Saturday, March 7, 2009

Portrait: West Des Moines, Iowa

We laughingly call it The 12 Year Plan. That’s even the name of my blog. You see, my husband and I switched roles so he could go back to school. His dream is to become a doctor, and we are now 5 years into that 12 year plan. We’re by no means ahead of the curve – we are much older than most of the other med students, and we have 2 kids. People always get that look when we talk about medical school. I know what they’re thinking – “Oh they’re going to have it MADE”. Well, I certainly don’t think that’s the case, but we hope that eventually this very long road will mean that there’s enough to pay off our student loans, send our children to a state college, and save for retirement – with no room to breathe between any of it.

I currently work part-time from home and care for our two young children. When we moved to Iowa for medical school, I was able to keep my job but had to transition from full-time to part-time. I was also able to keep some of my benefits - meaning we now pay more than $600 a month for health insurance. I still feel lucky to have both my job and health insurance. We now live partially on student loans and partially on my salary. After I made the transition 18 months ago, my bosses made it clear that I shouldn’t consider this a permanent solution. My company is coming up on the end of another fiscal year and I am preparing for the worst. We’re already understaffed, and I do the work of two people, but I know that ‘part-time with benefits’ means I am the most expendable person.

We have some money in savings, and have worked hard to pay off our credit cards and other debts. As a student family, we do what everyone else is doing – shop with coupons, buy clothes & shoes only on final clearance, and drive less.

If the axe falls, I probably won’t look for another job. My husband starts his rotations in August, and his schedule will be completely inconsistent for the next 5 years. I also don’t see the financial sense in trying to get a full-time job so that I can pay $1,000+ a month to put our kids in daycare. This means we will rely completely on student loans, which will give us an income of about $20,000/ year. I know it’s not much, but hopefully it will keep a roof over our heads and some food on the table. This is more than a lot of people have right now, and I feel blessed for it. Our families are very supportive of us and we know that if we had to, my kids and I could move cross-country to live with them while my husband does his rotations. It is a scary time, but I know we will be OK. This too shall pass.

West Des Moines, IA