I am sure that most of you, if not all of you, have heard the saying, “Don’t do it for the money.”
To say that I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion is an understatement. Here is my rationale, but first, my backstory.
My foray into teaching started back in 2006, where I served as a substitute Alexandrian Greek Language instructor. My teaching years were the highlight of my wild career path that began at the age of fifteen.
It was joy and privilege learning alongside eager students as we matriculated through levels of intellectual development to improve ourselves as skilled critical thinkers, awaken our inner voice, and enhance the quality of our reasoning. To put it in the words of a fellow blogger: “I believe that teaching is the greatest job in the world, and that [learners] are the best co-workers in the world.”
My passion for the teaching profession only grew as the years went by. But there was a problem. Serving as an adjunct professor at multiple universities was barely enough to keep the wolves from the door. I loved my professional life; even so, it was defined by low wages and insecurity. $40k was the most money I earned in a given year as an adjunct professor.
Residing in Alabama, where the cost of living is low, earning $40k a year for a family of six still placed us in the poverty threshold. Life was tough. Trying to explain to my children that we could not afford a basic item was always a heart-wrenching experience. Looking back, it baffles me as to how my family and I survived on those meager wages.
My wife, a licensed mental health counselor, and I, a university lecturer, yet we could barely get through pay periods and struggled to cover our necessary household expenses.
If you are tempted to think that we were financially irresponsible and lived beyond our means, perish that thought. Our debt load consisted of student loans (>$220k, mostly mine) and one vehicle payment. We had no credit card debt. In fact, we did not own a single credit card, not one. In hindsight, it was definitely stupid and irresponsible to use the student loan program as my personal banker.
With our debt outpacing our earnings year-after-year and our savings dwindling down to a few hundred dollars, we reached a place where something had to give. We could no longer continue on our current path, or we would face losing everything, meaning the little that we had.
Life for us was spiraling out of control. Things had gotten so terribly awful that we could no longer afford health insurance for the entire family. My wife kept her insurance from her job, which she would end up needing due to a health scare.
As the primary income earner, I had to make a decision, keep struggling financially, or pursue another career path. At my wife’s behest, I did the latter. I changed my occupation, and I did it for the money. I went from the comforts of a career I loved into uncharted territory, but one that was brimming with opportunities for financial advancement.
Given my circumstances (and promising career option), I believe you would have done the same thing.
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow to learn how this new phase of my life is currently playing out. In the interim, I would love to hear your thoughts.