I’m just gonna throw this out there, I am the richest poor person I know. What does that mean you ask? Well let me tell you. I make good money. By all means I should be able to buy myself a nice car, save up enough for a nice downpayment on a cute starter home and still live comfortably paying that mortgage all by myself. I should be able to splurge and go to a 5 star restaurant on occasion or at the least buy myself a fancy cut of meat with which to pamper myself by cooking a culinary treat at home. I should have fine clothes and shoes that fit me nicely.
I should have all this. But, here’s the reality. I have a 2007 Prius that I had to finance for seven years. Yes, seven. Unlike a normal human that finances a compact car for say 4 or 5 years. Thankfully I love that car and it’s reliable even if it isn’t that cool or even nice. I rent a small ranch that I can barely afford even though I only pay half the rent and utilities with the Sailor footing the bill on the other half. My savings account doesn’t even hold a 1% downpayment let alone the recommended 20%. Frankly, I am lucky to hold a balance high enough to fulfill the minimum that my credit union requires to keep my accounts active. Tonights gourmet fixings include a box of Kraft dinner that is a little runny because I didn’t have enough butter so added more milk and an Oscar Mayer hotdog cut up and mixed in. Bon appetite motherfuckers. And clothes and shoes? Don’t make me laugh. I bought my current ballet flats for work from Target for $15 not including tax. I went on a $250 clothes shopping spree at Marshall’s when I filed for divorce. 3 days later I felt so guilty I returned $100 worth of the purchase. That was the last time I bought new clothes. Today I wore dress pants that I purchased from Old Navy in, wait for it, 2004 to wear for a studio presentation of some sort. And by studio I mean the 3rd year of fucking college. Yep, I still have and wear pants that are a decade old.
But yet I make a slightly above average salary for my age. What gives? 2 words: Student Loans. They are the soul sucking curse of my financial life. When I decided to put down the pitch fork that I was shoveling shit with at a horse farm making minimum wage as a horse groom and throw away the hot wax pot of my evening and weekend job as an esthetician and pick up the books to get an education, I was filled with the same song and dance that so many others were. “You’ll never make a decent wage without a 4 year degree”, “McDonalds isn’t even hiring people with out at least some college these days” blah blah fucking blah. I didn’t know it then but, that’s all bullshit.
But I fell for it. So I enrolled at a small rural branch of Kent State University and started taking all the fucking useless “Liberal Education Requirements” that you will never use again classes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all those LER classes. History of Civ I and II were so interesting and I had a fantastic teacher that made it even better. I owned that class with a 112%. But, the point is that they had NOTHING to do with my career path which at that point was Zoologist. But, it was a requirement that each class was 3 credits for a total of 6 credits. Did I mention that I paid tuition and a fee per-credit. And those pre-requists took me 3.5 semesters to fulfill. That’s 3/8s of my college education that were just “because we said so” classes. 12 credits per semester, yeah, Kent made some bank on those classes. Now, I did change my major as I was drawing in on the close of all my LERs but, that didn’t add to my tenure surprisingly. My major changed to Interior Design. Because I liked spaces, color and furniture. Never once did I ask my counselor what type of job I would get and he, an English teacher by trade, didn’t offer up that info. He just directed me to the classes and the program requirements and sent me on my way to the main campus. Stellar.
That’s when the financial “aid” became important. This was the big time. Thousands of dollars a semester in tuition and credit hours. And that’s not including the books and supplies for my studio classes. Oh then there was my daily living; rent, gas, car insurance, food… Fuck my life. Oh and my parents? Dad was in early retirement due to getting laid off and my mom cleaned houses. Good old FAFSA thought they should be able to contribute about $24k a year. Yes, you read that right. My unemployed/retired father and my housekeeper mom could afford $24k a year. And me? I worked 2-3 jobs and averaged about $15k total a year before taxes. I made too much, even once I was no longer required to list my parents information, to get grants. Oh and speaking of listing my parents information on FAFSA, I had to until I was 24 years old. 24. I asked my financial advisor what if my parents disowned me or were MIA in my life. Her answer, well I guess you can’t file for finical aid then… Yes. Oh, you’re parents disappeared and disowned you? Fuck you student, stay uneducated. Thank you.
So I checked the box, “I am interested in loans” and resubmitted. That check mark was the second worst decision that I have ever made in my entire life. An example of this scale of bad decisions: Number 4 is when I dated a former coke dealer that was on house arrest living with his parents at the age of 30 so… that’s a tough number spot to nab on the list, let alone number 1 if you catch my drift. These federally funded loans can only be used to pay tuition of a full time student. And they didn’t even give me enough each semester to cover that. It covered about half. Two-thirds if I slipped under the full time status with 9 or 10 credit hours rather than the typical 12. 2 semesters of upper-division classes books and supplies set me back $8,000 dollars. Which I had to put on my credit card. Yes, you read that right. $8k give or take a hundred or 2. I was stupid and bought all the required books that first year which usually ran right around $1,000 a semester if you weren’t lucky enough to snag a used version. I never was. Sadly, my stupid classes’s books were revised so often that the used ones often became out dated in a year or 2. Then there were the “suggested books”. I waited to buy those until I realized they should have been on the required list as often as some of the teachers referenced them. The other $6k were studio supplies. No one told me how expensive paints, vellum, mechanical pencils and led, erasers, ink pens… (I am sure you get the point) end up being. I freaked. My credit card was almost maxed out. I had just paid it off shortly before from my need to use it to pay for medical care when I let a strep throat infection go untreated so long that my lungs developed an infection… yep, I had NO health insurance. But that’s another rant for another night.
So I started looking into scholarships seriously. I applied for hundreds in various dollar amounts, some for a couple hundred others for a couple thousand. I didn’t win a single one. I spent hours and hours researching what kinds of family heritage that I could exploit to try and get a few dollars to help not have to accept debt. Nothing paid off. I was willing to sign up for various clubs and groups if they were willing to help me financially. None were.
I got desperate not wanting to just stop and give up. So, I searched for private student loan lenders. Good old Chase Morgan offered them and ones that could be used for anything, like books and art supplies. And all I had to do was make $15k a year minimum or have a co-signer and prove I was enrolled in a viable College or University. So I applied. And they approved me for $30,000 a year. You read that correct. They wanted to give me $30k. So I asked for $15k. The check arrived in the mail within 5 business days. Accepting and depositing that check into my savings account was the number 1 worst decision I have ever made in my life. Another bad example of this scale of bad decisions just for perspective: I married a Bi-polar convicted felon thief that decided that getting a new girlfriend after 1 year into our 2 year marriage which I found out about on Facebook which led to our subsequent divorce ranks in at 3. Yeah, that only ranks as number fucking 3 after the student loan decisions.
I took 4 years worth of full time upper division courses. I applied was approved and accepted a private loan for $15K every year. After 6 years, 2 of which I attended summer semester part time as well as the normal Fall and Spring semesters full time, of federal loans for my tuition and then the additional private loans for all the ridiculously expensive supplies and books for the last 4 of those 6’s upper division courses I accumulated a hair past $100,000 worth of student loan debt. I had the equivalent of a mortgage for a 2 bedroom condo in the nicer burbs in Ohio in student loans. For a piece of paper. I graduated Magna cum Laude. I was fucking PROUD of that piece of paper.
By then, I was 26. I had moved back in with my parents and had been living in their unfinished basement for the last 3 years of college. For year after I graduated with my fancy piece of paper saying, “Christan is smart, hire her”, I worked for a small commercial furniture dealership making a record breaking $23,000 salary. They had to lay me off after 6 months. Then 2 months later asked if I would come back full time but temporarily for a large project. I supplemented my income waiting tables and slinging drinks at a local bar and grill at night and sending out resumes trying to get something better with more money and stability. For the first 6 months I focused on the greater Cleveland area. I got a whopping 1 interview with a display company that I wasn’t even remotely qualified for the job. So I broadened the regional resume outreach. After over a year, I still only had that one interview under my belt and I was applying anywhere in the country. I was finally interviewed and offered a job. In Seattle, WA. I had no choice but to take it and choose to move 2,700 miles from all my family and friends. The only other choice was to continue to live in my parents basement at 28 years old, working at my meager design job by day and slinging drinks by night, just scraping by making enough to cover my student loans, putting gas in my car, car insurance and the occasional meal out with friends to feel like a normal adult.
After almost a decade of experience I am making an above average salary. And I am the richest poor person I know. Because My student loans cost more than my rent every month. I should have stuck with shoveling shit and waxing bikini lines. I would been making less money but I would have twice as much at my disposal. And I would be ten times happier.