Join 3,366 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I'm in huge debt and have no idea what to do with my life.
October 5, 2009 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Just graduated from a top business school in the United States (H/S/W/K/M, etc.). I am $130k in debt, with payments of $1200 per month staring at me from 6 months away. I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life. Help!

I was an entrepreneur, then went to business school because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next but thought the credential would be helpful. I hated b-school, but kept at it. Now I'm in crazy debt, and not sure what I want to do. I HATE corporate environments. I love:

- small collegial companies
- startups
- the idea of finance, but not the culture
- microfinance
- hippie, do-gooder stuff
- international travel
- product design
- writing
- product management is okay
- liberal cities (Portland, Seattle, SF, Boston, Amsterdam, London, etc.)

My b-school has a a loan forgiveness program if I choose to work at a nonprofit. They'll pay the minimum on my loans, so in TEN years (!) I'll be free.

My resume: short stints at a consulting firm, an investment bank, and a technology company, some entrepreneurial stuff. Used to work as a model/entertainer. Also, some paid photography gigs. I didn't like consulting or finance: too corporate, too hierarchical. The technology company was okay.

I'm in my mid- to late-30s. Single. Female. Wanting to find a partner and have a family, so no desire to work at a 80-100/hour week job to pay off my debts quickly. Would love to live and work internationally. I was born abroad and have EU/US citizenship.

Prone to depression and anxiety and on meds. Don't like high stress environments, but smart enough to fake it a lot of the time and have things turn out okay.

I feel so stupid for putting myself into this situation. This may be the worst mistake of my life. What should I do?

Help me figure out what to do with my life!
posted by alternateuniverse to Work & Money (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
TBH, you're probably at your best trying to find /any/ job right now -- that task'll be consuming enough to take your mind off anything else. Don't regret your decision to go back to school: it's made. Instead, focus on coming up with the best way to pay $1200/mo. extra, wherever and whatever that means. Once you're there, reassess/reevaluate, and look for a way toward your desirable career path. Because no matter how unpleasant a corporate environment is, or an 80 hour workweek sounds, it's loads and loads better than being bankrupt and couch-surfing.

Good luck. (I've been there).
posted by mr. remy at 6:22 AM on October 5, 2009


desirable = desired, natch
posted by mr. remy at 6:23 AM on October 5, 2009


What about non-profit consulting jobs, like New Profit (funded in part by Monitor) or Bridgespan (funded by Bain), both of which are based in Boston?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Wanting to find a partner and have a family, so no desire to work at a 80-100/hour week job to pay off my debts quickly. Would love to live and work internationally. I was born abroad and have EU/US citizenship."


Well, as a banker by profession I agree the culture of finance sucks but you can't beat the money. If you could put up with it for four or five years, you more than likely could pay off that loan completely, especially so if you find the right gig.

My last two banking jobs I was saving well between 80% to 90% of each paycheque. I was on the road for three weeks out of each month sometimes, and its pretty damn hard to spend money on yourself if you're on full expenses from your employer.

You mention "short stints" at banking and consulting. Were these long enough to credibly claim experience in each field?

The "US educated but globally mobile" cachet goes far in certain circles. And not all finance is corporate or hierarchal; you'd just have to find an appropriate niche.

If you could get back in I'd suggest banking over consulting. And look at it this way - you must have seriously applied yourself to get into then through a top B-School (by the way, congrats!); that shows you're goal oriented and I'd suggest putting off ideas of a personal life until you retire the debt.

Five years at the right gig could help not only eliminate your educational debt, but also build a pool of capital that would let you do whatever the hell you'd like to do with the rest of your life.

Myself, I spent well over twenty years in banking and I'll be perfectly honest here - while I loved the intellectual challenge of the work, well I said here I'm only in it for the money.
posted by Mutant at 6:45 AM on October 5, 2009


Presumably Wharton (Penn), Kellogg (Northwestern), and Sloan (MIT), although "M" could also be for Michigan.
posted by MattD at 6:46 AM on October 5, 2009


That's a chunk o change you owe there, but the world's your gawdamn'd oyster with the advantages you have.

Seriously, take an inventory. Your credentials, experience, and looks position you to pretty much do whatever the hell you want. Perhaps even find an occupation that makes you happy.

Stay positive. Quit whining. I suspect in a year or so your business card will say "rockstar" directly under your name where most other schlubs would have "vice president of blaah blaah blaah"
posted by freq at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2009


My b-school has a a loan forgiveness program if I choose to work at a nonprofit. They'll pay the minimum on my loans, so in TEN years (!) I'll be free.

You mention this but don't elaborate. Is working at a nonprofit something you wouldn't mind doing? It sounds like the best idea given the policy of your university. I'm sorry if I misunderstood, but you'd basically have no payments to make if you worked for a non-profit? If so, that's like getting paid a free $1200 a month for the next 10 years! (in terms of what you wouldn't have to pay)

If I got the right idea, then a non-profit could be for you! The term has a bit of a bad image, IMHO, but there are some crazy opportunities in non-profits and some really exciting things going on if the business section of The Sunday Times is anything to go by!
posted by wackybrit at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2009


(I can only pick out Harvard and Stanford out of those two).

I'd guess the next two are Wharton, Kellog, not sure about 'm'

posted by atrazine at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2009


Wharton (Penn), Kellogg (Northwestern), and Sloan (MIT), although "M" could also be for Michigan.

Thanks. I was starting to really wonder.
posted by anniecat at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2009


You say you hated the business school--was it the atmosphere? Academia in general? Your classmates?

If it was just that particular school and you really did enjoy 'the idea of finance', maybe you should consider teaching/researching. I'm not sure about in the States, but in the UK, entrepreneurship is a hot topic, academically speaking. If you already have past experience, that would definitely be a plus.

Academia isn't for everyone, but it does have its pluses, particularly: time for extensive writing, international travel, potential for a bit more of a hippy lifestyle, and it has the added bonus of a 'do-good' feeling if you're teaching and/or improving the way people do business.
posted by brambory at 8:04 AM on October 5, 2009


You're still probably pretty young, and you have time to take the long view of the matter.

Right now, you've got debt. It's a problem that you need to solve. Trying to tackle this in an emotionless think-like-a-guy way is the way to go here.

If you go out and get a job in banking or finance, you can be assured that you won't like it. But, it's the fastest way to get out from under the debt. Basically, look at it this way - the better you get paid, the faster you can pay off the loan, and then start thinking about what you *really* want to do. And, remember to pay more than the minimum with each payment. As much as you can stand. A typical strategy is to make two payments at a time.

And, since this is, philosophically, a "prison sentence" scenario, I can't stress enough that you should get a job ASAP, and pay off as much capital as you can over the next 6 months in order to reduce your loan without paying interest. This will buy you SO much time, you won't really believe it unless you do all the math. It's like early parole.

Seriously, if you can do high finance and get a 6-digit salary, it's very possible for you to pay off that whole thing in a matter of, say, 3 years. After that, you're free to just walk out and do whatever you want. Imagine the look on your co-workers' faces when you tell them that you're leaving the firm for a granola-crunchy NGO in Seattle or something. Work toward that day.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 8:45 AM on October 5, 2009


I feel so stupid for putting myself into this situation. This may be the worst mistake of my life. What should I do?

This is depression and/or anxiety talking. You have a degree from an amazing business school, and if you get a non-profit job your school will pay off your loans for you. You say "ten years" like it's a horrendously long amount of time but consider that you get 3 good jobs and stay in each one for 3-4 years and you're done. Unlike a lot of people, you have the credentials and ability to really gun for a good job at a prestigious non-profit.

Or look at McKinsey, I guess.
posted by kathrineg at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2009


Idealist.org
posted by Roach at 12:44 PM on October 5, 2009


"Wanting to find a partner and have a family, so no desire to work at a 80-100/hour week job to pay off my debts quickly."

...

"My b-school has a a loan forgiveness program if I choose to work at a nonprofit. They'll pay the minimum on my loans, so in TEN years (!) I'll be free."

Take the nonprofit route. Otherwise any kind of job that would pay enough to pay your loan payments and still leave enough leftover to support a family is going to have you working crazy hours.

IIRC, the federal loan forgiveness program also includes government and education jobs, not sure if your school is the same way.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:37 PM on October 5, 2009


Start researching.

If you like microfinance, check out Kiva, Accion, Unitus, among many others.

If you like social entrepreneurship (a combo of your love for startups and do-gooder hippie stuff), check out Ashoka, Acumen Fund, Endeavor, or any of the organizations featured in Fast Company's annual article of the best social entrepreneurs.

If you like private sector startups, look into the thousands of startups in Silicon Valley.

If you like product design, look into companies like Ideo.

Most of these companies are headquartered in the liberal cities you like (or at least DC and NY).

You have responsibility for your life - start making the changes you need to in order to get the life you want to live.
posted by cranberryskies at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2009


« Older I saw this thing on a recent t...   |  [Book/Story-filter] Trying to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.