Ex, money

The latest, lowdown methods of grifting from friends and relatives…

Well, here we are, folks… the last week before Christmas. I’m amazed by how quickly the year has flown by. I’ve probably helped a few retailers make their sales goals this year. Last night, our neighbor hosted an outdoor gathering in her driveway, passing out Gluhwein for people in our cul-de-sac. It was really fun, except Arran threw a fit because he’s become so averse to being separated from us, even if we’re just outside the house.

As we were enjoying hot mulled wine, I realized that I hate my five year old parka. I’d been toying with the idea of buying a new one, but the one I liked was very expensive. I bought my current parka from Eddie Bauer some years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart, and I needed it more. I never bothered to replace it, because it doesn’t often get that cold up here. This past week has been an exception. So, after getting pretty cold last night, we said goodnight to our neighbors and went into our house, where I promptly ordered a new parka from Woolrich. Woolrich used to be an American company, but it got sold a few years ago. Now, most of its physical stores are in Europe, and the US only has a few. I found a coat that, for me, was very expensive, but wasn’t anywhere near the most expensive parka on the site.

I felt a slight twinge as I put in my order, as it wasn’t so long ago that we were climbing out of what seemed to be insurmountable debt. But then I realized that I currently have plenty of money to pay the credit card bill. In fact, even if I’d chosen the most expensive parka on the site, I’d have more than enough money to pay for it. And it’s time I got a new coat. Bill really needs one, too. Maybe after Christmas, he’ll pull the trigger. I think he’s been wearing his coat for about ten years.

We’re still feeling the effects of having once been “poor”. When Bill and I first got married, we had little money. He was recovering from divorcing Ex, and the horrifying financial situations that resulted from that marriage. I was just out of graduate school, for which I’d taken out federal student loans. We both also had credit card debt, and Bill had child support to pay. Thankfully, our cars were mostly paid for. Still, there were months when we had just a few dollars in the bank before payday. I remember when Bill used to freak out when we’d spend $100 at the grocery store. And now, he doesn’t bat an eye when I spend $900 on a new coat.

Bill and I have worked very hard and diligently to secure our finances. From 2007 until 2014, we gradually chipped away from our debts. Then we moved to Germany, lived in a relatively inexpensive house, and Bill started getting military retirement pay, along with a salary. We knocked out our debts as quickly as possible. When we moved to Germany, I still owed about $40,000 on my student loans (originally about $57,000 for all three degrees), in spite of paying more than the minimum for years. But for the four years we lived in Stuttgart, we kept throwing money at that debt until it was finally gone, nine years ahead of time. I was shocked we were able to do that. I certainly wasn’t expecting it when we moved here.

We both know that the future is uncertain, and even though we’re now in a good place, there could be “rainy days” ahead. So I squirrel away money every month, and make a concerted effort to pay off debt as soon as possible. It’s a GREAT feeling to no longer owe anyone… especially Nelnet, the student loan servicer that bought my loans just a few months before I finished paying them off.

Yesterday, it became very obvious, yet again, that I am very different from Ex. I have an eye toward the future. Ex, on the other hand, lives in the present. And while I’m not sure exactly what is going on with her right now, I strongly suspect that she’s about to be a “free agent” again. Why do I suspect this? First off, she’s been making comments about her marriage on Twitter. She’s tweeted a couple of quips to the actors on The Outlander on how their characters’ examples could “save” her marriage. Secondly, she approached Bill’s stepmother for financial help, asked her to give her items that she might want to “pass down”, and even suggested that she move in with her in New Hampshire. We know that Ex has “hosted” other seniors in her house– her late mother (whom she apparently despised) and #3’s mother have both lived with her. Bill’s stepmom owns a home and has retirement income. Ex would no doubt love to get her hands on that money/equity. And now, something new has come to light…

Yesterday, Bill heard from his younger daughter, who told him that older daughter has now enrolled in graduate school. Older daughter is 31 years old and still lives with Ex. She doesn’t have a job, but spends her time taking care of her severely autistic younger brother. Ex doesn’t have a job, either, and in a recent crowdfunding plea, mentioned that she lives in a “one paycheck” household. It’s no doubt earned by #3, who gets paid by the hour.

Now… I happen to know that student loans can be a temporary lifesaver in terms of living expenses. When I was a graduate student, I got federal loans. I was also a graduate assistant for all but one semester of my time in school. Being a G.A. drastically knocked my tuition costs down, which allowed me to pay rent and other bills with my loans. I also had a part time job, and got paid a very small stipend for being a G.A. It was a Godsend to have that assistantship. If I hadn’t had it, I don’t know how I would have survived, since I was an out of state student. I probably would have had to become a South Carolina resident. I also would have needed private loans.

Older daughter went to a private college for her bachelor’s degree. Younger daughter has told us that both she and older daughter went to college, and Ex would siphon the extra money from their student loans into the household… and her many impulses to buy junk on the Internet, food that would rot in the fridge, or anything else that struck her fancy and might “fill the void”. Younger daughter eventually dropped out of college and paid back her loans. Older daughter, on the other hand, seems to be following her mother’s lead.

The program older daughter is pursuing actually sounds very interesting. I don’t know how employable she’ll be at the end of it, or even if she intends to find employment. Ex supposedly got a graduate degree, but she doesn’t use it. She has claimed that her loans have been “paid off”. My guess is that she used money from her children’s loans to take care of that debt, if, in fact, she’s being truthful about paying off her loans. We also happen to know that Ex doesn’t have a great record of paying off debts. She has declared bankruptcy more than once.

Last night, Bill looked up the program older daughter is studying. We don’t know which school she’s attending, but the one closest to where she lives is at a private university, takes about three years to complete, and costs about $75,000 (total, not per year). But it does offer a “low residency” option, which means she can do a lot of it online, which will suit Ex just fine. Ex doesn’t care if older daughter actually finishes the degree, after all. She just wants the influx of loan money to keep her going. And she definitely needs older daughter around to take care of Ex’s son… and do the housework. Younger daughter has said that her older sister struggles in school. She has dyslexia, doesn’t drive much, and has other challenges that make school difficult for her. So there’s a good chance that this stab at higher education may do nothing more than plunge her further into debt.

Now… none of this is any of my business. And, for all I know, this could turn out to be a great thing for older daughter. Maybe she’ll meet someone special in school… either a love interest, or a mentor who can help her escape Ex’s clutches. Maybe she’ll succeed beyond her wildest dreams. She legitimately is a very talented artist, and this graduate program would use those talents. But… I have my doubts about this plan, and since I’m not LDS, I don’t subscribe to the “doubt your doubts” mindset. Common sense is telling me that this graduate school plan is likely going to explode in their faces. Or, it will not be so good for older daughter, anyway… since the loans it will take to pay for school will be in her name, not Ex’s. Student loans, by and large, can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.

I was fortunate in that all of my loans were Stafford or Perkins. When I got out of school in 2002, I took advantage of a very low fixed interest rate of about 3% and consolidated all of my loans at that rate. I see that currently, Stafford loans for graduate students is at 6.54%. I’m pretty sure older daughter still has loans to repay, although COVID has stalled payments and Joe Biden has been trying to give students a break. She wouldn’t have to pay on any government loans when she’s in school, although I have no idea if she took out any private loans to fund her undergrad education. I know from personal experience that even with a low interest rate, paying back big loans is onerous. And even if she just gets government loans, it’s going to be hard to retire that debt.

Now that I think about it… I kind of wonder if Ex has taken out life insurance on anyone in her sphere… Seriously, I wouldn’t put it past her. Well, it’s not my problem. But it’s sure sad to observe. I hope it works out for older daughter. And I wish Ex would get the karma she so richly deserves.

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Biden, Ex, money

Interesting reactions to Joe Biden’s controversial decision to forgive student loan debt…

I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced that many borrowers with federal student loans will be forgiven $10,000 of their debt. Those who borrowed and also got Pell Grants qualify for an additional $10,000 of forgiveness. This applies to anyone earning less than $125,000 per year, or married couples jointly filing tax returns earning less than $250,000. Loans after June 30, 2022 aren’t eligible.

Although I won’t be personally affected by this plan, I think it’s a good idea. Bill and I paid off my student loans in 2018, nine years early. But we were able to do that because we’ve been extraordinarily fortunate. Living in Germany has been very good for us in most ways, but especially financially. We don’t have children or elderly relatives to support, and we don’t own a home. Back in 2007, when Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary bump in pay, I made paying off my loans a priority, so we wouldn’t be burdened with them as we aged.

I was also very lucky in that in 2002, just after I graduated from the University of South Carolina with dual master’s degrees, I was able to take advantage of a very low interest rate that probably isn’t available anymore (although I haven’t checked). I consolidated my loans and locked in that rate (3.75), and that really helped me a lot. I remember thinking the $57,000 in Stafford Loans I owed would never get paid off– but I was able to do it, little by little. Now I realize that I actually got a bargain. Some people borrow that much for just one degree. I managed to get three.

Even though we managed to pay off my loans in full, I have a lot of empathy for today’s borrowers. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed since I was last in school. At the same time, salaries have stayed pretty stagnant. Then we had the pandemic, which caused a great deal of chaos for people in the workforce. Bill and I were responsible, and we did make paying the student loans off a focal point. But that’s only because we could. Not everyone has that choice. And when you’re working your ass off for employers who don’t necessarily value you with decent pay, it can feel like you’re on a hamster wheel. I know how it is. I was there myself when I was single.

It seems like Mr. Biden can’t do anything to please some people. I’ve noticed many folks whining about this new plan to help borrowers. So many folks think it’s unfair to forgive debt, especially if they’ve paid off their loans. I’ve seen a lot of people who are shocked that people earning up to $125,000 will qualify. Do those people understand that some areas of the country have a much lower standard of living than others do? Someone making $125,000 may seem “wealthy” in rural Kentucky or Arkansas, but they would be far from wealthy in California, New York, or parts of Virginia. I’m also willing to bet that a lot of Republicans will gladly take advantage of this plan, even as they complain about Biden.

I know it’s normal for people to complain when their preferred politician isn’t in office. The level of contempt some people have for Joe Biden is pretty sickening. I don’t understand it. I mean, I get that he’s not the most exciting we’ve ever had. He inherited quite a mess, though. I don’t remember any other incoming president facing the level of chaos Mr. Biden did in January 2021. Moreover, Donald Trump has literally done things that are CRIMINAL. People still think he should be in charge, in spite of his obvious propensity to lie, steal, cheat, and molest. I don’t understand why more Americans don’t want a law abiding, decent, responsible person in the White House. But try to ask some people about this, and they will accuse you of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and being a “hater”. I wouldn’t “hate” Trump if he didn’t act like he’s above the law and make the United States a laughing stock around the world.

Count me among those who think Mr. Biden has done remarkably well, under the unusual circumstances he’s faced. I don’t know if he’ll make it to a second term, but I will vote for him again if anyone like Trump or De Santis is running for president in 2024. I do think it would be good if he bowed out of a second term, mainly because he is so elderly and being POTUS has got to take a severe toll on him. I would like to see a younger person run for the Democrats. But I would take him ANY DAY over Trump, simply because he’s humane and decent, and he doesn’t steal classified documents, constantly golf, mug for the camera, or post on social media, nor does he brag about grabbing women by the pussy. Anything good Trump did for the United States was done at someone else’s expense. He is a classic narcissist, and they are never good for anyone but themselves.

Speaking of narcissists, I did take a peek at Twitter and noticed that Ex was crowing about this news. She claims her loans are paid off, but this will “help” her children. I couldn’t help but shake my head, because I know the reality behind her comments. Below is how she responded to one person who was lamenting about student loans:

That’s horrible! It’s like loan sharks just like another poster said. My student loans are no longer owed but my husband and several of my children have student loan debt and this will help our family tremendously! The only thing I’m worried about is my daughter in college now!

Ex forced Bill’s daughters to drop out of high school, get GEDs, enroll in college, and take out student loans, of which she helped herself to the excess after tuition was paid. The loans were taken out in her daughters’ names, which means that they alone were responsible for paying them off, even though it was Ex who was using the money. Younger daughter explained all of this to us, and told us that she had managed to pay off the debt, even though she doesn’t have a degree to show for it.

I also know that Ex has declared bankruptcy several times, including one time when she and Bill were married. Besides the bankruptcy, there was also a foreclosure. But there’s ol’ Ex, acting like she’s fiscally responsible. I don’t understand why she feels the need to lie to strangers on Twitter, but I guess it’s just a facet of her “extra” personality. When I met Bill, his credit rating was abysmal, and he was carrying credit cards with loan shark level interest rates. He now has an excellent credit rating, but that didn’t come without significant hard work and several long years of being very diligent about our finances. The end result is that we’ve both managed to recover from the financial disasters she wrought.

I probably shouldn’t pay any attention to her… but she is genuinely fascinating. If she’s out there in the wild, you know there are a lot of others like her. So many people feel like they have to fake it until they make it, and present a false self to everyone.

I’m glad that Joe Biden is doing something that will help middle class student loan borrowers. I know that some people don’t think this measure is enough, while some are resentful that they paid off their loans and won’t be benefiting. I, for one, think this is a good decision. What I think would be even better is if the cost of attending college went down significantly, as alternatives to college are also offered to those who would fare better learning a trade.

One thing I think Germany does right is offering higher education to those who are most likely to succeed, while also offering people the chance to learn skills or trades. Not everyone is cut out for academics, and not everyone needs a college degree to succeed. I am very grateful I had the chance to go to college and graduate school, and obviously, I could handle the work. But I often feel badly about the fact that I went to school and use my education, mostly, for this blog and entertaining Bill. It seems like a waste… even though I know that when I started graduate school, I had no plans to marry anyone. I was sure I was going to be an old maid. It’s funny how life changes just when you least expect it.

For those who wonder how I managed to pay off my loans… I’m going to offer my best tips. It may not work for you, but this is what worked for me. It’s pretty simple, actually. I started by paying an extra $20 per month on my minimum payment. At first, that extra money didn’t make a big dent, but it did help pay off interest faster, which led to the principal finally going down on a steady basis instead of staying the same. Always remember that if you’re paying the minimum, you won’t get anywhere with any expediency. That minimum will just pay for interest, and you want to work on the principal, which will also lower the amount of interest you get charged.

As time went on, I continued to add to the extra amount I paid each month. Maybe six months after I started paying an extra $20, I bumped the extra amount to $50. Then I went to $100 extra, and watched with delight as the principal diminished. I started getting letters from my lender, letting me know that I was paid ahead and didn’t need to keep paying extra. I ignored those letters and paid more and more, until I had finally whittled down my principal to about $2000. At that point, we had the money to just pay off the last of the loan, so that’s what I did. Boy, was that a good feeling! Again… we accomplished this nine years ahead of time! I’ve successfully used the same technique on car loans and paid them off ahead of time, saving money on interest and ridding myself of stress and headaches caused by debt.

It may initially seem very difficult to part with that extra $10 or $20 when it feels like you can’t keep ahead of your bills. But, if you’re buying $4 coffees or other little luxuries, you probably can afford to pay a little extra on your loans. It won’t seem to make a difference at first, but as time goes by, you will find that the little bit adds up, and you will soon have a cushion that will make paying off the debt more comfortable and less stressful. Of course, you do have to keep at it– consistently pay a little extra, and consider adding to the amount extra over time. That takes discipline, diligence, and determination. But if you set your mind to it, you will find that it really pays off in the long run. Just my one little pearl of advice to anyone who reads this.

Well, it’s time to practice guitar… got to do my Thursday vacuuming, too. It’s another hot day, and our poor backyard is just parched. I am praying for some rain.

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