Sunday, June 30, 2024

Money & Me: Bump in the road (8/12)

Luck and other factors have clearly had a role in my life path. Succeeding in America however, was mostly my own doing. I studied English diligently for a year before I came to the US. I spent my mornings in intensive language school, six hours five days a week. My afternoons and evenings were spent in the lab doing my PhD research, eight hours a work day. Breakfasts and lunches were had on the bus, in transition. Dinners were accompanied by writing homework. Social life and sleep were competing for my attention on the weekends, for 12 months.

I spent weeks looking for and finding the right institutions where I could apply my degrees and my expertise. The dial-up internet was not fast. I reached out to more than a dozen scientists to establish some collaborations. I trusted friends to lend me money for rent, bills, and daily expenses until my first 2-month late paycheck. My first job as a researcher of clouds and solar radiances at the University of Arizona was an uphill battle to make it, impress, and make a name for myself, was a success. Armed with great references I landed a longer-term position with a national lab, Battelle National Lab in the Pacific Northwest. There I learned to believe in myself. I collaborated with colleagues from NASA, organized an international field campaign, and traveled far and frequently for work, I was appreciated. After that, it was easier. I worked at the University of IL - IL-Urbana-Champaign for a year and then moved to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I traveled plenty and had fun, bought and sold houses, and got married, twice.

Life was unfolding rather well. Until I hit a bump.

According to the statistics, in the US ~45% percent of first marriages end in divorce. I was part of that number. We parted amicably. I remarried. I contributed to the statistics that 60% of second marriages end in divorce as well.

Money was not a reason for either of my divorces, but money turned my second divorce into an ugly affair. It took us 18 months to reach a settlement agreement. I chose to keep the house (a mistake!) and in exchange, I took a hit assuming the credit card debts and the car loans. All of that and the divorce attorney fees added up to more than a yearly salary.  Half a year later the housing bubble burst and my home lost a third of its market value. I found myself in a lot of debt and alone. It took years to recover.

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