Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The New Math...1 M.A. + 0 Money=Misery!!!

You can do the math:  1 non working spouse on very low unemployment check for 1.5 months already.  End of part time retail job that helped make ends meet.  0 income for month of August on my end.  5 classes that equal less than $10,000 for the fall.  Living in one of the most expensive areas of the country.  All this equals---misery.   

The “F” word (foreclosure aka Judgment Day) is coming.  We bought a money pit, so it's actually a relief, but dealing with all the stuff is exhausting.  This has been going on since the semester ended. 

This is also destroying my dream of the Ph.D.  I suspect finding a job at Craptastic Community College will do more for us right now.  We can go anywhere, so where is living cheap?  Ideas, anyone? 

Job searching was the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep last night, and it led to an awesome dream.  The job was at a lovely SLAC for a great salary, with CM'ers on the hiring panel!  Hiram and I shared bafflement over americanus studentus.  Beaker Ben brought chemical goodies.  Strelnikov offered to dispose of bodies.  Bubba offered me bourbon.  Emergency Mathematical Hologram gave me the Virtual Teaching Assistant for grading, and Stella was our Smackdown Dean. 

And then I woke up…..’nuff said.  


  1. Your mortgage and employment woes are truly the current American Dream. I hope you find relief. Most of this country is quite livable, especially the modestly inexpensive parts. Look south.

  2. What Ben said.

    There are community colleges everywhere. Try to avoid urban areas, where the cost of living is higher. (You have to be careful there: where I live, a rural area, rents are as high or higher than the mortgage payment for a similar-sized living space.)

    The South is a good bet, but also the Great Plains, west of the Mississippi: Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, eastern Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas. For that matter, rural Ohio or Indiana are not too expensive either.

    As BB said, welcome to the American Dream. You have my deepest sympathy.

  3. Thank you AA for putting voice to this. I am in a much similar situation, feeling that mismash of anger and embarrassment, afraid to speak up after witnessing so much of the "it's your own damn fault" sentiment spewing from news comment boards.

    After completing Wombat Emotions professional training, my family felt lucky I landed a job in a state facility with a salary 2.5 times what I was paid during training.

    Regardless of my new salary, years of graduate school left me with no credit rating to speak of so we were surprised to have actually qualified for a mortgage. (This was after discovering, as introvert.prof points out, that rents were just as high as mortgage payments). Alas, we were sucked up in that Wild West free-for-all of mortgage processing in the height of the bubble. Realistically, we should not have qualified, but we did. And, hey, I had a bright future rising on the horizon. Fortunately, we were not saddled with an outrageous interest rate or an super-sized house. Nevertheless, when the bubble burst and state budgets all retracted, the good job disappeared with a poof.

    We live in vast non-metro area of a big state with a big city, so cost-of-living is manageable. But, in the aftermath of the job loss, it took time to assemble a sustenance adjuncting course load. We held on until finally the family vehicle was repossessed and the only way to retrieve it was to use the mortgage payment.

    We tried to make arrangements with the too-big-to-fail bank that bought our mortgage (a month after it was issued). They played all the games -- e.g., told us we needed to default to qualify for modification, repeatedly lost paperwork, shuffled us from one "relationship manager" to another, had two separate offices processing the application. Living in a judicial foreclosure state (i.e. a judge must sign off), we knew, for a national bank, we were more trouble than those in other parts of the country. Until the knock came at the door ... the foreclosure summons the latest relationship manager swore was on hold.

    Presently, we are in a "modification trial" the paperwork losing bank telling us that *WE* waited too long to apply for the federal relief program.

    The ultimate lesson learned in all of this? Any of this could have happened to anyone at any time, it took the bubble bursting for it to become noticeable.

    1. Too true....that bubble burst a lot of things. Worst of all, a developer is to blame for most of our house's subsequent problems that built too close to us....but we don't have the money to sue, so this is the road we must take in order to minimize our losses......

  4. Hiram and I shared bafflement over americanus studentus. Beaker Ben brought chemical goodies. Strelnikov offered to dispose of bodies. Bubba offered me bourbon. Emergency Mathematical Hologram gave me the Virtual Teaching Assistant for grading, and Stella was our Smackdown Dean.

    And students just somehow "miracled" themselves into your classes, to paraphrase another R. Lee Ermey line from "Full Metal Jacket."
    It's okay, really. I'm (we're) used to it.

    1. Well, dreams have a way of being selective, and I think the characters named at least started as members of a search committee.

      But yes, we tend to forget how much hard work is done by registrars, advisors, etc., etc. getting our students into the right classes (and keeping them out of the ones in which they don't belong). It's not a perfect system by any means, and we complain loudly about the results, but it could be much, much worse without the advance teams we tend to forget.

    2. Sawyer, in real life, I know how much hard work is done by the unsung heroes in the registrar area, by advisers, and by departmental secretaries......my dream was, as Cassandra said, rather selective, and as a dream, not very logical!!!

  5. Ancillary, I'm sorry you find yourself in this situation, but as others have said, it's not you, it's an economy that's been completely tea-partied by at least a decade of billionaires (and wannabe billionaires) playing around with other people's money, with no regard for the effect on the 99%'s lives or livelihoods. It sounds like you're doing the right thing; if I were choosing a community now (as opposed to in the mid-'90s, when I realized the job market wasn't going to choose one for me, but hadn't realized just how much of a mess we were in otherwise), cost of living would be a major criterion. I don't have any specific advice about places (other than to check some of those "places rated" lists, paying attention to how their criteria do or don't dovetail with yours), but would suggest, if you want to stay in academia, looking for a place with a relatively high density of institutions of higher learning, so you have some options. It's also worth checking out the kinds of salaries and benefits* that faculty can command, since that varies widely. That might be an argument for the rust belt, where unions still exist (though they're embattled) rather than the south, where the "right-to-work" (i.e. union-unfriendly) states cluster. You might also check out whether any systems would offer help in pursuing that Ph.D. dream (it's not easy to do while teaching, but it can be done, and there are a few reputable online or summer-only programs designed for active faculty, though of course there are also plenty of diploma mills that cater to that dream). My guess would be that that would be most possible in a system where the community colleges and state universities are closely affiliated, but I'm not certain about that. I think what I was told when I was applying to grad school is doubly true today: you really shouldn't pay for a Ph.D., even if you can afford to.

    *health insurance is, of course, an important part of the picture, as are retirement account contributions, especially ones that will be paid even if you can't afford to contribute anything yourself. Since my state pension system is currently in some trouble, I'm feeling comforted that my contributions went to TIAA-CREF instead (we get to choose), but other opinions about that may vary.

    1. Thanks, Cassandra, for your words of wisdom. Health insurance is coming to me courtesy of an adjunct union branch of AFT....bare minimum but better premiums than my significant other;s COBRA copay, which is off the charts! I agree not to go into debt for the Ph.D.....I managed to obtain my M.A. with a very small loan, and want to keep it that way, even for the Ph.D. Maybe especially for the Ph.D.


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