Thursday, May 15, 2008


That's a money tree. I'd like to plant one in my back yard. It needs to bear fruit. Immediately.

I find myself in the ridiculous position of complaining about money. Why? Because I have a good job that pays me well, I have a part-time job that doesn't pay well (music writing), but that pays something, and my wife has a good job that pays her well. Together we ought to be able to, say, make the mortgage payment, which is not an extravagant one.

But it's increasingly difficult. The biggest variable here is two kids in college at the same time. As in we will spend approximately $42,000 in 2008 to send the kids to school. They are not going to fancy private schools. They are going to state schools. And I'm looking at 2009 and I don't know how we're going to do it. They have one and three years to go, respectively. We saved what we could. And now that's gone.

There are never-ending, unrelenting demands and requests for money. Some of them -- bills of all kinds, cars breaking down, various parts of our house falling apart -- we can't ignore. Some of them are are legitimate requests from good people who represent good causes we'd like to help. And we can't. Because we have no money.

And I find myself increasingly frustrated. I don't want my life to be driven by money. This is not how I want to live. I want to be generous. But I work for an employer who keeps finding novel and creative excuses not to increase my salary, in spite of stellar performance reviews. I look at the price of gas, which has doubled since I started working for that employer, and the price of food, which has risen by more than 60% since I started working for that employer, and the price of everything else, particularly the price of education, which has skyrocketed. And for the life of me I don't understand how I'm supposed to do this. I'm using all my vacation days this year speaking about music at various universities and conferences. You know why? To earn money. I enjoy it on some levels, but one thing it is not: a vacation. It's a lot of hard work. And I can't earn nearly enough to compensate. We're losing ground, rapidly.

I know, I know. It could be a lot worse. And it could be. I know that. I'm thankful for my 1.5 jobs, and for Kate's job. But it's stressful, and we're going backwards. I'm thinking about using the techniques I saw when I lived in the ghetto: use all your spare cash to play the lottery, and buy the kids a bag of Cheetos for dinner.


CarolN said...

Andy, I suggest introducing your daughters to the cold, hard world of college debt. I feel awful saying that, but you can't drive yourself into the poorhouse for their educations. It sounds like you have already provided tremendously for them. Maybe you have already helped them fill out their FAFSAs; I don't know. Just a thought.

Andy Whitman said...

Carol, we've gone the FAFSA route. We're not eligible for any financial aid. We make too much money, which contributes to the problem of why we now don't have any money. My kids might be in a better position if we were unemployed or if I worked at McDonald's.

That $600 rebate that's supposed to stimulate the economy? That's a couple textbooks these days. Well, okay, I exaggerate. It will probably buy three text books. And no, I'm not kidding.

Yeah, college debt will almost certainly be my kids' futures.

Anonymous said...

Andy, at least when Jessica was in college, there was no need test for unsubsidized federal loans, either for students or parents, only a limitation on how much the student could borrow each year. As a result, Jessica and I are both paying off loans obtained for her education. By the way, I graduated with outstanding loans as well. On the plus side, it tends to focus our young scholars.

Anonymous said...

There is money for everyone out there. Sometimes it just takes a bit of work to find it. Not trying to make light of the situation. My kids are 5 and 2 and I am already wondering how the heck it will be paid for. Right now, I am back at school retooling for a life as a nurse. I spend time applying for grants. You might want your daughters to search out for grants. Again, they are out there....

Best of luck.

CarolN said...

Ah, the middle class squeeze. I ran into the same problem in college, and I too graduated with debt. Grr. On the positive side, it helped me to learn to live on modest means and be fiscally responsible.

It seems like college costs are rising disproportionately to the general rate of inflation, and that pisses me off. I could see it really cultivating an elite class similar to what is so common in other countries.

By the way, I completely believe you about the textbooks.

Pilgrim said...

I have mixed feelings about this.
Our son will never attend college, so I tend to see a person's experience of a situation like this as very influenced by perception.
At the same time, stress is stress, and don't want to discount yours.