Help me pry open my oyster, please.
August 16, 2012 6:19 AM   Subscribe

How should I approach planning for my new goals?

I'm basically 30. I have an advanced degree that I use, but I am woefully underpaid for some good reasons. I have no savings, no retirement, shitty health insurance a parent is good enough to purchase for me and I drive a shitty car with no power steering because I can't afford to fix it. I have $.97 in my bank account. It's been like this for years and I recently accepted it's not going to change by doing what I've been doing in the same way I've been doing it.

So I set a new goal: find a better job anywhere and get there. I am asking you for the best way to game plan this. The world is my oyster. Here are the parameters:

Field: Law
Experience: 2 years, general practice
Home base: Midwest
Will go: Anywhere
When: My lease expires in June

Here's what I have to work with:

Income: $2070 a month
Expenses: $1965 a month
(you read that right)

My questions are time and finance related.

Time-wise, how should I approach applying to jobs out-of-state? I will likely have to sit for another bar exam (probably the July after I move, if I get an offer), which I consider an investment if there's a real job waiting at the other end. When should I start sending resumes out of state so that they will be seriously considered?

Finance-wise, what the hell do I do? I can't move on $450 next spring (and I can only save that if my tire doesn't explode). I'm looking for a second job and for other local jobs as an attorney, but pickings are slim. Should I keep snowballing my consumer debt so that my cards are available to support a move? Should I save aggressively? Should I consolidate my debt?

Did you do something like this? If so, how so? Thanks.
posted by mibo to Work & Money (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, if at all possible, get a second job. You can't live this close to the edge.

Secondly, don't consider the lease your deadline. You can break that mo-fo. Just pay a penalty. If you're cool with your landlord, work something out with him or her.

Have you considered Paralegal work? Even as a temp, you'd be in a better position than a shitty attorney job. Paralegals also don't have to pass a state bar.

How about checking out some Paralegal jobs on line? I went on LinkedIn and found a butt-load of them. I'm SURE they pay better than what you're making now.

Leave your JD off the resume if you think it would help. Then, once you've got a Paralegal job, and a foot in the door of a large firm, take your time with the new state bar, and when you've passed it, then you can start applying for attorney positions.

This is a shitty time to be a lawyer, so use the skills and knowledge and be something kind of like a lawyer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

At this point, your cushion is non-existent, so the first thing to do is get some more funds. A second job will do that. Can you also consolidate any of your debts? Even if you're just leapfrogging credit so that you can get lower payments and/or lower interest rates, that's going to help you immensely.

Also...what other ways can you get some money/lower some debt? What's your living situation? Can you get a temporary roommate (someone you know who wants to pitch in for a spot on the couch or something) or sell some stuff, or whatever? Just getting some money into the bank is going to help a lot.

Paying off debt makes great financial sense, but if you don't have anything to fall back on (be it credit or, better, cash), one small disaster is going to put you in jeopardy.
posted by xingcat at 6:34 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try to look for jobs in places where you don't need a car to get around, for starters. That will save you money on either car payments or repairs (or both), not to mention gas. That money can be put into savings until you've got a small cushion underneath you, then used to take over your health insurance.

Take a hard look at your budget and cut out everything you can - which may not be easy. Monthy payments add up with surprising speed though. What does your cell phone plan look like? Are you buying food you end up throwing away? Do you have monthly subscriptions you could get rid of? Do you really need 900+ channels? You get the idea.

That money saved on those extra things can be used to start paying off whatever debt you might have. However, while paying off your debt is important, make sure you have some savings first. Save up enough money so that if you got fired tomorrow you would have enough money to live extra-frugally for about two months.

I know nothing about jobs in your field whatsoever, but you may want to consider getting a part time second job and having the paychecks from that job forwarded directly into a savings account that you can't touch.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:07 AM on August 16, 2012

How is your credit? If you have a good score, it may be worth it to take out a small loan at a low (LOW!) interest rate so that you can move to a new city (do get yourself to a bigger city). Or maybe the nice parent would be willing to offer this service to you?

You can double your income in the right city while keeping your expenses about the same, I'd wager. Paying off a small getting started loan would not be hard, and job hunting is more successful when you are able to skip on over to the interviews easily.
posted by skrozidile at 8:11 AM on August 16, 2012

It's okay to take a couple of months off the debt snowball to get yourself out of a bad situation. If you lay out your budget, we might be able to help you find savings in specific areas.
posted by chaiminda at 8:29 AM on August 16, 2012

Good idea chaiminda, here's my budget:

Rent: $575
Gas: $100 (minimum, I usually depend on mileage money throughout the month)
Gas & electric: $110 (this month)
Car payment: $190
Car insurance: $160
Federal student loan: $372
Private student loan: $124
Maxed credit card 1: $90 - 100
Maxed credit card 2: $40
Medical bill 1: $35 (two months left)
Medical bill 2: $25 (three months left)
Medications: $26
Food: $100

My cell phone is through work. I don't have cable or even internet at home. When I eat out, it's scrounging for change to spend on the dollar menu and it's rare.
posted by mibo at 12:31 PM on August 16, 2012

Can you go on Income Based Repayment for your federal student loan? I just did this and it would probably lower your payment a bit. It's a shockingly hassle-free process, too. I get that you want to get everything paid off ASAP, which is smart, but with no savings whatsoever you are just going to end up with more CC debt in an emergency, and that will probably have a lot higher interest rate. Sorry if this is something you've already thought out, but it's your biggest expense and deferment or reduction of payments could help.
posted by chaiminda at 5:30 PM on August 16, 2012

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