Current Financial State

September 7, 2016
Of course it's not my main reason for being in China, but one of the reasons why I decided to come teach here is because I can save more money than I could being a teacher in the States. My goals for last year were to pay off at least one student loan. Although I put money towards that loan before my emergency spinal fusion surgery, I only managed to knock off a few thousand dollars and did not bring the balance down to zero. I was relying on my end of the year bonus to pay of the rest of the loan. Since I ended up missing two months of work, I lost money from my bonus and had to use the money to pay for my surgery. As frustrating as it is, I'm actually in a worse financial state compared with last year because of the $30,000 I spent on hospital fees. Even though this is a major setback financially, I don't know what would have happened to me in the States. Who knows what my insurance would have covered! I feel like I would have had to file for bankruptcy. I can't say I always had the best experience in the hospital here in China, but I do have to say that being here likely saved me from financial ruin.

Here's my plan for trying to set things right again or at least get in a better place in terms of my finances...

My hospitals in China did not accept USD as a form of payment, so I had to get everything converted to RMB. In the end, I was reimbursed about $17, 500, but all in RMB. The problem is that since I am an American in China, I am only allowed to convert $500 USD per day from the RMB I have. Since going to the bank that much is a bit of a hassle, I decided to just keep the money in RMB all year and live on that. I have no idea how much I usually even spend in one year, but I'm hoping it's less than that amount because it would be great if I could have money left over.

The good news is that I get paid in USD and not in RMB, so my plan is to wire $2,000 USD per month over to my dad who lent me the $30,000 for my surgery. The extra money I have left will go toward two main things: a possible trip to Hawaii and my student loans.

I had planned on going to Hawaii during our Chinese New Year break this year in January, but I don't know if I'll be up for it. I'm really hoping that I am because I've already missed out on so many recent travel opportunities. I will just make a travel fund for Hawaii, and then if I can't go, I can't go. You might thing it's financially irresponsible of me to go to Hawaii when I am trying to get out of debt, and I don't totally disagree, but I have to live.

As far as my student loans go, I applied for Income Based Repayment and seriously don't have to pay more than $30/month on all of my loans. Thanks, teacher's salary in the States! It would be dumb just to pay the $30 each month and stop there if I'm serious about paying my loans off, which I am. The $30 isn't even enough to pay the interest I owe on all of my loans, so since I don't want my interest to keep accruing, I pay as much as I can every month. Nowadays I'm going to continue on paying my loans how I have in the past because I'm actually only accruing interest on my unsubsidized loans. Under IBR, no interest will be charged to my subsidized loans. Naturally, I don't pay a thing on those (besides a portion of my $30 payment,) and I put everything down on my unsubsidized loans. The sooner I can get rid of those, the better. They are just a nuisance that cause me to owe more in my sleep. As for my subsidized loans, they are basically frozen, so they can wait since I'd rather pay my dad back for my surgery.

In Shanghai, stuff can get pricey. A cocktail is about $10 at a decent bar, the food at Western restaurants can get expensive, and a lot of the clothing at Western stores is marked up. One perk about having a major health problem is that I don't go out much, especially compared to last year. Last year, my friend Scott and I would fly to other cities over the weekend, and we traveled every break we got. That's NOT going to happen this year. We have three days off next week, but I'm still not up for traveling. We have a week off in October, but that is still too soon for me. The earliest trip I would even consider taking is to fly to a tropical resort within China over our four day Christmas holiday, and that might be wishful thinking. Since I'm still recovering, I mostly stay around where I live and go to local restaurants, which are way cheaper than the Western places. Don't get me wrong, I still might go out for Western food once a week, but these days that's my big event of the weekend. I'm not a big drinker anyway, but I won't even pay for a glass of wine with dinner because right now I can't touch alcohol. I'm on too many different muscle medications from my surgery, and I've been through so much that I'm not willing to even have a sip of alcohol until I'm off of my medication.

Getting paid at the end of September is going to be nice because I did miss out on five months of pay. At least I had saved some money for the trips I was going to take this summer and had to cancel, so I just kind of lived off of that. I did prepay for some of my flights and a rental car and was able to get partial refunds, so that helped, too.

Another small change I'm going to make to better myself financially is that I'm going to move my savings for retirement into another CD account I found with a higher rate. I'm a little bummed because I wanted to start a Roth IRA, but I found out that you can't contribute to one with money earned in another country.

So far, I think my plan is a good one because it's strict in some aspects, but not overly so. I'm still allowing myself some leeway for traveling, but if I can stay on track with paying my dad back $2,000 USD per month, my debt will be almost paid off by the end of the year. I really think everything is going to turn out fine. I'm just thankful I'm now working in China so that I am able to recover from this financial crisis.

If you have student loans, do you still travel? What's something smart you've done for yourself financially?
Post Comment
Post a Comment