Some of us are not supposed to make it. Not in a survival of the fittest way, but in a very deliberate way. Our country is set up in such a way that the very systems we are supposed to rely upon to make us Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger, are the same systems that are built to be the demise of those of us on the lower end of the totem pole, monetarily. I kind of just recently realized that I think I am one of those people. I'm a little behind, I know.
I grew up in what I now understand to be New Money. My mother had a bachelor’s degree from a college in Mexico and was a homemaker. My father does not have any college degree (I’m not even entirely certain that he graduated from high school. I know he got kicked out a lot). My dad was a professional singer for a long time, and then worked in marketing in the casinos in Atlantic City. He made a lot of money that way, and we had a beautifully landscaped home with a swimming pool. Money was a non-issue growing up, and I always assumed we had it in abundance as a kiddo.
Obviously, this was not the case. Despite my father’s success, my family spent a lot and I’m guessing we never really got ahead. My father still works, at age seventy. My mother has worked retail for the past ten years – she is fifty-nine.
As for me, I chose a career in the social services, always believing that what I do is more important than what I make. I’m in my second Master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania, making my graduate school price tag over $200,000. If I’m able to make $60,000 a year, I’ll consider myself lucky. So there’s that.
In addition to the astronomical cost of my education (which has been invaluable and made me a much better human, don’t get me wrong), I’ve become intimately familiar with the cost of healthcare for those of us that have to pay for it. Student health plans are required, and cost $3,000 a year. I just got a bill for $150.00 for a routine dermatology appointment. After I’d given them my insurance card. So…what that card is good for, I’m not entirely sure.
My friend Josh lives in Poland. He recently told me about the high cost he is paying for his graduate education - $4,000/year. I’m paying that amount per class. His wife got over a year off for maternity leave. Seriously. Go Poland.
Looking at my future, I’m afraid. I’m not a person who can dictate my life choices based on money, but I don’t want to ever feel as though I don’t have enough for basic needs, or for preventative health and dental care, or to keep my car running well. I don’t know if I’ll always have enough, and I don’t want to have to work eighteen hours days in order to have enough. This makes me sad, and nervous.
In talking with some other students at Penn, I’ve found out that many of them have no loans to speak of – that their parents are paying the entirety of their tuition. This blows my mind. Maybe these are the real privileged folks? Or maybe they, too, will eventually run out of money. I don’t know – but they’re about $200,000 head of me, and that’s got to be worth something for them.
We live in a nation that is set up specifically to keep a certain number of people afloat, in a big way. For those people, this is the best place on earth. They will continue to have a cache of money that self-recycles, and so they will also have access to the very best services and resources in the world. I think the rest of us are tricked into paying out the nose for quality, only to realize that we will never have enough to fully catch up. This keeps us at one end of a spectrum, and allows the big money to concentrate at the other end. I realize none of this is revelatory. It just makes me feel unsafe in a way I haven’t before, and I felt I had to comment. Anyone else?