The Millennial Law Grad With $215,000 Of Debt

debtAndrew Carmichael Post has a respectable full-time programming job with a 401(k) matching plan. On the surface, it looks like he’s doing great—especially for a 24-year-old. But Post, who graduated from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law in 2010, also has to pay off $215,000 in student loans. “It’s like some sort of nightmare where someone gave me a bank mortgage but forgot to add the deed to the house,” he told The Los Angeles Times on Friday (Sept. 20).
Post’s story doesn’t begin ordinarily. At 13, he enrolled in CSU Los Angeles to study computer science and mathematics, and he entered a top 20 law school at the same time as he entered legal adulthood. But the market tanked, and even a wunderkind like him couldn’t get a full-time legal job. Post recalled that in 2009, 141 employers did interviews at USC. Unfortunately, when he started looking for a full-time job, things looked much grimmer. “I competed with 300 people in my year for the attention of only seven private employers and a handful of government agencies,” he said.
This is where his story starts to sound more typical: With no stable source of income, Post joined one of the many 20-something who live at home and face staggering student debt. According to the U.S. News & World Report, in Post’s graduation year, 85% of law school graduates owed an average of $98,500. Within nine months of graduation, only 68% of them had jobs that required a JD. Though private law firm jobs are lucrative—if you have a degree from a top 10 law school, you can expect to earn around $160,000 a year—just 51% of graduates got them. To put it lightly, the odds weren’t in Post’s favor.
In spite of everything, Post is now making good money. The income from his full-time job and side gigs adds up to between $80,000 and $96,000 a year. But that doesn’t change the fact that he has to pay a minimum of $2,756 a month to chip away at his loans. Lara Lamb, director of financial planning for Abacus Wealth Partners, estimates that if Post continues living with his parents and sticking to a budget, he can kill his debt in under six years. Nevertheless, Post worries that if he can’t make significant progress, he’ll reach 30 without being able to buy a house and start a family.
In light of stories like Post’s, complaints about Millennials who refuse to grow up seem petty. A law degree used to be a sound investment in the future, but for many a law school graduate, it isn’t panning out. Matrimony and homeownership will have to wait.