If you’d just work harder, everything would be perfect

This irritates me a lot. It’s a poster in the style of “We Are the 99%” talking about how the person holding it is a college senior about to graduate debt-free, because they *work hard* and *save* and don’t spend their money on *stupid luxuries.* They go into lots of detail about their low-paying job and when they started saving and how if you’re in debt it’s your own fault for not living within your means.

Dude, good for you. First off, really seriously, good for you. If you’re working 30 hours a week in retail or food service, taking a full load of college courses, and pulling off a good GPA, my hat is off to you. That’s an accomplishment, and you have every right to be proud of it.

But where you stop making me think “Go you,” and start wanting you to shut up and go away is where you assume that people who have debt made bad decisions, or were lazy. And where you assume that hard work is the only thing responsible for you being able to graduate debt-free.

First off, you have a job. Lots of people are busting their tails trying to find work and haven’t been able to. So for every college student with your story, there are probably a dozen who can’t get a job at K-Mart or the local pizza joint because they have hundreds of applicants for every position. And you worked while you were in high school? Great. The economy sucked a lot less when you were in high school. Today, a lot of those typical teenage jobs are being filled by twenty-, thirty-, and forty-somethings who can’t get anything else.

Secondly, based on the fact that you’re physically and mentally able to do what you do, I’m guessing you’re in at least decent health. But what would happen if you were injured and couldn’t work for a month? What if you had a disability that made that work and class schedule impossible?

Third, you got scholarships. Yes, you absolutely earned those with your good grades. But there are certainly students who work just as hard, maybe even get the same grades, who don’t get scholarships, or don’t get the same amount of scholarship money you did. And people with awesome grades and scholarships still have student loans. I graduated third in my class, was a National Merit Scholar and had a “full tuition scholarship” (in scare quotes because it didn’t cover increases, so it was only full tuition my freshman year). And yet, here I am, eight years after graduation, still paying on my student loan. Not much, but I am in debt, so by this person’s standard, I fail at life.

If someone has debt, it *might* be because they made poor decisions. It might also be because they made the perfectly reasonable decision to borrow money for something that’s worth it, or at least was when they made the decision. A college education is a prerequisite for a lot of jobs, student loan interest is usually not that high, and college loans can be a good thing. If you can get a job when you get out, that is. It’s a risk, like anything else, but that doesn’t make it a bad decision. Someone starting school four years ago couldn’t have predicted where the economy would be now and how hard it would be to find a job with their degree. And that’s without even taking into consideration how banks can and do misrepresent loan terms or make huge numbers of bad decisions.


10 thoughts on “If you’d just work harder, everything would be perfect

  1. I completely agree with you. Right after I read it, I thought, what about people who are in debt with hospitals and doctors? They can’t really help that. I have only a couple hundred dollars in debt and that is due to medical expenses when I had to go to the ER. The cost of going to the ER and seeing a doctor are ridiculous when you have no insurance such as I. And you are right, in so many area…jobs that are offering 30+ hours have so many applications a day. The kid is lucky in many ways and he should recognize that. I’m sure he is also a hard worker but I know lots of people who work just as hard as that, make smart decisions ad take any good opportunity that comes at them, but they aren’t doing as well as that guy.

    • Or girl, not really sure if that person is male or female.

    • KellyK says:

      Good point. I’m sorry you don’t have health insurance, because that sucks and is pretty scary.

      And yeah, I’m not discounting all their hard work–just saying that hard work doesn’t seem to be enough–hard work, lots of luck, and at least a few privileges is more like it.

  2. Lillian says:

    That person is part of the 99 percent. They just don’t realize it.

  3. Slyjinks says:

    I notice that this person doesn’t even mention whether or not they have health insurance… and if their job is just above minimum wage, there’s a good chance that they don’t. And yes, they are part of the 99%, even if they choose not to stand with it.

    Funny thing is, there’s a whole tumblr feed of people who /aren’t/ part of th 99% who openly admit that yeah, a lot of it’s luck, and where it isn’t luck, there’s also a lot of greed and corruption in the system. It’s kind of encouraging to see even people who have benefited from an uneven system standing up and saying, “This is wrong.” (Also, I enjoy seeing a bunch of rich people holding up signs saying, “Tax me.”)


    • KellyK says:

      Ooh, I hadn’t seen that. I’ll have to check it out.

      I think a lot of full-time students can get health insurance through their colleges, so who knows whether they have insurance or not. If it is through their school, then they most likely won’t when they graduate.

  4. […] I posted about the “I’m about to graduate debt-free and if you can’t, you’re just not […]

  5. Elizabeth says:

    The thing about that sign is, it just does not add up. He claims to have started saving at age 17 for college…when parents across the US start when their babies are born and still can’t manage it.
    He claims to work 30 hours a week….and support a “cheap apt”….where are the cheap apts? What constitutes a cheap apt, and in what state or city?

    Two scholarships covered 90% of his tuition? Even if it’s true, tuition is only 50% of the costs of college….books, living expenses, daily transportation, other fees and that other 10% are not a pittance, especially if he’s going to claim to live on “barely ABOVE min wage” and just 30 hours a week, plus a fulltime courseload. I call BS.
    Etc, etc etc. It does not add up, this person does not exist, they just want you to *think* he does, so you can feel even worse about yourself.

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