Author Topic: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?  (Read 10411 times)

Mickijune

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Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« on: January 27, 2014, 02:39:16 PM »
Iím considering go back to school.

That said, with all our debt ($100k+ in SL, house, car, etc.), I donít know how I we can make it work. I feel stuck, I feel like my life is going nowhere. Yes Iím married and I have a daughter. Iím happy in that aspect. But in all other areas of my life I feel like itís just wasting away. Iím stuck at a dead end job making very little money (my W-2 said I made $37k in 2013). Iím bored out of my mind, I hate my job, I hate not moving forwards and upwards. Iím just standing still. There are so many things that I want to do but I feel like this dead end job is holding it all back.
 
I originally went to school for accounting, then switched to general business, then after two years of school done, had some personal issues, took a few months off then I went back to finally get a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies (graduated in 2009). Not only are there few jobs open that pay more than Iím making now, they almost 100% require some number of years experience. I donít have any.

So, Iím tired of being in a low level admin job going nowhere. Iím ready to move ahead in my career. I donít know if anyone here has ever been in this position (lots of debt, dead end job) and have moved past it successfully. I donít like the idea of taking on more debt, and my only other option would be to go to school at least half time to defer payments on my student loans (which would free up $800+/mo).

Iím considering an online certificate in accounting or project management or an online MBA. I have been trying to get a government job for the education benefits. No luck yet.

FWIW, according to my husband, Iím the only hope in terms of increased income. He works security for the state. Itís all he has ever done (with a military background). Heís close to maxed out in pay for his position. His only other option is if someone retires or gets fired.

Any direction from people who are actually thinking clearly (unlike myself) would be appreciated. I was previously very careless with debt in my late teens and will likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I hate it!

frugaldrummer

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2014, 03:09:45 PM »
In your state, could you sit for the CPA exam?  In California you only need a Bachelor's degree, 24 semester hours of accounting and 24 semester hours in some related field, such as business - I'm guessing you have that, or are close?

The test is difficult and would certainly involve a lot of study prep, but you might not need to pay for anything other than a review course and materials to study on your own.

RadicalPersonalFinance

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2014, 03:24:17 PM »
Iím considering go back to school.

That said, with all our debt ($100k+ in SL...)
 
I originally went to school for accounting, then switched to general business, then after two years of school done, had some personal issues, took a few months off then I went back to finally get a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies (graduated in 2009). Not only are there few jobs open that pay more than Iím making now, they almost 100% require some number of years experience. I donít have any.

I would suggest to you that there is very little correlation between [additional] schooling and job happiness.

Notice that you have lots of schooling already and lots of debt and a bad job.

Stop the cycle.

Decide first specifically what you want to do.  Then, find  out what is required to do that thing.  It's probably best to go do that thing at a lower level without schooling.  Then, if you find out that schooling is required/suggested, figure out the fastest cheapest way to go get the required schooling.

That's much smarter than spending money on more school.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but notice the facts: You've already spent >$100k and you don't have a good job to show for it.

Once you decide what you want to do, there's probably a smarter way to do it than spending money and buying retail.

Example: you mention accounting.

There is no accounting degree required to be an accountant.  You just need to know what you're doing and put a sign on your door that says accountant. 

If you want to be a tax preparer you have to pass the IRS qualifications, not take accounting classes.

If you want an additional certification, consider becoming an Enrolled Agent rather than a Certified Public Accountant.  It's not easier, but it is cheaper and simpler.  No college required.

If I wanted to be an accountant, I would go get a temporary (seasonal job) at H&R Block doing tax return prep.  You could probably make the same amount of money you're making now doing that.  Do it for a season--maybe two--to make sure you really like it.  (Get paid to make sure you like it rather than paying for school to go see if you like it after school.)

If you like it, study for and pass your Enrolled Agent exam.  That doesn't require school, it requires education.  You have to study and learn, not get "certified."  Once you're an EA, you're authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

Open a tax practice, build it up, make $100k per year, pay off your loans, save money, gain FI, and then keep working 8 months out of the year if you still like it.

NONE OF THAT COSTS YOU MONEY FOR MORE SCHOOL.

Later, if you want, go get a Masters in Tax or sit for the CPA, etc.

Most industries have some kind of shortcut like that.

Apply the same careful shopping techniques you apply to other areas of your life to school.

And remember, more school does not a better job make.  It only makes you an unemployed person with more schooling--and probably less money and more debt. Figure out what your dream job is and then only get more school if absolutely required.

RedMaple

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2014, 04:47:46 PM »
In your state, could you sit for the CPA exam?  In California you only need a Bachelor's degree, 24 semester hours of accounting and 24 semester hours in some related field, such as business - I'm guessing you have that, or are close?

The test is difficult and would certainly involve a lot of study prep, but you might not need to pay for anything other than a review course and materials to study on your own.

Not the OP, but in NY you have to have 150 hours and have (IIRC) 2 hours of relevant work experience. She won't be able to get the certificate.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2014, 05:31:21 PM »
But the OP is in Washington state - what are their requirements?

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2014, 06:26:10 PM »
And remember, more school does not a better job make.  It only makes you an unemployed person with more schooling--and probably less money and more debt. Figure out what your dream job is and then only get more school if absolutely required.

Agreed. Going to school with the vague expectation of better opportunities will put you further in debt.


mlipps

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2014, 09:37:41 PM »
Getting an MBA with your work experience is a recipe for disaster.

the fixer

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2014, 09:43:48 PM »
This reminds me of: http://zenpencils.com/comic/98-alan-watts-what-if-money-was-no-object/

I agree that school is not the answer in itself. What do you want to do with your life? What's stopping you from doing that right now? Chances are it's not a missing piece of paper that says "Masters" on it.

lhamo

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2014, 12:20:58 AM »
Mean salary for tax prep professionals is not much better than what MickiJune is currently making:

http://www.accountingedu.org/washington-accountant-salary.html

But I agree with those questioning whether going back to school is the answer for you/your family.

What do you excel at?  What do people compliment you on in your professional life?  Where do you make your biggest contribution?  Maybe focusing in a bit on what you are good at, and trying to find a different job that is more aligned with your skills in that area, will allow you to have more positive results at work.  It will be hard to move forward if you are feeling stuck and depressed about your current position.  A job change, even if it is a lateral move, to a different position with more room for growth, might help. 

Mickijune

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2014, 08:43:35 AM »
Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I understand that there is no guarantee that I would get a better job with a Masters.

As far as what I want to do, I have no idea. And I never have really had any idea. I have basically been in a situation all my life where I take what I can get. That said, I have excelled in every position I have had. I like to be good at what I do and will go beyond "my job" expectations to get things done the right way.

I'm a trained AS9100 auditor and would be interested in auditing (goes along with the accounting preference) beyond the aerospace industry.

Thanks fixer for the link. I wish is was that easy to "do what I love" but I have no idea what that is and I'm almost 30!!! 

I recently asked a supervisor from a separate department that I was "helping in" what my strengths and weaknesses are as an employee. He told me that I'm very intelligent, which can be a good and a bad thing. He said that while I'm very intelligent, it's obvious that I get bored very easily. That is very true ad could be why I'm so unhappy in my current position. I was also told that I have very little patience for incompetence by a high-level co-worker at my old job. Again, very true.

SunshineGirl

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2014, 08:51:10 AM »
With that debt, I sure wouldn't go back to school. I would, however, try to get a job at the university/college in your town so you could take classes free or cheaply. I also might take a few classes at a community college in different trades hoping an interest might spark.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2014, 03:51:24 PM »
The main challenge with auditing as a career is that it requires a lot of travel, often 30-50% of the time.

That said, you sound like a good candidate for it being intelligent, loving a challenge, but wanting something NEW. Independent auditors get to spend time at a new company every couple weeks, depending on the certification they're involved in.

My wife is a member of ASQ, and most of the certifications and classes through them are very reasonable.

For something that's similar to auditing but would require less travel, consider Six Sigma training.

Specifics like auditing certs and lean manufacturing credentials will pay dividends far better than an MBA, and be a good deal cheaper to acquire.

RadicalPersonalFinance

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2014, 12:46:05 PM »
As far as what I want to do, I have no idea. And I never have really had any idea. I have basically been in a situation all my life where I take what I can get.

It sounds to me like you'd be best served by spending some quality time dreaming with a pen and a journal in your hand.  Start making lists of anything that occurs to you that would help you to understand what makes you tick.

Here are a couple of ideas that occur to me:
-Make a list of anything you can think of that you would like to be, do, and have.  See what's on that list and then ask yourself "why?" for each item.  Look for themes.
-Ask yourself the $1,000,000 question.  Pretend you win $1M in a lottery tax free.  Fast forward a year to get past any short-term purchases.  You wake up on Monday morning...what would you do with your day?
-Design your perfect day and write it down.  Each and every detail.
-Pretend it's your 70th birthday.  All your family and friends are gathered around to fÍte you.  They ask you to make a speech sharing your thoughts and lasting lessons from the last 70 years.  What would you say?  Write that speech now.
-Pretend you're at your funeral and your best friend is delivering your eulogy.  What do you want them to say?
-Sit down with a course catalog from a local university.  Read through it.  What sounds fun to you?
-Go to the library and find a directory of jobs/careers.  Read through it.  What sounds fun to you?
-What did you "want to be when you grow up" when you were a kid?

None of those are perfect, but if you do some of those exercises in writing, you can read through your thoughts.  Sometimes, by seeing them written down, you'll see the themes and you can coach yourself.

In the meantime, don't be scared to change jobs and try different things.  Bounce around a bit and see what you enjoy.  Write down what you like and don't like and look for patterns.

Finally, work towards financial independence wherever you now are.  If you're already working, there's no reason not to just go ahead and gain financial independence along the way. Hint: FI is not achieved by going further into debt.

giggles

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 01:34:54 PM »
Quote
I have been trying to get a government job for the education benefits

What level of government?  At the federal level and in my state (NJ), that is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and does not exist in many departments anymore. 

the fixer

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2014, 02:29:16 PM »
I recently asked a supervisor from a separate department that I was "helping in" what my strengths and weaknesses are as an employee. He told me that I'm very intelligent, which can be a good and a bad thing. He said that while I'm very intelligent, it's obvious that I get bored very easily. That is very true ad could be why I'm so unhappy in my current position. I was also told that I have very little patience for incompetence by a high-level co-worker at my old job. Again, very true.
You sound a lot like me, so I'll go out on a limb here. I'll couch this advice with the opinion that I HATE it when people give me advice assuming that I'm just like them, but as I said we sound similar so maybe there's something to this.

I've concluded that my problem is that many intellectual pursuits come too easily for me. I can excel past my peers in most subjects, and this is what employers want out of me, to do what I'm best at. The problem is that what I'm good at by definition isn't challenging. When I undertake something that's extremely hard for me, I quickly learn whether or not I care about it. I first did this in college with taking a SCUBA course and discovering I was afraid of deep water, but boy was I motivated to fix it! In contrast, a year or so later I was a senior and took a graduate course in my field of study. Up until then every class I took was rather easy for me to do well in with minimal effort, but that class was TOUGH! I could totally do the work, but I was surpassed by the grad students who were willing to work ten times as hard as I was to make up for me perhaps being smarter.

My life lesson is this: if you do something just because you're good at it, two things will happen. First, you won't feel very fulfilled with your life because you just coasted through while those around you struggle. Second, eventually you will reach a level where you can't compete because when you approach the top, your motivation matters more than your innate ability.

You're better off finding something that is: 1) challenging for you, and 2) contains a goal that motivates you to rise to that challenge.

For me, my biggest challenges are physical endeavors like mountaineering. Waking up at midnight to climb 4-5k feet in a day above 10k feet is extremely demanding on both the body and the mind, because you have to plan the climb, be able to execute it, and know when you need to change the plan (bad weather/conditions, emergency, etc.) I'm not naturally very strong or fast, so I have to work really hard at training to be able to keep up with my partners. I also started pursuing this about ten years later than most people would, so I'm way behind before I get too old to do the really hard stuff. Accepting this handicap (as MMM would say, admitting that I suck) is what motivates me to try harder.

I'll throw in one more example: my wife wants to write a novel. This is a form of writing that's really difficult for her, but I see some of the same aspects to it as I have with mountaineering. She knows it's hard, but she really wants to do it and keeps working at it slowly and steadily.

So what's in the back of your mind as something you want to achieve with your life, despite knowing it will be very hard for you to actually do? If you really don't know, the best advice I can offer is to surround yourself physically or virtually with people who do know the answer. Watch the Olympics; every one of those athletes has been dreaming of standing on the winner's podium for as long as they can remember, and they dedicate EVERY DAY to making it happen. Seeing this stuff can be inspirational, driving the creative centers of our brain to come up with our own challenges and realize maybe they're not so out of reach.

I'll close with another appropriate Zen Pencil: http://zenpencils.com/comic/106-chris-hadfield-an-astronauts-advice/

Bethersonton

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2014, 09:26:14 AM »
I'm mostly replying to the topic of passion here and not really to the original post. I propose that being crazily-happily-passionately in love/totally interested in and challenged by your job is not necessary and is unrealistic and overrated.

I always think of "Office Space":

Peter Gibbons: Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you would do if you had a million dollars and didn't have to work. And invariably, whatever you'd say, that was supposed to be your career. So if you wanted to fix old cars, then you're supposed to be an auto mechanic.
Samir Nagheenanajar: So what did you say?
Peter Gibbons: I never had an answer. I guess that's why I'm working at Initech.
Michael Bolton: No, you're working at Initech 'cause that question is bullshit to begin with. If that quiz worked, there would be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars.

You're looking for a better-paying job, cool. If you're in a toxic environment that you need to leave, also cool. But I'm starting to think that "find what your on-fire passion is/do what you love" is just another buzzword that keeps people unhappy with the life they have now. Having a job that is pleasant enough that leaves you with enough energy to be intellectually challenged and stimulated outside of work is perfectly appropriate as well.

In regards to the OP, what ShortinSeattle said:

Quote
Agreed. Going to school with the vague expectation of better opportunities will put you further in debt.

I've found that the key to making more money is not a degree or education but networking and letting people in your life know you're looking for more work.

Gray Matter

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2014, 05:14:08 AM »
You're looking for a better-paying job, cool. If you're in a toxic environment that you need to leave, also cool. But I'm starting to think that "find what your on-fire passion is/do what you love" is just another buzzword that keeps people unhappy with the life they have now. Having a job that is pleasant enough that leaves you with enough energy to be intellectually challenged and stimulated outside of work is perfectly appropriate as well.

I totally agree with this.  I think we've been fed a load of crap in the past few decades to "follow your bliss" that has set up a lot of people to be really unhappy at work.  I have always found the "do what you love" premise strange, because I think the fastest way to turn a passion or a hobby into drudgery is to have to do it to other people's specs 40+ hours a week.  I love photography, but if I had to do it to make OTHER people happy, I suspect I wouldn't love it so much.

All of this is kind of funny since I am fully intending to leave my job in the next year to do something more "meaningful."  But meaning, to me, is different than passion or purpose (I am skeptical about such a thing even existing).  I think you can make just about any job meaningful.  For me, it means I need to feel like I'm making a contribution to the world in a way that that aligns with my values, or at least abides by the "do no harm" principle.  For the last decade, the contribution I was making that aligned with my values was, "provide for your family and build a safety net."  Now that I have one, I am free to explore other things.

I hope I don't come across as unsympathetic, because I can empathize.  I would just hate to see you go further into debt trying to find happiness where there are other ways.

MsSindy

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2014, 08:55:00 AM »
You got solid advice from everyone to NOT go back to school in your position - spend more time finding out what your next move should be.

However, one thing that you said that no one commented on was this:
FWIW, according to my husband, Iím the only hope in terms of increased income. He works security for the state. Itís all he has ever done (with a military background). Heís close to maxed out in pay for his position. His only other option is if someone retires or gets fired.

Wow, that's a lot of pressure to put on someone!  Whenever I hear someone say that is the "only option", my antenna goes up -- there is always another option.  What he's really saying is that I'm comfortable here and I don't want to do anything more.  Let's face it, for most people interviewing and finding another job sucks.  I think you guys should do a little brainstorming together on what other options you have - him included!  Maybe keeping your soul-sucking but steady job is good while you pursue something on the side?

FWIW, there are a lot of people that get bored at their jobs, or don't feel fulfilled....it's normal.  It's work.  It's a means to an ends (for most).  Work isn't the only place where you get validation or feel fulfilled - there are other parts of your life that can fill that gap.

I went through a lot of this same mental gymnastics of wanting to do something challenging or fulfilling.  But when I tried to imagine what that would actually be, I couldn't....not from a job.  I have a lot of things that I do that are fulfilling, but if I had to do them as work, it would completely suck the joy out of them.  So, I've been able to compartmentalize that work is work, and what I do outside of work is where I get most of my fulfillment.  I'm now a much happier employee, which has translated into a much happier person overall.  Life is good now that I have let go of the "follow your passion" fantasy of work.

Numbers Man

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Re: Want to go back to school but with all this debt...?
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2014, 10:39:26 AM »
Live on one income until you can pay off that $100k student loan. Also, stop the BS about being easily bored, etc, etc. Be the very best you can be at your job. That dedication to excellence might be noticed by your employer and they may find a higher level type job for you that will help you professionally and monetarily.

 Additionally, why would you go into the accounting field when you switched out of that major in college?