and open them with gusto, and keep the thread open to see what people say. And how she rationalizes out of responsible.

Love it.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

I’ve given Honey negative feedback, but I do agree with you in certain respects.

Perhaps a better focus/approach to her contributions would be better. I’m not sure this topic, written by this author, makes sense. Whether or not it was intended, it came across as a bunch of reasons/excuses related to her very situation.

Perhaps sticking to concrete happenings in Jake/Honey’s financial life would be a way to gain a little goodwill with the readership — even if that means she writes less frequently.

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

I am not generally a conspiracy/it’s-all-part-of-the-plan person but what you call vitriol helps pull people to these posts and I highly doubt anyone will “manage” that into stopping. You are feeling bad for Honey personally as if she is going to be offended by the things people say. She isn’t. She feeds the dislike of her with comments like the “I’m smarter than 98% of the world” Mensa statement and “I have to have massages for my health”, etc. I truly believe she is intentionally egging this on to spur more comments and increase her value to GRS. She did… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

For the record: I think the response to Honey’s articles is over the top, too. Yes, I think she’s being a little naive about things, but I’m willing to be patient. She’s only been writing about her situation for two months, which isn’t time to make wholesale changes. Trust me, folks: She’s heard your complaints and warnings. Wills he internalize this info? I don’t know. But you’re not giving her time. The closest comparison I can reach is the way Trent’s readers at The Simple Dollar used to respond to him. I think the problem is when people try to… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I think people who threaten others with battery (“literally slap some sense…”) are probably more irresponsible in real life than those who are struggling with debt within the bounds of the law. (Not necessarily about money, but we’re responsible for our social conduct in general.) Also, as a writer here, I have to say, sometimes it’s astonishing the kind of stuff people project upon us, the kinds of assumptions and jumps to conclusions and selective readings that are being made. As a reader I have made assumptions and jumped to conclusions and read selectively as well, so I’m not claiming… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Try writing about your divorce and see what happens! 🙂

Rose Marie
Rose Marie
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I want to speak up in support of Honey Smith. She was brave to share her life with us and I appreciated this article very much because it provided me information I found useful. I’m amazed at the anger some comments seem to contain. I hope this stops. Well done, Ms. Smith. Keep going!

superbien
superbien
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD – thanks for the comment and insight into your goal with having Honey post. I’d just caution you that the parallel with Trent at TSD is a good one – frustrate people enough, enough times, and people start to drift off. I read TSD avidly for years, but haven’t read it in months, and have no plans to. Actually, the “ok enough of this” moment was when I started reading TSD so closely (instead of occasionally), as well as Mr Money Mustache. So it’s worth considering whether Honey is helping or hurting your brand. I’d say quite likely hurting.… Read more »

victoria
victoria
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

J.D., I’m not sure I agree about Honey writing about different topics — at least not as the mainstay of her contributions here. Personally, I like Honey and I’ve enjoyed her columns, though I’d agree with other commenters today that that this one is not her strongest. What makes Honey interesting is the fact that she is in such an early stage of personal finance. She’s starting to make some of the same changes and decisions you had to make ten years ago, and beginning to educate herself about money management, and there really hasn’t been a perspective like that… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

A monthly balance sheet check in with narrative on what went right, what went wrong this month, what she learned and her current goals and current struggles, etc. would be very interesting from Honey. I vote for that!

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD, I am so disappointed in you! You agree that she is being naive? ‘Just give her time.’?? Who approved this post and where is the editor? Even for reader stories, it is not as if you have an ‘anything goes’ policy. Many of the responses to this entry are about GRS and quality standards, and not about Honey personally. The comments section is where the community part of this blog comes into play, and general concerns will be expressed on specific posts–that’s just the way it is on a blog. I think the comments about quality of content are… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

Lmoot: I don’t think blogs can have it both ways — to foster a sense of personality and personal journey that mainstream publications don’t have and then expect audiences to ignore questions of credibility. I don’t think it’s possible to hit a “reset” button in this case, unfortunately.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

Oops, this is a response to #94 You say: “I can’t help but think if Honey’s name was ommitted from this article, and identifying details were left out, half of these comments would not exist and instead we would be having a rational discussion about an article.” I completely agree — but that’s not how this site works is it? We know Honey’s story and she’s the author. Her story and financial landscape is exactly what she’s writing about. Put it this way. What if this were a health/weight loss blog and a Staff writer was 100 lbs overweight. If… Read more »

Lmoot
Lmoot
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I totally get that, but that’s why I think it takes a “better” person to suppress the automatic association and practice mindfulness. I too read Honey’s backstory, but even though of course she’s writing from her own perspective (which many believe is flawed) I think the article, which I read with an open mind, did a good job providing other perspectives as well for opposing consideration. She was not lecturing us nor did she even provide a definitive answer. In fact, she ended with a question meant to prompt discussion, and instead some folks couldn’t get their mind past the… Read more »

AR
AR
8 years ago

Personally I like this article, minus all the ugly comments. When it comes to student loans, there are 2 parties that shoulder some responsibility in the transaction: 1. the student not to take on too much debt; and 2. the lender not to give 20 year olds $100k of loans. I don’t believe either action is responsible or appropriate, and lenders shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t get their full $$ back when their borrowers have massive debts that they can’t repay. I borrowed a relatively small amount for school & that was annoying enough to get paid off… I… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

Honey, to answer your questions: 1. If I had to pick between my family facing true hardship and the social responsibility of repaying the full loan I would choose my lowest legal obligation. My main responsibility is to my family – all else is secondary. 2. I do believe that people should invest responsibly. I wouldn’t want to invest in the tobacco industry, for example, or some evil but profitable company. 3. I wouldn’t really want to walk away from a mortgage, but if I had to, I would have to. I wouldn’t feel that someone was “letting the country… Read more »

mrs bkwrm
mrs bkwrm
8 years ago

There are a *buttload* of people in this country in situations similar to Honey’s. Higher education at any price is a product that is being pimped very hard as something that is a sure bet (like homes were). Young people from less savvy backgrounds can find themselves in deep doo-doo before they have a firm grasp on how things work in real life. We can demonize people for buying into the Don’t Use Drugs, Stay in School, Honesty and Hard Work, White Picket Fence mythos that is the American Dream because they didn’t know any better but that isn’t going… Read more »

Allyson
Allyson
8 years ago

“Impact” can only be used as a verb in one situation: a physical force, such as one object physically striking another. “Impact” should never be used as a verb for a non-physical action, such as ‘death impacting responsibility.’ One would use the word ‘affect’ in that context.
Her sentence which included “and in returned” was clearly not proofread.
A person with an advanced degree in writing who waxes philosophic about how education benefits society as a whole and therefore should be subsidized by society would be advised to practice better grammar and proofreading in her posts.

Marie
Marie
8 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

Actually, the word you’re looking for is “effect” not “affect.” “Affect” is a noun. Impact as a verb can mean to “have a strong effect.” Using the word “affect” instead of “impact” in this context is simply wrong. A person who plays the grammar police in an attempt to take someone else down a notch should double check the grammatical facts in question first.

Marie
Marie
8 years ago
Reply to  Marie

x 2. ‘Affect’ and ‘effect’ are both nouns and verbs. ‘Affect’ would be find in this context but ‘impact’ also works just fine. My vocab is just fine, I’m not here to proofread, I’m here for the $ discussion!

Allyson
Allyson
8 years ago
Reply to  Marie

Sorry, but you’re wrong on both counts. My Webster’s and “The Grammar Girl” are both on my side. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/is-impact-a-verb.aspx http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/affect-versus-effect.aspx Based on a quick review of search results, it looks like there is a fierce ongoing debate as to whether “impact” should be used a verb. I will admit that my comment was pretty snarky, but it stands to reason that a professional writer should write professionally. Specifically, by proofreading her work. And you contradicted yourself in your comment. You said: “Affect” is a noun. Impact as a verb can mean to “have a strong effect.” If you are contending… Read more »

Marie
Marie
8 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

Haha, I’m actually 50% right, even according to grammar girl. Impact can be substituted for affect legitimately, as the link you included implies. Jargon, maybe, but a legit use. Merriam Webster backs it up: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impact I was definitely wrong about the affect/effect difference – why I only bothered to look it up after posting, IDK, just being difficult I guess – and I blame my undergrad exposure to psychology for that one where affect is a noun and you effect change. =P Since you’ve edited your comment, I’ll edit mine to say that affect and effect are both nouns and… Read more »

Cassi
Cassi
8 years ago

This is relevant to me right now because I am going to be diving into planning for college when January rolls around and my FASFA is due. I am stressing about student loans and everything associated with them, but I will find a way through this.

Addie
Addie
8 years ago

I’ll admit I did not read through all these comments, but I just want to point something out. From what I gather, Honey is still what they call an “early career” PhD. I’m really only somewhat familiar with clinical and research psychology PhD career trajectories, and in general, it takes a few years out of school for them to really start making money. I imagine this is only more so the case for rhetorical PhDs (if I remember correctly, that’s what Honey has). Same with her husband– he JUST started a business. So I think there is a chance that… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Addie

Isn’t she a secretary? You don’t need a PhD for that.

Addie
Addie
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Good point – if she does remain a secretary for too long, the whole PhD trajectory will become irrelevant. Though at least this blog might allow her to be putting something relevant on her CV.

KT
KT
8 years ago
Reply to  Addie

She doesn’t want that. She’s said repeatedly that she likes being an admin and has no intention of changing jobs.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Addie

I am actually an academic advisor, not a secretary (which is a job classification they are phasing out where I work, anyway). And it’s not that I don’t apply to other jobs or want to advance in my career. It’s that the administrative side appeals to me more than the instructional side at this point.

EK
EK
8 years ago

“However, if it’s a social construct, is society responsible for changing it? Does social responsibility lead to a diffusion of responsibility where we all complain but no one works to change things?” Good questions you raise…it is important to point out the benefits of education that don’t necessarily have big flashing dollar signs, but have been shown to exist. But as a social scientist and writing teacher, I have to object to that ending. “Society” is not an actor! Social responsibility doesn’t mean an amorphous blob does things, it means individuals, organizations, lawmakers, etc., do this. Society is composed of… Read more »

Peter @ Savings Bond
Peter @ Savings Bond
8 years ago

I wonder how fixed our notions of responsibility are. Can someone slowly change their foundations of responsibility, e.g. from legal to moral or vice versa? An internal sense of responsibility seems to be a stronger basis for making rational decisions that benefit everyone, rather than a legal one which carries a lot of unusual, perhaps artificial values. I advise people on investing and in my experience the type of basic responsibility held by a person seems to be a rather fixed trait.

Ash (in US)
Ash (in US)
8 years ago

I read the majority of the comments. Quite frankly, my thought is that if you really believe that the person you are writing to is not listening (or is not ready to hear what you have to say), the best thing you can do is to stop commenting. Shouting louder doesn’t change a person. And if, perhaps, the responses to such articles are fewer, we can move on from the dead horse being kicked (rather violently) to something else. This is meant to be a neutral comment. I’ve said stuff weeks ago about Honey’s situation, and there’s really not much… Read more »

superbien
superbien
8 years ago

Community question: Can you guys explain to me a bit more about why you think it’s not good to take legal options like income-adjusted student loan repayments? I don’t understand this – and I’m not trying to be flippant, I am trying to understand the argument. We all operate within a legal framework – sometimes it helps us, sometimes it hurts us, and I expect that in a reasonably well-functioning society things come out about equally in the end. I figure that if the law says you can do something, you can do it without qualm (unless it’s egregious like… Read more »

William
William
8 years ago
Reply to  superbien

@superbien, 141: This may not be a charitable interpretation. But, I believe many GRS readers would say that if you accept a loan — if you borrow money — you have a moral duty to pay it back. That there are loopholes to help you not pay it back is immaterial to this argument. You borrowed the money, you should pay it back. This is very different from deduction on taxes, as taxes aren’t viewed as a debt you willingly took on. Views of morality are going to different from person to person. Our society, and a lot of GRS… Read more »

Tim Wilding
Tim Wilding
8 years ago

You could just work your way through college and not have any debt when you graduate. I did this with part-time jobs and I joined the Army Reserves. I graduated with no debt in 4 and a half years.

shares