A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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$76K Updates

Some updates from $76K Land:

(1) Twitter

I left Twitter about a week ago, and since then, I've received several kind emails from people checking in. I haven't responded to all of them yet, but please know that I really, really appreciate the concern and encouragement.

I'm okay. I'm just over Twitter.

For years, I somehow managed to avoid the Twitter trolls. Recently, though, something's changed. As I told Abigail over at I Pick Up Pennies, I feel like I've been getting bullied more and more, even by people I've interacted with for a long time. I'm tired of it and tired of feeling as though I'm not allowed to say anything even remotely honest and/or negative (which is... most of the time, given the current situation) without people getting on my case, giving me advice I didn't ask for, lecturing me, treating me like an idiot, dismissing my feelings, telling me things I already know, or just being straight-up rude.

If I complain or push back, I'm told to toughen up. I'm told it's just part of being on social media. It's like middle school all over again, and I'm not here for it. When I share things about myself, I share who I really am. I'm not going to sugarcoat. I'm not going to censor myself and pretend to be the positive, optimistic, and non-anxious person that I'm not (especially right now) to make other people feel more comfortable. Nor am I going to try to grow thicker skin simply because much of the world has decided that bullying by fully-grown adults is something we just have to accept. (I did try restricting who can see my posts, but it was like whack-a-mole: I'd get rid of one jerk and another one would pop up a second later).

So for now, I'm out. I really miss interacting with my friends. I don't miss feeling like shit.

(2) Student Loans

In better news, we refinanced our student loan. The one we weren't planning to refinance.

Here's what happened: When the government announced that it was suspending federal student loan payments for a few months, we were super excited. We logged into Nelnet to read the details and discovered that... our loan did not qualify.

Anyway, it was the perfect incentive to finally look into refinancing. After clearing a few weird hurdles (for instance, we were told that we had to provide a picture of Fortysomething's diploma rather than his transcript, and we don't have his diploma anymore; we reached out to someone in management, and they relaxed that rule for us), we were successful.

The old loan had a 7.25% interest rate. This new loan has an interest rate of 4.0%, and the monthly minimum payment is actually a bit lower. We'll be able to pay it off in less than 10 years (hopefully much sooner than that, but there are other financial priorities to consider right now), and we'll save about $10K in interest.

So yay.

(3) Health Insurance

Thanks to the pandemic, I've ditched the short-term health insurance plan that I was on. It's just too risky and too sketchy. The Kiddo and I are now on Fortysomething's employer-sponsored plan, which isn't fantastic but offers more protection. Although the premium is hundreds of dollars more than we were paying, it's a pre-tax deduction. When the first premium hit this week, the damage wasn't as bad as I expected to be.

(4) Job Stuff

Like many people right now, we're feeling very anxious about our jobs. We're lucky in that we are both still employed. Personally, as someone in higher education, I'm feeling pretty vulnerable at the moment. So far, the administration at my institution has offered nothing but vague platitudes about working together through difficult times, but it's clear that something has got to give. Rumors are flying about layoffs and furloughs. I work in online instruction, so you'd think I'd be okay - but I wouldn't be surprised if my little part-time gig was offloaded to a full-time, tenure-track faculty member to help justify their position.

Fortysomething's job as a grade school teacher seems fairly stable at the moment, but we're both worried about him having to go back in the fall. I know not everyone is concerned about catching this virus at work, but he's around kids all day, every day. In a normal year, he gets sick at least three or four times and passes it on to the rest of the family. It's one thing when those illnesses consist of the common cold, a stomach bug, or even the flu, but coronavirus is a whole different beast. Sure, you could get it and barely notice. Or you could end up on a ventilator.

I'm not going to lie. I'm scared - for him, for me, and for our kid. I know that people want schools to reopen, and I understand why they want/need them to reopen, but it seems absolutely bananas to do so unless a comprehensive testing, monitoring, and isolation program is in place. It's not enough to provide everyone with hand sanitizer and hope things will work out. We need to protect kids, teachers, and their families. Frankly, my partner and I aren't so dedicated to education that we're willing to sacrifice our lives and finances for it. So we're exploring our options.

I'll say this: if you're a parent and you want your kid to be back in the classroom, advocate for students and teachers by reaching out to the powers that be (school board, state government, reps in Congress) to demand frequent testing. Because that's the only way this will work.


  1. I miss you on Twitter but I'm glad you're doing what you need to stay sane. Some people are just jerks and then spend all their time justifying it. It does feel like whack a mole but I'm so hot on the Block button these days, it's a soothing kind of whack a mole for me now. It wasn't at first though :(

    Ugh school in the fall is something I cannot even begin to wrap my head around and I really do need to if I want to advocate for a particular outcome or setup.

    I really hope that what your partner's school chooses to do is something resembling sensible. Y'all and my other teacher folks really should not be asked to risk your LIVES to do your jobs.

    1. Thank you, friend! I will probably come back in a few weeks (before my account gets deleted). Perhaps what I need to do is lock it for a while and simply delete, delete, delete, block, block, block.

      The teaching thing is so tricky. I completely understand why school is so necessary - for kids to keep learning, for the economy to get restarted, etc. - but I can't help but feel that once again, teachers are the very last concern. I think my partner deserves better than that. However, I am hoping that we can come up with some sort of viable solution so that everyone can safely get what they need.

  2. So glad the blog is still here! You know how much I love you and your writing (and your ridiculously large cat).

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate that. I have seriously considered taking the blog down permanently because I'm tired of sharing my life with jerks. But... I guess every writer shares their life with jerks. So. LOL. I suppose it's worth it if other people can relate in some way and if I continue to find value in it (which I do). So here I am!

  3. Hey there, friend. I'm so sorry that you have had to deal with all that shit on Twitter. I feel bad for not noticing or helping.

    Mrs. Done by Forty is also in higher ed and we're waiting to hear if she'll be extended another year. I hope that the administration does the right thing and protects your partner when he goes back into the classroom.

    You're 100% right: only with a big increase in testing & tracing are we going to be able to do this even close to right. I want to be optimistic. We still have time to get this under control.

    1. Don't feel bad! I don't know what happened... it's like I suddenly ended up on a "Who To Troll" list.

      I hope Mrs. DbF's contract gets extended! Did they offer some kind of timeline on when they think they'll know?

      I would feel way more comfortable if my partner were in a different work setting. It's the whole being-around-25-to-30-other-people-all-day-every-day aspect of things that really makes me nervous. That, and the fact that when he asked about it, admin was like, Yeah, we have no idea what we're going to do.

  4. Hi friend! I miss you. I believe you should do exactly what you need to do for your mental health. I'm glad to still be able to read your thoughts on this blog!

    1) My student loans also don't qualify for any of the stuff everyone thinks loans are supposed to qualify for (the last major student loan law rewrite happened in 2010, and I graduated everything by 2009. WOOHOO!). I'm so happy your refinance went well.
    2) If you work for a community college or equivalent (commuter, technical, junior, etc.), I'm predicting major INCREASES to enrollment. Students who are within the last two years of HS grad aren't going to want to start at 4 year dorm campuses at 3X the cost. Further, I think a lot of HS students are going to enroll in CC classes if they can because HS teachers weren't all superstars at switching to online ed.

    I am also super worried about all the various options for opening schools this fall--none of them are great and the only safe ones require HUGE amounts of money and pose major equity issues. I could be wrong, but this is going to be a year many parents opt for homeschooling. Which means RIF isn't coming until summer 2021.

    1. I miss you, too! And thanks for the comment re: the student loans. That clarifies things a bit: we were so confused when our loan wasn't put on hold. But now that you mention it, we've had it since pre-2010. So. I wish we'd refinanced sooner, but oh well. Not much room for that sort of regret right now.

      I agree: NONE of the options for school in the fall are good ones. There's just a bunch of choices that range from terrible to not-great. Our school could probably do a lot of stuff online, but we also have kids who live in the middle of nowhere with no internet access, so how would that work? I am seriously considering homeschooling my kid next year or enrolling him in an online program - he actually really enjoyed the last two months out of the physical classroom because he didn't have to deal with the annoying kids in his class. But that doesn't really solve my partner's teaching dilemma. If he goes back to the classroom, we're going to spend the whole year in a state of worry unless everyone can get tested regularly. And I just don't see that happening.

  5. Totally with you on the Twitter situation. Maybe it's a result of the pandemic but I've noticed a ramp up of negativity and overall annoying energy on there. I've limited my social media time considerably and mostly just use it to promote my writing. I propose we create a private Slack channel with no jerks allowed. :D

    But yay for refinancing the loan! A 4% interest rate and lower payment sounds like a major win. I've debated refinancing mine (again) but I don't really feel like dealing with the paperwork right now.

    I hope things work out with school/jobs. I was just telling someone today I couldn't imagine the stress of deciding whether to send a child back to school during all of this. There are way too many unknown factors and the rush to get back to "normal" without any safety measures in place is quite frustrating.

    1. I think I will return to Twitter within the next couple of weeks, but I'm going to lock down my account. For now, I just want to interact with people I know and trust.

      And yes, the rush to get back to normal is disorienting and confusing.