Don’t be fooled by student debt article


This is not about financial regulatory compliance from the perspectives of regulators or financial institutions. This is about compliance from a personal finance perspective. The short and skinny of it all is, you should not borrow money for education if at all possible.  The reason is because it is one of the worst to get toward financial independence.

I will explain why by first explaining how income taxes and their associated fines work when you don’t pay your income taxes. If you earned $100,000 in 2015, your effective earn income tax rate is 28%, or $28,000, unmarried non-head of household taxpayer. If you didn’t pay any of that, you would pay a fine of up to 25%. This in on top of the unpaid taxes you must pay. Basically, the IRS is punishing you for borrowing money you owe them. That makes sense. So, 125% of $28,000 is $35,000, or an effective tax rate becomes 35%. This is only applied to the years you did not pay your income taxes, of course.

Let’s see what that looks like when it is converted to student loans. If you borrowed $100,000 for your higher education, and if your interest rate is 5%, and you are in repayment, then this year you would pay $12,727.92, of which about 95% of it in your first year of repayment will be interest, or $12,091.53. Essentially, you are paying this interest to the government, which, if you think about, is a tax because this is not the amount you borrowed; it is on top of it. And, also, you must pay all of the borrowed money back. It is kind of like having a very low interest rate for this portion of borrowed “income.”

Since you are in repayment for our example. You would get a deducation of up to $2,500 from your pre-tax income, the deduction cannot exceed the amount of interest paid. So, now you will pay 27.3% or $27,300 on your earned income, a savings of $700. Plus you will have been paying the government an additional $12,091.53, so, you will have paid the government a total of $39,391.53. And this will continue for ten years, albeit the “tax” portion of it will decrease. Another way to look at it, regardless of whether you pay all of the interest, you will still have to pay more interest for at least ten years, unlike not paying taxes, which you will only have to pay interest as long as you don’t pay.

In order to pay an effective tax rate of 39.3% on your earned income, you would have to make $14.3 Million. Another way to think about it this: in order for student loans to really make sense is if you either make enough money to live on comfortably even after you pay your student loans and you are guaranteed to have your job(s) for the duration of the repayment period, or make a break even amount the first year and then an increase in your income to the amount of the interest rate each year (which becomes easier to do each successive year because the even monthly payments effectively reduce the interest payments over time).

That magical break even income for the example’s first year is… about $66,700. How do I figure? Well, if living comfortable on average costs about $40,000 per year, and your effective tax rate will upwards of nearly 40%, then you need to make $40,000 after tax. This $66,700 only accounts for Federal Income Tax. It does not account for Social Security, Medicare, local taxes. Most of those other taxes amounts to about 10% of your income, depending on where you are. That means, you’d need about $80,ooo.

Who gets paid $80,000 on their first job after undergrad? Engineers and investment bankers. Is it no wonder that they have the bandwidth to accomplish a lot of other things in their early lives?


Marcus Maltempo is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and a Certified Fraud Examiner with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses. 

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