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Financial headwinds hit the Dobson house

Finances. The subject escapes me most days. I have money in my pocket or I don’t. When I don’t, I use the ATM and draw $100 out of my checking account. I use this for ancillary items like coffee, tobacco, the odd pastry I get at school, and pop from the vending machine in the second-floor hall way between the OCB building and the Carlsen Center at school.

Otherwise, I use the credit card. About the only things I buy with my charge plate are gas and groceries. Sometimes, I use it to buy a book on Amazon or when I order my own books from Longleaf Services, the distributor for the University of Nebraska Press located in North Carolina. I sell those books, generally on credit cards, and the money winds up in a PayPal account from which I draw the money into the checking account. In any case, we pay the credit cards that Virginia and I use in full at the beginning of each month.

So, the family finances running day-to-day are pretty straightforward. We have a number of bills that come due every month—mortgage, cable, insurances, lights, gas, water. We’re spending about $3,500 to $5,000 a month. Easy-peasy.

Most people keep the family accounts and how much they make secret. But I see no reason why I should. As a writer, I feel other people may learn something, take some solace, or think we are boobs from what I write. I also think that if we all talked about our money more, employers would have to start paying wages commensurate with the labor people sell. That’s why when an employer tells me not to talk about how much I make at a job, I speak up and tell everyone around me.

Now, financial winds have hit the house. Virginia lost her job a few weeks back. She was diligent and assiduous. She landed another job within just a short time. But the ins and outs of having a new job have presented us with some serious financial decisions that may or may not put us back where we were before she lost her job.

Let me say right off that Virginia brings home most of the money. A Ph.D. in history has not improved my job chances. As a matter of fact, the doctorate has severely limited what I can do financially with my education. Jobs for historians are not readily available. Administrative positions at the college and in other higher-education institutions are also scarce. I might try to find a job as a writer. Even here, many people are going to ask, what the hell do you want this job for?

So, we sit here and find that our first round of decisions has to do with health insurance. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, COBRA, allows us to continue with the group health insurance plan Virginia had at work. Though it’s almost been a month since she lost her job, the HR Department at HCA Midwest has yet to get with Virginia to tell her how to get COBRA going. We just found out from the pharmacy that her prescription plan has ended. No HR department in sight. Repeated calls to the administrators have brought zip. They do not return calls. We are out in the cold.

Then comes the choices she must make at her new job. It’s unclear exactly what kind of health-insurance plan they have, if they have one at all. She received a call from a private insurer today and a policy that mimics what she had at the hospital cost something over $2,300 a month—over $27,000 a year. We are looking further into the matter and we hope that what we find will be something.

Meanwhile, we live off the money we have saved over the years. We are very lucky in that we have something to over-weather the time that Virginia didn’t have a job and before she gets her first check. I can throw a baseball and hit any number of neighbors who have nothing in the bank. A lost job or a serious healthcare crisis would literally put many of these people in the street. My meager income from the college gets something like the mortgage and groceries taken care of. The rest comes out of what we have saved.

This has made me think very seriously about getting a job-job, one that needs no skills or special education. Costco. A coffeehouse. Warehouse work driving a forklift, which is a gift I have. I think that if I can increase my income by about $1,000 a month, that would put us in the pink with V’s new job. At least the money I bring into the house will cover our healthcare expenses.

I sit here today and look about for what we have and what we will need in the future. I hang my head when I think that, yes, I will have to get a job and it will likely be in an office. In the past, I have not done well with office jobs. The routines and surroundings get to me after I go through the exciting and challenging period of finding out what the job is about and how to get good at it. The thought that saves me is that I will only have to work this kind of job for about ten years and for kid’s college and some retirement savings. Ten years. I don’t know if I can do that, but I ought to try.

So, when I consider the drudgery all my office jobs led to, I’m trying to think about things I could do outside of an office. I worked as an ironworker in the 2000s and like it a lot. I still miss it. But taking into consideration my age, 55, I wonder if I can perform the job as I really need to. I will think very hard about re-upping my union card over the next weeks. It means I will have to leave the classroom, as ironwork is not come-and-go kind of work. You work when you have a job and sit in the union hall when you do not. There is not a Monday-Wednesday-Friday kind of schedule. There are only five eight-hour shifts, four-tens, six-tens, and six- and seven-twelves. It depends on what kind of work comes through the hall.

I have thought very seriously about doing more writing workshops and other activities through local libraries and other institutions. There is a $22-an-hour stint in continuing education at JCCC. Maybe there’s more of that at the Metropolitan Community Colleges, Kansas City, Kansas, Community College, and UMKC.

There is another choice that I’ve pursued but hesitate to take up. That is being the kind of adjunct that works at several colleges at the same time. One of my workmates does upwards of nine to eleven classes a semester, online and face-to-face between four different institutions. Adjuncts make jack, but the number of jobs he has adds up to something.

And that’s what I’m really faced with in this time of transition: adding up to something. I have to make a move. The first step, I think, is uploading that resume into the job-search portals. We’ll see what comes of that.

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