Give a kind bit of advice to a young lady adrift in the sea of life.
December 26, 2013 7:22 AM   Subscribe

My brain is swirling with options and I just need kind advice. I have no shoulder on which I may settle my weight for a moment's rest. I beg your listening ear!Should I sit tight and save or make a move to take pressure off my vehicle? It needs to last me a few years.... How can I escape the white trash wastes I have been condemned to?

Help me figure out what I should do.

I am currently living at home with my parents. I work two jobs. My full time job is as a legal assistant at a law firm in a town 47 miles away and it takes me roughly 45 minutes to get there. I make 28k and have health insurance and dental/vision. My second job is as a part-time domestic violence counselor. I work weekends primarily, but have started working more nights during the weeks as well. I make about $10 an hour there and it is about 18 miles away from home and a 20 minute drive. Last February I had to replace my car. It now has 53k miles on it and I bought it with 30k on it. I have a small loan with a payment of a little over $100 a month, but I’ve been paying ahead. I have about $5k left on it.

I don’t go out hardly at all. I go to work and I go home. I recently signed up for a fitness club membership for $25 a month, it was a deal through my insurance. I have a $750 car insurance payment every 6 months, a yearly life insurance payment of $350, $50 payment on a phone bill every month and then of course cost of gas and upkeep on my vehicle. I’ve been putting away a little over half of my income every month into an online savings account. I was taking a class to finish my degree (paid for on my own from day one. I have 3 classes to go but can’t seem to finish. Considering taking out a small loan to pay for those and get the damn BA but that’s another story.) so some money went to paying tuition. I also buy groceries and such at home instead of paying rent, but not on any sort of schedule. Just sort of do what needs to be done as it needs to be done. I’ve got 6k to my name in checking/savings accounts at the moment.

Here’s the kicker. I am miserable for the most part. I have always had very high standards for myself and been an over-achiever. I am highly curious, a quick learner, and a hard worker. I have killed myself the last seven years working and trying to go to school. I have been on antidepressants since I was a sophomore in high school. I won tons of scholarships and awards at one time, but the continued pressure and the cutting, hostile environment at home has worn me down. I want to move on and actually have a life instead of being controlled and obligated by family pressures. I want to be proud of my achievements again, instead of hiding. I want out.

But is now the time or should I still wait? I told myself when I got this job eight months ago that I would stay until I had 10k saved. That way I would have enough of a buffer that I could get out. I don’t really like my full time job. I don’t like the town and it is fairly apparent to me that there is no opportunity for growth. The only reason I took the job is because my father gave me an ultimatum while I was working two part time jobs and going to school full time that if didn’t have a full time job within two months I would be kicked out. The town where I work full time is also where a lot of my mother’s family lives and they have increasingly brought drama and strife into life. I try and avoid them as much as possible.
My car is putting on increasing mileage and I’ve not even paid it off yet. I’ve considered getting a cheap apartment to live in the town where my full time job is to cut down on wear and tear to my vehicle. I could probably find something for $400/mo. But then again the hassle and addition of other costs would put a damper on my savings and I would still live like a hermit just so I could keep saving at the same level. Plus it would make me a prime target for the succubi of my mother’s family. I think what puts me most off this idea is further delaying being able to escape the trap my life seems to have become.

What should I do? Should I continue on my plan to save 10k and then try and get out? Should I move to the town where my full time job is? Should I stay put and take out a small loan to try and finish the last bit of my degree? Should I pay off my car first? My head is swirling and after the utter debacle of Christmas yesterday I just need a sounding board. I'm so tired. Mefites please assist!
posted by Driven to Work & Money (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If your only debt is a $5k car loan, what do you need life insurance for? Do you have any other debts that would need to be paid or dependents that would need to be cared for you if you passed away?

I think you should take a few months to look for another full-time job as a legal assistant, and then move once you get it. It doesn't make sense to move for a job you hate to a town you want to stay away from. Perhaps a different job somewhere else would be a good first step. Hopefully you will be making a little more money at that point, too, freeing up a little extra cash for school.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:35 AM on December 26, 2013

I think you answered your own question:

I want to move on and actually have a life instead of being controlled and obligated by family pressures. I want to be proud of my achievements again, instead of hiding. I want out.

You know what you want, now you have to figure out how to get there. Savings are nice, but if you're miserable, then forget it. Find a job that pays better, and move out.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:36 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @ThePinkSuperhero Unfortunately the life insurance policy isn't really my choice. That was something my parents bought for me when I was little and my father told me I have to start paying it now. I hate to leave here before I have a year in, as that doesn't look great. Plus where I am at there aren't many jobs that pay as well as this does. I'm not particularly attached to the legal assistant gig. I'm more than open to other avenues as well. Just my degree is focused in law. I just feel like I can't make a big leap unless I know I have money to fall back on, because once I'm out there is no going back.
posted by Driven at 7:41 AM on December 26, 2013

53k miles on a car is practically nothing. I don't know why you think that is a lot of miles.. also, high speed/highway miles aren't nearly as hard on a car as stop-and-go city traffic. Plus, ~$100 a month car payment is pretty damn low, too. Unless your car is a piece of junk for reasons other than the miles, I would take the car part of your question completely out of the equation.
posted by mbatch at 7:42 AM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

You sound like a very responsible person. I know of few young people who carry life insurance. Unless you have a child or other dependent you should drop that. I would advocate that you take a small loan and finish your degree and then get out. Family is supposed to help you and make you feel loved and supported. If that is not the case with yours--you need to get away from them as soon as you are able. Your efforts should focus on that. 53K is not a big deal for mileage. Hold onto the car for now and make your payments. Finish school and go. Start looking at where you want to live (hint--you have the whole world available). Putting together a concrete plan is your first step. When you land somewhere you can begin creating a new, loving family.
posted by agatha_magatha at 7:43 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Drop the life insurance. Your dad does not need to know you dropped the life insurance. You are an adult.
posted by mbatch at 7:43 AM on December 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

If you are three classes away from a BA, I would seriously try to take those in the spring, if possible. Drop at least one of your jobs to do it. Take out loans if you need to. That's going to open up more possibilities for you, and you are practically at the finish line. A three-class-tuition loan isn't going to kill you, especially with your good financial habits. My advice, for what it's worth, would be to do what you can to try to graduate in May, or in August if May isn't possible. Get a fresh start where your job is and look for a better-paying job since you'll have a degree. Get a cheap place to live near the campus with a six month lease. Plan now for a bigger transition in summer.

It sounds like there isn't any reason why you couldn't be an independent person with a college degree by summer, who already has good work experience, a very small student loan, and is looking for better work. That's a good position to be in.

Unless there is something about your car that you forgot to mention, I wouldn't even think about ditching a car with 53,000 miles. That's about the mileage I look for when I buy a car. Mine has 137,000 on it, and I have no intention of getting rid of it any time soon.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:58 AM on December 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

On the BA front: I have 3 classes to go but can’t seem to finish.

Is it possible that this is because your family is sabotaging your efforts in order to keep you close? It sounds like it.

I hate to leave here before I have a year in, as that doesn't look great. Plus where I am at there aren't many jobs that pay as well as this does.

Is this you speaking, or your parents?

I think it's worth starting to look around. You don't know what's out there. It may take time before you find something better, but I think you can. I also think you can finish the BA. And I think it'll get easier once you get out of your parents house.

Unfortunately the life insurance policy isn't really my choice. That was something my parents bought for me when I was little and my father told me I have to start paying it now

This sounds like the same thing my parents bought for me when I was a baby -- salesmen sold policies to parents on the basis that the policy could always be expanded to provide additional coverage in the future, which meant the kid would always be able to get coverage in the future.

The nice thing is that if you stop paying, you may be able to cash it out. It probably has a cash value. Or you may be able to ask the insurance company to use the proceeds from the policy to pay the annual premiums, instead of reinvesting them. If you call the insurance agent who sold the policy, or call the insurance company itself, they should be able to tell you.

You don't have to keep it if you don't want to.
posted by pie ninja at 8:02 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I dunno... $350 a year isn't a huge chunk of money, and you might be glad to have the policy later if you do have a family and somehow find yourself ineligible for life insurance due to medical issues.

In fact, I think just being on an anti-depressant can make life insurance harder to get. Don't take my word for this, maybe look into it though.

My husband and I both have developed conditions that have made it expensive to impossible to get life insurance other than what our jobs offer, so I wouldn't be too quick to dump that policy without figuring all the pros and cons. My husband developed Crohn's disease in his early 20's. I became diabetic in my late 30's. Just because you are healthy now doesn't mean you always will be, and it could happen earlier than you think.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:05 AM on December 26, 2013

If you are driving over 100 miles a day, and you can find a place that would drastically cut your driving for 400/month, then moving almost pays for itself in gas alone, not to mention the psychological benefits of cutting a commute and not having to live with family any more.
posted by rockindata at 8:05 AM on December 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I have kids and I've never bought life insurance for any of them. My husband and I only got life insurance after kids, so there's no reason for you to keep paying. Paying for college on your own? That's a lot for anyone to do and not cheap. Move out, I think your depression is in part because you have no say in how you live. If you can find an apt that's cheap enough go for it, you are young enough to take a chance IMO. Move closer to at least one of your jobs, you'll have a new place in a new town and something you can call your own. The 10k seems like a reasonable goal but if it is the only thing hold you back you should rethink it. You seem like a very responsible person who's set some high goals for herself. Let go a little and find some balance here. As a parent I too have been overly concerned at times with my kids' choices but I would be proud to have you as a child who has done so much for herself already. BTW we have 4 cars, all paid for and not one of them less then 75 k miles. 2 of them over 120k. Take care of your car and it will last.
posted by lasamana at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2013

First, stop paying the life insurance policy. You don't need it -- not at your age, not with your limited debts, zero assets and the weird psychological strings that are attached to it.

Calculate all your income, then subtract the cost of gas and vehicle upkeep (not the payment, just the wear / tear, oil changes, etc). The car sounds like a pretty good deal with what you're paying and the low miles -- yes, that's very low mileage, mine has 180,000 and I'm going to drive it until the bottom falls out.

Look at rental prices in the town where your salaried job is. How much would it cost to rent? More than gas? Probably. Would it be worth it for the satisfaction of having your own place, though? Maybe.

I think the most important thing to do is finish your BA. Where would you take the classes, at the town where you live or the town where you work? Make it a priority. Quit the $10 / hour job, keep the benefits that come with your salary and wrap up those classes around your 9-5 schedule. By the time they're done (can you still get into a spring semester somewhere?) you're going to have a degree and enough work experience to make your local job market irrelevant. (It sounds like you could have enough in savings and put a deposit down wherever you find your awesome post-BA job!)
posted by mibo at 8:10 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to work for a company that sold life insurance. Very often, parents would buy a life insurance policy for a small child not as life insurance but as an investment, with the understanding that the child would cash the policy out as an adult. (I assume there's some tax reason why this works.) I second pie ninja's suggestion that you cash out the life insurance if you really no longer want it - your bill should have enough information on it for you to call the company and find out how to do this. It's perfectly standard to do this (but make sure that the check is made out to you!)

If I were you, I'd start considering where else you might want to move - research the place, maybe try to make some online connections so that you have some realistic expectations about jobs and housing. Set a timeline - in X months, you want to be ready to move, and "ready to move" means that you have Y information and Z leads on apartments, temp agencies, etc. I think you're right that you should not leave your current job less than a year in - two would be ideal - but one way to get through this would be by making a detailed plan for just how and where you're going to move. Take some trips to the city in question (cheap trips - stay in a hostel, etc).

I think having lots of savings is a good idea, but if you've saved up $6000 in eight months, you could easily say "I'm going to save the next $4000 in six months and then I'm going to reduce my level of savings so that I can [do fun things]". Or you could start putting money in a "furnishing my new apartment in New City with nice stuff" account, for example.

I think that getting on a realistic timeline with measurable steps and goals might be a good way to manage your need to be prudent and feel like you're getting out. So, you could say "I'm going to cash out my life insurance policy and save that money, and when I get to $10,000 in savings total, I'm going to reduce my savings to 25% of my salary and start spending money on going out/buying stuff; I'm going to take some trips to nearby cities to look at them and investigate the job market; I'm going to spend time researching these cities and seeing what I might do in them for fun and work; and I'm going to create a detailed plan so that in X months I can definitely move out".
posted by Frowner at 8:14 AM on December 26, 2013

On the insurance: Is it a term policy or one with cash value and a set price? If it's term, dump it and get a new policy some day when you think you need it. But if it's at a fixed price, inflation and your (probably) growing income over the years will make it less and less of a financial burden. Even now it's less than $30 a month. New policies for the same amount of coverage will get more and more expensive as you get older.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:15 AM on December 26, 2013

I'm guessing that you must be spending about $250/month on gas just to get to and from your full-time job--not counting wear and tear. Plus you're spending 90 minutes a day commuting to it. If you can get an apartment for $400 including heat, you're only out an additional $150/month--add $100 for Internet and electricity, and you've got $250, but you've also bought yourself an extra hour a day (presuming your commute goes down from 45 minutes each way to 15 minutes each way). If you need the second income, could you find a part-time job in the same town where your full-time job is situated? That would save additional commuting time.

You'd need to spend some of your savings on the move, but it might pay off in the longer term in terms of your independence and sense of self worth. I wouldn't worry about wear and tear on the car per se; my car has 110K miles on it and is still in good shape. But it would help to work out the marginal cost of moving vs. staying.

I'd advise getting a copy of Beth Kobliner's book Get a Financial Life from your public library and reading it carefully for advice on savings, insurance, etc. It might make sense for you to keep the life insurance, depending on what kind it is, benefit level, etc., but you need to know the details.

If you move and you're concerned about getting sucked into your relatives' morass, look for an alternate social group, whether that be a church, some kind of volunteer service organization, etc. where you could meet people and have a convenient excuse for saying no to social events with your relatives (sorry, can't come, the church board is meeting!).

Good luck!
posted by brianogilvie at 8:17 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get out. You've got plenty of savings, more than lots of people have had in their entire adult lives. Other people have addressed the life insurance issue, but another way to eliminate some expenses would be to switch to a cheaper phone service provider if you're not shackled to a contract.

You can move on a hell of a lot less than $10k, especially since you've got a practically-new-by-my-standards reliable car. If you want tips on how to do that, check the "moving" or "move" tags.

Got any friends or family who might put you up for a bit in a new place? Is there anywhere that would be more convenient for you to finish those three classes? Those are the places you should consider moving first.

Even the unpleasant town where your job is would make a reasonable starting point -- just get a place that doesn't require you to sign a year lease, so you can move quickly when you get a new job somewhere you actually want to live. Sublet something, find a roommate situation, whatever. If you feel the need to explain why you're moving such a short distance, "I couldn't take the long commute anymore and want to spend less on gas" is a damn good reason. I don't know what you've got to fear from succubi, but whatever it is, you can probably find some advice in previous Asks about family drama to help you deal with it.

I think the point I'm trying to make is that with that much in savings, and a decent job with benefits that you've already got, you do have plenty to fall back on. $400/mo rent at your income is entirely doable, and your options when you're moving out for the first time from your parents' home are broad. You can even sublet something furnished and avoid having to set up an apartment for the first time. Just get out of there. Make a new plan for the new year.
posted by asperity at 8:17 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

First of all, drop the life insurance. Especially if your parents are the beneficiaries. You typically have life insurance through your job so you don't need the extra expense. If it's a Whole Life policy, you may get some money coming to you! Call the agent and find out.

What I would suggest is that you move to the city where your job is or where your school is, find a cheap, little apartment, with a nice roommate, or a small studio, and keep working at the law firm for now.

Take night classes and finish your degree. Three classes is NOTHING. Your job may have a tuition aid program that will pay for your tuition and books. Look into it.

Keep saving a bit of money, keep your car, etc.

Once you've finished your degree, really think about where you want to live and what you want to do. Then take your nest egg and move and get a job in the new place.

The most important thing is that you move out of your parents's house. It costs you too much to live there.

You can do this!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:33 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Student loans are available to help people just like you! And what about Pell grants? If you are now an independent student, you may qualify for additional Pell grants, and you may also qualify for a larger grant if you take more credits. Somebody at your college should be able to help you figure this out.
posted by yarly at 8:39 AM on December 26, 2013

If you've got enough saved for a security deposit, first month's rent, moving expenses, and additional savings on top of that, you're doing pretty well financially given your age and minimal debt, and your savings ethics means that you'll build up your savings again pretty quickly. It sounds like it would be an excellent investment to move out. There are resource savings for you in terms of time and money spent commuting if you live closer to work (think about how much easier the hunt for a new job will be with an extra hour in your day), and you can arrange to be too busy to interact with your mother's relatives (working late, working out, got classes, whatever). Financial security is valuable, but there are lots of other elements to your personal resilience that aren't being met by your current situation, and it doesn't sound like the trade-off is worth it any more.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:43 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Came in here to nth dropping the insurance. It's your parents security not yours and doesn't serve you at this point.

Even if you move into someone's home and rent a room there, it will be worth the $$ for the peace of mind, trust me.

You could rent closer to your job and save on gas.

You can do this. It's tough but not insurmountable. Just picture in detail the finished picture, how good that goal will feel, and let that spur you on.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:02 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Life insurance, for people without dependents, is for chumps. There's a reason you see incessant commercials for whole life plans for babies: because they greatly enrich the people who sell them.

Whole life, for anyone, is for chumps. It is a far more sensible action to separate your investing from your catastrophic coverage; the returns for whole life investments are always inferior to just buying index funds. If your parents bought this policy for you as a younger person it is certainly whole life. It's possible that they'll be pissy about it if you cash it out, as they apparently are the suckers who buy it. You may want to just hand it over to avoid strife.

Term life insurance will get more expensive as you get older but there's a limit to how good a value this can be for you. What we bought in order to be responsible, as people becoming parents for the first time at age 40, was indeed more pricey than someone would have paid if they bought it at 30. But if we'd bought 30 year policies at age 30 rather than 20 year policies at age 40 we would have been covering ourselves against a problem that didn't exist.

tl;dr - you do not need life insurance at your age unless you're planning on becoming a parent imminently or are party to a mortgage.
posted by phearlez at 9:11 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As far at the family drama, the simplest choice is to not answer the phone/door. You will catch a lot of extra drama for a bit when they fight it but, eventually, they will leave you out of it. If you want it badly enough, you can extricate yourself from your family. As you said, you aren't being very social with your packed schedule, so, would you even notice it if they cut you?
posted by Foam Pants at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

What should I do? Should I continue on my plan to save 10k and then try and get out?
No. Move out now. $6k in the bank is fantastic for someone with a $28k a year job. Seriously amazing. I have made cross-country moves on way, way less money than that, with no promise of a job at the other end. You definitely do not need $10k in the bank to get and afford a small apartment or a roommate situation. Ideally, people should have 3-6 months of expenses in the bank. Many people get by with way less than that. If you add things up, I think you'll find you're already at the 3-6 months mark for savings.

Should I move to the town where my full time job is?
Getting a short-term lease or roommate situation (think 6 months - enough time to finish your degree) in full time job town is a good idea. You may not realize is that it is easier to ignore obnoxious family members when you don't live with your parents. Nobody is standing over you reinforcing the need to interact with them.

Should I stay put and take out a small loan to try and finish the last bit of my degree?
Stay put - NO! Take out a loan to finish your degree - Good God yes. You might be eligible for grants as noted above, so check into it, but if that would mean waiting several months or a year to get through a FAFSA cycle, don't wait. Aim to finish by May or August. Then start looking for a better job in a town where you would actually like to live.

Should I pay off my car first?
No! The loan on your car is small and reasonable for your income.

It seems like you have a lot of anxiety about money (maybe coming from your family), when you are ridiculously well-positioned financially. Having a lots of money saved and no debt before striking out your own is good in theory, but seems to just be holding you back at this point. You cannot hedge against every possible risk, but with a job, a car, health insurance, and cash on hand, you are in really good shape to weather whatever problems come along.

tl;dr: Move into a short-term situation away from your parents now. Finish your degree in the next 3-6 months, taking out a loan and quitting part-time job if needed. Look for a better job in a better town with degree in hand in 6 months.
posted by jeoc at 10:02 AM on December 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Find an alternative to the legal assistant job: it's a 50-mile commute for not-great pay (you earn $28,000/year and spend *at best* $4,000/year in gas), you don't like it, and you don't see career advancement opportunities. There's no payoff there. You're spinning your wheels: you took it because your dad made you and because you told yourself you'd stay until X happened. I've been there; it made me miserable. I'm still getting my head on straight. Value yourself more than you value your resume. (Also: you're a college student. A one year job on your resume? Very typical. No one will blink at that. This is the time where stuff like that looks normal.)

Let's talk more about that pay: after you factor in gas, you earn around $24,000/year - before taxes and insurance and all that, I assume. If you work 40 hours a week, you're actually earning $11.54/hour, before taxes/insurance/etc. If you work more than 40 hours per week... Well, you do the math. Either way, there has to be other full-time work in your area that pays at least $11.50/hour *and* makes you happy. Sure, you can move to a town you don't like for a job you don't like, and then you are earning more at that job -- but is it worth it? Is that the freedom you're looking for? Is it worth it to move there to earn $13.46 an hour?

You owe it to yourself to look for something better and something closer to where you want to be. Look for office/records/credentialing work at hospitals--that's medical experience if you go back into law, and that's worthwhile. Look at big-box retailers (not as a cashier)--that's high-pressure, high-volume customer service experience, and that's worthwhile anywhere. Look at openings available in the claims/subrogation departments of local branches of large-ish insurance companies--that can get you into an insurance defense firm. (I will warn you: I work in law and many law firms still have stunted thought patterns and are very hesitant to hire a legal assistant as a paralegal or vice versa. My employer is this way. I don't know what sort of law-oriented degree you're getting, but having supplemental experience in hospitals/insurance may open more doors for you in law than having been a legal assistant.)

Move into an apartment; find a roommate if you can. By moving into an apartment, you may not be able to save the way you want to for a little while (and, yes, you've saved an amazing amount of money - I wish I had that in my bank account); part of being a working college student is not having a ton of money to save. That's what the degree is for. Focus on saving your emotional and mental energy and get away from your family. Your car will be just fine, and there is no rush to paying it off; I just got my first ever car loan this past April, and my knee-jerk reaction is to pay it off ASAP too, but there's no need. The interest, more likely than not, will not kill you. It's just another bill now, like my electricity and water.

Good luck!
posted by coast99 at 10:14 AM on December 26, 2013

Wow, you sound incredibly financially responsible! In fact, you sound quite responsible all around. My guess is that you've internalized some of your parents' values and opinions so much that you regard certain things as "facts," when they aren't necessarily the only way to view the world.

Like the life insurance policy: your dad told you to pay it, so you did. Why? Are your parents the beneficiaries? What's it supposed to cover if something happens to you, your funeral? The money you have saved, minus your very small debt, would cover all of that. And, honestly, even if you didn't have that money saved, so what? Your parents would still pay for a funeral. This just shouldn't be your problem. I have a life insurance policy through my employer, and I have that because I'm the primary income-earner for my family of four, so, if something happens to me, it would place my family in a very difficult spot financially. The money would help with that. I don't see why you need this policy. (I know it's only $350/year, but it's a great example, I think, of how you've internalized certain things without question.)

Also, the amount of savings and debt you have: sure, it's not great to feel you owe money, but you are doing amazingly well for a young person who has paid her (her?) own way through college. Have you learned to fear all debt from your parents? Do you think your car is really old and beat up at 53,000 miles?

What I don't understand is why you think someone who works two jobs with that kind of commute should also be able to go to school. I think you are so exhausted and burnt out -- from your commute, from your family, from working so much -- that you can't even see that you are doing fine financially and you deserve to make yourself happier. I also think your hermit tendencies are making it harder to appreciate the world beyond your family's values.

So, I think the most important question for you to answer is this: what do YOU want? Where do you want to live and work? What life do you want to have in, say, two years from now? Then work backwards to make that happen.

I strongly suspect this plan will involve finishing that degree asap. How to do that? Well, I think quitting that second job and taking a few classes this spring and summer would get that done -- even if you need to borrow some money to do it. This will also get you back into the world of other people who are engaged with ideas and their futures. That would probably really help you.

You could also quit the full-time job and go to school full-time and get that degree, even if you need a loan to do it. Go on some Obamacare insurance and don't worry about dental or vision for the short-term. If your dad says you need a full-time job to live in house, move out. Having that BA in hand will open up a lot of other opportunities.

Good luck. I know you feel overwhelmed, but you're going to be okay, ok?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:15 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

How much life insurance do you have? If you do continue to pay on that policy, ask your parents to make sure you own the policy and take control of it. It may have cash value you could use to get a fresh start somewhere.
posted by domino at 12:27 PM on December 26, 2013

A decade ago I broke out of a situation very similar to yours. I was TERRIFIED. I had $500 in my bank but I made it work and honestly, it was the best decision I ever made in my life. You just need to close your eyes, trust in your metaphorical parachute and TAKE THE LEAP.

To be honest, change is hard. So the vast majority of people stick with being miserable rather than stepping into the unknown. But I promise you your life will be better. Memail me if you want more details/ encouragement.
posted by Brittanie at 1:42 PM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

About that life insurance policy: does it have a cash value? Before you drop it, look into gleaning some sort of payout. Alternately, if you should marry and have children, it might come in handy for your 'final expenses'. You seem to be an industrious, responsible person. Lots of good advice up-thread for you to consider. Probably the best advice is to find another job in a city you want to move to. Your school credits should transfer to another school. Finding an apartment for as little as $400 per month might not be possible in another place though.
posted by Cranberry at 2:47 PM on December 26, 2013

You need to move out and finish your degree.

After that, the rest will fall into place.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:05 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking about your question all day, Driven, and I wanted to add a few thoughts.

I just feel like I can't make a big leap unless I know I have money to fall back on, because once I'm out there is no going back.

Money is great, and certainly it is better to have it than not, but it can't protect you from everything, and pursuing it to the exclusion of everything else is unhealthy.

The real things you "fall back on" when things get hard are solid, caring relationships with others, marketable skills, and your own personal grit. Stacks of money can't replace any of those, and by focusing so narrowly on your financial security you are missing other things that bring deep and lasting pleasure and security.

Being an adult is about getting out there in the world, making your own decisions and thinking your own thoughts, meeting new people, learning new things, learning about yourself, and taking some risks. You've done an amazing job preparing for the leap (you definitely have grit) - now LEAP!
posted by jeoc at 4:12 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

It occurred to me I should come back and say that I just moved across the state with $0 savings, about $60k in debt and the aforementioned POS vehicle. You are already so much more together and successful than you realize, so fly away, little grasshopper, and find yourself some of the fun you deserve in life.
posted by mibo at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2013

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