Anti-tax protesters: Yes you CAN borrow your way out of debt!

One placard at the moronic (but apparently well-attended!) anti-tax “tea party” protests reads “You can’t borrow your way out of debt,” and that just floors me, because it just isn’t true and I have the experience to prove it.

After coming back from a high school exchange in Japan and attending a semester of community college, I suddenly decided that I needed to get out of Connecticut and transfer to a four-year univserity as soon as possible. A combination of a lack of preparation, a burning need to get out of my hometown, and plain ignorance of how money works led me to forego cheaper options and attend a private university funded almost entirely on student debt (in a ratio of around 75% variable rate private debt and 25% fixed rate direct federal borrowing). At the end of it I was many tens of thousands of dollars in the hole, but today less than 4 years later I am two months away from being debt-free, all thanks to “borrowing my way out.”

At the end of my education I had a degree in “International Relations” – essentially a liberal arts program.  I left the system without much in the way of skills, but college did give me two things that would come in very handy later on – a bona fide college degree and the time and impetus to dedicate to accumulating knowledge (a good portion of which came through classwork) and compulsively studying Japanese, all without any immediate need to make ends meet.

But without any directly marketable skills and no immediate job prospects, I stayed afloat in Washington DC after graduation through multiple part-time jobs (at one point I was working for four separate companies), occasional parental assistance, and deficit spending with one of those “pre-approved” credit cards they were always sending me back then. I also deferred my student loan repayment to the last possible moment, a decision that added another $10,000 in piled-on interest by the time I started paying.

But I kept at my jobs and eventually landed a gig translating for a law firm. Though I already had some translation skills before starting (documented in early MF posts!), the office experience, from the basic administrative duties of a “legal assistant” to keeping up with the high-paced research activities of my boss, was a very uphill learning curve, and the salary was just barely enough to survive on and pay a $1000 a month minimum payment.

But I somehow managed to stay afloat, and while I left that firm to follow Mrs. Adamu to Thailand, I continued working and improving as a freelance translator. When I eventually made my way to Japan, I easily landed a much better paying job (at a time when the JPY-USD exchange rate was at its most favorable in a decade) that put me on the path out of debt bondage.

So by dint of this experience I know that with a little luck knowing how to learn from people and ask for and accept help, perseverence, development, and talent can end up paying big dividends, as long as you are willing to invest in yourself. My own experience was not ideal as I made some “bad” decisions initially (though I do not regret the path my life took since otherwise there would be no Mrs. Adamu), but then neither is this recession. While many representing the underdeveloped economies argue for sustainable growth free from major-power exploitation, America has been in the grip of the “cult of progress” for more than a century. Our future prosperity is tied to economic growth, so in the bad times we seek to limit the downside through deficit spending and a series of debt rollovers. 

I wonder if any of the protesters have had similar experiences. Perhaps it is tough to relate big, nationwide events to everyday life, but I am shocked that so many are ready to throw common sense to the wind and buy into idiotic catch phrases no doubt orchestrated by Astro Turfers who view them as nothing more than pawns that are useful to serving an end entirely removed from the actual protesters’ interests. There is nothing explicitly liberal or offensive about public works spending, so it doesn’t make sense to oppose in such and ugly and kneejerk way just because it doesn’t come from the right wing’s preferred sectors like the military. And Obama’s budgeting actually improves the tax burden of most families. It is really hard for me to understand people like the “Obama is a fascist BECAUSE HE IS!!!!” guy:


But perhaps Matt Taibbi has it right when he calls these people the peasant class, always ready to hate an external enemy rather than face their own lots in life:

The really irritating thing about these morons is that, guaranteed, not one of them has ever taken a serious look at the federal budget. Not one has ever bothered to read an actual detailed study of what their taxes pay for. All they do is listen to one-liners doled out by tawdry Murdoch-hired mouthpieces like Michelle Malkin and then repeat them as if they’re their own opinions five seconds later. That’s what passes for political thought in this country. Teabag on, you fools.

From another article:

After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

20 thoughts on “Anti-tax protesters: Yes you CAN borrow your way out of debt!”

  1. I don’t get it — people aren’t allowed to hate taxes?

    Probably the most vitriolic political speech I’ve heard so far this year has been Democrats bitching about the tax tea parties. What gives?

  2. Curzon has a point – “lower taxes” is a defensible political/economic position and when I first heard about the tea parties, I was impressed by the combination of activism and what seemed like some healthy national-historical symbolism for a change.

    But… my feelings changed as soon as I saw this Hitler business and other wrongheaded statements. Seriously, nothing like this during the Bush years and now we have people talking about Texas ceding from the Union three months into Obama’s term!?

    America seems doomed to persistently go over the “government spending” vs. “more money in the pocket” debate – it dominates election after election and that’s no good. Both points of view represent a workable foundation for governance / growth and neither will ever be “proven” to be the single best way. Incessant talk about the superstructure of the state makes it harder to bring specific issues to the front line of debate.

  3. “I was impressed by the combination of activism and what seemed like some healthy national-historical symbolism for a change.”

    Well, yeah, to a point, but even aside from Hitler, the symbolism was all screwed up. The original tea-baggers were not protesting the presence of taxation so much as the absence of representation along with it. These guys think that because they lost a few elections they have no representation. If that’s the case why was Newt Gingrich running around in front of cameras as much as he could during these protests? Jeez. Protest high taxes, and even make allusions to the BTP, if you wish, but don’t wave signs around about absolute tyranny just because its been three months since your guy left office.

  4. “healthy national-historical symbolism for a change”

    I meant the outfits and stuff (^_^). Better than talk of Crusades anyway.

  5. Ahem. I highly doubt Michelle Malkin quoting Fox news, could ever qualify as reliable measure of the success or attendance of these parties. Not saying other networks are totally unbiased themselves, but Malkin, Fox & Co. practically *organised* the thing…

    And anyway: “1 million people out of 140 million taxpayers do not like paying taxes, call the press, NOW!”… I can’t wait for the massive success of their “1 Million People against Mosquito Bite and Broccoli Party”…

  6. “Peasant class”? I didn’t realize the word “peasant” was used unironically outside of Monaco (with the exception of Martha Stewart, who has been heard exclaiming the word, along with “prole,” in describing her former cellmates).

    Perhaps The Tabbster and Adamu could recommond a patissier for these louche hoards?

    Good thing the Ruling Class in Japan, peopled by such “thoroughbreds” as Aso, needn’t endure pestering by such rabble. Raise the Consumption Tax to 20%? Sho ga nai!

  7. Adamu, I enjoyed hearing your story about borrowing your into a wonderful life in Japan. It gives me hope that I’ll be able to find a nice future now that I’m finally going to be leaving schooling. I wish I could have spoken to you about this this weekend, but deadlines are eating me up.

    “You can’t borrow your way out of debt” just makes no sense. Since anyone who borrows money is *in debt,* how can you possibly borrow money for any purpose other than getting out of debt?

  8. I have some Republican friends attending these “tea parties”. I don’t think all of these “tea parties” have been franchised yet to the point where all of them are brazen enough to actually have placards of president Obama that like him to Hitler. But the Republican attendees (that lost the election) continue to play upon the same derogatory rhetoric that they used against him in the campaign. I don’t think that these “tea parties” really have anything at all to do with taxation other than creating the image that they do. The Republicans could have started their new rallying cry with any number of other issues. But the Republican party is so fragmented and disheveled at this point in time that they are trying to reorganize around an issue that will not divide their party anymore than it already is.

    I personally know many conservative Republicans and they are very bitter in their defeat in this past election. I know how they feel because that’s how I felt after the entire GOREy Bush affair in Florida. It was understandable the John Keary would lose because he just didn’t have it at all, although I did vote for him.

    In any case these tea parties are the terrible beginnings of the next Republican campaign to take back the White House. It’s going to get nastier and nastier in the next few years. Us liberal democrats have to stick behind our elected president and continue to support him because the only thing worse than their definition of a “fascist” is a another Bush version Republican.

    So let’s all Twitter President Obama and tell him he’s just doing one hell of a job so far. Lets support him even if he’s not perfect because he certainly is better than the alternative of going back to the failed policies of President Bush and his vice Dick.

    There are of course many things that I’m not happy with so far but the U.S. is an incredibly big ship and it is going to take more time to change it’s direction of doom.

    What makes me the most optimistic in his international relations is that president Obama keeps saying over and over again that he is here to listen not to preach etc.
    Listening is very important in resolving any conflict.

    As for taxation lets stick with president Obama’s original plan for change and tax the Dickens out of the extremely rich and high income earners. Let’s tax them until they all squeal like the little piggies that they are. President Obama and his wife are in those high income brackets that will be the most affected and that earns my respect for him all the more.

    Lets keep borrowing and spending and spreading the U.S.A.’s wealth not just around the U.S. but around the entire world. Were in a global economy and we can’t deny it.

    Let’s reelect president Obama 3 1/2 years from now and let’s dominate both houses with our Democratic party agenda of real change.

    Let’s keep the democrats in control of the U.S. government until our U.S. democracy becomes nothing more than a computer software program of citizens voting on the current issues and are representatives are automated bots.

    Yes we can. Yes we will. And yes president Obama is.

    The problem is never with being able to borrow and spend your way out of debt. The problem is when you can’t borrow and spend your way of debt.
    A very wise person once told me that what every business needs to be successful is more time and resource and (U.S.A. Inc.). money buys that time. With more time we can get more money. The problem with most failed co.s is not that they run out of money but that they run out of time to get more money to buy more time.

    True Democratic Patriotic American citizens such as myself and millions and millions of others will happily loan and give president Obama whatever money he needs to be successful in reshaping our government and investing in our children’s global future. If we leave our great great grandchildren with a quadrillion dollars of U.S. national debt and a somewhat cleaner global environment it will be borrowed money well spent for a change. However, there’s a lot of profit in eco green technologies so maybe we’ll end up paying of our enormous debt like Adam is about to pay off his student loans. Way to go Adam!

    Even the idiots that are protesting so called “fascism” in Republican staged “tea parties”
    will eventually get on the Democratic band wagon once the public works spending projects start really kicking in and they have jobs again. Everyone is just so scared in the U.S. and the world now about their financial and other securities and the Republican party as usual is taking advantage of this, too. In their case the Republican overlords are scared because the people at the very very top of their regime and ideology of greed live in beautiful picture perfect communities where everything is an ideal Disneyland type of beautiful surreal la la land. They live in bubble little communities throughout the U.S. and the world. Life is great for them. Of course they don’t want change. President Obama terrifies them. They have no qualms at getting innocent morons to hold “fascist” placards for them. They will stop at nothing to prevent change that will take away their precious selfish la la land existences.

    Well, unfortunately for them they live in a democracy where more than %90 of the population doesn’t live in such an ideal wealthy setting. They got a little too selfish when they elected President Bush Jr. Inc. and now it’s time to pay the piper.

    President Obama was elected with an overwhelming majority and he is starting to carry out our mandate to bring a little more fairness and balance back into our U.S. system. And I don’t mean Fox networks version of “Fair and Balanced”.

    God Bless America!

  9. Thomas:
    I think there is a fine line between supporting Obama’s broader agenda and giving him strong support against Republicans and standing up to him on certain key issues. Obama needs to go after all the criminality that went on in the Bush regime and to the extent he fails at that I think he should be criticized harshly. No president should gain our unquestioned support as our government is designed to check the natural tendency for rulers to abuse their power. Supporting Obama in anything he does would essentially be a continuation of what the right did under Bush. It is unhealthy and moves the country more in the direction of making the position of the president an all-powerful one. At that point we might as well return to British rule – at least they investigate allegations of torture.

    On student debt:
    Just days after I wrote this post, the NYT came out with an article about how many people are getting crushed by student loans in the dismal employment environment. It is an interesting discussion that notes the rising default rates, some guidelines for how much is reasonable to borrow, and what people can do when they get in trouble (not much!).

    One area that I would like to add to is what exactly people are buying when they invest $50,000 into a college education. The article isn’t exactly about that issue, but knowing what you are getting and taking control of your experience are factors that I think are key to eventually conquering student debt. Here is what the NYT had to say about the issue, albeit indirectly:

    They bought into the notion that if they went to college — never mind the debt — their degree would lead to a lucrative job. And repaying their student loans would never be a problem.

    But the economic crisis has turned those assumptions on their ear as thousands of recent graduates have been unable to find jobs or are earning too little to cover the payments for loans that are sometimes as high as $50,000.

    “You often hear the quote that you can’t put a price on ignorance,” said Ezra Kazee, who has $29,000 in student debt and has been unable to find a job since graduating from Winona State University in Minnesota last May. “But with the way higher education is going, ignorance is looking more and more affordable every day.”

    Gregory Westby, a 27-year-old designer who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York last May, is caught in the student loan trap. He has $150,000 in debt. He hasn’t been able to find a full-time job in graphic or set design, but is using his earnings from low-paying freelance jobs and working weekends at a fitness club to pay his rent. And he’s in the process of deferring his loans, which, together, cost $1,500 a month.

    An attitude I see everywhere is the expectation that things to be done for them. For instance, some people who try to learn a language end up complaining endlessly about how their teachers are no good, the program is designed wrong, or whatever – anything but examine their own role in the process. Most of the time it’s just that they either havent put in the work required of them or maybe just didnt get it as easily as they had hoped.

    This thinking applies more broadly to college education generally. People go in not knowing why they are even there in the first place and then end up never learning anything useful or really paying attention to their debt levels etc (I was guilty of this big time). I wonder if the college system in general encourages this with the concept of liberal arts general education without much connection to the real world economy. It is as if you encourage people to broaden their horizons and think freely just before they will be expected to contort themselves into the mold of a job and career.

    While that line about “ignorance getting cheaper by the day” is just the kind of smarmy irony that gets people slapped, there is a point there – why IS college pushed as a cure-all for people’s careers, even to the point of massive debts? Why not have a more realistic (and cheaper) set of options and expectations for people and stop trying to make everyone into a four year university grad.

  10. Re: allegations of torture. I admit that pushing to open investigations into allegations of torture would have been prudent on the president Obama’s part. But at least he did declassify some very damaging and revealing material. Against the advice of many of his senior advisers. I suppose one reason for not pursuing investigations would be out of fear of setting precedent for his administration or even himself being investigated upon leaving office. Or maybe he’s just not willing to settle for the usual status quo of prosecuting the underlings that were following orders. Maybe he wants to investigate the people at the very top that were really responsible for these numerous constitutional illegal tortures but can’t. Perhaps ordering the release of numerous high level declassified documents and causing some public humiliation was the best he good do so far.

    In any case the Republican party is desperate and will prey and try and pick apart all cracks in the unity of the Democratic party to create disarray and contention among it’s members. I doubt that people such as myself would continue to support president Obama if we really believed he was becoming a leader of omnipotent powers. But we really do need to support him now more than ever. Otherwise in three and a half years who knows what kind of self serving monsters might take over our government again.

    Everyday millions of back seat presidential drivers such as myself imagine what we would do if we were president. What I would do would of course be very different than what president Obama is doing right now. But I don’t know what he knows. He may at times make decisions not to pursue investigations into allegations of torture that completely don’t make any sense to me at all. But I do not have access to the same information as the president so I can’t really judge his actions to be right or wrong. All I can do is keep trying to get more info. and wait a few years to see the result of his actions. We waited eight years to see the results of president Bush’s actions. President Obama has only had a few months. The president doesn’t deserve his constituents unconditional support but he does deserve our continuing unified support. Otherwise he’s only going to get one term and then the Republicans will have their way in the next elections and the fat lady will sing a final goodbye song to mother earth.

  11. This post on Get Rich Slowly is a good corollary to what Adamu said in his last comment. The gist is that college students are encouraged to take out loans to go to college, but don’t get any practical training in managing their personal finances.

    I recall the silly “exit interview” that I had to go through online when I was taking out loans for law school — they just kept hammering home that “the money should only be used for education” and made financial responsibility sound like a pain a rear more than anything, as if this would help people pay off their loan. It may really be that colleges don’t want students to notice the extent to which they are getting bilked.

    One of the really insidious rules in law school is that full-time students are not allowed to work during their first year, which guarantees that they will need to take on $20 – $30k in debt unless they are going to state school and mooching their housing. I did the right thing in undergrad: I got a scholarship for tuition and worked part-time to cover the rest, and ended up with a healthy positive net worth until paying for my first semester of law school.

    Still, the unyielding nature of student loans (no discharge in bankruptcy) is a double-edged sword. You are stuck with them until they are paid off, but that’s the price for getting your debt at 5 or 6% interest. If it’s really too much for you, just close your bank accounts and hide in Brazil.

  12. Hey Adamu,

    I’m actually a recent grad from Rutgers Univ. doing the eikaiwa thing (since Aug. of last year). I’ve been studying Japanese for a while and am trying to get my foot in the door of possibly translating and/or interpretation. Any advice on that?

    Also, was just wondering, how in the world are you almost out of that much debt in 4 years? Really interested in that one if it’s not too much to ask. I, myself, attended a private school in Boston my first year. And, although I don’t regret going there for one year, it did cost me a lot. I’m probably in around $40,000 of student loan debt now. Just glad I still have a job so I can keep up with my payments.

    Thanks and hope to hear from you!

  13. Part of the problem is that tuition fees in the US have gone nuts. There is a university in Canada that is on the level of all but the best 4-5 US schools according to international rankings and tuition is about $1500 a semester.

    If that is the reality, I think that students should take a 3 year liberal arts program if they are interested in a leadership position (say, doing an MBA later), law, or even K-12 (we often forget that a solid liberal arts education is good for K-12 teachers). As Adamu said above, it gives you a great chance to pursue personal interests that might turn into a satisfying career later.

    But taking on close to $30,000 to go to Winona State!? As for $150,000 for visual design… you could go to a top European school for that… which leads me to what should be the first rule of higher education – if you can’t get into the top school in your field, DON’T take $150,000 worth of debt to get a degree in a competitive arts area because, surprise, surprise, you won’t be any more competitive coming out than you were going in. If you aren’t going to the best school, make damn sure that they are paying you.

    An argument can be made for taking on mega debt for law or medicine, however, as that can turn into a real investment.

  14. PS – I’m a bit surprised to see all of these refs to financial cluelessness of incoming undergrads.

    In my last 2 years of high school I had classes on all sorts of useful stuff – how to fill out an income tax return, a mock job interview test, a “write your imaginary resume of 10 years from now” assignment, a unit on different rates of interest on debt (ie. why credit cards are bad), a class on responsible use of student loans (we did case studies of a student who had scholarships, worked, and took limited loans Vs. a student who bought a car when he got his first loan cheque, only ate at restaurants – a code for getting drunk 4 times a week, I guess, etc.), a class where we looked at different savings options for retirement, an investment exercise that we did over a period of months (following mutual funds), etc. Are there no similar classes in the US?

  15. The tuition of most education institutions has gotten so out of hand that many don’t even bother to list the cost of tuition on their home-pages. Every home-page has a section devoted to financial aid, though. Santa Clara university in California lists the cost of yearly undergraduate tuition at around $34,000. a year. Just to live in this area of Silicon valley would cost at least another $15,000 a year.

    Although, last year Stanford university in its bid to better compete with a few other east coast Ivy league schools made their entire undergraduate program completely free for those whose parents have under X income (X being pretty wealthy). These prestigious universities are still dominated by the children who can afford it the most. There just don’t seem to be enough qualified and driven Abraham Lincoln’s out there in the backwoods these days to take advantage of the free tuition and numerous grants.

    It would be really nice if all educational establishments that issue diplomas for a fee were required to list their director’s salaries and all other pertinent financial info. on their web-sites. It’s sad to think that the young generation has to make a choice between an education in liberal arts or an education of a more commercial nature so that certain administrators can live lives of relative luxury, privilege and excess.

    My mother used to be the assistant to the dean of the University of Chicago business school. She was paid around $100,000 a year plus benefits. The dean’s salary plus numerous benefits and perks would have been several times this. As for teachers: stipends, tenure, sabbaticals, it all ads up. Of course they could all make more money working for private co.s like AIG with federally guaranteed job security and bonuses to boot.

    The UC system of California was great for many years at providing top notch affordable education to the masses. But now the recent admissions are dominated by wealthy overachieving android like Chinese and Koreans that were raised on 24/7 365 cram schools. The average laid back California kid doesn’t stand a chance at competing on a level playing field with these 4.0. AAA+ academics. California is broke anyway and still under the control of the terminator so it’s all messed up.

  16. Profs make a good living, but I wouldn’t call pay excessive. At good 4 year research schools (Wisconson-Madison, UC Berkely), people in areas like English, History, Math, Sociology, etc. typically start at around $50,000 and max out at around $110,000 after 30 years of service. The salaries at Ivy league schools vary (and they pay big bucks for Rockstar profs) but the averages still look something like $60,000-$130,000. At Cornpole State, people will be making a lot less. The sciences, law, medicine, etc. have higher salaries (for good reason).

    So in some schools, the salary of the highest earning liberal arts faculty equals the tuition for about 3 students and it can often be something like 1.5:1 for the (hopefully) new, dynamic, assistant profs.

    In a way, the university president / dean of business school salaries are fair as well – they solicit donations by the million and (in the case of business schools) run cash cows for the universities.

  17. I never meant to infer that university teachers were over payed only that the privileges and costs of tenured professors at up. I did mean to infer that the salaries and benefits packages for school administrators has become on the astronomical side and quite secretive as well. Here’s an interesting read on the matter:

  18. Yeah, I agree that administrators have been multiplying and taking up more and more in the way of money and institutional effort. It is like a vicious cycle – the university creates a bunch of recruitment and retention admin positions to convince students to pay $30,000 a year tuition… and those positions end up forcing them to raise the tuition to $32,000.

    Profs don’t get that much more expensive when they just get tenure, however. Only if they go into admin.

  19. Couldn’t help but notice the J-blog sphere’s very own Joanthan Dresner commenting over on Insidehighered –

    “I’d be less concerned with rising administrative salaries if administrators were more concerned with stagnant faculty salaries and adjunctification. High quality academic administrators — who deal with highly complex organizational, social and pedagogical issues — should be paid good wages. So should teachers. It shouldn’t be either/or.”

  20. Kyle:

    First, the debt – I was able to pay it off for two main reasons – 1) I found a good job, and 2) being married helped by having a second income to help with expenses and because my wife is much more careful and disciplined than I am. I could have easily wasted my salary on an expensive apartment, restaurants and useless junk, but Mrs. Adamu was instrumental in making sure we lived more or less below our means. Oh, the beneficial yen-dollar rate didn’t hurt either. Basically, if you want to get out of debt asap, you cut unnecessary spending and pay down the principal as much as humanly possible, starting with the debt with the highest interest burden. Just make sure you have enough cash flow to live on and an emergency fund in case things go sour. If you have a stable eikaiwa gig now might be the time for just such a maneuver. Being out of debt frees you up to expand your savings or travel around or whatever you want to do. Plus being free from the obligation is very liberating.

    I may be the wrong guy to ask this because I have almost unrealistically high standards for who can succeed as a translator, and though I am not an interpreter I know that the top interpreters are similarly unforgiving.

    To be a successful Japanese-into-English translator you need reading comprehension skills that go far beyond what’s required for the JLPT Level 1, and on top of that excellent English writing skills. There is a very wide variety of documents that require translation, so each field and document type will have different requirements.

    That said, there are LOTS of people of varying skill levels and experience doing translation, and everyone has to start somewhere. I was actually assigned work translating pharmaceutical patents though I have absolutely no knowledge of the topic.

    But at minimum, I stand by what I wrote three years ago about using Japanese in the workplace: “For Americans, the general standard should be the ability to read any given written work in Japanese and precisely tell someone what it means in plain language (English or Japanese).”

    If you have more questions I am happy to take them by email at adamukun AT gmail DOT com

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