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Study / career change - can the costs be justified?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I'm considering the possibility of returning to study.  There are a couple of reasons:


1. I feel like I need a challenging career to be fulfilled (most important)

2. I really dislike my job / current industry - I find it boring

3. my earnings are limited due to the work I'm doing

I currently work in insurance claims (ugh).  I've done similar admin and customer service roles for many years.  I didn't have any big "career" plans because quite honestly, I planned to be a stay at home mum.  After multiple losses, it appears that my dreams of being a mother are not likely to come to fruition. 

(Please, no suggestions about adoption, surrogacy, etc - we may come to that decision, but we are not there yet).


The last few years have changed my outlook on life, and I can't see myself slaving away in a boring admin job for all eternity.  I need something that makes me want to go to work.  Something that gives me purpose, especially if we are not destined to have a family.  I know a lot of people don't love their jobs, but I do believe that family is often the trade off that makes less-than-ideal jobs worthwhile.  I'm not 100% sure on what path I would like to take, but I have a general idea of degree field (business/HR)


The catch is that we are not in an awesome position financially.  The past few years have been hard on us in terms of lots of medical costs, and also a bunch time out of the workforce because of health issues.  We also made some dumb financial decisions years ago, but that is neither here nor there.  We have been working hard to get back on track, and by the end of this month, we will have everything paid up except our CC. 


If I were to go back to study, we would not qualify for any assistance based on DP's wage.  I'd have to work and study.  It would be tight for the full three years.  Not to mention exhausting,  The actual uni fees can be deferred until after the degree could be completed.  It doesn't get paid back until you are earning at least 45k.  We could probably manage the student fees and get second hand text books.  If it's at all relevant I'm 28, and would be 31 by the time I completed a 3 year degree.


My concerns:

- subjecting ourselves to a 3 year vow of poverty

- adding a student debt of $15-20k

- potentially ending up in a career that pays the same, or marginally better ($10-20k per annum) than I earn already


So, I'm interested in any ideas or thoughts anyone might have?  What would you do in my shoes? 


post #2 of 11
Originally Posted by Milk8shake View Post

I'm considering the possibility of returning to study. 


My concerns:

- subjecting ourselves to a 3 year vow of poverty

- adding a student debt of $15-20k

- potentially ending up in a career that pays the same, or marginally better ($10-20k per annum) than I earn already


So, I'm interested in any ideas or thoughts anyone might have?  What would you do in my shoes? 



Okay, so my opinion on what you've written is that if you would be happ(y/ier) doing something else and the salary will justify the schooling costs, it's totally worth it.  (i.e. I wouldn't spend $100K in schooling for a career that has a max salary of $45K/year; it just wouldn't be a wise move for me and my family at this point in our lives.) 


Don't get caught up in the "three years of poverty" when it could put you ahead financially for the rest of your life (you are still quite young).  Don't discount the happiness factor, either.  I am someone who still believes you have to love what you do (or at least not hate it).  smile.gif


post #3 of 11

Personally, having walked this path repeatedly, I think it's a bit silly to start down the path unless you have a firm destination.  You say you're not sure where you want to go - get sure.  Make a choice.  Even if you change your mind later.  Do the research into your chosen field - is it a growth field or a declining field?  What's the long-term job prospect?  What other areas could you explore with that degree?  What doors will be opened to you with it?  Are there other ways of getting there without a degree? 


I agree with the pp - don't get stuck on the "3 years of poverty".  But do get stuck on the long-term prospectus.  If you're looking at spending $20K to get a degree for a field that will only increase your annual salary by $10K, that seems a little silly to me.  And ultimately not worth it.  But if you were spending $10K for the degree and looking at a $20K annual increase, that would be worth it to me.  That makes sense in the long-term as far as growth is concerned.


I am another who believes in enjoying your work.  But the fact is that ultimately it's work.  You're not going to always enjoy it.  You're not always going to be satisfied with it.  So rather than pursuing that as the end-goal and finding only disappointment, I'd explore some other areas to find your satisfaction.  Whether that's hobbies, or volunteer work, or traveling, or whatever. 


Something that really helped me out in finding that "end goal" of satisfaction was when my DH asked me what I wanted to be remembered for.  For some reason, everybody always asked me what I wanted to "do", but when he asked me what I wanted to be remembered for, it really clarified things for me (I actually had a visual of my epitaph).  And now that I have that clarity, I feel like I can pursue that as an end goal, but at the same time take on a job (and a degree) that will be less satisfying emotionally, but will do what I need it to financially.  Which is setting me up for that end goal in retirement. 

post #4 of 11



I think that you've got an important truth in your post -- that everyone has to find their satisfaction somewhere.  People in general, but women in particular, tend to be generative, whether it's by having children or 'creating' in the world.  It sounds like you don't feel like you have that in your life right now, and long term you need that.  Three years of living like a student is totally worth it (although DH would have to be on board for that, you know?).  As far as the debt, it's nothing compared to what you would be paying at an American school so I can't even fathom not doing it for that amount of money.  Sounds like you're getting a deal.


The way I'd figure out how much you can afford is to take the $20k and pretend like it's a ten year loan (i.e., about $2000/yr, assuming no interest... you can easily add in the interest).  If your salary goes up by that much, you broke even on the investment.  Even if you take a loss, though, if you'd be willing to pay the extra $2000/yr for how much more satisfied you think you'll be, then I'd consider going for it.  But if those payments are gonna tip you guys over the edge into debt over that time, I wouldn't do it.


The last thing I would consider, though, is what you'll do if you do have a kid.  Will this be what prevents you from being able to stay home?  That's the situation I'm in now -- lots of student loans for a high powered career, then realized all I wanted to do was stay at home with the baby.  And I simply can't.  Also, what will happen if you get sick again and aren't able to work?  Will you be able to pay your loan on your husband's salary?




post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the ideas so far.  Just wanted to clarify a few things:


Earning only 10k more than now is worst case/entry level scenario.  If I was to do this, I would expect that it would increase within the first three years.  The average pay rate in that field would put me about 20-40k more than my current earnings. 


Also, with the Australia system, uni fees can be deferred.  Once you have a job paying more than $45k, the repayments are automatically taken from your wages by the tax office.  There is not "interest" as such, but the balance does rise with the CPI, so a very small amount. 



If I complete the degree, and get a job earning $40k (part time for example), then technically I never have to pay it back.  Similarly if I was to one day have a family, and wanted to stay home, then if my income was nil, I wouldn't have to make any repayments.  It is only relative to my wage, and DP's wage does not affect anything.


Once you start earning over 45k, the payments increase by percentages according your wage bracket, so between 45-50, you will be paying back 4% of the debt annually, scaling up to a maximum of 8%, if you are earning over $80k.  So, it is a pretty minimal payment amount. 


Also, because it is a government funded program, it doesn't really count as a "debt" like a loan or credit card.  It doesn't impact credit rating, for example. 

post #6 of 11

Wow, that's really great!  I just can't imagine a system that humane happening here.  Maybe I should move.


I would totally do it then.

post #7 of 11

I would say go for it. You have been through a heck of a lot in the past few years (and that's only the part of the story I know), and I think you deserve the increase in happiness. I think you're spot on in saying that family is the trade-off that makes less than ideal jobs worthwhile. You're not getting that trade-off, so there's no reason to continue doing something you find totally unfulfilling, if you have a reasonable plan to change that. With the repayment system you describe, it sounds like this move is unlikely to put you in a financial hole you can't climb out of, even if you were to get your miracle baby, or end up with a not-so-great paying job. I spent nine miserable months doing something I realized I didn't like 2 weeks into the job, and I just couldn't last any longer than that. I didn't do a good job because I wasn't fully committed, got threatened with being fired, and had to live in abject fear of disaster after that till I found a new job. So not worth it. I do also like what one PP said as well, when choosing your future... what do you want to be remembered for? Outside of being a fantastic mother, which I totally hope you get to do, anyway? Anyway, just my 2cents.gif.

post #8 of 11

i say go for it.  three years is such a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things (take it from someone who has been wanting to do something similar to what you're planning for several years now). 


i say the happiness you'd find in your new field is worth it enough, but everything else seems to make sense as well (the repayment plan sounds great).  finances are what's keeping me from making a career change myself.


sounds like now is the opportune time to make the change.  if/when you decide to have a family, your education will be behind you and your career will be on track.


good luck to you! 

post #9 of 11

Sounds like a great plan.  Even if you do end up having children and staying home with them, you will probably want to return to the work force eventually and it is better to get the training in now than to be facing a similar situation when you are 40 or 50.  Good luck to you.  Your education system sounds awesome!

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

You know, people here often bitch about our higher education system, but I can see in comparison to the US, we have it pretty good.

I am feeling more encouraged about the prospect, although I have taken Cristeen's comments to heart, and I plan to spend a bit more time researching study fields and career options. 

It makes sense to have a clear goal to work towards.


And then, an interesting twist: yesterday I was offered a new job!  It is a sales support role for an IT company (no more insurance!!).  The wages are not pretty similar, but I think there is a bit more job satisfaction to be had.  A smaller, close knit company, and the opportunity to learn some new things. 

Although I won't drop the study idea, I think this will definitely be an improvement in the short term "happiness" factor.


post #11 of 11

Congratulations on the new job! I hope it brings you happiness but I still encourage you to further your education. Does your new employer offer tuition reimbursement?  Are there any night, weekend or online class options in your area? You could also attend part time and pay as you go. I worked through college. I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did to further my career. In addition to looking at the long-term job prospects for your chosen field, research colleges. I don't know how the system is setup in your country but in the US there are great school that cost peanuts, crappy schools that cost an arm and a leg, and everything in between.

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