bklynlady wrote:abl wrote:I come from a somewhat different generation than most others on this board. I was lucky enough to get my first job out of college before the economy crashed, and I attended one of the few recession-proof law schools. As a consequence, I don't find debt all that scary. (I'm also lucky enough to have a strong enough debt-to-income ratio that I've never been a position where I've been at risk of not paying off my debt.) I've seen from my experience that the way I live when I have a lot of debt is very similar to the way I live when I am debt free -- I find surprising ways to fritter away my excess cash when I'm not paying off my loans that ultimately brings me reasonably little additional enjoyment. The extra meals out, larger wardrobes, nicer apartments, nicer cars, more drinks purchased at bars, etc. end up impacting my life in a fairly minimal way. On the other hand, I've found that my enjoyment of my job has had an enormous, basically controlling, impact on my happiness. My loans effectively cost me $15,000 per year in net salary, and will for another 5+ years (after taxes and whatnot come into play). When I think about how little that ~$1,500/month actually impacts my happiness as compared with how much my job satisfaction does, and when I realize that the $1,500/month goes away in the next 5 or so years (whereas my career path is going to extend over decades), it's incredibly easy for me to justify substantial debt for even just a chance at a better career.
Now, I obviously understand that other people value money differently. My sense is that some of the younger folks in our generation are exceedingly debt averse, and associate significant negative utility with debt. I also have friends who substantially enjoy material wealth--for them the extra couple thousand dollars a month they spend towards meals out, fancier clothes, and nicer apartments makes a big impact on their happiness. I also know tons of folks who legitimately don't care much if their work is a drudge. For people like that, the idea of giving up these luxuries for a mere chance at a better job seems foolish. For me, it is the idea that you wouldn't that seems foolish. But I also recognize that the added pleasure that a lunch out vs a boxed lunch or a $2,200/m vs $1,200/m Chicago apartment brings me (for example) is probably less than average.
For anyone actually making these sorts of decisions, I suggest these are all questions worth asking yourself.
Some people also have other financial obligations, especially those associated with starting a family, childcare/tuition, etc. that make debt difficult even with the spartan existence you describe. I live in NYC and its not possible to find any normal housing for either 1200 or 2220 per month! So geographics also plays a role in the amount of debt one can sustain.
Absolutely. Although, I do want to note that my lifestyle is far from spartan--in Chicago, $1,200 can get you a pretty nice 1br (or even 2br if you look hard) in a reasonably fun and safe residential neighborhood within ~40 mins or so via public transit from the loop. You may not get somewhere models and bottles nice, but you'll find something more than nice enough to bring friends or coworkers by for dinner or drinks. And to be clear, now speaking personally, I still have a fairly solid wardrobe, drive a respectable (if somewhat aging) car, eat out lunch maybe once a week and dinner a couple of times a week, take an international vacation (albeit on a very tight budget) each year, largely support my SO, etc. Living like you make, say, $80k/year in a city like Chicago is not really all that different from living like you make, say, $100k/year in Chicago (and the difference is even smaller for $140k and $160k).*
My point isn't that taking on lots of debt is the right call for everyone (it may not be for someone who plans on supporting a large family in short order), or that you don't have to make any sacrifices (not living in NYC may be one such sacrifice)--my point is that for many, like me, the level of sacrifice that large debt loads require (at a lawyer's salary) can be pretty acceptable.
*Not that I currently live in Chicago. I'm just using that as an example.