How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

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semiotic
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How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:11 pm

Hi there,

My apologies if this is the wrong venue for this sort of inquiry.

Long story short: I'm 26, recently completed my Masters (though I've decided to no longer pursue further graduate study), and have been working for 1 year in an admin-type office job completely unrelated to my degrees (English) on $45,000/yr. In the past year I've finally learned about personal finances/investing. I've been living at home, putting ~60% of my income towards debt repayments and investing, and have managed to raise my net worth from -32k to -7k. I'll be moving out soon with some friends, and while I made up a budget and am able to squirrel away a tiny bit of money... I still feel absolutely horrible about myself.

All around me I see my peer group advancing in their careers, making in a week what I make in a month, and here I am: 26, seemingly nothing to my name, working a [(removed) --admin LadyGeek] job, holding seemingly worthless degrees, and just feeling... worthless. I sit at home all weekend afraid to waste gas and to spend money. It just seems like I really don't enjoy life anymore. Back before/during grad school I had a passion for life... I enjoyed talking to people, talking about my work, and was generally hopeful about the future. Now I dread having people asking me "what do you do?," and feel so embarrassed about my salary. Obviously if I was so smart why didn't I comprehend the horrible job market for humanities graduates, realize that Tenure Track jobs are going the way of the dinosaur, and set myself up for a career in STEM/finance/medicine. As grateful I am for the Boglehead community for teaching me about finances and investing, I can't help but [feel lousy - admin LadyGeek] every time I see someone ask how to manage their 150k+/yr income at 23. All around me people are buying houses, going on vacations, or even socking away cash and investments... and here I am, with seemingly no worth financially and personally. Intellectually I know I shouldn't think this way... but I can't stop.

I'm applying for jobs, both in my academic field and the admin-type field I currently work in. I'm developing skills, reading, staying fit, but it just seems like I'll never catch up. Hell, I'd be happy just making 75k/yr, renting an apartment by myself, and putting what I can towards investments and a travel fund.

Anyway, sorry for the ranting vent. I really don't have anyone to talk to in real life, and everyone around me just says "live for today! don't worry about the future!" all while they make 2x+ my salary.
Last edited by semiotic on Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

technovelist
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by technovelist » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:18 pm

Remember, "it's not what you make; it's what you keep." People who make a lot more than you do often end up with a lot less than you could end up with... if you squirrel away a significant portion of your salary.
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HomerJ
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by HomerJ » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:22 pm

I didn't really start my career until I was 29...

You're doing a lot better than I was at 26...

WHL
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by WHL » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:22 pm

I make more than two times your salary and still have the same feelings you do. It's easy to say from my side of the fence, but money isn't everything, and it could all be taken away from me at any time.

Focus on getting your career going. Even if it isn't directly related to your education, you have to make that piece of paper work for you.

Dunno how to help you with the personal aspects, because as I said, I have some of the same feelings.

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backpacker
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by backpacker » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:32 pm

Sent a PM. You're doing fine! That's a heck of lot of debt to pay off in a short period of time. :beer

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by fposte » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:35 pm

I know local COL is a huge factor here, but $45k sounds like pretty decent pay to me, and I'm verging on early retirement with a base pay of under $75k. Are your standards self-imposed, and is there something internal like depression going on that's a factor here as well?

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InvestorNewb
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by InvestorNewb » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:35 pm

$45k a year is not bad at all for a 26 y.o. There is always someone doing better.. just have to focus on yourself.
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pacodelostigres
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by pacodelostigres » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:36 pm

I think your perspective is a little skewed. You'd "be happy just making 75k/yr." Are you aware that this is substantially more than the median household makes? I have a graduate degree in one of the fields you mention, and was working in my field for 10 years before I made that much. I have employees with graduate degrees in their field that make less than you do now.

Further, keep in mind that pretty much everyone wants to make the kind of money that you're talking about and very few do. The people that get ahead are working very hard to get what they have, and they didn't make the mistakes that you did. Many of them fail even with that head start.

That's not criticism. It's just reality. You made some choices, got to live an enviable life for many years, and now you're paying the price. This price could have been known ahead of time, but you didn't consider it. That doesn't really matter now, does it? What matters is that you have to pay for it and how you choose to proceed from here. You can evaluate your options and dedicate yourself to improving your financial situation. You can stay put and make the best of the situation, and focus on the rest of your life. You can mope about the fact that you screwed up (in your opinion, although not everyone would see it that way) and not change anything. You're 26 and don't have crippling negative net worth, so you're ahead of a lot of people.

A lot of people only compare themselves to people that are doing better. Take a look around. It's a pretty wide distribution of lots in life.

You learned a lesson and have options.

ps No one cares how much money you have except you, so being embarrassed about your salary is wasted emotional energy.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by TheRightKost87 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:36 pm

I'm also 26, and I understand the feeling. I was in a similar situation to you not too long ago, but just recently got a new job which has put me in a better place emotionally and financially (not in danger of passing the Roth IRA cutoff income limits, but still :P ). I would recommend that if you're unhappy with the salary and/or job duties that you make applying for new jobs a part-time job in and of itself. It'll give you a nice sense of accomplishment once you do get the next gig.

As for feeling depressed because there are some people out there making more: Bogleheads is a great forum for learning more about finance, investing, and a whole host of other things. However, it's not a great place to compare annual income and things of that nature. Yes, there are people out there making 150k+/year at age 23. Use them to get help on your own investments (even if they're not as large of balances), rather than using them as a measuring stick for your own career/income.

Also, you need to realize that for every 23 year old making 150k+ posting about it on this forum, there are probably 10 making less than what you make, without the knowledge or even desire to do something positive about finances. Remember the game isn't over at age 30. Someone making 150k/year could easily be out of a job in a year or two, and if they've wasted away their income, they'll be in a much worse situation than you down the road if you live within your means and save/invest responsibly. :beer
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jstrange1970
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by jstrange1970 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:38 pm

@semiotic,

A couple of thoughts:

a) most of us were there once. Fresh out of college or grad school, in debt, and relatively low income is normal in the US. Perhaps not healthy but definitely normal. Very few are making $100K out of school and many to most of those who are doing well are squandering what they are earning.
b) don't forget to be thankful for what you have, especially in comparison to not only others in this country but around the world. Your income is nothing to sneeze at in your mid-twenties.
c) don't think that in any way the members of the forum are representative of the population at large. Aspire to fit in but recognize that it may take 20 years. If you set yourself on the right course now (and it sounds like you have), you are likely to be sitting pretty once years of discipline and compound interest take hold. Recognize that it is a long, slow journey, not a sprint.
d) know that we've all felt that way at some time. It's what you do about it that counts.

And the tough love:

e) suck it up, eat ramen, and hustle. you'll be fine. Either you'll make more or you'll get used to having less. I worked until I was 40 before I was comfortable buying lunch for myself every day at work rather than bringing a sandwich or leftovers and bought my first brand new car in my mid-40s. Cultivate good habits now and there will be plenty for living and fun.
f) not the best choice of major but still lots of opportunities for people who can write well. My college roommate majored in English and is a technical writer for a pharma company now and doing quite well.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by scone » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:42 pm

This might not be about finances, really, since you are doing pretty well, looking at it objectively. You might be clinically depressed. The tell is a lack of close friends. Internet "correspondence" is great, but you need human contact. You also need to have meaning in your life, either through your job or after work. If that's not happening, no amount of money will fix what ails you.
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celia
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by celia » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:43 pm

Welcome to the forum, You are doing many of the correct things but haven't seen the results you were hoping for, is my guess. You have been more successful than the average person your age but your friends are high achievers. They are not the ones you should be comparing yourself to. You should be comparing yourself to your 18-y-o self.

Look, not only do you have a degree, but you have two of them. The time you were in school is time you were not in the work force, so you are a newbie as far as your career. But you seem to be in the wrong career for now. What did you hope to do? What were your goals and are they still your goals?

Financially, you've paid off 3/4 of your student loans. Congratulations! You will be done soon! :D

You have found this forum and now know the importance of saving. But don't save too much so that you don't enjoy life. There are things you can propose to your friends like having a pot luck get-together. How about, EVERYONE has to cook a disk they never made before? You guys can go bike riding or play tennis. Or you can spend some money on some (but not all) of the things they enjoy.

Have you ever done volunteer work? What causes are important to you? There are environmental causes, helping people (children, sick, elderly, homeless), working on a cause (even political) that means something to you, clubs, meet-up groups.

Not only will you get a different perspective when you help others, you will be networking and learning about things you never knew much about. You have no idea where your next job will come from. But I do know it won't come from sitting at home all day. Have you ever heard of anyone getting their dream job from a stranger knocking on their door saying "Would you come work for me doing what you love to do?". Sorry, that just doesn't happen. You have to put yourself in various surroundings and talk to new people. Maybe something will happen that way, maybe it won't, but you can't say for sure unless you try it.
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Gecko10x
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Gecko10x » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:44 pm

pacodelostigres wrote:I think your perspective is a little skewed. You'd "be happy just making 75k/yr." Are you aware that this is substantially more than the median household makes?
+1

camptalcott
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by camptalcott » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:47 pm

My ramblings.

First you say you feel horrible about yourself. IMO that's a deeper problem. What happens when you get to that "magical" salary and you meet some more people who have higher incomes? If you are tying up you self worth based on what you make as compared to others, you can look forward to 70 years of being miserable.

Feeling worthless at 26 cause you in a crappy job? what is it with youngins that makes them think, 2 days after graduation they will fall into a life fulfilling job making a gabillion dollars. I struggle with this concept with my 20 some thing sons. Not to be insulting but really at 26 because you don't have a dream job you lost your passion for life?

Listen, I'm in a STEM field, let me tell you there are days when it is as boring, slow, yada yada yada as any other job. Those commercials where you see engineers and scientist developing the next best thing are just that, commercials. any relationship to real life is purely accidental. I won't tell you how many BS, boring regulation meetings take up most of my day.

Personally I think you need to get some mental health counseling. I did that the 2nd year out of college when reality hit and it was the best thing I could do.

Lastly, tying up your self worth to your position is mentally unhealthy. if you can't answer when some one ask you what you do without holding your head in shame, some thing is wrong. when the economy tumbled in 2008 we had a series of layoffs like many companies. Unfortunately 2 coworkers committed suicide in the aftermath. they could not find jobs at their salary range and the thought of working like the masses was horrifying. I won't even get into the wreckage they left their surviving families in.
Last edited by camptalcott on Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Leemiller
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Leemiller » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:48 pm

My solution was graduate school. If you want to earn more, that is one way. Others are extra side jobs or looking for a better job now.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by generalzodschicken » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:00 pm

I don't know if this is comforting or not, but if you were making triple what you are making now, you might have a similar outlook. People compare themselves to their peer group, not to national averages. You are already making an above-average salary in the US. I know plenty of people making $150k+ who spend all of their time trying to figure out how to make $250k because they can "barely survive" on $150k: huge houses, sports cars, private school, student loan debt, and on and on. It's the attitude that needs adjusting more than the salary, IMHO.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Trader Joe » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:05 pm

Your fundamental mistake was choosing to pursue an English degree. Try pursuing another field more aligned with the compensation you desire.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Crow Hunter » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:08 pm

You must live in a HCOL area.

I have a STEM degree and 15+ years experience and I don't make 2X what you are making now. What you are making right now is a very good salary where I live.
technovelist wrote:Remember, "it's not what you make; it's what you keep." People who make a lot more than you do often end up with a lot less than you could end up with... if you squirrel away a significant portion of your salary.
This is what you need to keep in mind.

The fact that you very likely live in a HCOL area and you are paying off your loans that quickly is something you should be extremely proud of.

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celia
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by celia » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:15 pm

semiotic wrote:. . . Now I dread having people asking me "what do you do?," and feel so embarrassed about my salary.
"I'm temporarily working in the admin department of company _________ until I can get in the ___________ field and work towards <dream position>."

It's more likely they'll respond "Oh, I know someone in the __________ field who also wants to <dream position>" than say "Oh, that admin job sounds boring."

And how do they know (or care) how much you're making unless you tell them. If asked, you can answer "less than I hope to be making in a few years".
A dollar in Roth is worth more than a dollar in a taxable account. A dollar in taxable is worth more than a dollar in a tax-deferred account.

stoptothink
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by stoptothink » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:16 pm

At your age, I was just beginning my PhD and about to get divorced from a woman who I invested almost all of my life savings putting through undergrad and dental school. I was making a similar salary and had little savings, luckily did not have any debt, but also did not have the option of moving home so I could really ramp up the savings. 7yrs later and I am remarried with child #2 on the way, finished PhD and have seen my income increase to about what you said you would be happy with (still not enough for my education and experience, but I have chosen to stay in a low-paying field because I very much enjoy it and it provides an unmatched work/home-life balance), and my networth is in the low-mid 6-figures with zero debt. We've all been there. The wife and I are well on our way to financial freedom and most of all, we're happy.

It may sound crazy, but you are well ahead of most people your age. A few dozen of my employees are 20yrs older, with similar education backgrounds, with families to support, and make less than you. You are almost out of debt and have a masters degree, this is the time when the networth is really going to start growing. Should be able to pass 6-figures before you hit 30, which is more than a lot of people twice your age can say (my own parents included, who combined make well over 3x what you do). Stay the course.

You always see the best side of people, I guarantee that a lot of those people you see making big money and having fun wish they were in your situation. This explains where most of my friends and family are. Stay the course, and figure out what is really making you depressed (can almost guarantee it is not money).

semiotic
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:24 pm

Yes, I do live in a very HCOL area, and one which is dominated by a particular industry especially congenial to STEM/finance careers. Of course I understand my "fundamental mistake" was choosing an English degree. That is my fault, but unfortunately I do not have access to a time machine.

To the rest: thank you for your stories and words of encouragement. I probably do need mental health counselling, as I completely understand how irrational these thought processes are; camptalcott's, jstrange1970's, and pacodelostigre's observations certainly drive this point home.

I think a part of it has to do with adjusting from the academic to corporate "work culture." The whole academic grand narrative seems centred around the individual scholar as this heroic intellectual figure: "here is this body of research, here is what X, Y, and Z say, and here is how I, with my unique methodological approach and theoretical application, will save the day and adequately address the problem of A." So, that is an issue I am grappling with. I had a passion for my research, but now it feels like I've latched onto personal finance as a topic to study, and have gotten deeply discouraged in the process. I am seeking out other jobs in the fields of communications/technical writing, and have had some positive feedback, but nothing substantive as of yet.
Last edited by semiotic on Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Crow Hunter
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Crow Hunter » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:27 pm

If it makes you feel any better.

Seeing all these responses of people who are making 2X what I am or more and I DO have a STEM degree kind of makes me depressed too. :|

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member
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by member » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:35 pm

Try to live on the same salary with 2 kids. That's my current situation.

Tigermoose
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Tigermoose » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:38 pm

Your standard of living is probably higher than that of the emperors of Rome. Cheer up :beer
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dratkinson
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by dratkinson » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:51 pm

I worked blue collar full-time while going to school part-time. I graduated college in 1980 at 32. My first job after graduation paid $1K/month, but only lasted 3 months: laid off due to economic downturn. I found other jobs. I didn't find the BH way until I was almost 60.

Believe you are overreacting to your much-better circumstances and as your net worth has obviously improved, you must be doing something right.

Not everyone gets a degree or works in their degree field, but they still do okay.
One college friend got a forestry degree but spent his life working on an off-shore oil platform.
Another worked as an independent electrician while studying for a EE degree, but got so busy with his part-time job that he needed to hire additional help... ended up as the busy owner of an electrical contracting company and never finished his degree.

The way it was told to me, a degree only proves you have the ability to learn, so gets your foot in an employer's door. What you choose to learn after your degree is up to you.

Just keep doing what you are doing---working, improving your skills, wisely managing your money---and things will get better. You should feel better when your net worth turns positive.

If you are not doing so, suggest reducing your student debt elimination strategy to fund your 401k (to get the full match), and Roth IRA (if possible). This positive should buoy your spirit.

Suggest reading The Millionaire Next Door for a different perspective on conspicuous consumption.

You are also forgetting that 40 years of investing success comes at the end of year 40... not year 1: compounding requires time to work. Ditto your other life goals.





Edit. Completeness.
Last edited by dratkinson on Tue Sep 30, 2014 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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billern
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by billern » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:58 pm

Spend some time traveling around any poor third-world country to realize how good we have it here.

Then start thinking about what you need to do to grow into a job where you are doing what you want to do and being compensated to a level that allows the standard of living you want to achieve.
Last edited by billern on Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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siamond
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by siamond » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:58 pm

As many posters already indicated, you are impressively financially responsible for your age, and this counts much more than your absolute salary. Geez, I wish I had been that knowledgeable and disciplined by the time I was 35 or even 40... I have zero doubt that you'll soon be well on your way to solid savings and a safe retirement. While I seriously doubt the same could be said for your 'friends' (are they?) making twice you salary...

It seems to me that the main issue has little to do with finance. It may have much more to do with 1) you discovering the harshness of the workplace (that's life, sorry, can't be fixed) 2) a job which is a really poor fit for you (that part should be fixable). We spend 8 hours (or more) at work, every day. If this is 8 hours of being miserable, 5 days a week, then no wonder you're depressed.

You're young, clearly smart and able to work hard (cf. your masters degree). With solid perseverance, you should be able to find a job which is a better fit. Focus less on the salary, and more on enjoying the work. Once this is settled, the finance issue will probably solve itself (if you like the job, you'll do well, and get promoted and/or get new opportunities). My 2 cents... Good luck.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by newbie001 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:59 pm

@Semiotic,

There is some good advice in this thread. I would humbly add that, depending on what source you use, your salary might place you in the top 1 percent globally. See http://www.globalrichlist.com/

I have no idea if that site corrects for stuff like cost of living, but the basic point is that people living in the U.S. or certain other developed countries in the early 21st century, with a few exceptions, pretty much won the lottery.

Yes, you will see many "Hi, I am 28 and need help on how to allocate my 800K salary and/or my $1 million inheritance" posts on this board, but BHs are hardly representative of the general population. And even if they were, there is something to be said for absolute wealth rather than relative wealth. 'll always take a higher salary, all else being equal, but I work a cushy office job, have plenty of time to pursue hobbies, can save for retirement, drive a dependable car, eat delicious food, live in comfortable housing, and never have to worry about famine, war, etc. I know plenty of people who make way more than I do, but any non-health problem in my life is a First World problem, and I try to remember that and be grateful for it.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by rayout » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:00 pm

I felt the same way 6 years ago after I graduated making 50% less than my two good friends that went into IT while I instead worked for a small engineering firm. I focused on being the best employee I could be and worked as hard as possible to be better than my peers. I am now transitioning into a national engineering firm after I was contacted by a recruiter. The salary I was offered was very competitive and is in fact better than one of my more complacent peers who remains in the IT field.

Remember, this isn't a race. Do the best you can with what you have. Work hard, and always be willing to challenge yourself. If work itself does not offer this opportunity, then you will have to do it outside of work. In my case, I purchased a rental property 3 years out of school and live in one side and rent the other. I was not given the opportunity to network as much as I wanted so I did it outside of work via Toastmasters International (a public speaking and leadership training organization). All of these things can be added to your resume. The challenges these other ventures bring a wealth of experience that will help improve you in ways that might not be readily apparent.

Please realize that more money will not make you happy. Not to say that you should not be properly compensated for what you are doing, but that money is just one of the side benefits of being good at what you do. If you rely on money as a metric for your worth as a human being, you will never be happy. There will always be those that have more money than you. Focus on what you can do to become a better human being. Part of this will be to take some time every day to appreciate what you have. Many, many others are not as fortunate.

semiotic
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:01 pm

Thanks, dratkinson.

I've completely paid off a ~11k loan @ 5.5%. The other loan is ~22k @ 3% (tied to prime), and enters repayment in November.

I contribute 10% gross to an RRSP, on which I receive a 50% match. I also used the income from a one-off editing/writing contract gig to start up a TFSA (I'm Canadian, by the way :wink:) composed of low-cost, index-tracking ETFs. I also have an emergency fund, but that will only cover ~3 months of expenses once I move out, so that is where the majority of my savings will be going now.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by lightheir » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:28 pm

I sympathize, and yes, it's a tough job market for young grads like yourself.

At the risk of sounding trite though, the world is still your oyster. You have just started career building, and you will likely not be able to predict the ultimate career you find (or careers) given that you're not on a definite career track.

And as hard as it is, also try to keep this very real perspective - virtually every retired 85 year old with literally 1 billion dollars in the bank would gladly trade you ALL of that billion dollars to be 26 years old again. Health (and youth) is literally priceless.

lowerleisureclass
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by lowerleisureclass » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:28 pm

@Semiotic,

Have you thought about editing as a career? I graduated into the Regan recession with a BA in English and have spent nearly my entire career editing engineering reports. Never been out of a job except for when I wanted to be. Those STEM people may make more money than I do but they still need my skills. Granted, it would be more fun to edit great literature, but there aren't a lot of jobs with that description.

I lived in Seattle in the 90s, so I remember what it's like to be surrounded by friends making money hand over fist while you aren't, but as others have pointed out, you have a completely respectable salary; your friends just have astronomical salaries. You've paid off a TON of debt very quickly; that's very impressive. It is tough adjusting to office life vs. academic life as I recall, but I bet that getting out of your parent's house into a group house will improve both your social life and your outlook. You may not be able to afford fancy vacations, but some of my best memories are of nursing the one drink I could afford for hours while laughing with friends at NYC bars 25 years ago (when I made $34K in today's dollars, but had the time of my life).

Best of luck to you.
"At either end of the economic spectrum there lies a leisure class." -- Eric Beck, rock climber

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munemaker
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by munemaker » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:29 pm

As others have said, you are doing pretty for your age. Paying off that debt shows commitment and responsibility.

A lot of times, opportunities come down to luck. There is that saying: "The harder I work, the luckier I get," or something to that effect.

Do the best job at what you do, network every chance you get and watch the want ads. Additional opportunities may come to you with your present employer, or an outside opportunity may come up. The last thing you want is for your current employer to think your heart is not in your work. Employers like people who are enthusiastic about their work, so try not to let your dissatisfaction show.

I went through a period where my salary reached the top of the range and was stagnant for a few years, and I was feeling a little down on myself about it. Then I was promoted twice (over a period of years) and I am feeling good about myself.

That is one thing about many of us, especially men. We assess our net worth (and happiness) based on our job.

You have lots of time. Keep working at it and I think you will be successful.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:39 pm

lowerleisureclass wrote:@Semiotic,

Have you thought about editing as a career? I graduated into the Regan recession with a BA in English and have spent nearly my entire career editing engineering reports. Never been out of a job except for when I wanted to be. Those STEM people may make more money than I do but they still need my skills. Granted, it would be more fun to edit great literature, but there aren't a lot of jobs with that description.

I lived in Seattle in the 90s, so I remember what it's like to be surrounded by friends making money hand over fist while you aren't, but as others have pointed out, you have a completely respectable salary; your friends just have astronomical salaries. You've paid off a TON of debt very quickly; that's very impressive. It is tough adjusting to office life vs. academic life as I recall, but I bet that getting out of your parent's house into a group house will improve both your social life and your outlook. You may not be able to afford fancy vacations, but some of my best memories are of nursing the one drink I could afford for hours while laughing with friends at NYC bars 25 years ago (when I made $34K in today's dollars, but had the time of my life).

Best of luck to you.
Yes, editing is my passion. Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory, and all through my student days I was the go-to for proof reading papers, editing short stories, "making stuff sound good," etc.

I completed an editing assessment for a Technical Writing job with an Engineering/Procurement firm recently, which I absolutely enjoyed doing, and ended up going in for an interview. I thought I rocked the interview, but was not offered the position. I loved taking a bunch of half-coherent engineering processes and making a beautiful, readable, and engaging final document; the interviews made specific comments about how they enjoyed my document design, and that I made some key editorial decisions that other candidates did not. I keep applying for positions in that vein, but many of them require some sort of technical qualification, or "3-5 years of progressive experience editing and controlling engineering documents." I think part of the problem is that I've never officially had the title of "Technical Writer," though I have carried out technical writing duties (all of my own making as my current role is not explicitly communications oriented in any fashion), and try to make that clear in my resume and cover letter. I was an "Assistant Editor" for a University publication, but the rest of my resume is comprised of various "Research Assistant" positions along with my current role. Nothing has landed... yet.

I have toyed with the idea of starting some sort of freelance editing business, but I'm really not sure how to go about the logistics of finding paying clients, etc. when much of my editing experience comes from the academic sphere.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Silence Dogood » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:55 pm

Semiotic,

I think your problems are bigger than finances. You should consult your doctor if you are feeling depressed.

Your finances are in pretty good shape. $7,000 in debt with a Masters is nothing.

Bogleheads tend to make more so you shouldn't compare to what you see here.

I'm 23 and going to make about $20,000 this year. Very happy with life and find lots of things to do without spending money.

There's an old Irish proverb that goes something like this:

"The people in life who are the happiest don't have the best of everything, they make the best of everything they have."

-SD

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Sents » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:56 pm

$45,000/year is above the median income in the USA for a single person, and is ~$10,000 shy from the median household income for a family of four. I recommend you search for a career that you sincerely enjoy and makes you feel valuable to society. At least that's what I am doing!
I'm the same age as you and I am turning down 6-fig salary jobs for a postdoc in chemical engineering, which pays less than you currently earn. Do what you love!
Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets. For it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. | L. Beethoven

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by camptalcott » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:57 pm

semiotic wrote:Yes, I do live in a very HCOL area, and one which is dominated by a particular industry especially congenial to STEM/finance careers. Of course I understand my "fundamental mistake" was choosing an English degree. That is my fault, but unfortunately I do not have access to a time machine.

To the rest: thank you for your stories and words of encouragement. I probably do need mental health counselling, as I completely understand how irrational these thought processes are; camptalcott's, jstrange1970's, and pacodelostigre's observations certainly drive this point home.

I think a part of it has to do with adjusting from the academic to corporate "work culture." The whole academic grand narrative seems centred around the individual scholar as this heroic intellectual figure: "here is this body of research, here is what X, Y, and Z say, and here is how I, with my unique methodological approach and theoretical application, will save the day and adequately address the problem of A." So, that is an issue I am grappling with. I had a passion for my research, but now it feels like I've latched onto personal finance as a topic to study, and have gotten deeply discouraged in the process. I am seeking out other jobs in the fields of communications/technical writing, and have had some positive feedback, but nothing substantive as of yet.
Common rookie mistake.

I finished college with a degree in Biology and then went on to get my masters in Chemistry. when I graduated, I just knew I was going to be Madame Curie, Barbara Mcclintock and Albert Einstein all rolled into one. I was going to work in research and just wing out great answers to the worlds problems. LOL. Can you imagine my culture shock when I got from college research where things moved in a controlled timed environment to the chemical/pharmaceutical labs where research goes along at a snails pace. where you can work on a project for years only to have some stockholder decide that the profit margin is no longer viable and cut your program.

:annoyed

I remember meeting a pretty famous actor a while back (easy 20 years) at a charity dinner. I had a relative who worked for a broadway theater group and they were having a fundraiser, anyhoo they kept introducing this actor as "new" which made him laugh because he had been slugging along for almost 15 years by then.

I know creative arts is a bit different but the point is, as others have posted, I think in reality the stories of huge "success" (whatever you define that as, in this case financial) are not as common as you may think.

like I said, the stem fields pretty much follow the same pattern.
"He who dies with the most toys is still, nonetheless dead"

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:00 pm

semiotic wrote:
lowerleisureclass wrote:@Semiotic,

Have you thought about editing as a career? I graduated into the Regan recession with a BA in English and have spent nearly my entire career editing engineering reports. Never been out of a job except for when I wanted to be. Those STEM people may make more money than I do but they still need my skills. Granted, it would be more fun to edit great literature, but there aren't a lot of jobs with that description.

I lived in Seattle in the 90s, so I remember what it's like to be surrounded by friends making money hand over fist while you aren't, but as others have pointed out, you have a completely respectable salary; your friends just have astronomical salaries. You've paid off a TON of debt very quickly; that's very impressive. It is tough adjusting to office life vs. academic life as I recall, but I bet that getting out of your parent's house into a group house will improve both your social life and your outlook. You may not be able to afford fancy vacations, but some of my best memories are of nursing the one drink I could afford for hours while laughing with friends at NYC bars 25 years ago (when I made $34K in today's dollars, but had the time of my life).

Best of luck to you.
Yes, editing is my passion. Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory, and all through my student days I was the go-to for proof reading papers, editing short stories, "making stuff sound good," etc.

I completed an editing assessment for a Technical Writing job with an Engineering/Procurement firm recently, which I absolutely enjoyed doing, and ended up going in for an interview. I thought I rocked the interview, but was not offered the position. I loved taking a bunch of half-coherent engineering processes and making a beautiful, readable, and engaging final document; the interviews made specific comments about how they enjoyed my document design, and that I made some key editorial decisions that other candidates did not. I keep applying for positions in that vein, but many of them require some sort of technical qualification, or "3-5 years of progressive experience editing and controlling engineering documents." I think part of the problem is that I've never officially had the title of "Technical Writer," though I have carried out technical writing duties (all of my own making as my current role is not explicitly communications oriented in any fashion), and try to make that clear in my resume and cover letter. I was an "Assistant Editor" for a University publication, but the rest of my resume is comprised of various "Research Assistant" positions along with my current role. Nothing has landed... yet.

I have toyed with the idea of starting some sort of freelance editing business, but I'm really not sure how to go about the logistics of finding paying clients, etc. when much of my editing experience comes from the academic sphere.
First, to repeat what many have said above, you've actually done remarkably well, even if you don't feel that way emotionally.
(Reality and emotions don't always match up quite right, but that's a different topic. Trying to change your mindset is often easier said than done, and it's almost always not as easily done as *others* say it will/should be, alas.)

You've made amazing progress paying down loans.

Some of us at that age were indeed suddenly becoming single parents and just returning to college after having put a spouse through school. And were saddled with children, which puts an entire other level of responsibility and stress into the picture, not to mention supporting more than one's self.
It was not at all easy. And there were lots more bumps along the way.
But there were also some wonderful times, professional and personal, some of them quite unexpected.

You are far ahead of quite a few financially, even if your friends aren't in that category.
And if you find a way to mention "I'm looking for a position with more technical editing..." or some such when you are asked "what you do", you might be surprised with connections that suddenly are mentioned. All it takes is one...!

You seem to have found something that you ARE passionate about.

That is important, very important.

How did you get the technical editing work you mention?
Was it paid?
Can you find more, paid or not?
Sometimes it's worth doing a bit to "get noticed".
AND... that could give you the "credentials" you feel you are lacking.
Are there any nearby courses on technical writing?
The combination of the above could get you started on the "progressive experience" you want.

Also, you wrote that "Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory". How can you leverage that experience, or perhaps contacts that you made then and with your recent work?

It is so easy to tell someone else to cheer up, but that's often not particularly useful.
Can you spend some of your time and effort searching for more opportunities to do what you LIKE doing, part time? Even a very low additional pay?
You'll enjoy it, sharpen your skills, and you might get "noticed" - that's what can make all the difference.

RM
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by livesoft » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:06 pm

My spouse loves to edit technical stuff as part of her job and produces great results. However, she takes 3 times as long as anybody else although the others' work is not as good. Sometimes clients are looking for improvement and quick turn-around. What's that old saying: Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick any two.
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Toons » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:06 pm

As soon as "negative thinking" enters your mind Block it,Stop it..Think Positive,small positive steps everyday,day in day out,Feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere.It is a waste of time and energy.You have a lot going for already,,,,Try to be thankful that you:
"Don't have the things,or situations in life that you Don't want".Think about that line. :happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:27 pm

ResearchMed wrote: First, to repeat what many have said above, you've actually done remarkably well, even if you don't feel that way emotionally.
(Reality and emotions don't always match up quite right, but that's a different topic. Trying to change your mindset is often easier said than done, and it's almost always not as easily done as *others* say it will/should be, alas.)

You've made amazing progress paying down loans.

Some of us at that age were indeed suddenly becoming single parents and just returning to college after having put a spouse through school. And were saddled with children, which puts an entire other level of responsibility and stress into the picture, not to mention supporting more than one's self.
It was not at all easy. And there were lots more bumps along the way.
But there were also some wonderful times, professional and personal, some of them quite unexpected.

You are far ahead of quite a few financially, even if your friends aren't in that category.
And if you find a way to mention "I'm looking for a position with more technical editing..." or some such when you are asked "what you do", you might be surprised with connections that suddenly are mentioned. All it takes is one...!

You seem to have found something that you ARE passionate about.

That is important, very important.

How did you get the technical editing work you mention?
Was it paid?
Can you find more, paid or not?
Sometimes it's worth doing a bit to "get noticed".
AND... that could give you the "credentials" you feel you are lacking.
Are there any nearby courses on technical writing?
The combination of the above could get you started on the "progressive experience" you want.

Also, you wrote that "Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory". How can you leverage that experience, or perhaps contacts that you made then and with your recent work?

It is so easy to tell someone else to cheer up, but that's often not particularly useful.
Can you spend some of your time and effort searching for more opportunities to do what you LIKE doing, part time? Even a very low additional pay?
You'll enjoy it, sharpen your skills, and you might get "noticed" - that's what can make all the difference.

RM
Thanks for this, RM.

Well, a large part of my academic work could be classified as technical writing. Mostly critical editing using specialised medieval fonts, composing manuscript/archive descriptions, describing production processes, etc. I also documented procedures for transcribing documents using XML markup. In my current role I edited, compiled, and designed an instructional handbook of SOPs, along with a couple other documentation/procedural tasks. There is a nearby course that provides a Technical Writing certificate, but I do not have adequate funds saved up at the moment. It's about a 3-5 year course if I took it part time. Really though, the major editing cert is through the Editors Association of Canada, which I could certainly work towards, but seems to be a few years out at the moment (http://www.editors.ca/certification/index.html).

I would gladly take on editing work for free just to get some experience and build up some references.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by swaption » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:29 pm

You did not make any "fundamental mistake", in fact you have done nothing wrong. I think for some reason you seem to be equating the traditional measures of winning/losing with some measure of self worth. As a result, life seems to have become a burden because of the constant reminders of your own diminished self worth. Do you think other people are judging you? Probably not in most cases, so the remaining question is why are you? Why have so much invested in these outcomes? For one thing, it probably creates so much pressure inside you that, and I would guess you take some of that into interviews. Don't be afraid to be genuine, and that extends to your friendships as well. Is all that you have done in your life so trivial that the amount you make in a year would be the sole determinant of the wisdom of your life choices?

I'll say this, and this is from someone that is almost twice your age and has all the STEM and other credentials you could ever ask for. The most valuable skills for me have been the people skills. It almost sounds trite. The ability to engage, listen, work with others, and lead is like gold. It's also something I developed relatively late.

lowerleisureclass
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by lowerleisureclass » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:30 pm

semiotic wrote: Yes, editing is my passion. Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory, and all through my student days I was the go-to for proof reading papers, editing short stories, "making stuff sound good," etc.

I completed an editing assessment for a Technical Writing job with an Engineering/Procurement firm recently, which I absolutely enjoyed doing, and ended up going in for an interview. I thought I rocked the interview, but was not offered the position. I loved taking a bunch of half-coherent engineering processes and making a beautiful, readable, and engaging final document; the interviews made specific comments about how they enjoyed my document design, and that I made some key editorial decisions that other candidates did not. I keep applying for positions in that vein, but many of them require some sort of technical qualification, or "3-5 years of progressive experience editing and controlling engineering documents." I think part of the problem is that I've never officially had the title of "Technical Writer," though I have carried out technical writing duties (all of my own making as my current role is not explicitly communications oriented in any fashion), and try to make that clear in my resume and cover letter. I was an "Assistant Editor" for a University publication, but the rest of my resume is comprised of various "Research Assistant" positions along with my current role. Nothing has landed... yet.

I have toyed with the idea of starting some sort of freelance editing business, but I'm really not sure how to go about the logistics of finding paying clients, etc. when much of my editing experience comes from the academic sphere.

You might try reworking your resume to focus on areas of experience rather than a straight chronological job/title/date format -- it would at least be an interesting exercise to see how you can tease out/highlight the experience relevant to your goals. And to echo an upthread comment, yes *definitely* answer the 'what do you do' question by telling the what you want to do instead; you never know who might remember you later or know someone who knows someone who is looking for an editor.
"At either end of the economic spectrum there lies a leisure class." -- Eric Beck, rock climber

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:31 pm

Trader Joe wrote:Your fundamental mistake was choosing to pursue an English degree. Try pursuing another field more aligned with the compensation you desire.
Really? :oops: What degree do you suggest instead? :?:

There's plenty you can do with an English degree and it doesn't involve being a petroleum transfer technician (aka gas pumper). :wink:
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by CFM300 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:44 pm

If you want to write and edit and yet make crazy good money, you should consider corporate communications. Yes, you'll have to work to break into the field. Probably by paying your dues in another field of writing first: journalism, publishing, technical writing, advertising.

Have you considered teaching?

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by technovelist » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:47 pm

lowerleisureclass wrote:
semiotic wrote: Yes, editing is my passion. Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory, and all through my student days I was the go-to for proof reading papers, editing short stories, "making stuff sound good," etc.

I completed an editing assessment for a Technical Writing job with an Engineering/Procurement firm recently, which I absolutely enjoyed doing, and ended up going in for an interview. I thought I rocked the interview, but was not offered the position. I loved taking a bunch of half-coherent engineering processes and making a beautiful, readable, and engaging final document; the interviews made specific comments about how they enjoyed my document design, and that I made some key editorial decisions that other candidates did not. I keep applying for positions in that vein, but many of them require some sort of technical qualification, or "3-5 years of progressive experience editing and controlling engineering documents." I think part of the problem is that I've never officially had the title of "Technical Writer," though I have carried out technical writing duties (all of my own making as my current role is not explicitly communications oriented in any fashion), and try to make that clear in my resume and cover letter. I was an "Assistant Editor" for a University publication, but the rest of my resume is comprised of various "Research Assistant" positions along with my current role. Nothing has landed... yet.

I have toyed with the idea of starting some sort of freelance editing business, but I'm really not sure how to go about the logistics of finding paying clients, etc. when much of my editing experience comes from the academic sphere.

You might try reworking your resume to focus on areas of experience rather than a straight chronological job/title/date format -- it would at least be an interesting exercise to see how you can tease out/highlight the experience relevant to your goals. And to echo an upthread comment, yes *definitely* answer the 'what do you do' question by telling the what you want to do instead; you never know who might remember you later or know someone who knows someone who is looking for an editor.
According to a very well respected career advisor, John Lucht, the type of resume you are recommending will almost certainly NOT help anyone get a better job. Potential employers look at it very dubiously, wondering what you are trying to hide.

I strongly recommend Lucht's book, "Rites of Passage at $100K+" (http://smile.amazon.com/Rites-Passage-1 ... B00JMHR16I) for anyone trying to improve their career prospects.
In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, they often differ.

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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by semiotic » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:49 pm

CFM300 wrote:If you want to write and edit and yet make crazy good money, you should consider corporate communications. Yes, you'll have to work to break into the field. Probably by paying your dues in another field of writing first: journalism, publishing, technical writing, advertising.

Have you considered teaching?
I loved the teaching and lecturing I did in graduate school, but K-12 education in my province requires a 2 year post bac program, which I can't afford at the moment.

Yes, corporate communications is on my radar. I actually did an informational interview with someone in that field, and it seems like something I would enjoy, but I haven't had any luck with the few jobs I've applied to so far.

generalzodschicken
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by generalzodschicken » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:50 pm

As others have pointed out, it is all relative. You could be unemployed. You could have the same income with 3 mouths to feed. You could be in jail or have cancer. Things don't necessarily have to get better, but believe me, they can *always* get a LOT worse. Try to keep things in perspective.

It can be intimidating reading this forum at times. I make several times what you make and I sometimes feel "poor" after visiting this forum. But remember this is NOT typical. The typical person makes less than you do, has zero savings, and tons of debt -- and that's just in the US. The typical person on the planet makes about a third of what you make.

cu_
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by cu_ » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:51 pm

I have been in similar situation as you. I have learnt that comparison is the root of unhappiness, when it comes to finances. In anyone's peer group, there is going to be someone making more and there is going to be someone making less. I have learnt to compare my current situation with mine a few years ago. As long as I am making progress and I am happy (defined as: family is thriving, I am liking what I do most of the day, I did not screw anyone over & most importantly I have hope for tomorrow), I am good with my situation. You seem to be there. You seem to have made great progress in getting rid of most of the debt, paid your debts (so you did not screw anyone over). So, only two things remaining: (1) compare to your own situation few years ago not to what you consider as your peer group and (2) have hope (this is easier said than done). I feel your pain, I have been there not too long ago. But I consider myself a happy person now. And I tried to (for the first time in my life) put in sentences what helped me. Hope this helps.

lowerleisureclass
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Re: How can I stop feeling depressed about my finances?

Post by lowerleisureclass » Mon Sep 29, 2014 5:04 pm

technovelist wrote:
lowerleisureclass wrote:
semiotic wrote: Yes, editing is my passion. Much of my academic research centred around textual editing/editorial theory, and all through my student days I was the go-to for proof reading papers, editing short stories, "making stuff sound good," etc.

I completed an editing assessment for a Technical Writing job with an Engineering/Procurement firm recently, which I absolutely enjoyed doing, and ended up going in for an interview. I thought I rocked the interview, but was not offered the position. I loved taking a bunch of half-coherent engineering processes and making a beautiful, readable, and engaging final document; the interviews made specific comments about how they enjoyed my document design, and that I made some key editorial decisions that other candidates did not. I keep applying for positions in that vein, but many of them require some sort of technical qualification, or "3-5 years of progressive experience editing and controlling engineering documents." I think part of the problem is that I've never officially had the title of "Technical Writer," though I have carried out technical writing duties (all of my own making as my current role is not explicitly communications oriented in any fashion), and try to make that clear in my resume and cover letter. I was an "Assistant Editor" for a University publication, but the rest of my resume is comprised of various "Research Assistant" positions along with my current role. Nothing has landed... yet.

I have toyed with the idea of starting some sort of freelance editing business, but I'm really not sure how to go about the logistics of finding paying clients, etc. when much of my editing experience comes from the academic sphere.

You might try reworking your resume to focus on areas of experience rather than a straight chronological job/title/date format -- it would at least be an interesting exercise to see how you can tease out/highlight the experience relevant to your goals. And to echo an upthread comment, yes *definitely* answer the 'what do you do' question by telling the what you want to do instead; you never know who might remember you later or know someone who knows someone who is looking for an editor.
According to a very well respected career advisor, John Lucht, the type of resume you are recommending will almost certainly NOT help anyone get a better job. Potential employers look at it very dubiously, wondering what you are trying to hide.

I strongly recommend Lucht's book, "Rites of Passage at $100K+" (http://smile.amazon.com/Rites-Passage-1 ... B00JMHR16I) for anyone trying to improve their career prospects.
I've always felt that way myself, but then my engineering firm has hired more than one person (both admin and technical) in the past couple of years who had that type of resume, so clearly not everyone agrees with me, and god knows I've never hired anyone. I do think however that it could be a good exercise in figuring out how to highlight your experience, and it doesn't have to be either/or -- you can have a chronological list with job titles AND a section highlighting your experience with the type of work you're looking for..
"At either end of the economic spectrum there lies a leisure class." -- Eric Beck, rock climber

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