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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Real-World Cost of Getting a GED: About $1000

The Real-World Cost of Getting a GED:  About $1000Everyone has probably heard that people who don't graduate from high school don't make as much money over the course of their work life as those who did finish school. I knew that, I was aware of what I was giving up, and I quit school anyway. I was young, and infatuated with someone, and in the haze of what I thought was "true love" school seemed inconsequential. I never officially withdrew from school, I just decided one day that I wasn't going back. I figured that it didn't really make any difference, but as it turns out, quitting school cost me in more ways than I could have conceived.

The person I was dating never encouraged me to go back to school, and I was just along for the ride. I ended up getting a few dead-end jobs, first as an assistant at a dog grooming salon, then as an attendant at a car wash, then as a waitress at a Waffle House. All of these jobs brought in money, true enough, but none brought in enough to even pay half of the bills. I felt cheated and unfulfilled.

Then, I learned that I was expecting a baby. I was 21, and work immediately took a back seat to making sure I had a happy, healthy baby. My fiance (now my husband) and I discussed it at length, and we decided that I would stay home and take care of the baby and the household. It would have been cost-prohibitive for me to return to work at that point, because child-care expenses, fuel, and other costs would have consumed my entire paycheck.

When my oldest entered school, I took stock of my life. I decided that when my other daughter was old enough to start school, that I would go back to work. First, I needed a high-school diploma. I looked into GED classes at the high school in my town, and I was told that the prep course would cost $100, and to take the exam for my GED would cost $50. I signed up, and started classes the next Monday.

Studying for my GED wasn't without its costs after the initial investment. I had to pay for gas to get back and forth between home and the school, and my husband and I also had to pay for a babysitter five evenings a week. If he had been able to take care of them, that would have saved us a lot of money, but his job was dependent on him working evenings and it wasn't possible for him to take the kids along. All in all, we probably spent $1000 so I could get my GED.

  • Child care cost us $30 per day, five days a week.

  • I spent an average of $10 per day on gas.

  • The GED prep course cost $100.

  • The exam (which thankfully I passed on my first try) set us back $50.

For me, quitting high school was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. When I think back to what else my family could have had with that $1000, I think that:

  • We could have taken a family vacation to the Florida Keys. I've been there before and I'd love to return.

  • I would have had the money to have some work done on my car. If I would have put that money into my vehicle, it would probably be fully restored by now.

  • My girls would have been able to go to summer camp, which they have wanted to do for about two years.

  • We'd have a big-screen TV and home theater system instead of the 17" and the bookshelf stereo that we have now.

  • My husband and I would have been able to afford to have a getaway for two, maybe a couple of days in the Bahamas.

  • I'd be able to buy my daughters more things that they want. Sometimes I feel badly because I can't buy them more toys and clothes like the other girls at school.

So, by impulsively quitting high school, I set myself way back. I'm just now getting to where I should have been, career-wise, ten years ago. I'm hoping to land a regular job, but that's tough these days. Meanwhile, I'm doing some freelance writing from home in order to bring in a little extra cash.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have finished school and then taken some college courses, maybe in graphic design or fitness and nutrition. If I can finance it somehow, I may still take some classes. The moral of my story is: Don't quit school, or it will cost you money far into the future.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Cancer (And A Lack of Health Insurance) Cost My Mother Her Life

cancerWe all know the damage that cancer can do to lives and families. Not one of us has gone untouched in some way by this terrible disease. Almost as terrible, is the fact that a lot of people who have cancer either don't have insurance or cannot afford it. With President Bush and his veto of a bill that would have provided health insurance funding for children in low-income families that make too much to get Medicaid (but not enough to pay for private coverage), I don't see it getting any better. I'm here to tell you my mother's story, because she is no longer here to tell it herself. If, through telling this story, I can keep one person or family from going through what I've been through, then I've done something right.

My mother was a happy, vibrant, great person. At age 40, she had been through her share of struggles- a rocky marriage to my father, and then an abusive relationship with a man who almost beat her to death more than once. She managed to leave him, and rose above her circumstances. She met a wonderful man, who treated her with love and respect. A year after they met, they were married. Life was great, and for a year and a half everything went smoothly.

And then that peace was gone.

It started gradually. My mother would try to act as though nothing was wrong, but I knew something was up. She began to make a lot of trips to the restroom, and began to complain of bleeding and stomach cramps. After a couple of weeks of this, I urged her to see a doctor. She was reluctant to do it, because she didn't have health insurance, and could not afford to buy it. We were hard-pressed to get her the medical care she needed. Tired of seeing her suffer, I took her to the nearest emergency room because I knew that the doctors there are obligated to treat every patient who comes in.

When the doctor finally saw her, he took note of her symptoms, and gave her a (very) cursory examination. All in all, the whole process took less than ten minutes from start to finish. I kept expecting the doctor to order a round of tests, or want to draw blood, or something, anything. I was surprised when she was given a diagnosis of a severe urinary tract infection (UTI), written a prescription for antibiotics, and sent home. I'd been with her since the symptoms started, and I knew from the bottom of my heart that something was really wrong.

After almost six months with her illness getting worse day by day, I found a gynecologist who would be willing to see her, and work with her on a payment plan. I went with her to her first appointment, and I was very impressed with the quality of care that she received. Within a half hour she got a complete exam, and the doctor found that she had a tumor roughly the size of a baseball. He immediately made her an appointment for a biopsy, at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

I was both angry and dumbfounded. If the attending physician in the ER had been more thorough in his examination and treatment of her, the tumor would have been found a lot earlier. Looking back, I wonder if the fact that she was uninsured had anything to do with the way her treatment was handled.

She went for a biopsy two days later, and we all prayed and hoped for the best. But, when she got the results, I knew what they were before the doctor even opened his mouth. My mother had cervical cancer, and it had already begun to spread. If she'd been able to afford proper health coverage, she would have received care when the symptoms first started, and she certainly wouldn't have had to wait six months to see a specialist.


"Although cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death among American women, in the past 40 years there has been a 75% decrease in mortality. This is primarily due to routine screening with Pap tests (Pap smear), to identify precancerous and early-invasive stages of cervical cancer. With treatment, these conditions have a cure rate of nearly 100%."
http://www.answers.com/topic/cervical-cancer


The staff at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center were outstanding. They gave her the care she desperately needed. I was with her through hospital stays, radiation treatments, and daily chemotherapy.

My mother was worried sick about how she and her husband were going to pay the bills. By the time it was all said and done, they added up to almost $200,000. I wasn't concerned about that, I was scared for her. The chemo and radiation took its toll on her, and she was getting sicker every day.

At an appointment in the beginning of October of 2002, her doctor asked me to leave the room so that he could speak to her in private. I excused myself, and went to the waiting room. When she came out, she could barely walk, and was trying not to cry. I asked her what was wrong, and it took a few minutes before she was ready to tell me.

"My doctors told me there's nothing else they can do for me- my cancer is terminal." She was given two months to live. This couldn't be happening! I had so much more to tell her. I'd just found out the same week that I was expecting a baby, but I didn't tell her because I didn't want her to know about a grandchild that she'd never get to see.

We tried our best to pack a lifetime of love, laughter and tears into the next few weeks. Then, three weeks after her 41st birthday, she began to have breathing problems, and I rushed her to the hospital. Her doctors examined her and said that her internal organs were shutting down. I knew it wouldn't be long before she was gone. She passed away on November 4th, 2002. I was inconsolable, and the stress made me so sick that I almost had a miscarriage.

For all the things my mother went through, I wouldn't wish it on anyone. That's why having AFFORDABLE health insurance is so vital. Hopefully, President Barack Obama will remain true to his word, and implement some sorely needed health-care reform.

"According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, the number of uninsured people in America has increased by 1.3 million to 46.6 million, including 400,000 more children." http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/july-dec06/insurance_08-30.html

Please, please make sure you and your family are covered. If you cannot afford insurance, look into your state's eligibility requirements for Medicaid. If my mother had done that, she might still be here today, and her husband wouldn't be under a mountain of unpaid medical bills.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Debt and Marriage: How Selling on eBay Helped Me

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Sell Their Stuff On eBayAnyone who is in debt, or has been before, is aware of the stress it can place upon other areas of life. I know it all too well: my marriage almost ended because of our financial worries. We were overextended and stressed out over our mounting debt, and that made us more prone to argue about anything and everything else. Our relationship is faring much better these days, mainly because I am now actively seeking work, plus I'm bringing in a little extra money each month by selling on eBay.

I started my eBay "career" by selling a dress, similar to the one in the photo, that I wore whdress sold on eBayen I was a bridesmaid in my mother's second wedding. I really liked the dress, and it had a bit of sentimental value to me because my mother passed away a couple of years ago. I knew, however, that the chances of me ever wearing it again were low. I ended up selling it for $48.00- not bad for something I didn't pay a dime for, and that was just languishing in my closet!

I also sell eBooks on CD. I found a website where private-label resale eBooks can be downloaded free of charge. For the price of a blank CD (less than fifty cents), plus a dollar or two for shipping, I had an instantly successful product. In my first week of selling eBooks, I had over fifty orders. My profit that first week alone was almost one hundred dollars!
Oster stand mixer sold on eBay
Not stopping there, I also make a decent amount of money by selling assorted knick-knacks and small items that I pick up at yard sales and flea markets for a low price. For example, last month I bought a 1970s-era Oster stand mixer at a garage sale for $4. I took it home, cleaned it up, and made sure that it worked and all the parts and pieces were there. Then I listed it on eBay, and it sold for $77 plus shipping. Quite a profit!

I also sell through drop-shipping. I list items that I think will sell. When the auctions end, and the money for the item is in my PayPal account, I go back to the drop-shipper's website, place the order, and the item is delivered directly to the customer. I don't have to keep an inventory or anything, which is what makes drop-shipping a convenient way to get into the eBay business. I have sold everything from baby items to mp3 players, and some are more profitable than others.


motorcycle sold on eBayMy biggest eBay sale to date is a motorcycle. My husband had it advertised in our local newspaper first. We had a few callers, but no one wanted to give a fair price for it. I listed it on eBay Motors, with a starting bid of $900, and it took off from there. It sold for $1,750, which was $250 more than we had hoped for.

I'm not claiming that becoming an eBay seller is a ticket to financial security, but I've been able to pay for our family's health coverage, and occasionally I can afford to put a little bit of money toward our credit card debt.

Money issues can cause stress in a marriage. I know it did for me, mainly because I didn't feel as if I was contributing to the household finances. Finding a side job (such as eBay selling) can go a long way toward easing that worry, and ironing some of the "wrinkles" out of daily life.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stay-at-Home Moms: Returning to Work for Financial Security Reasons

Stay-at-home Mom Returns to Corporate AmericaI have been a stay-at-home mom to two little girls, for the last eight years. I was privileged to be able to be there for all their "firsts"- first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten. Now that they are both in school, it's time for me to re-enter the work force. Why am I going back to work? Well, there are a few reasons. I want to feel as if I am contributing to the household financially. I sell a little bit here and there on eBay, but that's barely enough to pay the monthly premium on our family health insurance. Money is really tight right now in our house, and it's getting harder and harder to get by on one income. My husband is self-employed, delivering steak and seafood to restaurants, and business has suffered because of the recession. I guess fewer people are eating out these days, so orders haven't been as fast coming in. We have about $15,000 in credit card debt. All three of our cards are at about 28% interest, and we can barely afford to pay the minimum, which averages out to about $250 a month. Sometimes we try to pay a little more, but most months we pay just enough to get by- and the bills just keep coming.

Since I have actively been seeking a job, I have had four interviews, each with the typical questions about skills, experiences, and qualities that I could bring to the job. None of them had the result I was hoping for. Every employer wants someone with more experience, and I don't have a lot because I have been at home with my children since I was 21. I have a lot of skills, such as multitasking, and working under stress, but my time as an at-home parent doesn't count toward my resume. It's a catch-22. I can't get a job due to lack of a work history, but I can't get any experience until someone hires me.

In order to return to the working world, I have taken classes online, and researched extensively on corporate America and what employers are looking for. I know there are a lot of people out of work these days, and most of those people definitely have more skills than I do. It's hard to get back into the game, after being at home for so long. When I finally do land a job, hopefully it will be during the hours my children are in school. That will save me a lot on daycare expenses. Child-care centers in my area charge about $120 a week, per child. If I cannot find a job with the hours I am hoping for, I will probably ask my family for help with caring for my children. It's important for a parent to have a support system in place when they decide to return to work, and I'm really fortunate to have a loving and helpful family.

As far as salary goes, that's negotiable. I'd like to make at least ten dollars an hour, but right now I'd take anything above minimum wage. High-paying jobs are scarce these days, I know. I'd take a job with no medical benefits, because my husband, children and I already have insurance, which I finance through my eBay selling.

I'd really like to find a job that allows me to set up an IRA or a 401k, because I have not begun to save for retirement. I have no delusions that Social Security will be enough to keep me afloat when I get older, so I'd like to be able to start putting some money away.

Returning to the corporate world is tough (it has been so far, anyway.) I'll keep you posted on my progress, and provide other useful tips in my next post.

And, of course, if you have any advice for me, please post your thoughts in the comments section of this entry. Thanks!

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