I came to a few realizations last night and I went to bed angry. Fighting mad angry. But in a good way. I owe a lot of this to my friend Dan, who answered a text message of mine that said “Do you think I’m stupid for wanting to leave a good paying job to do something that will pay so much less?”
The reason I asked this question is because I see so many people struggling just to get by and I feel like I should just be thankful for whatever opportunity is thrown my way. For example, there are the cleaners/housekeeping folks at my gym – all three of them work two jobs. None of them have English as their native language, which definitely hurts their job prospects. I know for a fact that one of them works seven days a week, and that a second one was until he finally had his daughter talk to me to write a note to the manager stating that he would like to take Fridays off since he was working seven days a week. (He and I are slowly teaching each other some words in Spanish and English.)
In response to these concerns, my friend Dan told me, among other things, “you can still be thankful and desire to live a Purpose Driven Life.” He also said something that struck home: “No one says on their death bed, ‘Thank God I paid off that student loan.'” Finally, “It (my student loan debt) runs your life in that it makes your decisions for you.”
So now, I’m going to do what he suggested: “Find a balance between the obligation you owe the debt and the bigger obligation you owe yourself.”
I looked at my loan details last night for my Big Daddy loan. I started paying (or shall we say, deferring and forbearing) back in 1997. Now that I have been paying interest-only payments on it for the last two years (as part of a graduated repayment plan), just to keep it from growing, I see that the final repayment date is in 2034 and another in 2035 (Big Daddy consists of two consolidated loans – one is unsubsidized federal money and the other is subsidized.)
In case you’re wondering what the difference is between a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized one–well, the difference is when who pays the interest that is accruing during terms when you are not in repayment, such as when you have taken a deferment. Deferments can be for a number of reasons but the most common ones are that you are currently in school or you are going through some sort of economic hardship. With a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest coming due. With unsubsidized ones, that interest just keeps on accruing and accruing and accruing and at the end of your deferment or forbearment period, all that unpaid interest gets thrown on the top of the loan, essentially making your principal balance, upon which more interest accrues, even larger than when you started. Do you see why this can get overwhelming to think about? I had loans that were unsubsidized during my first year of law school. You’re encouraged to not work during your first year of law school for a lot of reasons. So even by the time I graduated my principal balances had already grown by a whopping lot.
My Big Daddy loan actually consists of two loans – out of $75K, one has a principal balance right now of $44K. So that puts the other one around $31K. Here’s the funny thing – that loan that now has $44K to its name – when I consolidated that loan back in 2001, guess what the principal balance was at that time? Yeah….it was about $41K. All these years, I have paid at the very least $538/month, and for many years, while I was married, I even paid extra principal to it every month. Sometimes, about $700/month, on the combined Big Daddy loan. So, how, you ask, is that balance even higher? If you take an average of $6000 paid every year and you multiply that by 13, how much do you get?? Hmmm. 78K. And yet the balance of Big Daddy these days is still over $75K.
So here’s what I decided the other night – I’m going to switch careers to something that I find much more fulfilling, and if I pay less money per month to my student loans, so be it. I want to have a life where I feel like what I am doing every day is more in tune with my heart. And for me, that means working with animals.
Beginning this week, I am going to begin volunteering with the Animal Rescue League of Boston and work with their livestock animals. Right now, that means goats, sheep, a horse, and some chickens. I heard back from my local vet who asked me to send a resume or CV and let them know the hours during which I could volunteer, so I would be able to get experience working in a private vet office with small animals. I want to try to expose myself to as many different types of animals and types of organizations so I can see what best fits with me and my personality, etc.
I already know the average salary for vet assistants is something like $22K-30K. This is about what I live on right now, but I currently pay extra money to my student loans and paying the higher amounts on my loans. With a lower salary, I will be eligible for different types of repayment plans, and one can lower your payments to about 10-15% of your salary. So yes, it moves the final payoff date out that much further into the future, but life is short.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a slacker. i do want to pay back my debts. I do. I just think that with all the money I have paid this government over the years, the government can continue to wait for the 2x and 3X the principal amounts I will end up paying back. I could walk outside today or tomorrow and get hit by a car or something worse. I could be like Brittany Maynard who was 29 and found out she had an aggressive form of brain cancer. I’m not trying to be melodramatic or anything. I just have decided to not let these loans run my life anymore. I’m going to start living my life for me. And for the animals.
So this is the new plan. I’m going to pay off the private student loan which is sitting around $13,500 right now. That one, I don’t have tons of options about. But the federal ones…I’ll deal with them, probably for the rest of my life, but at least it’ll be a life that I feel good about at the end of every day. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given in this world, and every time I go to a talk at my school about animal rights, I get this strong feeling in my stomach that I NEED to do something to help them. And with my background, I can. I want to work with the animals in a hands-on way, but if there’s a way I can also be involved in using my education or my social or personal skills to their advantage, well, I plan on doing it. I’m open to the opportunities.
I’m home with my mom this weekend to celebrate an early Thanksgiving. I hope you will all have a great weekend. If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe, or drop me a line below.