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BERKO: A Young Man in Debt

Dear Mr. Berko: Last year, our handsome 31-year-old son finished his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida with a specialty in biology and ecology. We’re so proud of him! He got a job down here in Florida at $38,000 a year, which is the most he could get. He loves his job because it keeps him outside and he gets to help animals.
His problem is the student loan he took out. It totals $93,000, and now the lender is telling him that he has to pay $720 a month. He can’t afford that because he has auto payments and motorcycle payments (including insurance) of $1,305 a month. He owes $16,200 on four credit cards, which he’s paying off at $525 monthly. He also borrowed $6,500 from his sister several years ago, as well as $6,500 from us. And we know he owes at least $7,000 to various friends. Now his sister wants him to begin paying her back, but he can’t. He is behind on his rent and doesn’t have enough money for food, gas and utilities, and debt collectors are hounding him every day.
My husband and I are thinking of letting him come back in our home. We could pay off all his debt, and he could pay everyone back after getting back on his feet. Considering your tremendous experience and knowledge, is there any advice you can give us? — SS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Dear SS: Yes!
First piece of advice: Before you decide to give your kid a nickel, visit with a lawyer and draft an agreement of terms and restrictions concerning his occupation of your home. This agreement is more important to your personal welfare than the money you may lend him.
That kid is a debt addict. So my second piece of advice is not to give him a Pakistani penny. If he were my son, I wouldn’t let him sleep one night in my home even if the mob were after him. Once he would get a bed, you’d never have any privacy. He’s proved that he’s a financial stupid. Like a drug addict, he needs to hit bottom and grovel in the gutter till he sees the light.
I feel like the proverbial doctor who is reluctant to give bad news to a spouse, but unless your son marries a stout heiress with a room temperature IQ or knows how to drive a fast boat from Barranquilla to the Keys, he’s going to be part of life’s growing number of people whom Hillary Clinton calls deplorables. I’m giving you the straight skinny.
You and the University of Florida failed that kid. You failed him because you taught him bupkis about addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. And the university failed him because it accepted him as a student even though he wasn’t qualified. In my opinion, your son and probably half of the other students who were admitted to UF should not have been admitted. Running a college is like running a business. College costs continue to rise, primarily because of lousy management practices. Therefore, colleges must continue to enroll more substandard students. They need more cash flow to fund their numerous activities and dumb and silly courses and pay for festering bureaucracies (intentionally bloated) to give observers the appearance of industry. It’s a Catch-44, which is twice as bad as a Catch-22.
There are 16 million students enrolled in colleges across the country today, some 40 percent of whom won’t make it and may find themselves stuck in dumb-end jobs. And of the 70 percent of high school graduates enrolling in college this year, half would have been better off if they’d have joined the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. And the country would have been, too.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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