After all, the crown jewel of any immigrant family is the lawyer or doctor. Right?
The funny thing is, I'm soooo far from okay. My bro, who smartly didn't finish college, is bankrolling money as a salesman. I was fine while working at a big firm. I was the "smart one". I wish I had the intelligence and foresight of my brother. He should have been given that title. I'm a few dry months away (dry = months without contract attorney work) from being paycheck to paycheck once again. And everyone knows that it's hard to rebound back to being a "saver", when you have been "paycheck-to-paycheck." Your credit card debt grows because you don't make enough to sustain your rather unimpressive life... and you begin to have the debate in your head, "Do you I put this money in savings, or do I pay off this credit card? What's the point of having it in savings, if I have to pay 15% interest on a credit card? And saving money doesn't make money anyways." Then, there comes a point, when you miss having that debate because you look your checkbook squarely in the face and realize that you can BARELY make the minimum payment on your credit card. Yes, this is the life of a lawyer. Life was grand for those few years where I broke a 100K. But now, I'm back in the pit with the other crown jewels.
I received an email from a reader who asked for advice in convincing her immigrant mother to lay the hell off and stop pushing the law school dream down her throat. My comments are in blue:
I love your blog and I'm writing because I'm hoping you can help me talk some sense into my mother.
Like you, I am brown and my immigrant parents worked hard to send me to private schools and to college. I graduated from college a couple of years ago, and I am currently working at a non-profit. I don't make great money, but I'm learning a lot and slowly paying off my undergrad debt. I refused to go to law school (my mom's dream for me, and what I thought was my dream) until I had some solid work experience under my belt and I felt 100% sure I want to be a lawyer. My mom was not okay with that, but I managed to get a job and pay my own bills, which gave her less of a say with what I get to do with my life. Wow. You are already more successful as a college grad than you would be as a law school grad. Most law school grads cannot pay their own bills these days because they are crushed by student loans and unable to earn decent wage.
In my time out of college, I've seen how going to law school has played out for many people. It seems like a very few make the big bucks and the rest generally end up heavily indebted with varying abilities to make ends meet. I've meet lawyers who are happy, bitter, rich, broke and a few in between. I've decided that if I were to go to law school, I would want to do so on a huge scholarship. Getting into huge debt, especially when I'm inclined to want to work in public service doesn't seem appealing to me. You are so intelligent! You obviously thought this through. Some schools advertise their public interest law programs, but cost over $30K a year... thus precluding a career in public interest law. I went on an interview last week, to be a lawyer with an AIDS Advocacy Program. The starting salary was $50K and the position is open for a year. I told him I can't afford to work for him and left the interview. On $50K, can you pay back $90K+ of debt? NO!
Since I graduated from college, my mother has been nagging me about going to law school. She insists I need to go to law school so that I can have a profession. I keep telling her that it's too expensive to justify the risk. I tell her that it's three years of my life and that I need to be sure that the path I can envision for myself as a lawyer is plausible given the lack of legal jobs out there. She pushes back and insists that I having a bachelor's degree is not enough and that I need a solid profession under my belt. To be clear, neither she nor I have the resources to put me through law school, so under my mother's wonderful life plan, I would mostly likely owe tons in student loans. This is reason enough not to go. I would only suggest going to law school if it was 100% free. That means.. you must live and eat for free as well. Does she have room for you to live in her basement? Can she feed you for the next 3 years?
I know my mother wants what's best for me, but is not in touch with reality. She even provided me with a ridiculous example of an attorney she once met at city hall in a major city who said he or she made 200/hr. This is obviously crazy, as a municipal attorney would not make that much. She tells me I can go work for "city hall and make 200/hr" as a back up plan. She also cites the example of a relative who just graduated from a third-tier law school and she insisted that she had many job "offers" out of law school. I checked with my relative and my relative told me she had offers for job interviews, not job offers. Watch out for family liars. Brown people hate to admit that their children are failures to family and family friends. She's a bullshit artist. I'm actually shocked she got interviews at all. She probably meant that she got registration interviews at temp agencies.
Talking to my mom about law school as a risky investment isn't working and she gets resentful and angry at me for not wanting to take what she perceives is the next step in my future. Is there anything you think you can say to a brown mom to make her understand how thinks work in America in 2009, not her country in 1980?
Well, had I been as intelligent as you are, I would have told my mother... And I'm totally going out on a limb to assume that your culture may resemble mine....
"The more money I have to give to loans, the less money I will have to help my dear mama." My mother, being of the old country, looks at children as an investment. You work hard to get them on their feet so they can serve as the retirement plan one day. That is, if she wants to move back to the old country or has an emergency, I will feel like I should pay for things because she pushed me through her birth canal and suffered for me. But, as the situation stands, any money that I could have given to my mother to furnish her third world apartment or hire a cleaning lady or buy lavish gifts-- is being given to my mama that owns me, Sallie Mae. Alas, there is nothing left for her. Tell her to trust you ... and you will make money, especially since you will owe nobody anything.
Anyone else feel familiar familial pressure to go to