Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Soul Sucking Student Loan Repayment Research

Recently, I received a text message from a younger friend inquiring about my student loans. He gently asked how much debt I had and what I was doing about it. He was worried about being able to buy a house or have kids, etc. I told him I hadn't been paying the loan, for years, since I started grad school in 2008! During grad school I deferred them and after graduating I entered into the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) I reported my meager income to the loan company by way of my annual taxes and they determined my monthly payment would be zero. Which suited me fine, since I started living on an adjunct instructor income at the time. I've kept it this way up until present time (2019).

My friend asked me if my loan was gathering interest and wasn't I worried about it?  Honestly, I just figured I'd be in this program for the rest of life and probably never get this loan paid off....ever. But his worried texts got me sweating about it again, so I dug up my password and logged into my student loan account to see what was what. In my head, I knew I owed $60k. That's consolidated from undergrad at SAIC and graduate school at East Carolina University. Turns out that they had been gathering interest! PALM SLAP! Oh, only $15k extra added to the principle! Its $75k and rising! Yikes. Maybe I should be looking into this!

I started researching this like it was my full-time job. I fired all cylinders on trying to figure out what to do.  My friend said he was almost $100k in debt and I remembered I have another art school friend with that much debt too. They were both working multiple jobs and living with roommates in their 30's to try to pay down these loans and I knew many more in the same boat.  Maybe I need to stop ignoring this elephant too and start paying it off.

Another art school friend says he's in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Which means if he makes minimum of payments for 10 years the rest will be forgiven because he works for a non-profit (a community college). That's great for this friend, but I don't work for a non-profit at present as many of my friends do.

There are also reports of many many people signed up for this program 10 years ago that aren't getting forgiven! Why? Because they filled out a form wrong! Make sure you are sign up correctly, ya'll.

My generation has a huge problem (I'm an old Millennial). We should be buying homes, starting families with secure jobs, and saving for retirement. Instead we have 20 years of $500 to $1000 monthly payments just to get to zero. College was great! What a party it was!  I have many good friends I met there and I learned a great deal!  But the system is broken and maybe I would have chosen a different path if I'd known it was going to be such a financial leash. Will we elect a president that will help us? Haha not likely. I seriously doubt any president can POOF make millions of dollars disappear.

I'm not here to complain. I'm here to find a solution and to help my friends find a solution or at least some camaraderie. These debts aren't going away and I'm not afraid to talk about them or bring them up at a cocktail party.

In lieu of getting a teaching job (a tempting possibility at this point) I went further down the rabbit hole of how to pay these off, or at all. I found some podcasts and blogs about personal finance. I think I will use this old blog to talk about some of this and at least use it as a way to gather up all the information that I've found useful so I can link my friends to it. Especially so that I'm not bombarding them with links and blogs in their facebook comments.

So here's what I found out.

I found on Spotify an NPRprogram called Death, Sex, and Money. Among other uncomfortable facts-of-life subjects they discuss, they tackle the student loan debate. This helped me realize that I'm not in this alone. They interview a bunch of different loan takers and loan experts. There are millions of us out there with this problem and some of them way more in debt than me. So many people called that they had to split their show into two parts. Geez! They could have a podcast show just about student loans! I listened to them on Spotify (I think they have more than a couple about student loans). Here's a couple links to their official stories. Part one and Part two.

Another podcast I would recommend is this sort of Choose FI episode. In this episode, a student loan expert is interviewed. This was also helpful for me. It seemed he recommended that if you don't qualify for Loan Forgiveness then you could get your student loans refinanced. I looked into this and even though this would reduce my interest rate (or something) I would be kicked off the IBR payment plans and never be able to return. Which means if I ever got a teaching job, I couldn't sign up for Loan Forgiveness. Thus I've decided to stay in the IBR program for now to keep that option open.

Now that I have a lower middle class regular job, I decided I'd return to pay down this monster loan. I think the last time I paid on it was when I had the welding job in Richmond in 2008! So there's a lot of people out there that are paying these off by living very frugally and throwing as much money as they can at paying it off. Like WAY more that the monthly payments. Which seems to work too. But I'm not sure its a good idea to do this if you qualify for loan forgiveness. Then maybe its best to invest that extra money somewhere retirement. But I'm no expert....yet.

This rabbit hole has led me to an obsession with personal finance. Something that I don't think I've been awful at, but now I'm really going to lock it down! I will post more about that next.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Papermaking with Veterans

Today I finished teaching a 5 week papermaking course through Veterans Affairs with art therapist/metalsmith/fellow AIR Maria Tritico. In addition to making books & personal pieces, they collaborated on a large collage and they cast into my big face mold and we sewed it together with a student's sailor's palm. Given my personal experience with veterans in my family, it was a powerful experience for us all. Art making is therapy.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mike Hamer

This blog post is about Mike Hamer. Whatever I could find online about him. There's some links to his music and some YouTube videos uploaded by his friends. I also sprinkled in some comments made on Facebook when he died.

Mike was a bright light when he wheeled into a room. I am honored to be his friend. One of the last times I got to see him was at his birthday party in Greenville when I was on my way to Michigan from Florida, it must have been in June 2017. He was surrounded by friends and family and they did a round robin of music-playing in his backyard. It was a magical experience hearing him and his friends play all this great music with guitars and their voices. He was very loved.

I got to know him from the Maxwell Family aka the NuClear Twins, whom he often played concerts with the last few years of his life. I was going through my own personal tragedy and, its hard to deescribe, but being around someone like Mike made you feel good.  After I heard of his passing that Sunday morning, I found him again on Spotify and even though I was somewhat familiar with his music, I was blown away by the music he had recorded. It reminds me a little of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan because his voice is rough and warbly, but within it are some real gems. I love especially the irrelevant songs and the tragic ones and the tragic/comedic songs. He had a great sense of humor.

Mike Hamer bio on Reverbnation.
Mike Hamer has been writing and playing songs for adults and children for over 40 years. Paralyzed in a diving accident in 1985, Mike took up the hammer dulcimer and has continued to entertain audiences young and old alike. Lately, he has been performing on the Casio PT100 and is performing with the Cantankerous Casio Tour.
Mike focuses on classic American folk songs that give people a sense of their roots, and he loves a good sing-a-long. His original work ranges from Americana to lullabies to rock ballads, rhythm and blues, and even the occasional tango. He performs both solo and with various combinations of musicians and has released seven albums of original songs as well as a children's album and the most recent, a collection of lullabies featuring Julie Beutel.
Mike teaches non-fiction writing and the occasional songwriting course at East Carolina University. Living in Greenville, he hopes to record some new songs soon featuring Mike Hamer and the Cantankerous Casio Tour.

Bob Aiken - December 10, 2017 ·
"For me...there was no stronger, braver, or better man than Mike Hamer. He was my friend and my brother. And I will miss him immensely."

Mike in interviewed on the radio and talks about the accident.

Nikkita Yagenrok December 10, 2017 ·
"My first clear memory of Mike Hamer: I was, for a brief time in my early twenties, his neighbor on Park Drive with two other young ladies. We received an invitation to a Rumi poetry reading in his backyard, and it was one of the most magical afternoons I have spent in town to date. Mike was one of those special people who could brighten the darkest of days. Here's to the next rung on the ladder. Rest easy."

This is pretty dang awesome.

Megan Maxwell shared her photo. December 10, 2017 ·

"Mike Hamer performing at our wedding. He lives forever in the hearts of everyone who met him or heard his music, or just know those of us who hold him dear to our hearts, because he lifted us up."

Not sure what this is exactly but Mike singing with Sue Luddeke and others. Its cheesy but great! :-)

Jerry Allegood is with Mike Hamer and 2 others. December 10, 2017 ·
"My camera was acting up and the shutter didn't open all the way. But it made a different sort of focus on Brandy, Mike and Tabitha"

Mike Hamer to Megan Maxwell
October 17, 2016 at 8:34am
· Time for a pigpile of love, pigpile of love, pigpile of love on top of you!

I found Love Dust an amazing album where he talks about being in a wheelchair in a tragic and funny way. 

At Mike's funeral. 

I missed the funeral by being in Florida, but was able to visit near Christmas time and Nathan Maxwell sang Josephine for me. Its a great song.