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Find a “Financial Balancer”

April 5, 2010

Choiceortunity # 49

So I am probably disclosing too much about myself and my cousin Jennifer with this Choiceortunity but it’ll be ok.  I love transparency; it gives you a sense of freedom like nothing else.  In 2002ish after a not so happy (is there a happy) divorce, I was handed more financial baggage than I could handle.  I found myself a single parent of three very young children, working my tail off to be a good employee and earn a decent living and all of a sudden dishing out over $1000 a month for babysitters and paying 100% of the debt that had been incurred during the course of my marriage.  Not fair, but it was my life at the time.  I ended up declaring bankruptcy and wiping the slate clean.  At first I was REALLY embarrassed and ashamed but as the years have passed I’ve got over the mixed emotions around the bankruptcy and now I talk about it quite freely (clearly!).

So fast forward to 2008 after working for Herzing for three years and renting apartments in Milwaukee I decided it was time to buy a house.  So I started looking around and investigating the local housing market.  One day, I was talking my cousin Jennifer, also a single mom, who too was thinking about taking the home ownership plunge.  On a side note, our grandfathers are identical twins (Mike/Amy and Pat/Jen).  We got to talking about the responsibility, costs, up-keep and other “perks” of home ownership when I looked at her and said, let’s look at duplexes.  What a great scenario, we’ve known each other for 36 years, trust each other implicitly and as two single moms could help one another out when needed.  Too the financial burden would be much less for each of us.

Buying the house was very scary and stressful; I didn’t know how much the bankruptcy was going to affect me and lived in fear of rejection for about four months.   I live debt free so I was in a good position but still it lingered, haunting me.  Jennifer however has, as the banker put it, “the best credit I’ve ever seen”.  She is evidently the ying to my financial yang.  Long story short, we bought an awesome home and have been there for two years.  It is good thing.

So what is your point Amy?

Well my point is that we all have financial challenges along the way.  Although I remain debt free, except for the house and the car I bought last year I am still a spender.  I will drop $300 on a pair of shoes and not flinch.  Jennifer is quite the opposite.  She is thrifty and plans every purchase, calculated and well thought out.   I jokingly call her my financial advisor as she will give the “really” eyes when I want to…perhaps buy a $600 lamp.  (I didn’t buy it; she laid so much guilt with those “really” eyes, I couldn’t do it)  There have been many instances like this and occasionally I will have a bad influence on her and get her to buy something she typically wouldn’t.  Like when we were looking at grills and she wanted the cheap $100 basic grill and I of course wanted the stainless steel monster grill with four burners, two tiers and does everything except the dishes.  We got the monster 🙂

So again, what is your point Amy?

Well here is where it comes to me disclosing too much (really?!?!).  Shortly after we bought the house a job a Herzing opened up and I recommended that Jennifer apply for it.  She got it!  I am so proud of her; she went from being an employee to a manger and now runs the Default Prevention Department here at Herzing with a staff of four.  Her frugal and nurturing nature has her team helping graduates from all of our Herzing campuses who are in threat of going into default on their student loans.  It isn’t widely known at Herzing that the two of us are cousins or that we own a home together but that will no longer be a secret after this blog – surprise!  We’ll see which staff really read these things 🙂

But here is where this whole story is really about YOU.

Many of you (over 600 online students in 2010 and over 3000 across all Herzing campuses) will be graduating soon.  With graduation comes a whole new set of responsibilities.  On a refreshing side there will be no more late nights cramming for exams or finding your weekends consumed with homework.  But on the “here comes life” side, those student loans will be coming due.  START PLANNING NOW!  It is so important that you fulfill your responsibilities to your student loans; they cannot be washed away by ignoring them, through bankruptcy, not answering the phone, changing your address or pretending like they don’t exist.  I listen to Jen talk about her “work day” and have flash backs to my phone ringing with “where is our payment” calls.  It’s no fun; I know, I was there ignoring the phone and the mailbox.

If you EVER find yourself unable to make your payment, you need to be proactive and call our default prevention group, they can help.  They have tricks up their sleeve that will help you get back on track.  If they are calling you, they are not calling to pester you or “collect” but rather to assist, mentor and help you get on track.  Trust me when I say that Jennifer and her crew are very good “financial balancers”, heck Jen balances me all the time!  If you need help finding a job, call your campus’ Career Services Department, this is what they are there for, to help you find employment.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of school or one month or one year, they are there to help.  In fact every single person here at Herzing is here to help you; your success is ours and that extends WAY after graduation.   We are a family (some of us literally by blood 😉 ) and you dear student/grad are part of our big, beautiful Herzing family.

I leave you with one last thought, especially for you newer students.  Cash is a beautiful thing, real cash, not the kind of cash you get as an advance from your credit card.  Since my financial drama of 2003 I have paid for everything I’ve purchased using cash.  If I am offered a credit card for a “discount” on my purchase, I reply with a big NO.  Zero percent interest – NO!  Free toaster – NO!  No credit for me.  I don’t’ spend what I don’t’ have.  Every semester most of you receive financial aid and or loan disbursements having to make the decision to take what you really need for tuition or to take that extra left over, the stipend, and put it in your pocket.  The old Amy would have taken that money and gone shoe shopping; there is still a part of me that would do the same thing, old habits die hard.  However, the Amy of today knows that if I don’t’ need it for survival; I shouldn’t go into debt for it.  So please think about the long term effects of your actions today, it may only seem like a $1000 extra now, a drop in the bucket, but when you amortize that $1000 and add it to your other debt load it is a lot of money.  It may end up hurting you in the long term.  If you have ANY questions about your financial future, call Jen or her staff, or me, or the Career Services Department, or your Admissions Advisor, or your FA person, or your Student Services person, or the president!  We want to educate you about your choices, help you make the best decisions possible and much like proud parents see you leave our Herzing nest and flourish out there in the big wide world.

FYI – $1000 over ten years at 4.0% interest is $1214.94.  Think about it, that is almost 25% on top of the original amount…YIKES!  Not to mention that you can get some GREAT shoes for $214.94 – just kidding Jen!

Happy Monday HU Fam,


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