Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wahoo! Student loans are PAID OFF as of yesterday!

For the past ten years I have been dutifully, by auto-pay from my credit union account, making an almost $400 monthly payment to my student loan debt from seminary. And yesterday I made the final payment, of about $125. It's going to be a welcome boost to my bottom line.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, there is a conversation going on about the financial aspects of studying for the ministry. The cost is steep and it takes a long time to work off the debt, if you borrow, as I did.

I was lucky to have retired from a 25 year position as a public school employee, so I had a small pension when I started seminary, but it wasn't enough to pay tuition and books as well, so I had to supplement that income with student loans. I also eagerly took any preaching or workshop gigs I could line up and at about $150 apiece, that helped pay the bills as well. I was so fortunate to have a member of my home congregation offer to buy my books each quarter. That dear family spent about a $1000 paying for my books over the three academic years I was at Iliff. Thank you, Wiley and Bev!

But it was hard times, as I had been a single parent for several years and the FS was barely launched, meaning that I had some credit card debt to deal with as well as a mortgage and sundry other stuff. My pension was far less than my salary had been and I needed every penny. Hence the loans.

At the end of seminary in May of 99, I had acquired over $36,000 in student debt and six months later, in December of 1999, as I began my first ministry, the monthly payment kicked in. When I decided to go into parttime ministry in 2003, it was a consideration---I needed enough income to be able to pay that monthly debt, rent, car payment, and health insurance. So I took two quarter-time positions, Vashon Island and Whidbey Island UUs, and managed pretty well, but without my pension, I would have had to go back into my former line of work. Or starve, possibly. And there were moments in the night when I pondered those very choices.

But I've managed to stay afloat financially and even prosper, though my standard of living has never been particularly inflated; I have a comfortable home, car, wardrobe, furnishings, and Medicare. And I eat well, perhaps too well sometimes. The cats are cared for and I can even afford an occasional antibiotic shot for Max, who occasionally needs one.

My situation is good because I'm older, have had time to raise my family, get my financial status solid if not affluent, and have learned what's really valuable to me. If I were a lot younger, hoping to someday have a church of my own while raising children, even with the help of a mate, seminary would have been a huge challenge.

I admire so much those younger seminarians and other students who have taken on that huge challenge out of their sense of call and are working steadily toward their goal. It isn't easy to be a student in mid-life, with family responsibilities and other volunteer activities to maintain. But you are doing it and doing it well. Congratulations!

14 comments:

Cynthia Landrum said...

Congratulations on paying off your student loans!

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Rev. Cyn!

fausto said...

Yes, congratulations!

Robin Edgar said...

Don't forget to treat yourself to something special with the money you "saved" this month Ms. Kitty. Get out there and celebrate a bit!

Mile High Pixie said...

HOORAY!! You're a light at the end of the tunnel for college students of all majors! It's good to know that it eventually ends. :-)

ms. kitty said...

Robin, you'll be glad to know I did just that---bought myself a beautiful used sewing machine in an oak cabinet with all the accoutrements---for $50!

Pixie, there's hope for everyone and now you know.

Robin Edgar said...

That sounds like a pretty good deal Ms. Kitty. Was it as beautiful as this one?

ms. kitty said...

Nowhere near as beautiful as the one you showed, Robin, much more utilitarian. The one in the picture is gorgeous!

Tina T-P said...

Way to go Kit! Think of the possibilities of the budget now! T.

ms. kitty said...

I know, I've already spent it!

Elz said...

Congratulations, especially on the sewing machine.

Sarah said...

Ms. Kitty, first of all, congratulations! Such wonderful news.

A little about me: I am a brand new reader and pre-seminarian; I am a young twenty-something, working and living near Boston, engaged to the love of my life (we've been dating since high school), and I feel a significant call to ministry. My friends and fiance feel that this is the correct thing for me to do, and are encouraging and supportive. After the wedding next fall, I intend to apply to divinity school.

I am scared to death that I won't be able to afford to go. I did well enough in college (but wasn't a 4.0 student), I am well-spoken, and I am articulate and personal in my writing. I'm nervous about getting into divinity school in the first place, and terrified about paying for it. Here's hoping it works out.

ms. kitty said...

Sarah, congratulations on your call to ministry. Seminary is always a challenging opportunity, whether you are financially capable or not! Do the groundwork early, if you can, by discovering as much as you can about your seminary of choice, doing some career counseling, if possible, and making a budgetary plan that can be flexible, if necessary. And best wishes on your upcoming marriage! Just a thought: seminary can be challenging to a marriage, as well. Ask friends who've been there how they've coped.

aileen said...

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Alena

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