Photo: Robert Trachtenberg
Q: I'm a 51-year-old massage therapist, and while I love my job, my body hurts from the hard physical work. I'm considering going back to school to get a nursing degree. I have around $80,000 in savings from an inheritance and $100,000 in equity in my home. But I'm also the single parent of a college-bound 14-year-old daughter. Should I change careers now?
A: It's likely that you'll be working into your 60s, so if you can't imagine staying with massage long-term, now is a fine time to make a switch. Given the high demand for skilled nurses, it's likely that you'll be able to find full-time work. My suggestion? Focus on your education, not your daughter's. Your financial security must take precedence. If becoming a nurse helps you better support yourself, that's the best move for you both.
If you decide to return to school, carefully plan how you'll pay for it. Do you have an emergency savings fund equal to at least eight months of living expenses? If not, then the inheritance must go toward that first. Will you be able to work full-time while you study? If not, you need to calculate how much savings you'll need to get by. Finally, seek out the right loans. Federal Stafford and PLUS loans are preferable to private loans because the interest rates are fixed.
Next: When it makes sense to go back to school.
From the November 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine