October 22, 2010

Whoever Said "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems"... Was Probably Broke & Bitter

Dear Mom,

I realize that slow and steady isn't the ideal blogging pace, and that my nickname should be 'turtle' rather than my little green Toyota Echo parked in the driveway. My old high school cheering coach once told me that I don't speak much, but when I do, it's always something worth listening to. Let's hope this is a similar scenario.

Before I continue, yes, I know what you're thinking... YOU?! Not talk a lot?! I can practically hear you, Dad, Tom, John, and Gisele laughing from here. But I know you all secretly love my long-winded, overly-detailed, never-ending stories.

Anyway! Back to my point...

Over the past week or two of my absence, I have been preparing for a new chapter in my life; something that I will be financially responsible for for the next 18+ years. That’s right... I'm having a baby: her name is College Loans, and she's due in a week.

Oh I'm bad, I know. Feel free to take a few moments to compose yourself.

I am in fact entering the dreadful land of College Loan Repayment. All aspects of college loans have been absolutely terrible: taking them out, getting them on time, using them up too fast, talking to the phone robot for 20 minutes before I can hit '0' to speak to an actual human being, and now, preparing to pay them off. I envy anyone who does not have my $65,000 worth of debt (and don't forget about the $30,000+ interest that will accrue over time as a nice little bonus!).

But Sam, didn't you go to school in state? Oh, I most certainly did! I guess that's what you get when your mom dies when you're 19- absolutely nothing. I lost all my financial aid once your life insurance showed up in Dad's yearly income the following semester. Did anyone take a minute to question if that money went towards your casket? Your funeral? The burial? Your headstone? What about the stack of hospital bills that kept coming to pay for the previous chemo treatments, surgeries, and frequent emergency room visits?

I was told I could repeal the decision made by those sweethearts who determine financial aid packages, but that it probably wouldn't get me far because that added income made it seem like Dad makes 'too much money'. I completely understand that, but last I checked it was ME enrolled in college, not my dad. It would make perfect sense if he were actually paying for me to go to school. However, he's trying to teach me a little something called financial responsibility, and unfortunately these love little penny pinchers are making it a tad difficult for me to be thankful for that at the moment.

It’s safe to say that life was much less hectic when you were filling out my FAFSA forms every year and calling the school and loan companies to get things squared away for me each semester. I was spoiled rotten! And all those hours I later spent trying to figure it out by myself after you passed away was just one of the many wake up calls reminding me of how lucky I once was.

I know how much you loved taking care of me. I was (and still am) your little girl! But if I could turn back the clock, I would have been more independent. Not emotionally, because our endless phone calls and girl talks were the highlight of my daily routine. But I would have wanted to be more independent financially. Not necessarily paying for things on my own, since that's nearly impossible at 14, but just being involved in the every day financial process at home. I think all of us could have benefited from that. You enjoyed taking care of the check books, bill payments, and all the other household and business paperwork. You were organized, dependable, and methodical with your assorted notebooks and folders (which, by the way, made it easy for me to find the ‘Sami’s Car Payment’ folder the following January to tell Dad you somehow started paying off my car for me over the past few years, and now it was his turn… woops!) And it’s completely fine that you wanted to be in charge of that stuff-- afterall, you were the parent!-- but I wish you would have at least taught me how to do it too. I mean, I learned how to write a check when I was in like 4th grade, but I wish I would have learned other things from you.

Maybe we could have sat down together, put the phone on speakerphone, and had me call to set up a loan—that way you were still there for guidance, but I was the one talking (we could have even started with baby steps and just had me order a pizza for crying out loud. I developed a weird nervousness about calling companies for things, so I always relied on you to do it!). Or we could have talked about budgets together once I started working at Alex Pizza in high school. Clearly, that would have not been high on my priority list, but I honestly wonder now if I thought money literally did grow on trees since I had zero savings when I went to college.

I’m not trying to knock your parenting skills in the finance department in even the least bit. It’s easy to look back on everything now and pick it apart. There are a lot of things we would have done differently if we didn’t think you’d be around to help me. You were a great mom—the best mom. And you obviously did something right because I at least have the ability and drive to figure things out for myself after a valid attempt or two. And that’s just what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks with my college loans.

I have been calling each company multiple times to set a better payment plan that doesn’t involve me sleeping in a cardboard box for the next 15-25 years of my life and living off saltines and puddle water. Four pages of loan questions, an astonishing excel spreadsheet, and three color-coded folders later—I have finalized my repayment schedule. Hooray! I guess in the days that I’m not blogging, I’m spending my time becoming a little more like you, and that sounds pretty good to me.

Love you,

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