Retirement planning

by Finn

We’ve had discussions here before about what we plan to do (or in some cases, actually do) in retirement (most of us would sleep more), and Rocky recently conducted a survey on how much money we need to be comfortable in retirement, and how much we expect to have.

But we haven’t had much discussion here of how we plan to get there financially.

What vehicles do you use to accumulate assets to support your retirement? 401k? IRA? Roth, or regular? Mutual funds? ETFs? Rental real estate? Medical Savings Accounts? Deferred annuities?

As we approach year end, and then tax season, this may be higher on our minds than during the rest of the year.

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188 thoughts on “Retirement planning

  1. Great topic! We have a mish-mash of general accounts, IRA, Roth IRA, SEP, etc. DH tracks our accounts regularly, and we revisit our portfolio allocation about once a year. Most of our funds are in Vanguard index funds.

    We don’t have any annuities, but we can always take the dividends/capital gains from our existing funds as income instead of rolling over the proceeds. That’s kind of annuity-like.

  2. For many years, it was IRAs to the max ($2K?) + post-tax in general mutual funds (Price), since my employers didn’t offer 401(k)s. I moved to a 401(k) as soon as that became available. DH has had 401(k)s with a match since time immemorial, so he’s much simpler; he has his current 401(k), and the earlier ones are in a rollover IRA.

    When we had the kids, we started saving in a 529, but then also saved above the state-tax-deductible amount in the Vanguard Total Stock Market index fund — the idea was that it would be there if we needed for college, but if we didn’t, we’d have it for retirement without the restrictions on usage. That has now become our standard non-tax-deferred account, and we increase contributions with raises etc.

    More recent changes: becoming partner made me eligible for additional profit-sharing that puts some of the end-of-year distribution directly into my 401(k) as an employer contribution. Both DH and I moved our new 401(k) savings to the Roth option when our employers began allowing those a few years ago. DH now has a pension that is vested, so we get to count some of that in our planning (i.e., we count the current cash value, without the projections of what it might be worth if he earns XYZ until 20XX).

    This year I am all excited because we can both upgrade to the new 50-and-over 401(k) limits (yeah, I am a geek). And I finished rolling my old IRAs into my current 401(k) but still need to open up a new IRA to roll over into a Roth.

    Otherwise, our plan is to have everything else paid off. We refi’d to a 15-yr when rates were under 3% (thanks, Alex, I’ll take “things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime” for $1,000), and we pre-pay Taos out of my end-of-year. Both of those will be gone before we retire.

    I will consider something like a longevity annuity when we get closer to pulling the trigger — need to see how our health is doing, if there are grad school expenses, how the savings go, etc. Also need to think about LTC, but I am worried about places going out of business and cost inflation outpacing the value of the policy, so haven’t gotten around to thinking about that seriously yet.

  3. I was just having this discussion with my best man / best friend this past weekend. We are both looking at 7-12 years till we retire, so it’s a relevant discussion.

    For us, 401ks along with rollover IRAs which were 401ks from prior employers are the primary vehicles we are using to accumulate retirement assets. DW’s current 401k a pretty narrow and fairly expensive mix of funds available to her, but there are some good ones in there. I have pretty much anything available to me that can be traded online structured as 3 tiers (passive, managed, brokerage). The passive are Vanguard stock and bond funds, the managed are about 20 highly rated and reasonable cost mutual funds, plus ~10 target date funds from Vanguard. Right now we have a mix of mutual funds, some index, some managed and some ETF equivalents. I might go into the brokerage at some point if I am trying to ladder bonds as the moral equivalent to an annuity, deferred or otherwise.

    My thinking on that last point is to ladder treasury/agency bonds maturing maybe 7 years out from now…my short-term retirement age…and running for 10-15 years. When they come due, I can use the cash, roll them over, make a different investment decision. And I do not have to give up control of my hard-earned cash to a brokerage / insurance company / bank to buy an annuity.

  4. We are pretty simple.

    401(k) for husband
    I rolled mine over to an IRA – use this to buy individual stocks
    Taxable brokerage accounts
    Money markets where we park cash – we have big swings in income and expenses (mostly taxes), so we keep a good amount of cash on hand
    529s for the kids

    I handle the details. My husband picks the stocks and tells me what/when to buy/sell.

  5. I’ve mentioned that I do a little amateur financial planning on the side. Well, I’ve come to realize that a significant number of people don’t believe in compounding. You can run the numbers, show them how much X per month for y years at z percent will turn into. But, they just don’t believe it.

  6. “we started saving in a 529”

    I neglected to mention college savings in the OP, but I think it’s appropriate in this discussion to broaden the scope to include that. Both are big parts of a financial plan, at least for people with kids (or planning to have kids), and they affect each other.

  7. I have an old IRA (prior 401ks), old Roth (law school earnings), and a current 401k. DH has a current SEP-IRA, old IRA, old Roth, and we jointly have a taxable account that gets the extra, if any. DH’s SEP contribution limit is pretty high, and we always max that and my 401k out. We also have 529s for the kids, into which we put a small amount every month. Not very much – we prioritize the retirement accounts. I am hoping by the time we get closer to retirement age, the RMDs will be too high for our needs and then we can set up funds for the grandkids. ;)

    DH’s contributions are very lumpy – his income has big chunks coming in quarterly, and then we have to wait for our accountant to tell us the max for tax purposes so we can top up the SEP in October right before our taxes are filed.

    Our budget spreadsheet has a running tally of our retirement assets and the expected throw-off at x rate of return (right now I think we are using 2%), as well as a 10-year projection of our total assets and liabilities, so that helps us look ahead. We never budget in any expected bonuses or raises, etc., so if/when those arrive it is a nice surprise for the bottom line.

  8. Re: 529s: I think it was Finn who mentioned here that you can do separate 529s for each parent and get the state tax deduction for both. We doubled both our 529 savings and our tax deduction as a result. So, thanks!

  9. Oh, I forgot – DH handles the asset allocation and so we have large cap, small cap, global equities, etc., in a pretty risky mix since our horizon is still long. Right now we are also sitting on cash for potential house purchase and garage building on the timberland.

  10. Forgot to mention: DH is going through a tough stretch at work, so he has started pulling together a spreadsheet to figure out what our retirement income will need to be to do the travel that we want to do, to see how many years we really need to get there. :-)

  11. “I’ve come to realize that a significant number of people don’t believe in compounding.”

    Doesn’t inflation also compound? It would seem that, for rough calculations at least, it would be more accurate to ignore both than to figure in compounding but ignore inflation.

  12. Our 401(k) contributions go to Vanguard target date funds. Extra, taxable cash goes into VTCLX, which has been beating the target date funds. It makes me wonder why I’m not keeping everything in there. We don’t save all that much in 529s, and I don’t expect that they will be sufficient to pay for 12 years of college. But, as I’ve been thinking about paying college tuition under different employment scenarios, I figured that we could always open the dividend spigot on our VTCLX and that would add enough (for in-state schools) so as not to require any earned income.

  13. “I will consider something like a longevity annuity when we get closer to pulling the trigger”

    My current plan is to delay taking social security until 70, and having that serve this purpose. It has the additional benefit of having inflation adjustments.

  14. it would be more accurate to ignore both than to figure in compounding but ignore inflation.

    That would assume no real economic growth going forward. That doesn’t seem like a very accurate assumption.

  15. What has influenced our savings plan is the lack of employer provided options such as 401K. DH has always worked for start ups, so no benefits. For 10 years, I worked for a small company with no benefits, too (including healthcare).

    We’ve had to save aggressively to make up for the lack of stability in our paychecks, so we are now ahead of our peers in savings.

  16. These topic reminds me how anemic our financial planning is. I have little interest and Mr WCE has even less. We max out 401(k)’s and Roth IRA’s and call it a day. We don’t contribute to 529 accounts. For our time horizon and college views (you will be going to community college if you don’t demonstrate a high level of commitment and maturity at age 18, and you will join the military if you don’t apply yourself at community college), the 529 is too big of a commitment. We’ll be old enough for 401(k) withdrawals when Baby WCE hits college.

  17. What has influenced our savings plan is the lack of employer provided options such as 401K.

    Does anyone happen to know why the IRA contribution limits for someone without access to a 401k aren’t $18,000 higher? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

  18. Our financial planning is pretty dull. We max our 401Ks. Most of my money is in TIAA CREF, but I do have another 401K from my last employer and I keep meaning to move it into the TIAA CREF because it is a better plan – but never get to it.

    Shoot me, but we don’t really have college savings. We do have 529’s, but haven’t been real good with them. I am not too freaked though because we can swing public university costs year by year, my employer has tuition exchange with a bunch of other schools, and of course they can go to my school for free. My oldest, as insanely smart as he is, will not be qualifying for any of the prestige privates – his grades are just too up and down – and I don’t think second tier privates are worth spending money on. My second kid *might* have a shot at a prestige private if he keeps on his current path, but he is only 8th grade so time will tell. College is far enough off for kid#3 that I am not worrying about it yet.

    We met with a TIAA CREF financial planner a few times last year. He said we were doing far better than most of the clients he sees (granted, this would be a population of academics, so maybe not the best to compare against). He had some small pieces of advice but mainly said to keep doing what we are doing. His biggest concern was our lack of a designated guardian for the kids.

  19. My oldest, as insanely smart as he is, will not be qualifying for any of the prestige privates – his grades are just too up and down

    Are you planning to apply?

  20. One of the perks of being self-employed is that you have some good retirement options available to you. I set up a solo Roth 401(k) into which I can contribute $18,000 per year. On top of that, I can contribute 20% of my firm’s profits into a non-Roth 401(k). There is a cap to yearly retirement contributions (around $52,000, IIRC). I don’t make enough to put away that full amount, but I can still put away quite a bit.

    OTOH, I have to pay both the employer and employee parts of the social security tax; that’s a downside of being self-employed.

    DH will have a traditional pension when he retires. We’re hoping that since we live in Massachusetts, the odds of his actually getting the pension that he is anticipating are pretty good. There haven’t been calls for pension reduction here to the extent that there have been in other states. He does get a pretty big chunk of his pay (11%) deducted each pay period for the pension.

    DH and I both have some IRAs that used to be 401(k)s from former employers. I have both a regular and a Roth, and I am thinking about converting the regular to a Roth. I’m trying to analyze whether that would be a good idea, but just haven’t had time to run any numbers.

  21. We have a 401(k) for DH and IRA for me, but not nearly enough in either.

    I’m torn between using my future income to start paying off the HELOC, which is at prime, or save more for college and retirement and hope we can roll over that debt later.

    Thoughts?

    Kids are 7, 4, and 2, so college is coming but not imminent. Paying off the HELOC would probably require 3-4 years of my after tax income, starting next fall. Remaining mortgage is small for this metro area and will be paid off around the time the 4 year old starts college.

  22. If he had straight A’s for the next two years and above 750’s on his SATs (which is far more likely for him than the A’s), we might consider it. But he pulled a C in AP Global this marking period because he just can’t do the thousands of Cornell notes the teacher requires in the format she wants, and he had a C in French once. He dropped AP Global because it was too much headache for too little payoff, and I am glad he did – but dropping AP Global after a C doesn’t look that great for Harvard.
    He tests well, but he just can’t get it together to manage all the assignments and paperwork that is needed to get the high GPA.

  23. Sky, when we had a home equity loan (is that the same as a HELOC?), we were so freaked out that we paid it off in a year. This was just before the Great Crash happened, so I am now really glad we did that. We just did a massive belt tightening for that year, scraped around for any stray cash laying about in forgotten accounts, and got it done. We did not decrease retirement contributions though.

  24. The HELOC is technically a line of credit. It’s kind of like the old balloon mortgages: interest only due for ten years, with the full principal due at the end. We’ve been trying to pay off 10% each year.

    I should really look into changing it into a standard loan, which we can do with the same bank iirc.

    Whenever it keeps me up at night I count our insurance policies ;)

  25. Sky – I assume it is a floating prime rate? How often can it change? What is the term? Would your future job have retirement funds matching?

  26. His math is always A’s, but he had a B one quarter in science last year. Science is tricky for him because in NY you have to complete 30 labs each year, each lab on some special paper and submitted in a special folder. The kids are responsible for filing the labs themselves, and he forever is losing them or misfiling them. Some teachers take off points if the lab is not correctly filed on time. Last year, his science teacher was very helpful and sympathetic, but she was out one quarter on maternity leave, and the sub docked points when labs went missing. So, he got a B. I should also note he got a perfect 800 on the SAT Bio subject test he took at the end of the year. But I doubt that makes up for the B in the eyes of the elite schools.

    Note that I am not saying he can’t get into any school. There are piles of schools that will accept him. I can’t imagine that he won’t get accepted into a decent SUNY, and that is fine.

  27. For UMCers, I like to recommend taking the full HSA contribution deduction every year for high deductible plans and not paying out of it for medical expenses if you already have extra funds going into your after tax accounts, because after 65 you can use it either for medical expenses tax free or keep it as a supplemental IRA not subject to RMDs. The funds can be invested, not restricted to a cash or CD account.

    Rhett – I just repeat my little mantras when asked for planning advice, unless I am talking to someone who is right in my financial position/demographic and then I may make a numerical suggestion. If you actually give people a number they can’t get their minds around it, because they can’t comprehend that they will need to fund 20-30 years cash flow in addition to SS. It is not compounding they don’t understand, it is how to convert a nest egg into an income stream. And maybe they won’t really need all that much, either because they keep working or don’t live all that long.

  28. I should also note he got a perfect 800 on the SAT Bio subject test he took at the end of the year. But I doubt that makes up for the B in the eyes of the elite schools.

    Are you certain of that? I’m not.

  29. Our financial planning is not great, in that DH has 401ks sitting at old employers plus accounts at brokerages. Those investments are in good enough vehicles but I think much more can be done to optimize our situation. We do have a paid off house and vehicles and we’ll have enough to provide for college. We’ll both get social security and really haven’t thought of a time frame or that our savings should be $XX before we retire. We are chugging along.

  30. It’s a floating prime – I just realized it’s prime minus 0.25%, so 3.25 now; resets frequently (maybe daily?). I just looked up the fixed rate option and it’s at 4.3% and would require principal payment now, so we won’t convert it.

    I doubt I will get a retirement match; i didn’t get one in BigLaw.

  31. For UMCers, I like to recommend taking the full HSA contribution deduction every year for high deductible plans and not paying out of it for medical expenses if you already have extra funds going into your after tax accounts, because after 65 you can use it either for medical expenses tax free or keep it as a supplemental IRA not subject to RMDs

    Say, that’s good advice, Mémé! Thanks! We max the contribution but I have been paying for our (mercifully low) medical costs out of it.

  32. If it were just that one B, I would agree, but there are the two C’s, some B’s in other classes and the fact he dropped an AP. I think he has about a 3.2 or 3.3 average. Again, I am talking about elite schools. I don’t think we would bother with second tier privates – IMHO they aren’t worth the extra cash over a good public school. Well, maybe one of the private engineering schools if it offered something special.

  33. Pensions, mainly. Also TSP and some other savings and house that will be paid off in a few years, but three pensions is the biggest part of it.

    College, we’re hoping to do out of current income (redirecting the mortgage payment which will be going away as the oldest is ready to start college).

    WCE, if they’re 18 and not performing well at community college, how can you be sure they’d be willing to join the military as a plan C? They may have other ideas.

  34. Yeah, WCE, I kind of wonder if they’ll still be taking direct orders from you and Mr. WCE when they’re 18.

  35. They may have other ideas at 18 or 20, but unless you’re divorced, your kids can’t demand tuition payments. If they’re not doing well at community college, I don’t see the point in throwing money at a four-year school.

  36. Milo already answered for me. If they are 18 and not doing well at community college, they can get a job, join the military or do whatever else they like, but not while living in my house with my money.

  37. Mooshi, What engineering schools take kids with a below 4.0 GPA? My son is really good at math and wants to be an engineer, but he struggles with English. I would be interested in knowing where he might have a chance at getting in.

  38. We’ve always maxed out DH’s 401K (no match, law firm) and I am vested in a state pension that’s supposed to pay me $1K a month when I turn 65. To hedge my bets on that actually being a reality, I may take some of the cash and roll it over into an IRA whenever I quit my job. We have a few other smaller Roth IRAS (before we were phased out due to income) and I have a small retirement fund from an old job. We put $400 per month per kid into the 529s.

    I’ve been experimenting with front loading DH’s 401k contributions in the beginning of the year. Apparently except for 2 out of the last 20 years this has led to better returns

    Our plan starting next year is to increase payments on our mortgage and pay it like it’s a 15 year mortgage, continue funding 529s at current level, and set aside extra $ into our taxable accounts (which should actually be a decent amount now). I feel like we have some ground to make up for the past few years when we did very little saving outside of retirement funds due to high child care bills and too much of our net worth is in home equity. DH says my plans are always too ambitious but I’d like to at least aim high. I can’t get to 50% after tax savings but 40% is probably a stretch but entirely doable goal.

  39. Murphy and Mooshi, don’t most engineering schools actually admit people to the engineering program for their junior/senior year based on their grades freshman/sophomore year? You don’t get admitted to the engineering college as a freshman in most cases- you are admitted to the university.

    You just have to take the engineering courses your freshman/sophomore years and get an adequate GPA or you won’t get admitted to the engineering program as a junior.

    Oregon State and Iowa State are certainly not all that competitive for engineering.

  40. I’ve posted about the power of compounding here, and OTS. I am a big believer in saving as much as possible – as early as possible because it really makes a difference, Even for someone in my generation that started when rates and inflation were much higher – it has worked through all sorts of economic cycles.

    We have a bunch of 401ks and IRAs. We finally consolidated a few things, but I still have some leftover 401ks and pensions from 3 different banks.
    We continue use mutual funds and ladder munis for any savings outside of 401ks and pension. We are completed our college savings, and we used the NY state 529 for that because of the tax benefit, and the plan has very decent returns/low expenses.

    As for college – that is THE topic every where I go this week. Starbucks, Soul Cycle, supermarket, meetings, holiday parties. Everyone is talking about ED/ EA. The results are hard to accept for kids that are straight A and above. I agree with Mooshi – there are so many kids with perfect grades, and perfect or almost perfect ACT or SATs. The elite schools don’t need to take another kid from the northeast with even 1 or 2 Bs. I think this can be an emotional time when kids that have worked so hard for four years can not get accepted into the schools they want to attend even though they took all of the right classes, were on the right teams, best grades, volunteer etc, etc. There are just too many great kids applying for too few slots.

  41. Regarding engineering–each university is different, which is maddening. At some schools, like UT Austin, you not only apply for engineering, you apply for the type of engineering program you want (i.e. mechanical, civil) and each specialty has a different admissions rate. Other schools will do general admissions and then let anyone choose engineering as a major. Other schools have a special admissions process for some types of engineering programs, but other types are general admissions.

    All very confusing.

  42. “I don’t think we would bother with second tier privates”

    Broken record alert:

    Conventional wisdom from many articles I’ve read is that if your son has something that the private colleges value, e.g., high SAT scores that will help increase the school average and thus its US News ranking and its academic profile, privates can be less expensive due to merit aid.

    Also, if he’s very smart and tests well, then he’s got a good shot at being NMSF, which by itself can open a lot of doors for merit aid.

  43. It is not compounding they don’t understand,

    They understand it – they just don’t believe it. Take an example of someone 32 year old with $68,000 in a 401k, putting in $200 week. At 4%, retiring at 67, that is an inflation adjusted $1 million. They just can’t believe that $200/week can turn into $1 million.

  44. Houston – there are also the specialized engineering schools like Renselaer, RIT, and NJIT. Those were the private engineering schools I was talking about.

    My sense is that engineering programs will scrutinize math/science grades much more heavily than English/history grades

  45. “I’ve been experimenting with front loading DH’s 401k contributions in the beginning of the year.”

    If it weren’t for how our match is configured, I would do this too, but there’s a max match each pay period, so doing this would leave the match on the table once I’ve hit the annual max.

    However, I plan to do this for the catch-up contributions, for which there is no match.

  46. Lauren, I have tried and tried to beat into Ds’ thick head that it doesn’t matter where he goes to college. I hope he can stay out of the college rat race. However, his friends are a much stronger influence on his ambition than I am.

  47. “My sense is that engineering programs will scrutinize math/science grades much more heavily than English/history grades”

    Which must be true, as DH was admitted. :-)

  48. Rhett, how are you adjusting for inflation with your 4% return? Are you assuming that the return is 4% above the rate of inflation?

  49. For SUNY Stony Brook, you get admitted directly into engineering, but they have additional criteria above regular freshman admissions. From their website
    Successful applicants in these majors will, in addition to our regular admission criteria, typically have earned outstanding grades in high school calculus and physics, and performed exceptionally well on the Math section of the SAT and/or ACT. Consideration is given to students who have performed well in advanced science and math courses, as well as those who have participated in science, math, and research competitions.

  50. “My son is really good at math and wants to be an engineer, but he struggles with English.”

    I’ve known a lot of engineers, and a lot of them struggle with English, even the ones who don’t speak any other languages.

    Don’t let that stop him, but if he thinks his struggles with English might jeopardize his chances to be an engineer, you might use that as an incentive to work harder on it.

  51. Mooshi, if he doesn’t get in at Stonybook, North Dakota and Alaska have perfectly adequate engineering schools with great out-of-state tuition rates.

  52. “I’ve known a lot of engineers, and a lot of them struggle with English, even the ones who don’t speak any other languages.”

    This cracked me up.

  53. I am NOT sending my kid to either North Dakota or Alaska! Sorry, but those places are just too bleak and far away. I honestly think my oldest is going to need to stick close to home in order to suceed. My sister, who had similar issues, had to do that. She turned out fine.

  54. there are so many kids with perfect grades, and perfect or almost perfect ACT or SATs.

    Only 360 kids had a perfect SAT score. You know how a $2500 scholarship can magically turn into a “full ride?” So to, after many tellings, can an 1825 SAT score turn into a 2225.

  55. “Everyone is talking about ED/ EA.”

    Also the case among DS’ cohort, and many parents. DS’ friend who asked him to review her essay, and her mom, were getting a lot of congrats last week for getting accepted to H.

  56. “They just can’t believe that $200/week can turn into $1 million.”

    To my earlier point, these same people probably also have difficulty planning for inflation. So just ignore both, or, more accurately, assume they roughly offset each other– after all, projections of them are just guesses, and inflation also compounds– and you’ll have some projections that these people might be able to understand.

  57. “But he pulled a C in AP Global this marking period because he just can’t do the thousands of Cornell notes the teacher requires in the format she wants.”

    Did he take the exam? If he got a 5, that would probably mitigate the C.

  58. “Are you assuming that the return is 4% above the rate of inflation?”

    I would think so. The earnings yield is around 5% now, isn’t it? Then the value of the factories/trains/patents go up with inflation.

  59. This is from my alma mater. It is not an Ivy, but it is a top 25 national private school.

    The average admitted student is in the top 2% of his/her class. The Critical Reading middle-50% SAT range is 690-780 and the Math SAT middle- 50% range is 700-770

    The statistics for a kid like Mooshi’s – he is not Latino or African American. He is coming out of a district where these elite schools expect him to have SAT or SAT2 scores that are hundreds of points higher than the national average., The elite schools disclose this fact. They will look at the level of education of his parents, and I am telling you that Mooshi is right. Unless he plays a position that they want him for on a certain sports team – it is almost impossible.

    We have a friend with a kid that was recruited to play soccer for Vassar. She has straight As and very good SATs. The coach really wants her and they had a private tour, The coach told her that she probably won’t be admitted if she has more than one grade that is below A-. This is Vassar. It isn’t Harvard. I just wonder if you realize how truly competitive it has become to get into the top 25 or 30 schools from states such as NY, CA, NJ, MA etc.

  60. “perfect or almost perfect ACT or SATs.

    Only 360 kids had a perfect SAT score..”

    I’m guessing a lot more than 360 had almost perfect SATs, if you define that as, say, 2300 and up. I’ve heard that college counselors will recommend a kid with 2300+ not retake the SAT because any improvement won’t matter.

  61. I didn’t realize that they asked this directly:

    The main reason that applications ask this question is to give admission officials a bit more insight into where you’re coming from. In other words, when they evaluate your grades, your writing, and, especially, your SAT or ACT scores, it’s helpful to know about the intellectual climate in which you (presumably) live. Admission officials may have somewhat different expectations of the son or daughter of a factory worker who did not attend college than they would of the child of a surgeon with an Ivy League degree. Perhaps these expectations aren’t entirely accurate–or fair–but, nonetheless, the admission folks view your parents’ background as part of your “big picture.”

    When it comes to admission decisions, there are some advantages to having parents who attended snazzy colleges (e.g., you may hold “legacy” status at one or more of your target colleges; also, admission officials know you probably hail from a home where education is valued and you’ve most likely been exposed to literature, arts, etc. in a way that will help ease your adjustment to a demanding college). But there are also some disadvantages (e.g., more forgiveness when it comes to marginal grades, writing, or test scores goes to those whose parents may not have offered them the same academic opportunities).

    If your parents did not attend college at all, then you might get a “hook” in the admissions process for being “first generation.” In your case, however, the fact that your parents went to college but not to any “name” school will probably end up being neither a plus nor a minus in your admission process.

  62. “I’ve known a lot of engineers, and a lot of them struggle with English, even the ones who don’t speak any other languages.”

    This cracked me up.

    Ditto to both statements!

    I saved pretty aggressively for retirement in my first 10 years out of college, but cut back a bit after having my daughter. Now, I’m doing the minimum to get an employer match and counting on the compounding and a good inheritance.

  63. Finn, have they seen the Harvard social justice holiday placemat yet? That cracked me up, but of course I’m the antithesis of their intended audience :)

  64. I have a hard time understanding how much more competitive college admissions are now compared to when I applied (mid-90s). I know the common ap has increased the number of applicants per school, but an applicant can only attend one school and I imagine the schools have adjusted the admissions to account for this. When I look at my high school, the kids seem to go to the same types of schools that my class did/have the same distribution to Ivys, top 25 non-Ivys, top SLACs, state schools, etc.

  65. “The coach told her that she probably won’t be admitted if she has more than one grade that is below A-. ”

    Even as a recruited athlete?

    I read once that on the Stanford women’s bball team, the walk-ons would tease the recruited athletes about getting in without any special dispensation for being recruited.

    I;ve read that Malcolm Gladwell said that legacies and recruited athletes serve the necessary function of filling the bottom quartile at HSS, so the students who were able to get in without any such preferences were spared the ignominy.

  66. Finn, Mr WCE likes college football and has observed that Stanford, on average, has the best offensive line in college football. He thinks it’s because if you’re really smart AND a good offensive lineman, you’ll choose Stanford.

  67. MM,
    We checked out both RPI and WPI this past summer. WPI stressed that they look much more closely at math and science grades than do any other courses. The same goes for the math portion of the SAT compared to the English portion of the test. RPI did not mention what they are looking for specifically, but I would assume that it is the same as WPI. Both dd and I were very impressed with WPI, not so much with RPI.

  68. Even in my day, the top schools were not that easy. I never bothered to even apply to Harvard, Yale, etc, because my HS GPA was a 3.3. I was a national merit finalist, but I doubted that would overcome the 3.3 average and I had limited funds for applications. I ended up at one of those second tier private schools – but only because I qualified for a lot of aid and it ended up being cheaper. The main reason I had so much aid, though, was that I had financial need AND it was an era when financial aid was far more generous. The merit aid that came from the national merit thing was sort of icing on the cake, keeping me from having to take out loans. My kids won’t have that. They don’t have financial need, and financial aid in general is pretty stingy nowdays.

  69. Cat, the college age population has increased since 2000, and a larger percentage of that age group is enrolling in college. The number of traditional age students is now 20.2 million, up 4.9 million from 2000.

    AFAIK there has not been a 25% increase in elite college classes.

  70. The average admitted student is in the top 2% of his/her class. The Critical Reading middle-50% SAT range is 690-780 and the Math SAT middle- 50% range is 700-770

    That would indicate that half the kids are below the 98% percentile in terms of SAT scores. Given his 800 on the Bio ACT, PhD parents and being described as “insanely smart” I think he’ll be well into the 99th percentile.

  71. Sky – Comments in the Crimson:

    I take this to mean that the administration would not oppose the passive distribution of similar posters outlining alternate “starting points” with the purpose of “sparking dialogue”?

    Let’s do it.
    A HOLIDAY PLACEMAT FOR LIBERTY – love it!

    Better yet – tweak those perpetually offended snowflakes by calling it the CHRISTMAS PLACEMAT FOR LIBERTY

    Placemat wars – so sad that our country has come to this.

  72. I love how a post on retirement planning has turned into a discussion about college admissions. Only at The Totebag!

  73. Yes, but if SAT scores are really high and his grades are not as high – that actually might hurt him.

    They expect a kid like him to have a B+ or A in that class if he can score in the 99th percentile.

  74. Here’s one for the totebag crew. My nephew is a senior in the top 10% of his class at an average NJ HS, reasonable extracurriculars. He has absolutely no idea what he wants to do career-wise, so he is going to go community college for a year.

  75. But hasn’t the # of for-profit schools increased exponentially? My guess is that a large part of the increased # of students attend one of those schools. I guess I am not convinced that it is so much harder to get in to one of the top schools. It has always been hard. But my generation was probably the last one that didn’t have its parents wringing their hands about it.

  76. DD, in my community, your nephew would be entirely normal. My German literature/statistician PhD friend whose daughter did an exchange program at a math/science magnet in Spain (to become fluent in Spanish while completing AP science level work) is going to community college to get her freshman engineering classes out of the way.

  77. I think Mooshi and WCE sound kind of mean when it comes to helping (not) pay for their kids college.

  78. “Regarding engineering–each university is different”

    Yes.

    My alma mater used to let anyone take engineering classes, and the combination of calculus, physics, and basic engineering requirements tended to keep enrollment an manageable levels, but they subsequently had to institute an admissions program for students already enrolled at the university to get into the COE.

    Columbia and Penn both require engineering wannabes to apply to their engineering colleges as part of the University application process. Stanford doesn’t require any declaration of majors, and students are free to take classes throughout the university. I believe that’s also the case at MIT and Caltech, but then, they’re MIT and Caltech.

  79. “He thinks it’s because if you’re really smart AND a good offensive lineman, you’ll choose Stanford.”

    More generally, Stanford, especially recently, offers a fairly unique combination of being a HSS and a top-tier football program. It is one of the few (some would argue, only) HSS in its strata that offers any sort of merit aid, with that merit being limited to athletics.

  80. “I was a national merit finalist, but I doubted that would overcome the 3.3 average and I had limited funds for applications. I ended up at one of those second tier private schools – but only because I qualified for a lot of aid and it ended up being cheaper.”

    Thus being the possible poster child for your DS, should his insane intelligence and testing ability result in his becoming a NMF as well, and being able to get merit aid at a private school, making it cheaper than a flagship public.

    I suppose I was preaching to the choir.

  81. Finn, Mr WCE would entirely agree. Unfortunately, neither he nor I is built like an offensive lineman and our sons aren’t either.

  82. “Only 360 kids had a perfect SAT score.”

    That’s probably in one sitting. But with score choice, where students can take the highest subscores from all their attempts to bump up their total score, there are many more “perfect” scores.

  83. “Yes, but if SAT scores are really high and his grades are not as high – that actually might hurt him.”

    Yup, that’s a red flag.

  84. Finn, I had financial need, and that accounted for 75% of the aid. My kid does not have need, so he isn’t going to get that part.

  85. Yep, I am a meanie I guess, but I don’t see the point of spending 60K or more on a school that is no better than the 25K public school. The outcomes are not any different. If the aid is such that a private school is cheaper than 25K, AND the school is actually decent (many private schools are really not that great), then we would consider it.

  86. “My job as a parent is to be mean.”

    Plus, we have four kids and an income that qualifies us for Roth IRA contributions so in this case, I think I’m more realistic than mean.

  87. “If your parents did not attend college at all, then you might get a “hook” in the admissions process for being “first generation.” ”

    Yes. That is true at DH’s university. They scrounge around like mad looking for these kids, because apparently there are few with decent credentials. And, for whatever reason, top universities like to brag about their first-generation students.

    The real scandal in admissions at competitive schools is the widespread discrimination against Asians. I cannot understand why liberal elites support a system in which so many individuals are classified by race. For some reason, it’s OK to have quotas on Asians (it used to be Jews) — because they are such smart kids and they will get in somewhere?

  88. I don’t think they’re mean if their kids can get equivalent education and social fun at cheaper schools. There are great schools that don’t charge $65,000 per year. If they’re going on to grad school, it might make a lot of sense to spend less at the undergrad level.

    To bring it back OT, many financial advisors state that you should NOT go into debt that risks your retirement savings to pay for college.

  89. I always find these conversations about what parents are willing to pay for college. I LOVE my alma mater. It was life-changing to go there. I will gladly pay the currently $60K+ tuition to have my kids go there and have a similar experience (heck even half the experience), even if they don’t have a high paying job coming out of it. It’ll probably mean we’ll end up taking loans, but the non-financial utils is off-the-charts.

    The older I get the more I realize that most people didn’t have the type of college experience I had. I can’t wait to go back to my next reunion simply to be on campus.

  90. Oops meant to say I find these conversations fascinating about what people are willing to pay. I especially think it is interesting on how it mostly comes down to money vs. the total experience.

  91. tc – When I think about the people I know who feel that way about their schools, they’re often service academy alumni (selection bias). However, it also includes those who went to VT, UVA, and places like PSU and A&M at least, if not more often than the private school grads. Notre Dame is certainly very high on the “Alumni Love It” list–I shared a couple apartments with one–but just about everyone I know from there attended on an ROTC scholarship.

  92. @tcmama – I LOVE my alma mater too and really hope my DD will be the 3rd generation to go there, but it has a great in-state price tag. I drive past the campus almost every day, but I still get excited when I have a legitimate reason to park and go into a building, even for a boring meeting.

  93. Everyone I know who went to UVA loved it. I swear, in my next life I am going there just so I can see what all the fuss is about.

  94. tcmama ,

    From WCE I always get the impression she feels that college is something to be endured. I get a little of that from MM as well.

    I don’t know how accurate my impressions are.

  95. “I cannot understand why liberal elites support a system in which so many individuals are classified by race. For some reason, it’s OK to have quotas on Asians (it used to be Jews) — because they are such smart kids and they will get in somewhere?”

    Scarlett, ITA. It is a very tough balance. IMHO schools should just let in the top X number of kids who meet their academic requirements so that the final yield will give them a right size of a freshman class. Award need aid, if possible given the school’s finances, per whatever comes back from the FAFSA.

    But that’ll never work…too many places will be unbalanced wrt:
    > % male/female
    > % white+Asian* vs all others
    > % 1st to attend
    > % “legacy”

    and that will impact alumni relations aka donations.

    *there is a separate issue with “Asian”. That’s really code for “Chinese”, especially in some places where it’s not “Chinese-American”, the kids truly being more American than Chinese because they are 3rd+ generation US, but “Chinese” coming to school from mainland China. Can be the same, but to a much lesser degree with Indians. Nobody’s up in arms about the quantity of Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Saudi, etc kids.

    All comments are “generally speaking”; there are always local exceptions.

  96. Milo – the list of rabid alums also includes Princeton. They are CRAZY about the school. I have an in-law who moved to Princeton in retirement so he could be close to the school and really involved in the alumni council.

  97. I love my alma mater and so does DH. We had a truly great experience and met lifelong friends there.

  98. DD wants to go to college in New Haven, and I was trying to explain that she is going to have to work much harder than her classmates because she is hapa.

    DD: “Wait, you mean that they try to limit the number of Chinese kids on campus? I thought Martin Luther King Jr. ended that.”

    Me: “Nope. You’re going to have an extra hard time getting in because you’re the wrong color and I give peanuts.”

    DD: “So this is all your fault then, isn’t it?”

  99. Sky…while I know what you mean there are other accredited 4-yr schools in New Haven.

  100. My kids don’t know that they are an over represented minority. They will probably do what they feel is their personal best and pray that they get into the college they want to go to. I doubt though they would be crushed by not getting into their first choice. After a few tears they would be telling their friends where they did get in.

  101. Back to the original topic, has anyone got a good suggestion on how to find a good financial planner? We are related to one but that could get difficult if we don’t follow all the advice given.

  102. I’ve known a lot of engineers, and a lot of them struggle with English, even the ones who don’t speak any other languages.

    They’d better not work at Amazon, then, where you have to write those weird “six-pagers” before every meeting.

  103. Milo – I went to a SLAC. Recently mentioned to my Dad how much I loved college and that I would spend all my money to send my kids there. He said that was the best thing he could hear.

    I am willing to pay more for my kid to go to a school that they really want to go to even if it was lower ranked. Going to a college that is the right fit is so important.

  104. It would be great if some competitive school decided to set a floor for GPA and SAT scores (perhaps sorting by gender if there are dorm or other legitimate constraints), and then admit 75% of its students randomly. If the applicant pool is large enough (and it would be under these conditions), the university will get a sampling of all possible racial/ethnic/religious/socioeconomic/special talents/geek groups. That would leave 25% of the class for recruited athletes, legacies, development, employee kids, and any other group that the university wants especially to attract.

    DH tells me that BYU has been essentially running its admissions this way for some time.

  105. sky, I’ve read and heard that hapa kids with non-Asian surnames do not self-report Asian on college applications to give themselves a better chance.

  106. On retirement planning – we are maxing out 401(k)s and an IRA. Like NoB, I have a 401(k) that has a higher contribution limit. Also, we are making a point to really take good care of our house as we go along. I don’t know if we’ll stay in this house or sell it when we retire, but we are diligent about maintenance and upkeep.

    On college – I don’t care where my kids go as long as it’s Ga Tech and as long as its not Duke.

    Kidding. Sort of.

    And, let me please ask this question of the board, since I am not comfortable asking folks IRL, as it comes across as a humble brag, which is not as I mean it. Our oldest got notice he was selected for the Duke Tip program and the Johns Hopkins talent search program based on his standardized test scores. For each program there is another test to take to see if you qualify for something, I’m not 100% clear on what. He is not inclined to spend 2 Saturdays taking more tests. We are not inclined to push it. For those who have done it, are we missing out on an important opportunity? Would you definitely recommend it? For the Duke program you can at least enroll without taking the test, and you do get information about summer camps, etc. that “your gifted child might be interested in” so we did enroll him for that – you never know.

  107. “*there is a separate issue with “Asian”. That’s really code for “Chinese”, especially in some places where it’s not “Chinese-American”, the kids truly being more American than Chinese because they are 3rd+ generation US, but “Chinese” coming to school from mainland China.”

    That’s not my understanding. I’ve seen reports of enrollment by race/ethnicity for colleges in which ‘foreign’ was a separate category, into which I assume the Chinese who are not “Chinese-American” would fall.

  108. Oops that Anon was me. Yeah, we have 2 kids, so it’d be harder with more kids to pay more for college. We’ll probably end up doing something like save for a third, cash flow a third, and borrow a third. Or, we could be more disciplined and save more now.

    I like the retirement discussion too. We pay someone to manage our finances because we’re householded with family that has a large estate. I know that we are paying a lot and it isn’t rational, but I like not having to think about it and I like hearing someone tell me that I’m on track. Takes a lot of stress away. Granted, we are on track for about $10k/month between SS and investments, which maybe isn’t a ton. I figure it’ll be enough when we have our house, college, etc paid off.

    Curious what amount others feel that they need?

  109. Our youngest got all the CTY stuff from Hopkins. We had him (pretty much kicking and screaming) take the SAT as a 7th grader and his scores were high enough to get him invited to some events/outings that seemed interesting but (1) expensive (2) not near here and (3) really didn’t fit into our family plan. So we never pursued.

    epilogue: when he took the SAT a couple of weeks ago, he was so proud that he was an ‘old hand’ at the process.

  110. Lark: This is my impression. I could be wrong. I think the bar for Duke TIP is not the highest. Many kids get in. I would not spend time taking extra tests. If your kid is gung ho, that might be different. Neither of my kids were interested in TIP.

    Interesting fact: They also have summer learning e-learning sessions that you can sign up for a very reasonable price. A good way to keep kids’ minds from atrophying over the summer.

    I’m unfamiliar with the Johns Hopkins program.

  111. Lark,
    Duke TIP kids take the SAT in 7th grade and get invited to various academic camps. Take it or leave it, it is really no big deal that we’ve been able to discern. Our kid took the SAT and qualified and we have been wondering ever since why no one sent us a Duke TIP car magnet – what’s the point of being a Duke TIP scholar if you can’t broadcast it on the back of the minivan?
    They won’t care about it on the Georgia Tech application.

  112. And our rule on the SAT in 7th grade is sure, take it if you want, but you will take it unprepared. No studying for the SAT in 7th grade in the HFN household!

  113. Lark, I did the Johns Hopkins testing which qualified you for their summer program (then called CTY) and so did my sister.

    We would highly recommend it, assuming it is still the same – a few weeks on a college campus taking college level courses.

    I ran into a lot of fellow alums of that Johns Hopkins program and the Duke program in college, management consulting and BigLaw; there is no formal network that I’m aware of, but there ought to be.

    He might also like the really challenging work and the peer group – there was a core group of strong students at my middle school, but it was the same 20 or so kids from 6th-12th grade.

    Be sure he picks a course that interests him, though, because it did involve studying for 8 hours a day to master a semester’s worth of material in 3 weeks. Great times! (no, really :) )

  114. Finn,
    but you have the same problem…effectively too many “Asian” kids (whether multigenerational US or direct from there) that qualify for admission based on grades and/or test scores in the eyes of many driving the fear that the good old American college experience will no longer be what it once was because too many (studious) students …sorry for the seeming redundancy…will be on campus vs a broader mix of kids.
    And within foreign, many schools are concerned about the high % of Chinese students within that category. But that’s the Willie Sutton theory corollary.

    *why did you rob banks, willie? Because that’s where the money was!
    Why do you admit so many Asian students? Because that’s who have the qualifications!

  115. “Why do you admit so many Asian students? Because that’s who have the qualifications!”

    Qualifications including the ability to pay full fare, especially for foreign students.

  116. WRT the Asian quota issue, I think that will start to change as more white people have their accomplishments slighted because of this, as apparently happens with a lot of African-Americans, regardless of whether or not their qualifications equaled or bettered those of their classmates.

    “Wow, he got into . He must be really smart!”

    “He probably just got in because he is white. He didn’t have to meet the same standards as Asian kids.”

    The anecdote about hapa kids not reporting their Asian ethnicity/ancestry is consistent with this.

  117. Yes sir.
    And for some state systems/flagships that’s an issue. They like the full freight (out-of-state rate)payers, but then objectively well-qualified in-state students get denied admission to the campus of their choice. This despite the state taxpayers supporting the colleges.

  118. “let me please ask this question of the board, since I am not comfortable asking folks IRL, as it comes across as a humble brag, which is not as I mean it.”

    I really hope this is the kind of thing that we are all OK with. One of the things I’ve really liked about this forum, and TOS, is people’s openness in discussing things that could come across as bragging.

  119. Oops, some of my previous post did not come through as planned. It should’ve been:

    “Wow, he got into (insert HSS other than Caltech) . He must be really smart!”

    “He probably just got in because he is white. He didn’t have to meet the same standards as Asian kids.”

  120. Lark, my oldest took the SAT in 8th grade as a qualifier for the CTY program. It qualifies you for online courses as well as the residential programs. He hasn’t done any of those, but his SAT scores did net him a scholarship from a local college to take a class there, which he did last summer. That was a big confidence boost for him and he enjoyed taking the class, and success in a college class was also a confidence boost. He took it online (most of the classes offered were online) so when they had their online discussion forum, the other students weren’t aware that he was 14.

  121. To clarify, the scholarship was through JHU CTY, but sponsored/funded/fulfilled by the college.

  122. My oldest was identified for that Johns Hopkins thing on the basis of his 4th grade state test scores. I went to a meeting, but it seemed almost like a scam, with this really slick salesdude type pushing all the benefits. So I didn’t bother to sign my kid up for the testing. I think there are so many good free MOOCs nowdays that you don’t really have to do this kind of thing. My oldest is taking a course on natural language processing and text mining from Udacity right now. They have all kinds of college and grad level courses.

  123. Lark — If he can take the SAT or ACT, I suggest you encourage your kid to do it. First, it’s practice for later testing. Second, he is eligible to qualify for state or national awards, which can be a nice recognition. And, of course, he has options to take the courses, which I’ve heard can be a rewarding experience. OTOH, if your kid is strongly resistant and even anxious about testing, you probably do not want to push it.

  124. Finn, the Jewish quotas did not disappear because the old money WASPs were feeling slighted or insecure about their place at the table in the face of better study habits and often superior native brainpower. If anything, the quotas were reinforced in the 50s after the WWII GI Bill influx because they wanted to ensure a) that there were sufficient places for the progeny of the traditional attendees and b) that the university continued to fulfill its mission to educate the future leaders of the country – not just the future nobel prize winners or law professors. 60s and 70s were pretty wide open. But by the late 70s there was an admission shift against big city or big suburb middle class kids who from experience with the grads in the 60s and early 70s were less likely to venerate the alma mater and in later life become large donors, but religion was no longer a variable. The reasons now given for Asian quotas are almost the same as those given for Jewish quotas; only the makeup of the university Establishment has changed.

  125. Thanks all. Whatever the tests are, they are not the SAT, he’s too young for that yet. Since he isn’t particularly inclined, we won’t pursue either. We will encourage the SAT in 7th grade when we get there.

    HFN – funny!

  126. I imagine the people in Fairbanks feel that MM’s neighborhood is pretty bleak as well.

    However, y’all should encourage your Totebaggy kids to go to UAF, have some Alaskan progeny and get them into elite schools. I bet Harvard takes 2-5 kids from Alaska/year, and I bet the standards are different than they are for New Jersey kids. It is a kind of affirmative action you can influence yourself! In fact, most of us can move to Alaska now and still provide the awesome geographical distribution benefit for our children. Not to mention the negative flat tax rate!!

    If you are not willing to uproot the family today, please start thinking about the possible grandchildren and how you can take steps now to guarantee their college success.

  127. “The reasons now given for Asian quotas are almost the same as those given for Jewish quotas; only the makeup of the university Establishment has changed.”

    Yes, and ironically there are probably more Jewish college administrators now than back in the day.

    The freshman class at Thomas Jefferson HS, the science/math magnet in Fairfax County, is 70% Asian, 20% white, and 1.6% black, with Hispanics and “other” making up the rest. But the home page for admissions has four smiling faces — one Asian boy, one white or Hispanic girl, one black girl, and one boy who could be Middle Eastern or Hispanic. Diversity rules, in pictures if not in reality.

    http://www.fcps.edu/pla/TJHSST_Admissions/index.html

    The overall acceptance rate was around 17%, and though the county has been trying to enroll more black students since these kids were babies, only 4% of the black applicants were accepted.

  128. Ada, I thought Alaska was lovely except for the mosquitoes. I had no idea the world contained so many giant mosquitoes.

  129. Alaska is just too far away. Travel costs would be a problem, and my kid has shown no particular inclination or need to get away from this area.

    North Dakota I know well, since I have relatives there. I can’t imagine going to college there unless your family was already there. Actually, even all my relatives went to neighboring states to go to college.

    One of my reasons for not wanting to send my kids off to bleak rural schools is that there tends to be a culture of drinking and driving in those places. I know kids drink everywhere, but it seems to be worse at rural schools because of the boredom factor

  130. Actually thinking about colleges, Milo’s alma mater may be very attractive to older kid. We’ll see when we get there and I would think kid would be an underrepresented minority there, if they considered race.

  131. Mooshi, it makes sense that your kid would not want to go across the country to attend school. That’s also why it’s easier for kids from Oregon, Idaho or Alaska to go to prestigious Northeast schools than it is for kids in the Northeast- not many kids want to/need to completely leave what they know. It’s great that you have a good selection of schools nearby.

    How expensive do you think two round ticket plane tickets to Anchorage annually would be? I’ve mostly ruled out private colleges because I’m not willing to pay what they would charge our family, not because two plane tickets each year is unaffordable.

  132. I’ve found that most people I know who went to major state universities have the “I love my alma mater” feeling.

  133. How expensive do you think two round ticket plane tickets to Anchorage annually would be?

    $1,070.

  134. Off-topic, but I’m traveling and am just skimming this week’s topics. On the adoption tangent, I just learned that when you adopt a child out of foster care, the state continues to cover their insurance, pays 70% of the stipend they paid for fostering, and will cover tuition costs at in-state public universities. It varies slightly by state, but that is very similar to what Texas covers. I am surprised that does not make adoptions out of the foster system more attractive.

  135. I went to a college that really wasn’t a match for me except that it offered the major I wanted to study in the right location. It was the last school I went to look at when I was visiting schools, but I loved it there.

    I discovered the down side to 60 degree weather in December. It is still warm and muggy here, but the schools are hot!! We just got home from the winter concert, and all of the kids were sweating and looked very hot due to the lights.

  136. I was able to see almost 75% of the kids in the middle school at this concert. My friends with HS kids keep mentioning that there has been a shift in the Asian population in our town. It was not so obvious to me since I just have one kid, Some of my friends have 3 or 4 kids that are spread out over 10 – 12 years so they can see the shift. It was obvious from tonight that Asian if broadly defined would now be mainly kids from India vs Chinese or Korean from a decade ago.

  137. “they wanted to ensure a) that there were sufficient places for the progeny of the traditional attendees”

    So over the course of a few generations, they will become more Asian as more Asian legacies apply? That seems to be happening, or have happened, at local private schools that are much more Asian and less white than they used to be, with increasing numbers of them being legacies.

    BTW, I’ve seen the legacy factor cited numerous times as a reason for the low Asian acceptance rates relative to their academic qualifications.

    “b) that the university continued to fulfill its mission to educate the future leaders of the country”

    Interesting. This suggests that university leaders did not see Jewish people as potential leaders of the country, and do not now see Asians as potential leaders of the country.

    BTW, a lot of people have suggested that these schools who see one of their roles as preparing the leaders of the country as not doing a great job at that.

  138. Asians as legacies – lots of my friends went to grad school in the U.S. They don’t have the family wealth of traditional legacies but all hold Totebaggy jobs. The grad schools they attended are varied CMU, Northwestern, Purdue, University of Chicago and the ever popular NYU (Stern).

  139. An article in the WSJ today reports that Chinese K-12 enrollment in US schools has tripled in the last five years. http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-schools-draw-more-chinese-1450400223
    Ambitious Chinese parents are either buying homes in top public school districts or finding private schools eager for full-pay students to fill their seats, because they believe that an American secondary education will help their kids get into a better American university. There is a whole industry devoted to placing these kids.

    When we lived in the DC suburbs, we met several Asian families who had moved to the US and picked out our community because the local middle school was a top feeder for the TJ, the magnet school (which they knew all about). Our current community has lousy public schools, but our sons’ Christian secondary school with fewer than 300 kids has enrolled in many grades several Asian students (mostly Korean, because they are seeking out Christians) who live with host families. When they arrive, they have pretty decent English skills, without which they could not survive the “Great Books” type curriculum, but by the time they graduate they are fluent with barely an accent. And they do NOT want to go back to China for college.

    I cannot imagine sending a 12 or 14-year old across the world for secondary school, but these families are really willing to make those sacrifices.

  140. BTW, a lot of people have suggested that these schools who see one of their roles as preparing the leaders of the country as not doing a great job at that.

    Gee, I wonder why.

    Yale Students Totally Cool With Repealing the First Amendment
    Watch students at Yale University sign a petition to repeal the First Amendment.

    Some of the comments in support of repealing are “speech should not be protected if it hurts people’s feelings … making fun of people is not cool … microaggressions should not be protected … the guys who wrote it were slave owners”

    Yeah, Yale has downplayed the authenticity of this video, claiming it’s highly edited and “doesn’t show what it shows”.  I guess we’ll hear more about it.

  141. “I cannot imagine sending a 12 or 14-year old across the world for secondary school, but these families are really willing to make those sacrifices.”

    I know someone who taught in a New England boarding school that had recently grown its Chinese & Korean enrollment, and apparently that’s the case with many similar schools. They were being groomed for admission to US elite universities.

  142. “sending a 12 or 14-year old across the world for secondary school,”

    The kids must be pretty clear on their mandate(s) and self-driven/disciplined enough to keep their noses to the academic grindstone absent direct/ongoing/continuous parental influence.

    Just sayin’ that my kids did not fit that mold.

  143. I think Asian students from traditional households would keep their noses to the academic grindstone at least till they graduated college because the alternative is to go home (in disgrace if you flunk). Some may want to/have to go home to take over the family business (and have the benefit of being very comfortable here and at home) but others would want to stay.

    http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-04-18/news/49236794_1_isha-ambani-akash-ambani-consulting-firm

  144. I don’t personally know any Asians who have come to the US for education or work who have returned to their native country. They talk about it, but they don’t leave. It’s too comfortable here.

  145. Actually, quite a few Chinese go back to China. My DH has worked with a number of Chinese software developers who have ultimately headed back.

  146. Our town has a significant Japanese population. My daughter’s friends are all Japanese, in fact. One thing I learned is that they often send their kids back to Japan for high school, which is kind of the opposite of what you are discussing.

  147. Several of the Indian students I knew went back to India. They said the availability of household help in India influenced their decision. The idea that couples would both have careers and no nanny, housekeeper, etc. was unappealing to them.

  148. I think that “holistic admissoins” as practiced by the Ivies is the big barrier for Asians, rather than actual racial quotas. Many east Asians are the kids of immigrant parents, who take a very traditional approach to studies. My kids Chinese school, for exmaple, offers SAT tutoring, chess, math team, violin, as well as calligraphy, kung fu, and watercolor as extracurrilcular. Notice the utter lack of sports, charity clubs, and other standards of Caucasian student life? The Chinese schools are a big focus of Chinese immigrant community life, and the kids put a lot of time into it. There are at least 4 such schools in Westchester, possibly more, and they are large – ours has 800+ students. Because of this, the kids of Chinese immigrants tend to have a certain similar profile. It isn’t just Chinese kids either. The Japanese kids all go to similar weekend Japanese school, and so do the Korean kids. My DS2’s best friend is a girl from a Southeast Asian country so obscure that I don’t even want to mention it. Her parents also push her in that traditional academic direction – violin, science camp, chess, top grades all the time, and trips to Queens for Buddhist services. Unfortunately, a lot of this is not valued by the elite Ivies.

  149. As for sending your kid to Alaska for college – it isn’t 2 RT tickets per year, it is at least 4. Schools that cater to mainly in state students usually have little or no provision for kids who have to stay for Thanksgiving and spring break. I can remember myself, desperately trying to find a place to stay over Thanksgiving because I couldn’t afford plane fare home

    My university tried to recruit on a national scale, and were moderately successful at getting more out of state students. One of the things they learned recently though, is that the kids from the West Coast have the worst retention rate. When the administrators started questioning advisors, they found out that the reason overwhelmingly was “homesickness”. In fact, I counseled two students a few years ago who returned to California because they missed their families. So sending a kid across the country for school can be a high risk move

  150. “The idea that couples would both have careers and no nanny, housekeeper, etc. was unappealing to them.”

    Them and me, both.

  151. Most schools have at least some dorm floors that are available open during spring break and Thanksgiving break or they can’t cater to international students, who don’t typically go home for those breaks. Lots of off-campus apartments should have space available. People in the community (from church, families students babysit for, etc.) may be traveling and be willing to let a student stay in their home.

    Financial aid packages include only two roundtrip plane tickets home each year. People who go to college out-of-state from here typically fly to/from at least sometimes because we’re so far from everything and breaks are so short.

    I can see not wanting to go to college far away (because of who recruits at the campus, cultural differences, far from family) but that doesn’t mean all engineering schools are super-competitive. The bottom half of the engineering class at the local U is underwhelming.

  152. “I am willing to pay more for my kid to go to a school that they really want to go to even if it was lower ranked. Going to a college that is the right fit is so important.”

    Anon – that’s exactly how I feel.

  153. “I think that “holistic admissoins” as practiced by the Ivies is the big barrier for Asians, rather than actual racial quotas.”

    Holistic admissions hides a multitude of profiling sins. I agree that many Asian students fit the template, and that colleges can justify limiting their numbers because of the desire for a more well-rounded student body without actually having an Asian quota. If there are too many string players, there won’t be enough brass players for the marching band. Admitting more brass players and fewer string players will result in fewer Asian students, at least among the music kids.

    But consider replacing the Asian template with the black one — do you honestly think that any top school admissions committee would say, “We are seeing too many of these kids who played basketball, sang in the gospel choir, came from single-parent families, and are first-generation college students. We need to make some more room for the Orthodox Jews, debaters, Mormons, violinists, and cheerleaders”?

    I don’t think so.

  154. Scarlett said
    “We are seeing too many of these kids who played basketball, sang in the gospel choir, came from single-parent families, and are first-generation college students”

    Kids who fit that profile are so rare at elite schools that they aren’t going to have that problem anytime soon. Now, at schools like mine, that could happen!

    I don’t want to argue in favor of these practices because I think Asian kids are facing a real problem, and as the mom of an Asian kid, I worry about it. I wonder how that will go since she doesn’t fit the “Asian profile” very well. However, I don’t think overrepresentation of kids from the kind of background you are describing is particularly a problem at any elite school. If anything, the research finds that bright kids from poor backgrounds tend to undermatch, not overmatch, when choosing schools to attend.

  155. My ignorant question – I can understand lots of kids taking and sticking with piano, because I have been told that it is the basis for higher music education. But why the Asian interest in the violin ? A relative of mine played the violin and gave lessons but none of us kids were naturally interested in learning how to play the violin. We didn’t mind the piano.

  156. Lark – our older 3 did the early SAT testing at the invitation of Northwestern CTY (same as JHU but for the Midwest). Only DD ever did a summer program. It was at Northwestern for 3 weeks, the summer after 9th grade. She was really keen to do the program, so didn’t mind the small bit of work required to get in. You might look at the summer program offerings to see if there’s anything your DS would like — if there’s something that really appeals to him, he may find the extra work/tests a fair exchange for that. I tried to lure DS into it that way but there wasn’t anything that interested him enough. It totally worked for DD though.

  157. Louise,
    I wonder the same thing. The Asian dominance of string sections is striking. Maybe because children can begin piano and strings years before they have the physical capability to play the trumpet or clarinet?

  158. MM,

    Yes, top schools do compete for black students with the credentials for admission. But even when schools use AA to give those students a boost, they are criticized for having admission criteria that effectively discriminate against black students, even though they are race-neutral. As in the University of Texas lawsuit.

    However, even when it appears that elite schools may be deliberately limiting the number of Asian admits, no one seems to care but a handful of Asian students who have filed lawsuits. And even if the Ivies win those suits, it’s unlikely that advocacy groups will be claiming that these schools are engaging in discrimination by using “holistic” approaches that have the result, if not the intent, of minimizing the percentage of Asian admits.

  159. “I think that “holistic admissoins” as practiced by the Ivies is the big barrier for Asians, rather than actual racial quotas.”

    It certainly seems like holistic admissions is now AA for white kids. Its roots are as AA for non-Jewish white kids.

  160. “My kids Chinese school, for exmaple, offers SAT tutoring, chess, math team, violin, as well as calligraphy, kung fu, and watercolor as extracurrilcular. Notice the utter lack of sports, charity clubs, and other standards of Caucasian student life?”

    Is kung fu not a sport?

    BTW, did you see the early “Fresh Off the Boat” episode about CLC, Chinese Learning Center?

  161. “But why the Asian interest in the violin ?

    Maybe because children can begin piano and strings years before they have the physical capability to play the trumpet or clarinet?”

    That was my guess as well. Violins and cellos are available in very small sizes. There are also now flutes for little kids, with 180 degree bends like bass flutes.

    I think it would be especially difficult for a little kid to play the trombone.

  162. “even when it appears that elite schools may be deliberately limiting the number of Asian admits, no one seems to care but a handful of Asian students who have filed lawsuits.”

    I’m guessing you don’t have kids in HS with a lot of Asian classmates. Or half-Asian classmates who are wondering whether to hide their Asian half on their applications.

    I’ve heard some of DS’ Asian debate teammates discussing ways to get around Asian quotas, as well as their perception of the unfairness of those quotas.

  163. “I wonder how that will go since she doesn’t fit the “Asian profile” very well.”

    A lot of my kids’ classmates, and Asian kids here in general, don’t fit that profile. Many of them are 4th to 6th generation, descended from immigrants who arrived in the late 1800s to early 1900s, and totally Americanized, but are penalized for their ancestry. And outside of the private schools, not a lot of kids, Asian or not, play the violin.

    BTW, Mooshi, if asked for ethnicity, as opposed to race or ancestry, your DD could honestly check the white box.

  164. Mooshi,
    Why would your daughter or anyone else volunteer that they are Asian on the college apps?

  165. Pre-HS SAT: Last night DD was asking DS about his SAT prep books. This is the first time I can recall that she took any sort of interest in preparing or taking the test.

    I will make sure to offer to support her if she wants to take it this school year, but will make sure she waits for the new format.

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