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Can I Afford To Work In The Nonprofit Sector?

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Close up of a coin going in to a piggy bank.

We’ve recently shared financial tips for nonprofit professionals and given advice about how to live on a small paycheck, however it’s always helpful to hear how people in different stages of their careers manage their money. Over on The Billfold, Liz Niemer, who will be starting AmeriCorps in the fall, walks us through her thought process and budgeting plans leading up to starting the low-paying position, including a chart with her expenses.

"So: The numbers say AmeriCorps is going to work for me, but they might not have if it weren’t for the cheap rent I’m sharing with my boyfriend or the generosity of my parents. My parents have helped me graduate debt-free and are letting me stay on their phone plan—and thanks to Obama, also their health insurance plan. There’s no way I could afford to do this without the privileges I’ve had and continue to receive.

Even knowing I’ll have enough money to survive, I do wonder how good I’ll be at “surviving.” I’ve never had to live by a strict budget. Will counting up my daily spending be a reminder that helps me stay organized or a chore that makes me resent my job? I’ve never really used credit cards before—will my limited income make credit more appealing? I’m also worried about stalling my eventual career—will a year of AmeriCorps service make it look as though I didn’t have the motivation or skills to pursue “real” employment? I guess I’ll figure it out, and I’m excited to take this risk."

See Liz’s budget and read the rest here.

We know about the career benefits of AmeriCorps and similar public service programs, but for many people the low pay raises various challenges, including how people can manage individually and how low pay might keep people out of the sector in general.

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