Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Signing Your Life Away

One of the benefits of apartment living?  We don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters.  Hence, the teeny-tiny bowl of candy, which might be all mine by the end of the night.

Now for something appropriately spooky: the Wall Street Journal has created a list of five things you should know before you cosign for a student loan.  In reality, there's only one thing you should know before cosigning for any kind of debt - DON'T DO IT!!

I think the biggest myth out there regarding cosigning is that you're simply being a reference for the person who is going to benefit from the loan.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When your idiot brother-in-law asks you to cosign for that speedboat he's been dreaming about, he is really asking you to assume his debt.  In the meantime, when he loses his job due to "back pain" or whatever lame excuse he comes up with, you are going to be stuck footing the bill.  And you're not even a boat person, are you?

And if your nephew can't afford tuition at the overpriced private school from which he's chosen to earn a useless degree in anthropology or underwater basket weaving, don't cosign for a private student loan!  If he needs private loans, it means he's exhausted his federal grant/loan limit, which means he is being price gouged with respect to tuition.   

Anyone out there have any cosigning horror stories?  I'd love to hear them.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Creative Route to Student Loan Forgiveness?

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I came across this comment on All Education Matters today in response to Cryn Johannsen’s post about AEM’s two-year anniversary:

“Has this blog done anything?  I'm thinking that this entire AEM is a pretend nonprofit that you "work" for so that you can get your student loans forgiven after a decade!  Right?”

It got me thinking…why not?  Have any borrowers actually thought of going this route?  Wouldn’t it be wonderfully ironic if student debtors had their loans forgiven by starting non-profits that fight against the student lending industry? Here’s a link to the eligibility requirements for public service loan forgiveness. 

I know one of the requirements is that the borrower must work “full-time” for a non-profit, but it doesn’t give a definition of “full-time.”  I’m sure some un(der)employed JD out there will find a loophole somewhere! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lawyers and Anxiety, Part 3: The Sunday Night Blues

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I remember when I was practicing law, Sunday nights were the hardest.  Thinking about the coming work week would bring on my anxiety with a vengeance.  It would start working its way through my neck muscles right around the time Mad Men started.  I’d often get headaches from it.  I would also feel particularly glum and hopeless on Sunday nights.  

I didn’t realize that the Sunday Night Blues is a recognized psychological condition, but apparently it is.  Here’s a nice article with tips on beating the symptoms.

I like some of the author’s suggestions (podcasts and bubble baths seem to work wonders for me).  But I think Andrew Weil hits the nail on the head by emphasizing that if you cannot overcome the sadness you feel on Sunday nights, you might need to reevaluate what you are doing with your career and find work that’s better suited to your values.  Wise words indeed. 

Lawyers and Anxiety, Part 2: Let’s Talk About Sex

*** Warning:  This post contains some adult content. ***
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I met my husband almost nine years ago, before law school (and well before law school debt).  At the beginning of our relationship, I was at the tail end of my college career and didn’t really have a care in the world. 

Sex was easy.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights were spent out at the bars with friends, and then we’d stumble home after post-bar time pizza or burgers (“hangover sponges” as we called them).  Even drunk and full of greasy, toxic waste, we’d still find a way to get it on.  I recall one time, after an all day pub crawl, I was freezing cold when my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I got home, so I jumped into the shower with my clothes on.  The water warmed me up and – possibly feeling inspired by a foreign film I’d recently seen at the independent cinema near campus (was it the bathtub scene in The Dreamers?) – I jumped into bed, wet clothes still on, and we proceeded to have one of the hottest sexual encounters I can remember.  I recall different positions, scattered bottles of lube, and waking up wearing his tee-shirt and my high heels from the night before.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beats the Hell Out of Waitressing

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Thank you to those of you who answered my survey regarding second jobs.  For those of you who said you'd be willing to go into hookin', a little lawyerly advice: sometimes it doesn't matter what's in the briefs, as long as you give good oral.  Good luck!

The Thing That Couldn’t Die, Part 2: Why Pay Off Debt? (The Math)

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Warning:  I am not a math nerd. I used Excel to help me calculate the figures below, and I compounded the interest monthly, rather than daily, so the calculations are approximate.  

I was recently involved in an internet discussion regarding paying down debt quickly.  I talked a little about my experience delivering pizza, and someone interjected with this argument:

Hey, I'm really really not being a jerk here okay?
But I just want to interject something. When I was finishing my private school in law (I went to two schools, the first one I hated, the second was more expensive but it was so much better), we had a lecture on the "practical side of life." What came out in this lecture was that since student loans were so low on interest it was at times better to invest your money than pay down your loans.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Thing That Couldn't Die, Part 1

I’m starting a new series, in addition to the Pizza Diaries. This one will be entirely devoted to our debt pay-off. I think it’ll help me stay motivated. Enjoy! 

“Great was the curse laid upon it
Great was the evil power granted it
Buried for 400 years, it still lives
Stare into his eyes if you dare
For every woman that does 
Becomes a willing slave to
The thing that couldn't die
And every man becomes a monster
Greed had made them unearth a monstrous evil centuries old
Now they and they alone have to face the consequences…”

Did Sallie Mae exist in 1958, when they made The Thing That Couldn’t Die?  Whoever wrote that trailer seems to be sending them a message.  At any rate, take out the “400 years” part (my loans have been due for only about five), and you have what amounts to a perfect description of how I feel about my federal student loans.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Pizza Diaries, Part 9: Reality Bites

I never told anyone at my day job about my pizza delivery gig.  I don’t think they would have understood my motives.  Most of my co-workers live high on the hog, and don’t seem to mind being in debt.  I work a few hours per week balancing the books of an attorney who’s been practicing for over thirty years.  When I see his credit card bills, it makes me cringe.  He basically spends $3,000 a month on crap, and he still has a huge mortgage on his home, even in his sixties.  A co-worker and her husband recently borrowed money from both of their parents for a down payment on a condo.  And yet another co-worker makes substantially less than everyone else in the office, but has a remarkable shoe collection nonetheless.  How could I possibly make these people understand my fear of bending over for Sallie Mae every month for the next twenty years or so?

Driving around under the dark cover of night had given me a false sense of security.  Leading a double life had been fairly easy up to that point.  I simply didn’t tell anyone about my night job, except a few people.  I sometimes worried about having to deliver to a co-worker’s house, but I told myself that if such an occasion should arise, I would find a way to trade deliveries with another driver.  Most of the people at work were off bread anyway (they’d all been reading that book Wheat Belly).  I knew I’d be safe, at least until the next diet craze stormed the office.

And then one particularly rainy night in March threw a monkey wrench in the works.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Pizza Diaries, Part 8: Auld Lang Sigh

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In the world of pizza delivery, the holidays are a time of great generosity.  Deliveries are plentiful; tips, abundant.  Because of all the extra money I was earning, the temptation to overspend reared its ugly little head sometime in late December.  I had to constantly remind myself that all my tips were going toward my student loans.  

A little background: I love the holidays.  Some of my best childhood memories revolve around the period between Halloween and New Year’s.  I grew up in Chicago, and every Christmas, my family would go to my grandmother’s brick two-flat on the south side.  She always put up a small artificial tree on an end table between two lazy boy chairs.  One of the chairs had belonged to my grandfather, who died when I was two or three.  Blue lights and a few hand-made ornaments sparkled on the branches.  One year, my oldest sister couldn’t resist peeking at the presents that were stacked underneath the tree and around the end table.  She had been wanting Michael Jackson’s Bad album, and one of her presents was shaped suspiciously like a 33.  I remember feeling probably as excited as she did, eagerly anticipating the moment when she could finally unwrap it all the way and make things official.  The thing about growing up poor is that the holidays are the one time of year when it’s ok to fantasize about material riches.  It’s ok because you’re not asking your parents to provide you with the impractical; you’re asking Santa Claus.