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Our student loan secrets, revisited.
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Earlier this week, I had a delightful phone chat with one of your fellow listeners. Her name is Emma. 

I called her as a surprise thank you for recently becoming a sustaining member of Death, Sex & Money. Katie Bishop teed up the phone number and we excitedly dialed, thinking about the simple fun of an unexpected phone call from a podcast host while you're going about your day. 

And then, Emma picked up! And it was really fun. Our conversation was also incredibly profound, in a way I hadn't expected. 

I caught Emma on her lunch break, so she had some time to tell me a bit about her life. She has student loans and works for a family business in a very expensive city, and she told me that's required a lot of financial tradeoffs. She said she decided to give to our show because she finally feels like she has a little extra in her budget. But that's coming after a period of lots of money shame and not feeling adult enough, secure enough or successful enough. On the phone, she listed the episodes that helped normalize those feelings for her. She said she cried all the way through our episode about friendship across class differences and she definitely related to our student debt series.

That's what you do when you share your stories, and when you listen to this show. What feels heavy on your own feels a little lighter. Emma told us it was important to her to help us keep telling these kinds of stories. 

We are re-releasing our episodes about student loans this week. We hear about them all the time from our listeners, and we think about them as we track the latest news, campaign talking points, and debates about opportunity in this country. In the two years since releasing these episodes, you've also continued to add to the interactive student loan map that we built together. Today, more than 4,000 of you have shared your current loan amount and your story.

All this is to say, it's very special what we are building together. Thank you. 

-Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team

P.S. You too can be like Emma and become a monthly sustaining member right here.
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
When we asked you in 2017 about your student loans, the response was overwhelming. You expressed feelings of anxiety, dread and hopelessness—and the sense that no one is talking about this. Despite a student debt crisis nearing $2 trillion, you told us that you feel like you're struggling with your loans all on your own.

Today, we listen back, and invite you to visit our special student loans website, deathsexmoney.org/studentloans. You can add your story to our loan map, browse resources, hear bonus stories and more! And look out for part two of the series in your podcast feed tomorrow. 
Help Us Meet Our Goal! 
As Podcast Appreciation Month winds down, we want to say thanks—we are SUPER close to meeting our goal of 200 new sustaining members of the Death, Sex & Money community! 

To get to the finish line, we need about 40 more people to become sustaining members by September 30. We'll send you a brand new phone wallet (see image above for what it looks like). Also, Anna might give you a call—on the very cell phone adhered to the phone wallet—to say thanks. Seriously! So please, sign up to become a sustaining member today. We really appreciate it. 
Your Stories: Student Loan Updates!
Wondering what's happened to the people we featured in our student loan episodes? I checked in with a handful of the folks we spoke to back in 2017, to see if they had life updates to share—loan-related or otherwise. Here's what we heard:
"I don't know if there is something to be said for speaking your fear to completely get rid of it, but I feel that after I spoke with you for the episode I slowly picked up the pieces, made a plan, accepted the debt and started moving in the right direction which included less fear and anxiety about the student debt I have. 

Last year my parents consolidated the loans in their name that I am paying them for, which lowered the monthly payment a bit and will be paid off in five years. My husband and I are at a point where we dream and discuss what we'll do when we have (combined) $1000 extra a month. We're 30 now and are really excited to fix up the duplex we purchased. The ball and chain that the debt used to be is gone, and that's an amazing feeling. The pain of it all is still there
don't get me wrong, there are days where we freak out and talk one another down from near mental breakdownsbut it's better."
 
—"Isabelle," 30, VT
"As I'm sure you remember, my engagement ended when my ex told me he didn't think people with student loans should have kids. Well, in April 2018 a then-toddler boy was placed in my care and on August 2 of this year we finalized his adoption! I'm officially legally a mom of a hilarious and energetic 3-year-old boy! I sold my house in Washington and we now live in Portland, Oregon, as a happy little family of two. 

The student loan update portion is less exciting in that now that I have daycare payments, it's tough for me to make my student loan payments and my request for income driven repayment plans was denied because they don't take daycare costs into consideration when calculating affordability. But... it just feels like it doesn't matter nearly as much anymore. I'll do what I can with what I have (and so far I haven't missed any payments) and eventually he'll be in kindergarten and it'll all be fine." 

 
—Jessie, 32, OR
"Since the show first aired we've moved out of the van and into a house in the last undiscovered ski town in the West: Kellogg, ID. We lasted in the van for about a year, but left that life for a variety of reasons. We were feeling unhealthy, cramped, and we were also seriously missing some sense of community. 

In terms of my physical therapy school debt, those loan balances are continuing to grow as I participate in an income-based repayment plan. My long-term plan is just to continue doing this, never touching my principal, until the balance is forgiven at which point I'll pay the taxes and be done with it. I'm also secretly hoping that the politics around the issue will allow for some relief before that date comes in 16 or so years."

 
— Nathan, 29, ID
"I have attached my newest student loan balance. As you can see it's increased significantly since we last spoke. I have continued to pay Navient's income based repayment plan and I've never missed a payment. My fingers are crossed that Congress figures this out at some point."





— Alyssa, 39, PA
"I've begun to think about what I might like to do after graduation, and this certainly brings up questions of money. Grad school seems like an attractive choice (not least of all because I don't anticipate an avalanche of job offers after graduating with a bachelor's degree in human sexuality). As I scratch the surface of a grad school search, I'm thinking about what my priorities are. Naturally, I'm also thinking about how I'm going to pay for tuition. Are there any schools that might pay me to teach or assist in undergraduate classes? How does financial aid change between undergrad and grad school?"
 
— Josie, 20, KY 
"I will never regret the decisions I made that allowed me to pay my loans off early. Debt freedom is a glorious thing. But I still have money anxiety. It has just moved to different areassaving “enough” for retirement, saving versus spending (I do spend significantly more now), emergency funds, etc. I also made a career change recently. I switched from criminal defense to prosecution (it was time for me), and although I will have some kind of pension now (hooray!), I did take an initial pay cut. I couldn’t have done that without being debt free."
 
— Tara, 38
"I'm still dealing with a lot of the same guilt for using the life insurance to pay my student loans, but I'm also simultaneously grateful for it. I would never have had this much saved for retirement if I didn't have this life insurance money...it's really conflicting emotionally. I'm looking into grad school to get my MFA but am unwilling to go into debt again for school, so looking into programs that have good student aid program or are fully funded. Otherwise I'm not going!"
 
—Carla
"Last time we spoke I was beginning to take responsibility for the debt I had incurred. Now, a couple years later, I'm in a place of gratitude. I am still making my monthly payments of $715.48 per month and haven't missed a payment in over two years now. The fact that I can afford to make that payment on top of San Francisco rent and still live a pretty good life while most Americans can't afford a $400 emergency deeply reminds me that I'm just so fucking blessed. 

I still experience some major downsides to the debt, which is probably why I'm still single and some friendships have changed over time. I have always wanted to be with someone who is financially solvent and I think my debt has exacerbated that need in the sense that I have worked so hard to continue grow my savings while paying off this debt that I don't want to be with someone that doesn't have their shit together financially. I wish money wasn't so important to me in a partner but if I'm being honest it totally is."

 
— Jordan, 27, CA

Listen to This: Audio We Love

What does it feel like to step into person's lifelong diary? London-based artist Stephen Wright's home is one answer to this question. Wright has spent decades carefully curating his "House of Dreams" — a space that is today part-home, part-outsider-art-project, part-public-facing-museum. BBC 4 and Falling Tree productions went inside the House of Dreams, and shared what they found in this delightful audio project.

Identical twin rockers Tegan and Sara Quin just dropped a new album, Hey, I'm Just Like You, which is composed of songs the sisters wrote as teens and rerecorded this year. The album is being released in conjunction with their memoir, High School, in which they revisit their teen lives and early careers. They speak to Terry Gross on Fresh Air about their sisterhood, and about coming out to each other and to the public.
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