Becoming a Social Worker was a calling I chose to heed. Despite my family’s pleas to find a career that would offer me greater financial stability, still, I was determined to become a social worker.
My parents paid for my undergraduate degree, but I felt the need to pay for graduate school on my own. I knew viscerally that I needed to learn the real world lessons of working hard, getting into debt and later pulling myself out of it. PLUS, I did not want to owe my family money for an education in a career they didn’t feel I should pursue.
I only took on the amount of student loans that were absolutely necessary. I applied for and received scholarships from the university, a local women’s group, a non-interest bearing loan due within 10 years of graduation and a spiritually-based fund which required me to attend a weekend retreat with fellow fund receivers. Additionally, I also became an “RA” (Resident Assistant) (following a rigorous interviewing process) in a school dorm. This position fully covered my living expenses, housing and dining.
Graduating with only $10,000 in debt and offers of employment from three hospitals, I was feeling on top of the world. However, as anticipated, my salary was far less than that of my relatives and most of my friends.
So how was I supposed to maintain a social life and keep up with my friends? Credit, of course. As soon as I began using credit cards, I began experiencing anxiety concerning whether I would ever be able to live on my salary and whether or not I had made the right career choice.
My friends were beginning to purchase their own homes while I was sinking into debt. Within three years, I had amassed an additional $4,000 in debt. I continued to pay off my loans, but also continued to charge things like coffee and cocktails. After three years in the field of social work, I was deeper in debt than I when I graduated. It was obviously time to take my financial head out of the sand and climb out of the debt hole I had dug. Enough was enough.
If my friends could buy a house so could I. I changed jobs to one that offered me a higher salary, stopped my coffee-shop-cappuccino-addiction, found a part-time second job and dug into my credit card debt.
I kept a log of my expenses, cut out the “wants” and kept the “needs,” and in less than two years was credit card debt free and ready to buy a house! The day I closed on my first house, I felt an incredible high and took significant pride in what I had accomplished.
The Financial Social Work certification helped me to connect to my accomplishments and how by tracking my spending, identifying my money habits and creating a personal spending plan I was able to keep my career on track and set and achieve my goal of becoming a homeowner.
Our Graduate Blogger has chosen to remain anonymous.
Written By Reeta Wolfsohn, CMSW
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