Student Loans – Not All Hope is Lost!

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There are SO MANY STORIES I could tell about AIS, but I’ll save them for some other time. The point to all of this is that I walked out of that school with almost a perfect GPA, which in most schools should mean that I had a portfolio good enough to land me a decent entry level job. At AIS it meant that I had shown up, stayed mostly sober throughout my classes, and (most importantly) had paid my tuition. That was all it took to get almost straight As.

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Disclaimer: I’m going to share a link to a resource I found that might help me finally get rid of my student loan debt. It’s called Borrower Defense, and it is through the U.S. Government Financial Aid department. I AM NOT SELLING ANYTHING HERE, PEOPLE. You should know by now that I’m not a bullshit artist. This is a legitimate group, run by the U.S. Government, and you can research before you read any further if it makes you more comfortable. I’m simply sharing it because I had never heard of the service before, and so I’m sure there are others who haven’t either.

I also want to be abundantly clear that I am currently in the process of seeing if this works for my situation. I could be rejected, and be right back where I was when I started the process. I have no stats on how many people this has or hasn’t worked for, but it’s zero cost other than the time it takes to fill out the form, so I kind of figure you don’t have much to lose.

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I attended the Art Institute of Seattle (AIS), where I majored in Computer Animation. Despite going to college a bit later in life, I still had very little frame of reference as to what college should cost, nor what a legitimate school operated like. Prior to AIS, my only college experience was a year at a state run university, but I was 18 and couldn’t have given less of a poop about paying attention to my courses, let alone how that very legitimate school operated.

So I missed what were undoubtedly bright red flags raised by the AIS at the time, because I frankly just didn’t know any better.

For starters, I was given a hard sell in my portfolio review. I was told that my work was good, but just good enough to put me on the bubble of missing out if I didn’t choose to sign up for financial aid that same day. “Classes were filling up fast!” They told me that they couldn’t guarantee I would get in if more talented students applied later, so it would be best if I signed up for government assistance that day. But I shouldn’t worry, because they had on-staff people who could take care of all of my paperwork for me, and I just needed to sign! What a deal!

The second red flag about the portfolio review occurred to me many years later. Reflecting on what I presented at the time, it was at best some pencil sketches and maybe a single painting. AT BEST. It was certainly not enough to get me into a truly legitimate art school, and in hindsight I’m not sure it could have gotten me into the pre-school finger-painting class at my local YMCA. Yet they were very encouraging and told me I had true talent and they could see massive potential.

The final red flag of the recruitment process came when the portfolio reviewer (recruiter) told me that AIS had one of the highest industry job placement rates in the country. This was another one that I didn’t understand the magnitude of until years later when I spoke to a former AIS professor who told me that the school’s job placement rate included “art jobs” at places like Kinko’s, because it was copy and print and technically fell into a commercial art category.

Then there was the school itself…Read More »

Sickness, Sweden, Soccer and Saying So Long to Summer – A Digging Out Update

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Hi Eveyrone!

Good News: I’m not dead.
Bad News: I have not been updating the blog.

In late August I got hit with the flu, and it knocked me on my ear. I was seriously concerned, because I had a big business trip coming up in Sweden that I desperately wanted to attend. I was starting to freak out that I would be too sick to travel, but I managed to pull the nose up at the last possible minute and was cleared to go.

Sweden was great, but between the craziness of that trip and the plague that had ravaged my body, I was in no shape to write blog updates.

Upon my return, I was reminded that my kids soccer season kicked off (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), and so we spent several days watching delirious kids boot balls about while the final rays of summer kissed us goodbye.

When I first started this blog, my intention was never to make it a 5 day a week affair, but it sort of morphed into that very quickly. Then I found myself scrambling to keep up with the cadence I had set for myself, and it quickly became something that wasn’t my most favorite thing in the world.

So moving forward, updates will be a bit more off-the-cuff and less regimented, but I promise they will still bring value!

Here are some things I did manage to accomplish over the last several weeks:

  1. I finally closed on the refinance of my home. Given that we have only been in the home for a year, this made total sense for us, and saved us several hundreds dollars on our monthly mortgage payment.
  2. I managed to pull the trigger on my “big plan” for the year of paying off a massive chunk of our debt. It will take until the 15th of September before I can officially explain here on the blog, but needless to say, the tracker on the right will see a BIG update at that time.
  3. I read some great books in my downtime! I finally read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” “The Millionaire Next Door,” and just started on “The Richest Man in Babylon.”
  4. I got bit by a tick while in Sweden while hunting for wild mushrooms that we cooked over an open fire with reindeer. True story.

So I wasn’t just lying in a pool of my own sweat and begging my children to “bring Daddy a fresh bucket.” I actual did what I could to make my life better as well!

Well… except the tick part.

My intention with this blog has always been to give people in a situation similar to mine a person that they can relate to. I want others to know that, whether they are deep in a financial hole, or simply wanting to reach some form of financial independence, there are others on a similar journey. With a five-day-per-week post cadence, I started to feel like I was losing some of that magic, and frankly just kind of repeating myself at times.

So stay tuned, because while the posts may not stick to any kind of schedule moving forward, my hope is that you will find them more substantial and meaty.

Keep digging!

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Being in Debt Does NOT Make You a Dumb*ss. Staying in Debt DOES!

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My ability to attain a relatively successful career meant that I probably wasn’t a flat out dumbass, regardless of what my wife might lead you to believe. My inability to manage personal finances, however, meant that I was undoubtedly ignorant in regards to the subject.

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I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school. Truth be told, I had a half-uncle who graduated high school about 6 years before me, but I’m choosing to ignore that to make for a better story.

Side Note: Yes I said my uncle graduated high school six years before me. My grandfather re-married very late in life and had a child with his new bride. Don’t ask, folks… it’s Smalltown, USA.

So like I said, I was the first male in my family to earn my high school diploma. My dad dropped out either his Sophomore or Junior year, and I’d be surprised if my grandpa made it much past the 8th grade. They were taught that school was for chumps, and the moment you had identified a career, schooling had served its purpose.

Yet both my father and his dad were incredibly bright. My dad still has an amazing knack for Marketing, even though I doubt he’d know that is what it’s actually called. He knows he’s good at “selling people stuff,” but could give two sh*ts about the terminology or psychology behind it. Both he and my grandfather started highly successful businesses, despite their lack of formal education, and both took chances that I to this day don’t have the courage to take.

So I didn’t have a lot to live up to in terms of expectations. If I had dropped out of high school early, I’m sure my parents would have been slightly disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

While my older sister blazed through both high school and college earning a 4.0 degree at both along the way (along with things like Class Valedictorian, President’s lists, scholarships, and the like) I maintained a rock solid 2.5 GPA, mostly due to sports and… well… not really caring about school.

Again… I didn’t have much to live up to.

I did manage to graduate high school, and then attended one year at university, dropped out thanks to a job offer from my father, and later in life returned to get a degree and several certificates. In all, I’ve probably completed around 6-7 years of post-high school schooling of some kind, and now have a successful career in videogames.

Take that, weirdly-young half uncle!Read More »

When Trying to do the Right Thing Financially Bites You in the Ass

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If you make it to the bottom of today’s post, there is a reward for you! True story.

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My wife and I are in the process of refinancing our house. When we bought the home a year ago, it was about as painless of a process as buying a home can be. There was some grunt work on our parts, but by and large it was what you would expect; chasing down bank ledgers, getting statements, providing numbers, signing papers, etc.

This year we wanted to refinance. It has only been a year, but the interest rates have dropped enough that it meant freeing up some cash each month that we could then focus on debt in the short term, which was critical given our situation.

What we have found is that the process of refinancing has been FAR more imposing than the original purchase. Not only has it taken months of work to make it happen, but it has also required me to provide what seems to be the same information several times over.

At a certain point in the refinance process, I was also working on getting some debts consolidated at a much lower interest rate (%29.99 > %13.99), but before I did this I asked our loan officer if this would affect anything. I was told it would be fine, since my credit rating was already verified and the interest rate of the refinance was locked.

Smash cut to Thursday morning when I got a call from the same loan officer asking me why there was brand new debt on my profile. I remined her that it was the consolidation loan, and here response was, “Well, Dave, you personally took this debt consolidation loan out, and when you had originally asked me about it, I thought it was to consolidate your own debt. Instead you used it to pay off debt that was in your wife’s name, hence it now shows as new debt on you, and thus we probably can’t secure the loan for you at this time.”

Let’s unpack this for a moment:Read More »

The Idea of an Economic Recession Makes Me Gassy

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The Thursday Think Tanks are semi-random thoughts that may not necessarily fall directly into the category of finances, but I still feel are worth sharing. Read at your own risk!

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I’m a nervous person by nature. I don’t think most people who meet me get that impression, as outwardly I think I come off as pretty self-assured and confident. Yet when it comes to things like playing my guitar in front of people, giving presentations at work, or speaking at conferences, I am a MESS on the inside. I’ve had a fair amount of experience in all of those situations, and yet every time I get insanely nervous!

When I get nervous, my stomach has a tendency to gurgle and bubble. Part of it stems from an old surgery I had on my small intestines many years ago, but the way it manifests is by bubbling and fizzing so loudly that it’s easy for people in the same room I’m in to hear it.

I’ve been in particularly stressful work meetings before where the presenter has had to stop and ask, “Dave, do you need us to take a break so that you can grab a snack or something?” thinking it was stomach loudly growling out in hunger. I usually don’t have the heart to tell them it’s not hunger, but the impending sense of doom I’m currently feeling. No sense in two gurgling stomachs in the room.

Another key area that affects this condition is stress over finances. In the time since we came to terms with our financial shortcomings, I have had many nights where my stomach sounds like a stinky bog “glorping” and “blooping” outside of a witch’s window as she dines away on small children. It usually really kicks in as I am laying next to my wife in bed, trying to shut my super-chatty brain off, as she is also attempting to fall asleep. This elicits one of the following responses:

“You’re thinking about finances again, aren’t you?”

“What has you stressed out now?”

“Things are going to be fine.”

“That thing won’t quit. Can you please go sleep in the guest bedroom?”

Over the last month or two, things have gone smoother as we’ve got our finances back on the right track, and as a result I’ve spent less nights in the guest bedroom. This is great, because the guest bedroom tends to be where our largest house spiders seem to congregate at some kind of giant-hairy-house-spider-key-party, which makes my stress levels rise, which makes my stomach gurgle so much that it prevents me sleeping due to the sound of the walls rattling. I hate spiders.

Seriously. I f*cking hate them.Read More »