Why Trying to Make a Financial Plan is Hard

Since my husband and I have hit the 18-months-before-ordination-God-willing point in his studies, I have been trying to make a long-term financial plan. *blerg*  In 18 months, we’ll no longer be bouncing place to place and will have some stability in our life.  I would like our finances to reflect that new found stability.  However, seminary life makes it difficult to plan long term for almost everything, including finances.  Why is it so difficult?  Here are some reasons:

1.  How much will my husband’s schooling cost next year?  While the seminary does provide a cost of attendance (COA) estimate, it’s not a guarantee of how much his final year will actually cost us.  Plus, for some odd reason the COA estimate for room and board only calculates the cost for him.  Apparently only my husband needs a roof over his head and food in his belly.

2.  How much will I earn next year?  I am very blessed to be able to return to last year’s nanny job this coming school year, so I have a general idea how much I will be earning on a monthly basis.  However, I get paid an hourly wage.  I also work inconsistent hours–some weeks I’m only there for 35 hours, other weeks I put in 45 hours.  Add in unpaid vacation days and my monthly wage is extremely difficult to predict.

3.  What will be the cost of living?  As of right now, we have no idea where we will go when my husband gets a call.  We could go west.  We could go east.  We could go south.  We could even go north, although I hope not too much more north than we are now.  We could live in a rural area.  We could live in a megalopolis.  This unknown place that we will eventually reside has an equally unknown cost of living.  How much will food cost?  What will the gas prices be like?  Will house prices be cheap or outrageous?  Which leads to one of the biggest questions. . .

4.  Will we need to buy a house?  We could get a parsonage.  We could have to find our own place to live.  We won’t know until call night, but this makes a significant difference in our financial plans.

5.  How does a pastor’s salary actually work?  I’m still really, really unclear what is covered in a pastor’s salary.  Health insurance?  Housing allowance?  Mileage reimbursement?  It’s doesn’t help much that often the answer to this question is that it varies from congregation to congregation.  However, the good news is that I will have better access to this information once we’re back at the sem.   

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