This guest post from Maggie is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.
A year ago, my husband was unemployed. We were living far from our families, and dealing as best we could with a massive amount of student debt. Though we had trimmed all possible expenses, we were barely able to live month to month, let alone get ahead on anything or indulge in any small luxuries. Though I loved my job and was paid relatively well, we decided to make a big change and move back to our home state.
Within six months of beginning my job search, I found a position that answered many of our financial problems and also allowed me to achieve some personal goals as well. I now work for a public research university in our home state. One of the most significant advantages of this position is that my employer, like many universities, offers full tuition benefits to me as an employee.
There's been some debate on Get Rich Slowly about the value of further education, but in my field a Master of Arts is pretty much a necessity for professional advancement and salary growth. Earning my master's degree has long been a personal goal of mine as well, but not one that I thought I'd be able to achieve; I didn't want to add to our already large amount of student debt.
Now, however, I'll be able to work full-time and continue to earn income while receiving a degree that will help me have greater professional flexibility and income in the next couple of years. The financial savings? Approximately $24,000 in tuition, plus no need to take out additional loans to cover housing costs. And while it'll take me an extra year to complete the degree, three years from now I will have a new degree and three more years of experience to add to my resume.
There have been other advantages to this move as well. My former employer had ended all merit raises and offered a relatively low annual salary increase. By moving, I was able to negotiate a new salary that was much higher than my old one.
The university also offers a free gym membership and fitness classes to all employees, saving me an additional $50-$100 a month and allowing me to achieve another personal goal of working toward better overall health (a goal that I simply didn't have the personal discipline to attain on my own). Finally, as in many college towns, the university has its own transportation system. While I live close enough to my office to walk or bike, I can hop on a free university bus anytime I like just by flashing my employee ID.
And the icing on the cake? A full-service pottery studio, complete with all equipment and supplies, to which I can buy an unlimited pass for just $35 a year, a huge savings that will let me more fully pursue my favorite hobby.
Though we were living in a city that had a low unemployment rate and moving to an area that had a much higher one, my husband previously had great difficulty finding work despite his best efforts. Since the move, however, he's had three interviews in the space of a month and was just offered a great job. Between his new job and my increased income and other free perks at work, we're finally going to start our debt snowball and even eventually start thinking about buying our first home. We're also much closer to friends and family, so we spend less time and money traveling to see people.
Taking a risk by moving to a new state and starting a new job has paid off well for us. We're better off financially, and also much happier to be close to people and places we care about.