Debt

Students stuck in ‘depression’ over money troubles

Stress levels for students linked to loans and debt

Chad Monette with girlfriend, Justice Fahey, at Saint Mary's Uni
Chad Monette with girlfriend, Justice Fahey, at Saint Mary’s University.   Alexandra Biniarz

Chad Monette looked down at his new credit card. He shook off the feeling of pressure and turned to satisfaction. This newfound money came just in time for his first year of university.

The bank doesn’t break the news to 18-year-olds that they have to pay back their loans.

Kathie Pemberton, financial consultant, says that finances are the leading cause of stress for students.

“A big part of financial wellness is getting a good understanding of your relationship with money,” Pemberton says.

She explains that feeling out of control is common in regards to money, especially for students who are learning to manage their money for the first time.

“It’s this foreign entity that someone talks about or maybe they heard their parents talk about or they’ve heard on the news but they don’t know how it directly applies to them,” Pemberton says.

The key to combatting that downward spiral is for students to take ownership and to learn what they do and do not have.

Monette knows all about that downward spiral.

“It’s a pretty bad track record. This year alone in September I spent $3,000 in one month . . . it brings me happiness and then I just kind of splurge and then I look at my bank account and it’s like, it sucks. It’s like a depression,” he says.

Monette breaks down his bank statements. He says that most of the money went towards food, rent and course payment for his psychology studies at Saint Mary’s University. Even though these were necessary payments, the guilt follows.

Kathie Pemberton at The Floation Center
Kathie Pemberton at The Floation Center.   Alexandra Biniarz

Students’ level of stress is linked with how much money they borrow and how quickly after graduation they can pay off their loans. Sharon Forward, director of admissions and student affairs at Dalhousie University, speaks for the medical students and their heavy loans.

“If they’re coming in with prior degrees, they have a considerable amount of debt,” says Forward. Unfortunately, medical students have strenuous schedules and cannot afford to work part-time to make ends meet.

“It’s very demanding. In their third year they go right through the summer and they’re not making any money. They’re basically living off of a line of credit and that’s how they’re funding getting through medicine.”

The loan amount varies depending on the program, but the stress levels are comparable.

The feelings of depression and loss are associated with money when students feel they are spending on items outside of school or rent payments.

Pemberton, with Investors Group Financial Services, says that credit is not free money. It is like the “free breakfast” at a hotel, it is included into the price of the room.

She says credit is a legal contract that must be paid back.

“I love working with younger people because of one of the strongest phrases that my mother ever taught me was ‘Start as you mean to go on,’” Pemberton says.

She says that if students understand this contract and get a firm grasp on how money works right now, they can learn to manage their finances, realize that money can work with them rather than against them and decrease their stress surrounding money.