Tag Archives: california

How Will I Pay for Grad School?

It has become increasingly clear to me that in order to pursue the career I want to have, I’ll either need a miracle or a masters degree. I’m mostly looking forward to the latter, after all, my undergrad years were tainted by depression, self-doubt, immaturity, and academic confusion. It really is time for me to go back to school, focus on what I want professionally, and hopefully thrive.

The cost of thriving, however, is keeping me questioning if grad school is worth it. There’s also plenty of other options that may work out just as well in the long run in terms of my professional life. I can take classes, read lots of books, teach myself, work my way up in the world. But I’ve done that with my current career and while it’s been fun, I don’t think I could stand to start from scratch entirely. The programs I’m looking at offer great connections and job prospects (esp if the economy starts picking up by the time I graduate. If it doesn’t i’ll prob be unemployed anyway.)

All that said, I am still freaked out about the cost of grad school. Sure, as of May I will likely have about $35k in savings, but that’s for my retirement and emergency fund. School will cost me about $100k for two years if I count in the cost of living. I may be able to work part time to offset some of those costs, but still, even if I could get it down to just the cost of tuition (about $60k total) that’s, like, double what I’ve been able to save in the past 25 years of my life. And I’ll be losing upwards of $120k for two years that I would have made if I remained employed. So the whole thing would cost me $200k or more. Yikes!

Those numbers are enough to keep me out of grad school. I’m so jealous of my boyfriend, who is going to get a free ride to grad school, courtesy of his frugal mother who doesn’t spend money on anything. So she’s saved up enough for him. In a way I want to pay for myself because it will be worth more. I think my undergrad education felt like a free ride. My parents were paying, it was what I had to do, it wasn’t for me, I didn’t understand the value of an education in line with my professional development.

Do any of you have experience with 529 plans? They sound like they might be a good idea to start saving for grad school… if the market starts to go up. Esp if I can put in a lot of money now while we’re in this recession (I feel really bad for the people who put money in before the recession and lost 30% or more). In California the tax savings on a 529 isn’t that great… well you don’t get a state tax deduction (same with the HSA) – but you do get the federal deduction. And the money you use for education can be spent tax free. I can’t figure out if that’s as good of a deal as it sounds.

Also, there is still the chance that there will be a miracle and I won’t end up wanting to go to grad school at all. Then my 529 plan will be stuck. I can use it to fund my children’s college education – but then I have to have kids. 🙂

I don’t understand how anyone has the balls to go into debt for grad school. Not sure if I do.

2008 Taxes, Part 1: Did my 50% of income strategy work?

In 2008, I tried a financial strategy meant to keep me both “in-the-know” and “out-of-the-know” at the same time. This simple strategy was to save 50% of my income for taxes in a high-interest savings account. As a self-employed person this was legal, as long as I paid 90% of my previous years’ tax along the way. Being as in 2007 I made less than $30k and my income shot up to $58k in 2008, this made a whole lot of sense.

The outcome of my 2008 plan seemed to have worked decently. I just tallied up my tax figures for the year, not counting any deductions I or Turbo Tax may take, and my total tax owed for 2008 is $22876. This includes my 25% tax bracket federally, $15.3% self employment tax, and $9.3% tax bracket in California (why is California one of the highest tax states to live in yet we’re also the deepest in debt???)

I saved $26,000 for taxes after paying $4315 in estimated taxes over the year (I still owe my Jan 15 estimated tax for federal, need to send that out, but I hear it’s not late as long as you get your return in by Feb 2.)

So, number crunching that means sans deductions, I still owe $18,562, leaving me with $7438.17. I’m sure with deductions it will be a little less then that and then with my various interest income from different accounts it will be a little more. I’m guessing I’ll end up with at least $7200 to save.

So the good news is I start 2009 off with $7,200, or thereabout, to spread about in my various accounts as a “cushion” for the year. Sweet. Still deciding on whether to get a tax accountant for my 2008 returns, though I figure even if I don’t take any deductions I’ll get

In 2009, my tax situation is an entirely different story. My income may go up a bit, but I’m now a full-time employee, so I can’t shelter as much money from taxes over the year… nor do I really want the headache. In my next post, I’ll describe how I’m planning to take a more active approach to budgeting in 2009.

Economy and Jobs: California 3rd Worst. (How are you faring?)

Yesterday, the state of California posted an 8.4 percent jobless rate, the third highest in the U.S. According to The Los Angeles Times, The state lost a net 41,700 jobs in November. The rate is at its highest level since 1994 and puts the state behind only Michigan and Rhode Island.

Last month, U.S. employers slashed 533,000 jobs – the most in 34 years – as unemployment rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. With the high rates of job loss in my state and elsewhere, everyone is watching their piggy bank. Closely. For workers who lose their jobs, health insurance options are limited. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that (As most of you know, I’m fortunately employed, but as a freelance worker with pre-existing health conditions, my options for health insurance are fairly non-existent.)

It isn’t helping matters that in California, the state’s financial crisis means that traditional safety-net options, such as public health programs and clinics, are being cut back or threatened by the state and national budget crisis. It’s true California’s estimated $41.8 billion budget deficit needs to be fixed somehow, but with the current state of the economy and rates of job loss in Cali, it’s a tough time to go cutting public health programs.