I have two large financial regrets: buying a house and going to graduate school.
I bought a house in 2007 before the recession. It was originally assessed for $155,000, and we bought it for $145,000. We put about $10,000 in to it before moving in from paint, new, flooring, window treatments, closet organizers, additional gas/electric hookups and a second bathroom. We had the carpet cleaned and the venting system blown out and cleaned. Shortly after purchase, we got a letter from the city wanting to reassess the house for which the assessment came in at $165,000. Taxes on the house were about $3,000-$3,600 per year. When the markets tanked, we waited a little while. And in 2009 I called the city, but they refused to come and reassess the value of the house.
My husband (at the time) walked out, and I was left with an underwater-home, a divorce and a house that was impossible to sell for the amount owed ($135,000) in the current market. I also could not afford the house on my own. So I called WHEDA, the bank, and the offices of the mayor, governor and senator, asking for help in refinancing or reassessing the terms of the loan due to the significant depreciation of the value of the property (assessed at $99,000 for sale). Each one told me to call the other. And I was told repeatedly that until I defaulted on a payment they would not even think about helping me. I had to go at least 90 days of non-payment before I would even be considered.
Every message I left unanswered, I forced myself to pay it every month, and then finally someone offered to purchase it for $99,000 as a short sale. But I had no options left. All the government’s talk of helping homeowners was just talk. I lived through the red tape and the lies, I fought tooth and nail, and the fact that someone actually bought my house made me one of the lucky ones.
I decided at that really depressing time to go back to school to get a master’s in education/teaching certificate. The total value of a two-year program came out to be $21,000-$24,000. I took out a student loan for it, which I had never done for my bachelors’ degrees.
I was in the program for about one year when Wisconsin decided to lay off about a thousand teachers — just in the three local counties where I lived. There was a hiring freeze and teachers with less than five years of seniority were potentially on the chopping block. They kept teachers based on seniority, not based on productivity or achievement or merit.
I finished the program hoping that the storm would pass, but so far it has not. I still need to student teach, but no school is biting. So now I have a $21,000 student loan and no job to show for it.
What did I learn in all of this? I have really terrible timing when doing things society deems valuable and necessary.