In which I worry about my debt

I think it’s time to talk about my debt, because I certainly can’t stop thinking about it. Doing this masters degree is going to put me in debt. I’ve never had any student loans before, I’ve been able to acquire scholarships and financial aid, I worked through college and my parents were able to help out. Now I’m on my own and by the end of this year I will have almost $50,000 worth of debt. I worry about my debt.

I carelessly missed many scholarship deadlines so I can’t get help in that way and most masters programs don’t give financial aid the way that PhD programs do (this is extra frustrating since I plan to pursue a PhD). The idea is that with the professional degree you should be able to pay back the loan by working in your chosen profession. But what if I decide, after going to school, that I don’t want to be in this profession? I worry.

In order to pay back my loans in 10 years (for 1 year’s worth of a 2-year program), it will be about $500 a month. The theory is that having these computer science skills should raise my income by about that much over my lifetime. But not if I don’t use them. Even if computer science jobs are as recessionproof as they say I may not find a job. Even if I do find a job I can stand, $500 a month is a lot of money. I worry.

It’s hard for me to concentrate on my studies with the weight of this debt on my shoulders. In addition, my chronic health problem isn’t getting any better and I fear the stress of school and debt and work is making it worse. A few weeks ago my net worth went from positive to negative. I worry.

My mother assures me that I’m not alone, that the skills will not be worthless, that the knowledge will be helpful (even if it’s the knowledge that this isn’t for me). There are more scholarships, I could work for the government, and that we will repay my loans together. And yet I worry.

Would I worry less if I was in working retail and living in a crappy apartment? Who knows. I worry that I am putting off life in order to concentrate on school and it will catch up to me. I don’t know how this is going to work out, and not knowing is making me worry..

No More Usury

I had a bunch of energy this morning and decided to work on a side project that I’m calling ‘No More Usury.’

I’ve been interested in the idea of usury for a long time, essentially since I learned what it was. Usury is the practice of charging interest for loans and it’s a sin in all of the Abrahamic religions. But all of our banks charge interest on loans, otherwise they wouldn’t make any money. I wondered what happened, did usury stop being a sin? Did people just stop caring?

In the West, with Christianity, it seems they just changed the definition of usury so that it meant charging excessive interest. In the Middle East, Islamic banks don’t charge interest on loans, but they take a share of any profits made by the business or entity. These religions have figured out a way around this sin so that banks can make money.

But if the bank wasn’t trying to make a profit it wouldn’t need to find a loophole around usury. What if there was a bank that had an entirely different business model; a non-profit bank wouldn’t need to charge interest.

In light of the student loan debt I am about to take on, and this recent Bill Moyers Segment I’ve decided to take some steps towards starting such a bank. Even if nothing happens, I think it’s a fun project to work on for my computer science masters.
I think the idea will appeal to conservatives who want a moral, usury-free bank, and liberals, who want to overthrow our current banking system. I think it’s a pretty good idea. Come visit my site and sign up for my email list if you think so too.