How one American views the issue of debt

By Sam Gurdus
Staff Editor

Debt is an issue that affects all Americans. Whether it’s credit card, student loan or national debt, debt has an impact on all of our lives. JoAnn Gurdus, a veterinarian, has had plenty of experiences with debt. In an interview, she shared her experiences and thoughts on potential solutions.

Dr. Gurdus feels that debt falls into two categories. She believes that there is “good debt and bad, soul-crushing debt.” Dr. Gurdus said, “Credit card debt is the soul-crushing kind because the interest rate is very high so it’s hard to pay off – when I was in college I had a credit card that I owed $1,000 on, and it took me years to pay that off and was very stressful.”

Similarly, Dr. Gurdus also sees student loan debt as “soul-crushing.” She said that she “graduated from college and graduate school with $120,000 in debt and the interest rate was pretty high – it would have taken me 30 years to pay off, and it would have impacted my ability to buy a house or save for retirement because for the first 15 years, you are just paying off interest mostly.” Fortunately for her, Dr. Gurdus explained, “I married someone who was able to pay off my debt for me and that helped us be able to save for the future, but I know I am very lucky and that is very rare.”

On the other hand, Dr. Gurdus sees her mortgage as a type of good debt. She said that “the interest rate is low, and, at the end of paying off a reasonable amount every month, we will have a house to show for it, so it’s a way to accumulate an asset and is much less stressful.”

Dr. Gurdus doesn’t necessarily see debt as an issue that needs to be “solved,” but she does believe it could be improved. For example, she likes “limits on interest rates, especially for student loan debt,” saying that “there is no reason for that interest rate to be so much higher than the interest for a business or mortgage loan.”

On the topic of consumer debt, Dr. Gurdus thinks that the “interest rates for some consumer debt (like furniture or car loans or credit cards) is close to usury and is abusive and puts people in an endless cycle that they can’t recover from.” (Usury means to lend money at unreasonably high rates of interest.)

Dr. Gurdus views medical debt as another area that must be fixed, saying that it is “a big issue that needs to be solved by universal health care.”

Student loan forgiveness has been a hot topic recently. Dr. Gurdus said that theoretically, she would support it, but doesn’t understand how it would be financed. Additionally, she said that “it would be a big penalty for those who paid off their debt in the past 20 years.” While she isn’t completely on board with student loan cancellation, Dr. Gurdus said, “I certainly support a move towards less student loan debt in general, and the crazy increase in student tuition in the past 10 years is something that needs to be addressed.”

Featured image (at the top of this post): Credit cards lie in a stack.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hloom / Flickr

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America is facing a debt crisis

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