My husband makes $20,000 a year and wants to go back to school on loans. How can I help him find a better way?

Dear Dave,

My husband and I are 30 and on Baby Step 2. He wants to go back to school and become a social worker. He currently earns about $20,000 a year as a teaching assistant and wants to take out student loans to do so. He already has an associate’s degree, which wouldn’t mean four years out, but the idea scares me. I have a good job, so how can I still support him and his desire to continue his education without agreeing to take on more debt?


Dear Britney,

So it’s kind of a situation where you work the Baby Steps and he doesn’t. On top of that, he wants to go into debt to do social work. Does he know what social workers earn these days?

This guy obviously has a heart for helping people. This is a good thing. But I have to believe that there are ways to expand his options. Social work is one path, but there are probably multiple paths he could take to get involved in what he loves about the idea of ​​social work.

I guess he also has a passion for counseling and advocacy. Completing a four-year degree would put him in a position where he could potentially move into a guidance counselor role or something, given his background. But taking loans is not necessary. He just needs to be patient and wait a bit while you two bond with the Baby Steps and get rid of your debts. He could get a second job for a while at night or on weekends, and then you could pay off your debt faster and avoid those stupid loans with the money you’ve put aside. Additionally, there are millions of dollars in scholarships for traditional and non-traditional students.

Sometimes when people feel stuck in a job, they automatically think they need a degree. What your husband really needs right now is a clear idea and direction. Then you determine if a degree is needed to get there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against social work. But I’ve talked to so many people who went into six-figure debt, only to end up earning $38,000 as a social worker for the state. It’s crazy!

You need to sit down together and discuss all of this. Tell her why you’re worried and point out that borrowing a lot of money isn’t the only way — and it’s certainly not the smartest way — to do this. If you really want to support him, Britney, you have to help him see that he can take steps to pursue his dream without it turning into a financial nightmare for both of you.

— Dave

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