I'm having the best week ever!

I got paid today. I looked at my bills and expenses. I thought about my options. I made a decision.

I just made a payment to retire my student debt. Done. Gone. A part of which dates to 1989. Over.

Oh, and I also bought something nifty today. (With cash, of course.) More about that tomorrow.

Best comment of the day

Responding to "Tips for surviving a recession" by Kathleen Pender (SFGate.com)

"OMG! I just figured it out, the Cloverfield monster is really the impending recession."

Thanks to SFGate.com reader gatorfree for the laugh/groan/queasy feeling. Now even queasier, because I bet Cloverfield is at least as live a subject in the United States as a recession, and less subject to denial.

Perhaps we can see the effects of this one better. (No, I've not seen the film. I'll wait for the DVD.) Perhaps we can talk about spiritual and practical responses to the all-but-certain-and-perhaps-certain economic downturn.

Hat tip to Ms. Theologian (Surviving the Workday) for the article. Oh, and thanks for pointing out the yoga article, too. Sharing that one at Day Job.

The great credit card opt-out

I'm trying to save you some toxic junk mail.

Discontinuous Permafrost is surely the most northerly Unitarian Universalist blog. Its Fairbanks-based anonymous author has his own way of sticking it to the Credit Card Offer Industrial Complex ("The Credit Card Resistance Movement (CRAM)") -- shared incidentally by people I respect -- and I have mine.

Opt out. Start here. It's for real, was widely promoted a couple of years ago and I did it myself. Now, the only offers I get are from banks whose cards I already have, mainly for those dreadful little faux-checks, which I immediately shred.

I suspect the CCOIC would rather deal with malcontents in a civilized manner if for no other reason that our efforts cost them money and make them none.

Two cheers for credit union

The New York Times reports today ("Nonprofit Payday Loans? Yes, to Mixed Reviews" by John Leland) about a program between Goodwill and a credit union (a financial cooperative, thus the categorization) in Appleton, Wisconsin to help people jump out of a payday loan debt death spiral. The program -- which does move those least able to repay into counseling and an interest-free loan -- has some problems.

I wrote about the role credit unions could play in short-circuiting predatory lending before, and given the history of the cooperative movement, I would think it would have a strong role in this fight.

The Wisconsin program isn't without criticism; despite the need, the interest rate is still shockingly high: the equivalent of 252% compared to 572% with the storefronts. I can't help but think there should be an eighth-century prophet saying something about it, except that the sad thing is that (for some) 252% really is an improvement.

So two cheers for the credit union and Goodwill, and perhaps half a prayer to be shared for those drowning in debt.

The Real World: Unitarian Universalist edition

After the strong response to my words about debt -- and thank you all for replying -- I was going to write about the logjam which is ministerial formation in the Unitarian Universalist Association

If you can pay for school, you might not get the needed internship. If you get fellowship, you might never get a pastorate or ministerial position. If you get a pastorate or position, it might not pay a living wage or offer adequate benefits. In case you wonder why I work for a D.C. nonprofit.

I was going to go into some detail. But David Soliday (Facilitating Paradox) today put it into rather poignant, personal detail.

A new place with my debt

Like a lot of ministers, I borrowed a lot of money to get my Master of Divinity degree and early on served churches that didn't let me pay it down. And should I even mention paying for a car engine rebuilt with a credit card or living without medical insurance? I know a lot of you understand this implicitly, ordained or not.

Well, in recent years I've hammered away at my credit cards (plural), loan against my life insurance and student debt. Now I'm down to just the student debt.

  1. I know to within a few dollars what I owe on it.
  2. I pay about four times the minimum payment on it each month (or really, twice as much each paycheck.)
  3. It will be retired within the year, well before my goal of my fortieth birthday.

But something happened today that let me know I've made peace with my debt and have my eyes on a new target, namely co-home ownership.

The event? I was watching a game show and the host asked the finalist what he would do if he won the big prize of $5,000. For the first time, I did not fill in the answer "Pay off my debt."

That's all. If you have something to add about your feelings about debt, feel free to comment. For this post, you may be anonymous as long as you leave a legitimate email address and -- as usual -- I'll keep your identity private.

Debtors have rights: here are a few

At my seminary, nobody asked your zodiac sign, but did inquire if you were a trespasser or a debtor: a reference to which version of the Lord's Prayer one commonly uses.

I think most Universalists and Unitarians historically were trespassers but almost any seminarian leaving school today will be a debtor too. Really, anyone seeking higher education faces debt and in sum, the United States has become a nation of debtors.

There are lots of problems with this situation, not the least of which is energy and resources going to manage and resolve debt cannot be used for loftier goals. How can you expect good, willing people to take lower-waged non-profit jobs when they have huge amount of debt on top of their living expenses. This goes for churches, too. Churches, especially.

I was on-course to resolve all of my personal and educational debt by age 40 when I lost my last Day Job and couldn't write those checks all those zeros. Perhaps 41 now. Or 42. (And then a mortgage . . . .  ?)

But my creditors are quite pleasant to work with. Many aren't and aren't past using illegal methods to shake you up and down for your outstanding debt. People have been driven to suicide over this. But you have rights; use them and tell others about them.

See Frugal for Life: "Know Your Rights as a Debtor."

With this blog post, I'm adding a new category, Debt.

The reality of debt

There's an article in the Village Voice that's getting links from bloggers all over. Thanks to My Irony, on whose blog I first saw it.

If you're under 40, this is probably your life (not that we talk much about it) and if you're over 40, you need to know what's going on. This certainly sums up my financial reality.

Also, ask yourself this: is this the last generation that can afford graduate degree educated clergy? And how can this issue (as a professional matter, not just a here-today, gone-tomorrow social justice matter) get on radar of the UUA?

Read this.

The Ambition Tax, by Brendan I. Koerner
Why America's young are being crushed by debt and why no one seems to care