… I suddenly realize that I’m in an economic position in life that I *do* get 1099INT forms, those forms indicating interest income on such things like my retirement funds that can be taxed, if I were to liquidate them as disbursements.
I’m one W-2 form (from my previous college employer) away from filling out me and hubby’s joint 1040A for this year’s “Federal Income Tax That Refuses to Go Away, Dagnabit!” and, knowing how much hubby and I grossed this past 2004, all I can say is that we are *solidly* in the middle-class — Double-Income-No-Kids (yet), house, two cars, all of that — and that just amazes me.
You see, I remember being dirt poor, even as a kid. Sure, my father was in the military — big deal. You know what an E3 rate Navy man makes? Barely enough to support himself, his wife, and his four kids, I tell you what. Naval housing, base privileges (usually meaning shopping on base in the commissary and the exchange), and CHAMPUS (military healthcare)are military benefits to offshoot his low take-home payrate. While my father was overseas somewhere in the Western Pacific, my mom supplemented my dad’s income by crocheting, cooking for other people, and babysitting. Hell, I remember going to flea markets to buy things and, sometimes, raiding other people’s curbside *trash* for chairs and little pieces of furniture that my mom could fix up and we could use because we couldn’t even *afford* the Navy Exchange furniture, where the prices are like *WalMart*.
My hubby grew up as rural poor in Kansas and then Oklahoma, moving from one rented house to the next, wherever his parents could find jobs; hell, he remembers his mom going out and hunting small animals to supplement their diet with protein. The year he started college, his mom’s yearly income was *four digits* and that was supposed to support herself and three boys.
Both my hubby and I were solidly on financial aid throughout our college and graduate school years: scholarships and grants, sure, but mostly education loans. Lots and lots of loans, which we’re still paying back (and will be doing so for quite sometime). We’ve become *experts* in the in’s and out’s of deferments, forebearances, and graduated payment plans.
When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my first apartment in Dallas, to be closer to my graduate school, I wiped out my entire savings on setting up my efficiency apartment (deposit, rent, utilities, some food in the fridge) and buying my books for the coming semester. My school paid for my tuition but barely paid for my living expenses — $500/mo. My rent was $250/mo (I lived in a *very* bad part of Dallas, my readers — I rarely left my apartment at night, kept everything locked, and often heard gunshots not-that-far-off, but that’s all I could afford and still go to school fulltime), and so I had $250 leftover to stretch for one whole month. If it weren’t for my mom *giving* me her car (which she still paid for the insurance and the car payments) I would never have been able to move out at all. My now-hubby, who was living with me, was making $6.25/hr, just enough to pay his school loans every month and occasionally help out with buying gas for the car and flour for the kitchen.
We lived off of flour, milk, eggs, butter, ground beef, and packaged frozen vegetables (because they didn’t spoil as fast as fresh). All other foods were a luxury.
When I graduated with my MA English, I spent one year working as a temp, earning $8/hr while my now-hubby was in graduate school full-time, earning his MA Politics. His school loans (which he got the max available) paid for *most* of our living expenses. My paycheck paid for my school loans and the car (which I was now shouldering the insurance and payments). After a year, I got my first real job, in the corporate world, making $22K/yr salaried while now-hubby was still in grad school. Even though I often pulled in 50-60 hour weeks, I didn’t get overtime because I was salaried, but at least I had a stable job, because we were now living in a one bedroom apartment in Irving (Dallas was getting too dangerous), and the rent was $400/mo.
Then my company got “merged” — so I quit to go back to grad school (the doctoral program that I’m in right now) instead of getting fired (the writing was on the wall). Full-time student, part-time adjunct teacher. From 1998-2002, now-hubby and I lived off of adjunct pay and financial aid, and, with much financial planning, keeping healthy by eating right and exercising (because we had *no* healthcare, but that didn’t prevent things like my food poisoning/pneumonia that kept me bedridden for two weeks) — still, we *pulled it off*.
Putting in time in the slave pits of adjunct teaching pays off, however; in 2002, I got my first full-time teaching position, and so did my now-hubby (we had been searching while teaching for quite awhile). We could *actually* start paying back our school loans in earnest *and* save at the same time. In time, we saved enough to get a house.
And that’s where we are right now. Damn — that was a lot of hard work… and patience… and faith that everything, no matter what, will work out…
Speaking of which — time for me to teach now…