*angry rant ahead*
i should probably go into more detail about why the "surviving on a public interest" panel is so disconcerting...i was going to write this as a response to kevin's comment, but thought it would probably get so long to warrant its own entry.
there were four panelists. two of them were public interest lawyers who had recently graduated--and both were in $130000 or so of law school debt (which is about twice what i'm going to be in when i leave). one of them was two years out, and one of them was three years out. they were discussing things like the loan repayment program and their thoughts about buying homes and cars, and one of them was talking about what a bummer it was that she was in all this law school debt, plus all this credit card debt. one of them is still working public interest; one of them decided to leave the attorney general's office and go work for a firm, and now does not have to really worry about money.
anyway, the thing that really disturbed me about the entire thing was that both of them discussed their built-in out as far as getting their loans or their living expenses paid. both of them discussed having husbands who made more money than they did, and paid large swaths of their expenses. in other words...to even kick and scream your way through working public interest right out of law school, you're supposed to find someone affluent and marry up? no thanks. any plan that relies on someone else to pay my expenses is suspect...and any plan that involves marriage--or marrying into money--is plumb stupid.
the other two panelists just seemed to be so...contradictory. one of them was a loan officer for the illinois student loan commission; the other was a financial planner for fidelity. the loan officer was beating in how important it was to pay your loan on time and keep your credit good and all. duh. anyway, the financial planner was like, pay yourself first...put money in emergency savings, then in retirement, then in a home savings account, and then pay your bills.
that sounds rather contradictory. what if you don't have all that money to sock away...and you sock it away instead of paying your loans...and then your credit starts to suck as a result? then, you won't be able to buy a house or anything else big in the first place. who in the world are you supposed to listen to--the creditor or the planner? the creditor can ruin your life and make it impossible to do things later...whereas not saving now screws you over, but doesn't put that scarlet letter of bad credit on you.
so...i need to have enough money to both pay all my bills and save up. if i'm to do public interest work, i'm only going to have enough money to pay my bills and live a life that maybe doesn't suck if i marry uncle pennybags...if you're single, forget it.
that's why i conclude...firm whore it is.