Sunday, May 6, 2012

I didn't know what going to college would mean

So it goes....

Things get better, then they get worse again. Life gives and takes away.  But lately I've been thinking about how much was taken away without my knowledge, I'm learning just how much I'll lose out on.

A college degree is supposed to provide a better life.  Who doesn't want a better life?  I mean, a college degree is supposed to nearly double annual income, right?  Or at least that's what they say.  Recent graduates (and by recent I mean those that graduated in the past 5 years) may disagree.  Granted my degree program was never one that was supposed to assure a large salary, we all know teachers don't make much money.  But still I should  have been able to make roughly the same as I did before (about 25,000 - 30,000) a year.  Sadly, that did not happen.  For the past 2 years I have made less than minimum wage annually.

Just as I was working my way to accepting the lower income to be able to work in a field that I love, I have had to accept a job in retail in the hopes that I'll at least be able to pay 1/3 of my monthly bills.

Unfortunately, what may end up happening is I lose an important chunk of that income to garnishment should I get behind on my student loans.  Sure, they're limited in how much they can take, but does that really help when you're already deciding whether to pay on your loan or keep your power on?  There are forms that can be filled out to challenge the decision, and declare hardship, but how much better does that really make anyone feel when they can take the money without a court judgement to start with?  And sure, it may take months of non-payment before garnishment steps are taken, but when there is no real hope of a raise in a lousy economy, months of non-payment is what you're looking at, and deferments only last so long.

So struggling with poverty until the economy improves is a definite.  Struggling with poverty for the rest of my days is a possibility.  After all, the longer I am working in a field which does not require a college degree, the less likely I will be able to get into a field which does.  Who wants to hire someone in a field that they have not worked in in over 5 years?

Another loss that I didn't know would occur is my health insurance.  My premium for an individual policy covering myself and my spouse (unfortunately I don't have a job that offers group coverage) was $279/mo.  After the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act my premium jumped to $348/mo.  June 1st it will increase to $418/mo. Affordable, indeed.  I can no longer pay for my health insurance because of something that was supposed to help people afford health insurance.

Which brings me to my next point, I may never be able to plan for and afford a family.  My current health insurance plan includes maternity coverage (being a responsible woman of childbearing years, this has always been very important to me).  My current health insurance plan is no longer offered, to try to keep the premium lower I can increase my deductible but the premium will still increase beyond my means.  Or I can apply for a new plan, but none of my insurance company's current plans in my state offer maternity coverage.  I can change to a  different company - currently the only company that offers maternity coverage in my area is Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Their lowest plans with maternity coverage still range $373 - 419.  That's not gonna work.

Granted I'm not ready to start a family at this time.  I would like to be somewhat financially stable first, ya know, back in the $30,000 a year income range first.  But I'll be older then and would have to pay more than $500/mo for health insurance, assuming BC/BS would still offer maternity coverage at that time.  And if I'm back in somewhat financially stable land, I'd likely be ineligible for state assistance with maternity care - $30,264/hr for a family of 2.  It'd be cutting it pretty close at any rate.

And let's face it - $30,000/yr might be back in financially stable land, but it's not enough to put back several thousand dollars in savings to pay for maternity care out of pocket.

So my spouse and I going back to college and finishing our degrees in hopes of achieving a better life?  Yeah, we're about $100,000 in debt.  My husband is currently unemployed despite having 3 degrees.  I'm about to start a retail job that will not be enough to keep us afloat.  We'll soon lose our health insurance.  Oh, and we've pretty much lost any chance of owning a home or having a family.  So while we've planned very carefully and are able to pay our bills for a few months more, the crash seems inevitable.

In theory, you can't put a price on knowledge and education.  In reality?  It cost me much more than I ever expected.

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