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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: VAR on January 05, 2016, 10:20:33 PM

Title: Weighing Career Options--Help me out!
Post by: VAR on January 05, 2016, 10:20:33 PM
I want to fill out a case study later but for now I would love it people could help me think about the pros/cons etc of competing directions to take my career:

I am a speech pathologist (SLP). As such, I can work in a wide variety of settings and there's the problem. Each area has different issues and I"m having a hard time balancing the quest for ER, enjoyment of life now, paying down the loans, job preferences. This is my 2nd year out of grad school and I'm absolutely miserable. I've only started thinking about ER or any of this since Feb 2015. I have a decent plan for ER in 15 years, starting out from less than nothing...

Here's the big "AGGG! FIRE --WARNING!" problem I have - 93k$ in federal student loans. Disbursed into 7 different groups- most of the loans are at just over 6% or just over 5%.  I'm pretty frugal. Living with relatives right now, averaging 1300$/mo expenses. There's not much further down that can go due to loan payments.

1. Last year I worked in a public school as a contract employee of a staffing agency on a 180 day contract, for just over 38$/hr (7.5 hr/day at 38.14$ x 180 days). health benefit was about 10$ cheaper than open market (so not great).No leave days. Licenses paid for(over 300$), CEU/Materials $$ of 400$. And I was reimbursed 900$ for relocation.They offered a small 401k match after 6 months with 3 year vesting.

 2.  Right now I'm in a 190 day school year contract as a direct hire to a school district for 45K$.Health benefits are good. No retirement (they have a TEN year vesting. nothing if you leave at 9.5 years). Do get numerous sick days, and 2 personal days off. No materials, licenses or CEUs paid for (wasn't even given paper for my printer).
   I'm very unhappy with my current job. The atmosphere in this particular school is very negative and I'm walking an ethics tightrope every day. Also,my area of interest and specialty is kids with severe Autism. Which I was led to believe I would be working in that area, but once I started they assigned me to different kids.

Moving forward I feel very torn between competing options. If I continue for 9 more years in a public school I can get 100% of my loans forgiven.

But - finding  decent school to work at - very iffy. My current job sounded perfect,then once I was in the door it's a different world. Many other speech friends have had the same problem (it's about half and half for those who feel like their job is what they were told and they like it VS those who are unpleasantly surprised once they start up). Then you're stuck in a contract for a school you don't like and it looks very bad if you leave part way through the year. School pay is the low end of SLP salaries, with no negotiation and no hope for anything more than slow "raises" as you move up the teacher pay scale. In this district, I won't qualify for ANY salary increase next year.

I could pursue another contract (like #1 above), but then I do not accrue anything towards loan forgiveness - and it doesn't seem like I can pay down the loans AND save for ER under the school contractor pay.

Other options:

3. work at a private clinic. I have a friend who is working private clinic at 75$/hr 30-35 hrs a week as a "self employed" 1099. But then you are locked into working all year. It can be hard to impossible to take off because the clinic cannot bill for therapy when you are not there. No loan forgiveness, benefits vary wildy from clinic to clinic.

4. nursing home/ rehab. I have a different friend who started rehab in Nov. at between 40-50$/hr "full time" (she can't get paid for more than 40hr/week. But she can get sent home early )At such a place productivity comes into play and you generally have  to work off the clock to keep your #s up or you get fired. She has seen this happen 2x already. Generally considered high stress. Benefits vary, hard to get time off, no loan forgiveness. Some people love it anyway, some people hate every minute of it. I have no direct experience so no idea how I would handle that stress.

So those are the scenarios as I see them right now -  feel very pressured going into the hiring season for school jobs (Feb-Apr) to decide something. If want to stay at a public school -I really need to make that choice and stick it for 9 more years. The worst thing would be to go back and forth. If I don't want to do public school, then I probably need to see if I can refi the loans and pay them off with the higher salary of a non-school SLP. But I'm not sure I'm properly considering all the nuances of the issue.
Who has some options I've not considered or insights to offer??
Title: Re: Weighing Career Options--Help me out!
Post by: AZDude on January 06, 2016, 08:35:58 AM
Well, lets run the numbers.

$93K in loans at ~5.5%. Guessing something like a 20 year repayment plan at like $1,000 per month.

Meaning you save probably ~$70K in principle and interest if you stay in public schools.

Public schools, you make $45K. Est take home of ~$31K per year.

Private clinic, you make ~$128,700 per year, but pay self-employment tax(15%), pay for your own health insurance(say $200 a month), and have no PTO(at $600 a day to take a day off). Est take home of $76,500.  Here, you would make up the loan forgiveness in about 1.5 years.

Rehab, you make $93,600, with an est take home of $65,500. Here you make up the loan forgiveness in about 2.5 years.

Either way, the loan forgiveness does not make up for the extra salary. So the question you should ask yourself is whether the time off is worth it or not? Is having 10 weeks off per year worth $30,000? It might be, but that is a hefty price.

You could also easily work the high stress private clinic job, pay off your loans in about a year and a half, and then go back to public schools, and enjoy your time off.

(Numbers are obviously just guesstimates).
Title: Re: Weighing Career Options--Help me out!
Post by: Mongoose on January 06, 2016, 09:12:27 AM
Well, obviously a whole lot more information would be need to go into making this sort of decision, especially given the diversity of options. You have quite a lot of student loan debt and even at $50 per hour you're looking at a higher 5 figures pay. And finding the "perfect" position in your specialty at a facility you love may not happen. Or your next position could be your dream job...

Given that the school hiring season is almost upon you and you state that going back and forth between clinics and schools would not look good, you might consider either staying put one more year and/or trying to move laterally to a different school. I don't see why one more year at a public school would lock you into 9 more years (am I missing something?) and you would have time to make this decision in a slower and more controlled fashion. It doesn't seem like you have enough information about your alternatives. How bad is it really to work, say 3 years, at a private clinic and then go back to public schools (know anyone who did? or tried?)?

Some questions:

1. Have you run the numbers on various scenarios to determine how important the student loan forgiveness is to you long term? Does your "decent plan for ER in 15 years" depend on this? You might get more helpful feedback with the case study or your ER plan.
2. You said you are currently living with relatives. If you have to relocate for a job, you'd have to decide if the pay would cover the difference. Do you have a pseudo-budget in mind for controllable expenses (food, clothing, eating out, cell phone)? Even with higher pay at a private clinic, it might be very hard to save for ER and pay off your loans, especially if you relocate and have to cover more expenses. Depends on the pay and how much your expenses change. We've had offers for more pay in very HCOL areas where the gains were more than wiped out by increased housing costs.
3. You mentioned that at private clinics
you are locked into working all year.
Are summers or blocks of time off important to you? If so, nursing homes would present a problem as well.
4. Do you have contacts in your profession through a career organization (I'm thinking something like a national speech pathologist association)? If so, they might have a career section or a meeting where you could talk to folks in your field who are more senior about various types of positions and their experiences. A dedicated autism center (most major cities seem to have one) might be a placement you would prefer. It might help to network about how to get into one of those facilities (and find out the negatives about that path too). I'm not sure if any would qualify as public schools for loans plus you may have to relocate and pay more expenses.
5. For your ER dreams, do you want to get out of speech path or have freedom to work part time in your specialty or freelance (if that exists with speech path)?
6. How long is living with your relatives going to work for you (and them)? Is your ER plan based on that? Do you help with expenses?

I would be very, very cautious with the private clinic and nursing home options if you are looking for a good work atmosphere now. The grass is most definitely not always greener. The folks I know who work or did work for those types of places have had a very mixed bag of experiences. A lot have stories about poor administration and bad treatment of staff (none do speech path), way worse than we experienced at public schools. Honestly, neither of your descriptions of your friends' situations sound great in terms of your goal of enjoying life a bit now...probably equal or worse than your current situation. But their pay is definitely better. What is more important to you (some examples: ER as fast as possible and damn the current working conditions, enjoy my working conditions now even if I have to trade that for slower loan repayment and/ or delayed ER, I want life satisfaction now even if I never get to ER)?

DH also has an interest in working with kids with autism and had a great paying teaching gig (again not speech path) at a private facility. Unfortunately, in addition to the autism unit, they had the other kids. They had a change in management who promptly cut the number of vacation days in half and brought in some really violent forward a bit and he resigned for his safety after a colleague ended up in the ICU with a TBI. Public schools can be annoying, aggravating and down-right maddening but they do not have the exclusive rights to poor atmosphere, bait-and-switch and bad administrators. They usually pay better though. There are almost always trade offs.
Title: Re: Weighing Career Options--Help me out!
Post by: VAR on January 06, 2016, 03:35:21 PM
Thanks both of you! There are an INSANE amount of variables. That's where I'm getting bogged down.

Mongoose - yes..and yes...and yes.

Cost of moving out would add 500-1000$/mo depending on location. Location is flexible. But moving around and around costs $$. (i just moved East Coast to West Coast and back).
ER plan does not depend on living with relatives. Just landed here for awhile to replenish funds after moving. But ended up pretty unhappy at the job and got paranoid about locking into a lease for a year at 900$/mo. I'm very welcome to stay on and have been encouraged to do so.

I'm much more interested in having more time off now. Hard to say how I'd feel in 10+ years. But working part time or PRN later on actually sounds good. I want to be able to enjoy things now.  This is why getting sucked into 12 hour (paid for 7.5) rehab nursing days is not really calling me. But...payoff loans.
Private clinic work would be unlikely to get to 40hrs(paid)/week. And it can be a grind. You're not working with  team. You have a client coming in/out back to back to back. Except mid-day when you can't book people. Typically you have clients in the morning, 2 hour gap,and then work into the evening. If a client no-shows, you are no-paid. That worries me

Getting a job in any of these areas is not difficult. There's a shortage of SLPs in most parts of the country. The weird thing about the medical and school settings is that due to insurance reimbursements/teacher unions there's hardly any way to negotiate pay upwards. When I was job hunting in the spring I had to turn down many interviews. I had them piling up. So in a way that's nice - but when you can't use that to leverage better_something___ you just have to go on personality and the setting.

For example -I would LOVE to work at a dedicated Autism school - But at such facilities pay is often on the low end and without the loan forgiveness. and I would be VERY concerned about working conditions. It can be very hard to figure out if it's a "good" place until you're  already working there.