A Conversation With a Single Mom Living on $40,000 a Year
Mike Dang
2321

This is a rough story. She got totally hosed in the divorce. I’m not familiar enough with divorce law to understand how big of a screwup this is, but she should absolutely not have his debt. It’s hard to say whether the child support is fair; $1500/mo is about equivalent to $28,000 in before tax salary. I think the main big issue here is being saddled with the student debt, which is at a pretty high interest rate. Seriously, ask a lawyer about this. You can’t sue to get out of the student debt, but you should consider suing the husband and/or your divorce attorney. Honestly, if I were in her shoes I would just not get health insurance for myself and say that if I ever got really sick I’m just going bankrupt. $40k + $18k in this area of the country is low enough that, with 3 kids, there might be some scholarships available for daycare, especially if she can make the case to the agency that the student debt burden brings her effective income down to WIC levels. Check with a social worker somehow, United Way would be good for this.

From a personal finance perspective, paying $130/mo for phone+internet+cable is insane, especially because I bet she mostly watches her Netflix subscription. She needs to dump her bundle and get internet only, which should save at least $60/mo. I suspect that, living in the DC megalopolis, she could also save some significant money by switching her cell phone plan to a cheaper carrier like T-Mobile. If she HAS to have the coverage of someone like Verizon (a fair point since I am recommending dumping the landline), she should look into companies like Page Plus, which piggyback off the Verizon network for about $40/mo and offer the same coverage.

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