Money lessons

by S&M

Can you top this? What money lessons have you learned the hard way?

Lessons Learned: 9 People Reveal the Biggest Money Mistake They Ever Made

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321 thoughts on “Money lessons

  1. The last one. DW is as bad as I am at wasting money on little things that we don’t need. I think it’s worse than big mistakes in some ways because you don’t notice it like you do with a big mistake, so you keep on doing it.

  2. Lending friends and relatives money. It poisoned the relationships. The last time I did this I could have benefited from someone like a financial advisor to stop me, but it was a quick emotional decision based on the recent death of a loved one. I hope I learned my lesson and from now on will only GIFT money not lend.

  3. I empathize with the guy who had collections agencies after him over the Cox Wifi router. I had a similar situation when I ordered a Dell laptop and I ended up getting two of them. Even though I returned one, their financing branch never got the memo to cancel that account, and for a long time I just ignored it, since it was totally their mistake.

    Some of those others seem pretty standard. $2k-$5k of credit card debt incurred at 20 years old. What is crazy is how long they’ve kept it around — six, eight years later they’re still slowly paying it off. Judging by the writing, these are college-educated people who presumably have adequate employment. Just get rid of it!! They need to read this:

    https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/18/news-flash-your-debt-is-an-emergency/

    Your Debt is not something you “work on”. It is a HUGE, FLAMING EMERGENCY!!!

  4. I have lent money to a relative to help them start their life after grad school. I got 50% back, and will never get the rest. That’s ok. However, I doubt that I will ever lend money to anyone again.

  5. I am still very freaked out at how much college costs. We totally dodged a bullet, as DS chose a state school. However, I could have just as easily been on the hook for $60K a year. So, so lucky.

  6. “I could have just as easily been on the hook for $60K a year.”

    It’s totally your choice. Your kids can’t compel you to pay $60k a year in tuition.

  7. Not committing to putting $1000 per month in a taxable account when we were 25. I input that into a spreadsheet based on the S&P return over the last 15 years and it’s sobering how much more money we would have now. We went out to a lot of fancy meals and lived it up before we had DD. We weren’t totally profligate – we maxed out retirement, bought a home, paid off our student loans, etc. and we did invest outside of retirement, but we certainly could have been a bit more frugal and saved more.

    We have lent money to family but always thought of it as a gift (if I didn’t, it would get really irritating watching my MIL blow copious amounts of money on cigarettes and gambling). It really only irritated DH when we gave my mother a car (worth about $5K) instead of trading it in to help her out financially and she traded it in six months later for an SUV and a car payment.

  8. Milo – I had a J Crew card during law school, and they somehow didn’t change the address on the account when I moved after law school. Then when we went to buy our condo there was a “collections” notice on there from J Crew (and this was for like $300) so I sent the CEO a nasty letter from my law firm stationery. They removed it right away and my credit score immediately went way up. I was very impressed with myself. ;)

  9. “It’s totally your choice. Your kids can’t compel you to pay $60k a year in tuition.”

    Yes it is my choice. However, it’s a choice that DH and I made a long time ago, and one that we are/were committed to. That said, I’m much happier paying less money.

  10. I made some dumb money mistakes, but ehh. Nothing that has really impacted much of anything. It would have been really boring not to have lived it up a little in my 20s/early 30s before kids. I have no desire to squirrel away every last penny.

  11. The biggest financial mistake I made was not having the qualifications or experience of a paying career financially worth continuing (at least part time) while a mom of young kids. My husband could not carry the load emotionally and financially despite being somewhat insistent on this arrangement, and it broke him, discouraged me and contributed mightily to the break up of the marriage. Once I was working I got snookered by the fly by night credit cards that sent you the monthly invoice so late you couldn’t make the payment on time and lost the teaser rate. (Pre internet and online banking).

  12. At one time I had more than two credit cards plus a few store credit cards. I had a hard time keeping track of what I owed in total. Then, I would be surprised at what I owed when the bills came. Once I pared down, I had an excellent idea of what I owed at any given time plus it became easier to track return credits
    Didn’t have student loans but paid off parents as soon as I could. I can see where I would have a hard time trying to pay off loans with interest mounting.

  13. To some extent I worry about my kids. They better make enough money to satisfy their needs and wants.

  14. My biggest money mistake was rejecting the offer on our CO house, and then riding the market downhill. That cost us $70K in price + other fix-ups that we had to pay for to make house more marketable + 13 months of carrying costs + untold stress. It was a mistake because I was highly emotional at the time (newborn + DH’s plant shutdown + interstate move + loved my damn house). But I “felt” normal and capable of acting rationally, and so when I got pissed off at the guy, I was able to tell myself I was right Because Reasons. In retrospect, the best decision, both financially and emotionally, would have been to acknowledge that, yes, I did have to sell my dream house, and rip off the band-aid quickly for whatever we could get.

    I have had other money decisions not turn out optimally, but I can’t really call them “mistakes” because I made a reasonable decision at the time. Like the fact that my old condo is now worth @3x what we sold it for. If we still had it now, I’d probably plan on selling this place and moving back in once the kids are out of school. But at the time, we were living in CO, we were renting for a @$150/mo. loss, they were in litigation with the developer, and it didn’t seem like we’d ever have the option to move back east — and, really, we were looking at having kids in a few years, so a 2Br/2Ba condo wasn’t going to suit for the next @20 years anyway.

    And definitely regret convincing DH to sell Apple in the late ’90s. :-) But we were consolidating finances, we realized we’d never know enough about individual companies to beat the massive cadre of highly-paid MBAs and finance quants, so we sold the individual stocks and moved everything into index funds. So, again, right theoretical call — we just had the fortune (misfortune?) of holding the following decade’s huge winner without knowing it.

  15. DH is emotionally attached to our 14 year old MDX. Wants to put $6,000 of repairs into a car worth $4K. We originally bought the car to accommodate our second child.

  16. Your kids can’t compel you to pay $60k a year in tuition.

    Eh, not really. If the kid was a orphan it would be $15k or even $0. If you’re HHI is $270k then regardless of how you feel the school is going to expect at least $50k from either the parents or the kid. The kid doesn’t control how much you make, but you get to choose to f-them over by not contributing your share.

  17. I never should have bought a Ford. ;) Sorry Risley and Lemon.

    (Well, it was my parents’ money and my brother’s car, but still. Piece of crap that had too many problems to keep it by just 80,000 miles, and only got about $3k in trade.)

  18. “but you get to choose to f-them over by not contributing your share.”

    I guess my kids would be better off as orphans.

  19. I guess my kids would be better off as orphans.

    In terms of paying for college if you don’t want to? Certainly.

  20. I’ll pay for college. I won’t pay for a $60k-per-year college. If that’s what they want, they can follow a path similar to mine.

  21. “I never should have bought a Ford. ;) Sorry Risley and Lemon.”

    That’s alright, you should have bought a GM. :)

  22. “you should have bought a GM”

    Got it. :) I knew there was a Big Three loyalty somewhere there.

  23. Don’t worry, Milo, by the time your kids are college-aged, UVa will be $60K for in-state. ;-)

  24. Lemon! Them are fightin’ words!

    There’s more than one Big Three loyalty here, Milo. Just like there’s more than one mitten state college loyalty. Right, Lemon?

    #GoBlue #GoBlueOval

    (But I can’t fault you for being ticked about the Ford. Everyone knows their reliability sucks. And we have moved off them ourselves in the years since DH left)(In fact, Lemon is free to gloat about what we’re driving now…)

  25. I’m not sure what my biggest mistake has been. Probably procrastinating in allocating assets appropriate to my goals.

    One big mistake was buying my first house because “everyone” else was doing it and it was a “good” investment. I bought close to the market peak and lost 50% of the original value when I finally sold it after renting it out for a few years, meanwhile incurring a great deal of stress over the ordeal. Because if my experience I’m very cool on the idea of young people buying homes today even if they can afford it.

  26. My biggest $ regret is along the lines of LfB’s shouldawouldacoulda held onto the Apple stock. I had company stock that finally vested and finally came out of a sell window. I had the standard 3 choices: sell all, sell to pay taxes or hold all (and pay the taxes myself). I thought I was being oh so mature in choose hold all + pay taxes myself, as holding for another year would reduce my CGT. I made that decision one day in October 2008. The next business day, the market tanked, led by auto, and my stock was worth next to nothing. So, I donated a hefty check to the IRS for no reason.

    My mantra after that: sell all, sell all, sell all. A bird in the hand, and all that.

  27. I have a few true regrets that are similar to the ones in the OP – got out of debt just to get right back in type of situations. Still clawing out of some of them.

    But the one like LfB’s and Risley’s – mistimed buying a house. We purchased in April ’08; 6 months later the market collapsed in RI and our money could have gone so much further… At the time, we found the perfect house, and our lease was running out. Sigh. Had we waited 7 months, we’d probably be in a different area, more equity, etc…

  28. “UVa will be $60K for in-state. ;-)”

    Community college for two years then! (It would be horrifying to this group, but I couldn’t believe the number of teens in that church program with GPAs >4.0 and 25 AP classes who were planning on starting at the community college before transferring.)

  29. I’m not sure what you want from me, Rhett. I can’t help it if these schools want to punish the middle class.

  30. Rhode – we put money down on our place in 2007 while under construction, moved in early 2008 and within 6 mos. the real estate market fell. Others later bought units at far lower per sq. ft. prices than we did.

    Silver lining – we/I sold at the top of the market and we’re still in our place and the markets have recovered and then some. It’s really, really hard to time the real estate market, especially when its your primary home.

    I don’t feel like I know a lot about investing (notwithstanding what I do), I just am naturally a saver and cautious and not a big spender. I hate carrying debt, so don’t (mortgage aside.) My law school income went to paying off interest on my loans so it didn’t accrue. I took a smaller mortgage than the bank would have lent me. Prioritized maxing out 401Ks, paying off my credit cards each month, then a family loan and then my student loans for years. Probably should have put away more rainy day savings in those days. And, I’ve been very fortunate in having a really well-paying, steady job and marrying a guy with a similar savings/spending style. DH did not have much when I met him but he also did not have any debts.

  31. Though I just did some looking on zillow and trulia… our house is probably worth more than what we paid for it in ’08, so yay equity. We have discussed refinancing to a 15 or 20 year mortgage. But every time I do the math, it would be better for us to just put $100 extra to principle every month. The only reason we haven’t started is that daycare/private preschool is expensive.

  32. Milo, I hope we all stay together for another 10 years. I will enjoy seeing you pull a Finn when your kid gets into MIT or where-ever.

  33. We’ll be traveling to see the solar eclipse in totality. We’ve seen so many warnings about needing the proper glasses — or you’ll go blind!!! :) — and not trusting the many counterfeit vendors out there. However, the sellers on the NASA-approved list are all sold out.

    DW found this shop: http://tse17.com/eclipse-shop/

    (And has already purchased. But is there any sure way to verify that they’re selling a legitimate product.)

  34. If they are legit, they are supposed to have some ISO number on them. At least this is what I have been advised.

  35. who were planning on starting at the community college before transferring

    It’s interesting that at UVA it’s 30% state funding and 70% tuition but at VA community colleges the numbers are reversed.

  36. “pull a Finn”

    I don’t recall that Finn ever said that he wouldn’t. He was just always intrigued with the idea of a NMSF-funded four years at Alabama.

  37. “If they are legit”

    I just realized that TSE17 is one of the recommended vendors. What got me was that the PayPal receipt from DW’s order went to the CEO’s gmail address.

    They do have phone numbers listed on the order form, so I could always call and just get a feel for the place, using a little bit of Malcolm Gladwell analysis based on how the person communicates.

  38. We’ll be traveling to see the solar eclipse in totality. We’ve seen so many warnings about needing the proper glasses — or you’ll go blind!!!

    I recall during the last eclipse I knew people who thought something about the eclipse process made it dangerous to look directly at the sun. They couldn’t really get that it’s always dangerous to look directly at the sun, it’s just unless there is an eclipse there’s no reason to look directly at it.

  39. I wish we had refinanced a few years ago. I had contacted the bank about the paperwork for refinance, but had to cancel appointment because of multiple parent health issues, and never got around to rescheduling. Then I had my own health issues and refinancing went on the way back burner.

    Also wondering if I *will* make a financial mistake by buying a 2018 Toyota Sienna (major design overhaul) instead of getting a 2017 model. I’m leaning toward the latter, because some of the new bells and whistles are electronic safety enhancements that may not matter much to me and not sure I want to be a guinea pig. I contacted a dealer through TrueCar (thanks to whomever posted that link some time ago) and he says there are still plenty of the 2017 models out there. If anyone has any suggestions regarding the timing of this purchase, please feel free to pass them along.

  40. “it’s just unless there is an eclipse there’s no reason to look directly at it.”

    Personally, I’d be fine just looking at Google images of it after the fact. DW is really into this, though. I don’t plan to stare at it the whole time.

    I don’t remember the last one. But you’ve got to think that in a country of 300,000,000 people (or maybe 200,000,000 people back then), with at least 30% of them being certifiable idiots, and maybe 30% of those living somewhere along the path of at least semi-eclipse, there would be a LOT of blind people stumbling around if the warnings and dangers were as dire as they claim.

  41. It’s interesting that at UVA it’s 30% state funding and 70% tuition but at VA community colleges the numbers are reversed.

    I’ve never looked into it but I always assumed the numbers would be something like this. CCs are generally seen as serving the lower incomes so it makes sense they would get more state funding. And their expenses are lower so the same amount of per-student funding would cover a higher percentage.

  42. Scarlett,

    What are you expecting to go wrong with the 2018? I think you’re more likely to save $2500 by not rear ending someone due to autonomous emergency braking than you are to spend $2500 on future repairs due solely to buying the ’18 v. the ’17.

  43. Scarlett – Since I always keep cars for a long time, I like buying the new model year. In addition to the objective features that you may or may not care about, there’s usually a level of general refinement improvement with each iteration that isn’t quantified on the brochure or spec sheet.

    Two of my three cars were the first model year; specifically my Acura was the very first month of an entirely new car. The third car was the second year of a redesign. All of them have six-figure odometers now. So I don’t worry about the “guinea pig” thing or “working the bugs out” as some people say.

  44. My DH is definitely going to get a shock if college tuition for our kids is in the $60k/yr range. He just doesn’t give a thought to major kid expenses. Daycare expenses shocked him but then again he vetoed cheaper daycare centers.

  45. I don’t remember the last one. But you’ve got to think that in a country of 300,000,000 people (or maybe 200,000,000 people back then), with at least 30% of them being certifiable idiots, and maybe 30% of those living somewhere along the path of at least semi-eclipse, there would be a LOT of blind people stumbling around if the warnings and dangers were as dire as they claim.

    There are probably quite a few people who suffered varying levels of eye damage. But they aren’t as noticable as one person going blind. And a lot of the damage won’t show up until years later and won’t be linked to staring at the sun during an eclipse.

  46. Milo,

    You won’t go blind but it will damage your eyes:

    In one study, conducted in 1999 after a solar eclipse visible in Europe, 45 patients with possible solar retinopathy showed up at an eye clinic in Leicester in the United Kingdom after viewing the eclipse. Forty were confirmed to have some sort of damage or symptoms; five of those had visible changes in their retina.

    Twenty of the patients reported eye pain, while another 20 reported problems with vision. Of the latter group, 12 reported that their sight had returned to normal seven months later, but four could still see the ghosts of the damage in their visual field, such as a crescent-shaped spot visible in dim light.

  47. UVA is practically a private school with the size of its endowment and I’m guessing it’s budget is rather large, which is why those #s are the way they are.

    Since we have already started school, the ES is keeping the kids 30 minutes late on the day of the eclipse, so I assume they will get some eclipse glasses from school. One district near us sited the safety of the children in deciding to dismiss 30 minutes late that day.

  48. Milo – be totebaggy… have your kids construct a pin-hole camera to watch the events unfold without ever having to look at the sun.

  49. You know, I have this blog to thank for being more money conscious. The lessons I didn’t think of (like when I first started at work, maxing out my 401K, or saving super aggressively) I will pass on to my boys. I’m playing the long game… I’m already financially better off than my parents, and I would like my boys to be financially better off than me. Will we be Rockafellers? Probably not, but at least they’ll be starting a few steps ahead of where I was…

    I did have a conversation like this with my dad this weekend. We were watching CBS Sunday Morning and they profiled a family who owns several bodegas. The daughter wants to inherit the empire and open her own, while her father wants more for her. My dad took the dad’s position – it’s not a good life, etc. And I took hers. I pressed him on what made owning a chain of bodegas any different than the Rockafellers or the Trumps… his only answer was money. My answer was – both those families started just like hers… a few businesses here and there. 2-3 generations wiht proper investing equals an empire. She’s only generation 2.. wait a generation or 2 and her family will be an empire.

  50. Speaking of the eclipse, I totally F’d up. We realized a few months ago that we are visiting my sis in OR during the eclipse, so by sheer dumb luck we are precisely at the optimal viewing point or somesuch. Duh — that explained why the plane tickets were more expensive and the flight availability more limited than I expected! So DH went out and bought all of the approved “stuff” to schlep with us.

    Except I forgot to rent a car. I remembered late last week, went online, and surprise! They are all sold out. Again: duh. So not quite sure what to do now — maybe my sis has a friend whose car we can use or something. . . . Oops.

  51. both those families started just like hers… a few businesses here and there. 2-3 generations wiht proper investing equals an empire.

    John D. was the son of an occasionally employed patent medicine salesmen. His (in modern numbers) $392 billion fortune was his doing.

  52. He (John D’s father) was a sworn foe of conventional morality who had opted for a vagabond existence and who returned to his family infrequently.

    Interesting parallels with Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Barak Obama all of whom were abandoned by their fathers. The idea being their were driven to great success to prove their fathers were wrong to have abandoned them.

  53. “Interesting parallels with Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Barak Obama all of whom were abandoned by their fathers. The idea being their were driven to great success to prove their fathers were wrong to have abandoned them.”

    It’s too bad this is not more common among kids growing up without fathers.

    See How the Solar Eclipse Will Look From Anywhere in the U.S.

    http://time.com/4882923/total-solar-eclipse-map-places-view/

  54. I have a friend who ~3 weeks ago decided to go to SC for the eclipse. I was amazed that they decided so late. And they were looking for cheap flights (I told them that this late in the game they were better off driving, but hey what do I know…). I’m pretty sure they spent 2x what I would to fly to SC for a few days to a week.

    To relate this to the OP… this is a friend who has never had a budget, has no idea what she spends on anything, has complained about her debt and credit score, and spends on things she thinks are absolutely necessary. Like this trip to SC.

    Had I got my sh!t in gear a few months ago, I would have purchased a ticket to fly out to ID to visit my friend who’s in the path of the eclipse… I’d justify it by saying she needs my help redecorating.. :)

  55. And off topic today’s NYTimes Wedding Announcement winners:

    Dr. John Vincent Abbott Jr. and Dr. E. Gerald Dabbs were married Aug. 5 in the ballroom of Dr. Abbott’s home in Ridgefield, Conn. Patricia E. Henry, a retired State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn, officiated.

  56. “I never should have bought a Ford.”

    I never should have bought a VW. That thing was such a POS and died with less than 75K miles. Didn’t research enough. Was young & excited to buy my first new (not used) car all in my own name. I didn’t really negotiate for sh*t either.

    My main money mistakes were pretty run of the mill. CC debt in college/early 20’s. Didn’t save enough, early enough. But nothing tragic, and I had some fun and some nice things that I enjoyed at the time. We could have timed our first home purchase better, but what can you do? It’s almost impossible to purposely time a bubble, isn’t it?

    I’ve had some lucky things too – 529 is gang busters because we started it with a big deposit in Fall of ’08. I had some luck with stock options from my first real job that covered quitting, moving halfway across the country & bumming around for a little while. Got my act together in my 20’s rather than repeating the same patterns into my 40’s like some family members….

  57. College tuition + room/board, text books, plane tickets, etc. is running closer to $70,000+ a year at the highly selective schools. The top places don’t give out merit aid and we won’t qualify for financial aid – so we’ve told DD that she needs to consider either public schools or private schools that give out merit aid. Fortunately she’s done very well with her grades and her test scores so she has some good schools to choose from.

    My alma mater is consistently in the top 10 for small, liberal arts colleges – but I just don’t think it’s worth $70,000+ a year. I feel like it and other HSS have become schools for either the very rich or the poor. I was able to go because my parents had just divorced and my mom had been out of the workforce for 20+ years and she had to go back to school – so I received a generous financial aid package.

    I’m glad that DH and I have been upfront with DD about college costs and what we can afford to pay for a couple years so it’s not coming as a big surprise to her in her senior year . And if she ever decides to go to grad school, we’ll definitely want to help her think through the costs. I’m always amazed at people who take out big loans to get a master’s degree in social work – a worthy field but you don’t want to take out a lot of loans if you’re entering a profession where the pay is peanuts.

  58. We invested in a couple of failed start ups. Luckily, we’ve only invested what we can afford to lose. It’s still painful though.

  59. Just to clarify, I don’t disagree with my alma mater’s decision on how they’re spending their financial aid dollars. I agree that their aid should be prioritized for people who wouldn’t be able to afford any sort of 4 year college education. I am disappointed though with how expensive these types of schools have become.

  60. In a Revisionist History podcast last year, Malcolm Gladwell compared Bowdoin unfavorably with Vassar on the percentage of low-income students (Vassar enrolls considerably more poor kids), using its superior dining hall food quality as a metric of what Bowdoin is willing to spend to lure full-pay students. It is a very interesting discussion, especially when the Vassar officials basically come out and say that full-pay students admitted to both schools should suck it up and come to Vassar, because Vassar spends its resources more fairly. I missed this when it first came out, but Google reveals that it generated quite a discussion. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/07/18/malcolm-gladwell-sets-debate-over-whether-good-campus-food-prevents-more-aid-low

    Putting aside the issue of whether Gladwell got the story right, I was wondering to what extent full-pay students *should* be expected to pay premium prices for something less than premium dining hall and dorm quality, in order to subsidize their less-affluent classmates. I think that the president of Vassar is an economist by training, so surely she knows that, in the elite colleges arms race, Vassar is fighting a losing battle. Or is she? Are there enough families out there who are willing to make that sacrifice?

  61. “I was wondering to what extent full-pay students *should* be expected to pay premium prices for something less than premium dining hall and dorm quality, in order to subsidize their less-affluent classmates.”

    I think this type of redistribution has always been understood. However, as the price tag continues to increase, more parents will send their kids to state colleges and universities.

  62. I saw on my FB feed the other day a post that basically said only rich people teach their kids about money and that schools should teach kids more about money matters. I didn’t fully agree with that, since I recall learning about household budgets, grocery shopping, and how to balance a check book, all in Home Ec. Mostly though I learned it by watching my dad track his expenses (he would never share income or mortgage info, but would share utility bills, etc.), by having a job as a teen and no allowance and figuring it out on my own.

    Where did you learn about all this stuff?

  63. What strikes me is that there’s a happy medium that’s rarely mentioned. We know it here, and it goes unmentioned, but for the general population it’s completely ignored. If you know what you are going to major, have an idea of what your entry and mid-level salaries will be. Don’t take out more in loans than you can safely pay back on those salaries. That loan amount, merit aid, or other financial aid should give a person a good idea of how much college they can afford.

    I had small loans for both undergrad and grad (~$25,000 each). I paid off the first set of loans 2 months before grad school started, and am still paying off the grad loans. I should be finish with the grad loans in 7 years (so a 10 yr repayment plan).

    There’s nothing wrong with that model. It required me (1) knowing what I could do with my major and (2) delaying grad school to get my feet under me. There’s nothing wrong with delaying grad school, because it’s an expensive time to “figure out what you want to be when you grow up.”

    Maybe I didn’t screw up with my money as much as I thought… I paid off $25k in loans in < 3 years. I wish I put more of my excess aside to retire, or in a rainy day fund, but oh well. Life happens.

  64. “Where did you learn about all this stuff?”

    6th grade class about budgeting, check writing, and general salaries. It was a year long “game” we played. We learned about monthly expenses, one-time expenses, etc.

    Other than that – a majority from my family (particularly about student loans, and their weird fear of other loans – like 0% APR type purchasing, daily expenses, etc.), and the rest from blogs, here, WSJ, trial and error. I think it was from here that I learned about YNAB… or maybe that was NPR?

  65. I think my mother taught me the basics – don’t go into debt (although she never took her own advice), how to balance a check book, responsible use of credit, etc. She works for a bank and so she knew the basics but has no clue about investing. I think when DH and I got married/he started his job, we both sort of said let’s read some books (I think the first one was Millionaire Next Door) because we’re going to have money for the first time in our lives. His parents had an investment guy so we used him for a while (and he was really good) and now we handle it all ourselves. I wish I had done more reading on investing/compounding when we first got married. We paid off school loans first because we both are pretty debt averse. I wonder if the whole early retirement/MMM thing will make people more aware and smart with their money.

  66. Not to discount the combined effects of rising tuitions and general stupidity on signing up for unaffordable loans, but I do I wonder how much of the school debt issue is related to the crash in 2008 and ensuing almost-a-depression. Obviously, a crash like that would significantly affect new/recent grads’ ability to find jobs that would allow them to pay their loans off in a timely manner — and many of those who were able to find employment were under-employed, scraping by, and so not able to pay much to their loans. So even if those folks have now recovered and are reasonably employed, I’d expect that at the almost-10-year mark, you’d have a lot more people who still have significant student loans than you would have had with full employment.

    But the other aspect is that I also recall at the time hearing about people who couldn’t get jobs and so who decided to go back to school for a Masters/JD/etc. And that, of course, basically doubles down on the debt — you’re adding quite a bit more loans that need to be paid, while your original loans continue accruing interest (even if payments are deferred). And then of course those people graduated into industries that themselves were also not hiring at the levels they historically had, so rinse, repeat, just with more money owed.

  67. so we’ve told DD that she needs to consider either public schools or private schools that give out merit aid

    So you make more than $250k but you don’t think you could afford college without merit aid?

  68. I think MMM and the like encourages a few people to take saving/investing from 10-15% up to 50% or more. Some would do it anyway, of course, but the blogging and potential for online communities bring a few more into the fold.

    We had DW’s cousin and her DH on the boat this weekend and staying at our house. They’re still talking about how hard it is to save for a house down payment. They mentioned something about people whose parents simply give them the money, and they were talking about how much harder it is for them to do this “all on their own.” I simply said “Well, at least you don’t have student loan payments.” They responded “Yeah, that’s true, and we don’t have car payments, either.” (And they have two new’ish cars, which were gifts.) And their living in the parents’ condo at some sort of reduced rent.

    The Starbucks Factor is so clichéd, but it still applies to them, and it drives DW crazy. They seem to go there most mornings, even though we had coffee at the house, including regular and decaf, and cold-brewed in the fridge. They also go out to eat a lot. Maybe not any more than DW and I do, but then again, we have our house.

  69. I feel like it and other HSS have become schools for either the very rich or the poor

    You aware that at many HSS your getting need based aid at $245k of HHI for one kid and $295k for 2 kids?

  70. Scarlett – here it depends on what the college name is as compared to the state flagship.
    My colleague was willing to pay for Columbia and Duke. Another parent was willing to pay for Cornell. Kids got into state flagship.

  71. Maybe not any more than DW and I do, but then again, we have our house.

    They have a house too though don’t they? I mean it’s not in there name yet but that’s only a matter of time.

  72. Rhett – Those numbers probably assume that the parents are still paying a mortgage, and have no significant assets outside of retirement accounts?

  73. “they were talking about how much harder it is for them to do this “all on their own.””

    I am not sure that means what they think it means.

  74. Those numbers probably assume that the parents are still paying a mortgage

    No it doesn’t.

  75. I don’t know much about Vassar and Bowdoin, but they seem to be elite liberal arts colleges in the northeast that are essentially fungible. If you’re an UMC full-pay family, you’re going to pay about the same to attend either school, but one of them has much better food and (maybe) dorms. For expensive elite schools that aren’t in the position to offer “need”-based aid to families with $250K incomes, you have to find a way to convince them that your school is worth paying the full sticker price. It’s hard to understand how schools like Vassar can continue to get those kids without upping their amenities game.

  76. Milo,

    With three kids, an 180k HHI and 600k in non retirement assets, Harvard is $12k a year. With $1 million on non retirement assets it’s $24k. Home equity and retirement don’t count at all.

  77. ” I mean it’s not in there name yet but that’s only a matter of time.”

    You mean parents passing it down as some sort of gift? I would have thought the same a few years ago. But I think her Mom’s MS diagnosis threw them for a loop. This is FIL’s little sister. Brief family history is that they were the two-income family of big-spenders and one kid (infertility) and DW’s family were the uber-frugal one-income family with used Camrys while the aunt/uncle were trading in for new cars about every three years, and cars like Volvos and Acuras and a Corvette. And cars is just one example; vacations would be another.

    Anyway, later aunt decided that it’s SOOOOO important to SAH for the kids from middle school through high school, and she did for those six years, but I’m sure uncle was earning more, so it didn’t change too much.

    She went back to work after cousin went to college, and that’s when they had the fancy downtown five-story townhouse with the ultra-high taxes I’ve described.

    But my assessment is that the MS is what’s changed their outlook. I would guess that they were counting on 15-20 more years of double incomes to stock up the retirement coffers, and now they ain’t getting it. The house they bought now is considerably cheaper than the city townhouse in an area that is almost synonymous with 1960s rising middle class. And they suddenly seem a lot more frugal in other ways, too.

    That’s why I don’t think they’re just going to turn the condo over.

  78. “The Starbucks Factor is so clichéd, but it still applies to them, and it drives DW crazy. They seem to go there most mornings, even though we had coffee at the house, including regular and decaf, and cold-brewed in the fridge.”

    haha I have a house guest who does that when she visits. Our coffee is apparently not good enough so she has to get her SB fix.

  79. I had a friend that went to Vassar – I got the impression (and now this as 20 years ago) that it was a pretty offbeat place because it used to be all girls. I remember Bowdoin/Bates/Colby/Middlebury (just to name some highly selective New England schools) being thought of much more highly than Vassar.

  80. That’s why I don’t think they’re just going to turn the condo over.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to continue to rent to them till the parents kick?

  81. I don’t even think it’s a matter that it’s not good enough. It’s just planned that they’ll go. They casually were planning their Sunday morning Starbucks on Saturday afternoon when we were out on the lake.

    DW said, having spent time with them and traveling a little with them (aunt and uncle), that they don’t really go anywhere without stopping somewhere for a drink to have in the car. It’s habitual, so cousin is just following that.

  82. I had a friend that went to Vassar – I got the impression (and now this as 20 years ago) that it was a pretty offbeat place because it used to be all girls.

    Is “offbeat” code for “dykey”?

  83. “Wouldn’t it make sense to continue to rent to them till the parents kick?”

    The parents are barely older than 50, so it could be quite a while until they kick. And cousin and her dh want a house, because that’s what you’re supposed to have. This is just a 2-br condo in the suburbs. (It was originally supposed to be on the water when the parents had big ideas about being “bicoastal.” But that got scaled down.)

  84. RMS, no I remember her commenting more about the men being mostly gay and it just having more of an artsy/theater bent. She was from a fairly wealthy family from Fairfield County and really liked it but I remember her saying it definitely wasn’t for everyone and there were a lot of kids transferring after freshman year. But then again, that was twenty years ago so it could be totally different now.

  85. And cousin and her dh want a house, because that’s what you’re supposed to have.

    It’s like they’re featured on an episode of When Totebaggery Goes Wrong.

  86. “It’s like they’re featured on an episode of When Totebaggery Goes Wrong.”

    They haven’t really gone wrong in any way. They’re responsible enough, they reliably work at decent jobs. They’re just sort of perfect caricatures of everything MMM rants against.

    And if Rocky can say “dykey,” then I can say that cousin’s DH, while a very nice guy, is kind of a sissy, and they have HGTV expectations for things like kitchens, so there’s no way that they could ever buy something for a discount with the expectation that they’d do some of the work themselves. I don’t mean renovations, I’m not expecting Mr. WCE levels here, but I don’t think they’re even capable of painting.

  87. Milo – I get comments all of the time from neighborhood friends about how they cannot believe that I paint the interior of my house myself. Our neighbors across the street are the only other people we know who also paint themselves (the husband used to paint houses as a college summer job).

  88. “but I don’t think they’re even capable of painting.”

    In the NY Times over the weekend was an article on how to take care of your house year-round. Covered everything from checking fire alarm batteries, to mowing/snowblowing, draining boilers and cleaning out gutters. After I read it I thought no way will DH and I ever own a house. Too much work!

    I know I could do it if I had to, but after years of not having to do it, it sure doesn’t sound enticing.

  89. “It’s like they’re featured on an episode of When Totebaggery Goes Wrong.”

    It’s the perfect phrase to describe the Louise kid’s trip to see Davidson College. They were polite but I could tell unimpressed by the pretty campus. They perked up when we went to lunch and were definitely delighted to go to Ben & Jerry’s.

  90. They haven’t really gone wrong in any way.

    Ah, in the past you’ve portrayed them as more overly sheltered and indulged and lacking a sort of actual middle/working class grit.

  91. Re Milo’s young cousins – as Kerri said, how do folks learn about money? These kids had an expectation that there would be no college debt, no car payments, rent subsidy starting out, big down payment or even full gift of a condo for the first house, the big wedding and honeymoon paid for too, college funds for the grandkids when they came along, and an inheritance. Their earnings were for good times and clothes and eating out and enjoying the DINK lifestyle, later to supplement the foundation so that they could have a better zip code or private school or whatever accoutrements they expected for their life. So they have to learn how to save and I bet they will figure it out sooner or later.

    Dashed expectations can occur at many different levels of prosperity and indulgence, not just the coddled UMC – the decent working class couple that expects to take over Dad’s business and live in one of the family two decker houses, say, when something happens and the business goes belly up or properties have to be sold or rented out at FMV. Or more acutely in the dying heartland communities where external factors come into play.

  92. I paint the interior of my house myself.

    I’ve never been able to get that blue tape to work like it does in the commercials.

  93. Yes, but you live in an extremely wealthy neighborhood.

    The part of Totebaggery that’s gone wrong for this couple is that they were raised in an affluent’ish county (it’s where LfB would be if they didn’t find their house, and it starts with an “H”) and their parents wholly adopted the mantra of “Your Job is School!” so they never worked and they never did anything around the house (if even just to gain familiarity and comfort with how to do something around the house), and to be fair, their parents didn’t, either.
    And all that academic focus got them to decent jobs, but not spectacular jobs, and his job pretty much requires that they stay in the area, so they’re stuck in an expensive area with all these expectations and parents who were Totebaggy enough to give them those expectations but didn’t quite plan well enough to subsidize them into them.

  94. I was laughed at for painting my powder room and kitchen, but I just wanted it done and there were scheduling issues with the powder room and the contractors so I just did it. It was fun, but not particularly efficient. I have to have 3 feet of drywall and insulation on the back wall replaced before they can level the concrete on the floor and I am trying to find a handyman to do it. If I can’t meet the schedule, guess what, I am going to do that myself as well.

  95. DH did a smart thing, IMO. He transferred the funds from DS’ UTMA to his checking account–about 1-2 years worth of college room/board/fees/book money. DS has to pay his own college bills (outside of tuition).

    DS is already commenting about how big a meal plan he *really* needs…

  96. “lacking a sort of actual middle/working class grit”

    Yeah, “grit” is not the first thing that comes to mind.

    I guess it’s just basic economics. A house that would make them happy probably costs $600k, at least, where they want to live and commute from. They probably make $110k or so. Now, how do you bridge that gap when your parents are suddenly hoarding money for long term medical and retirement costs, AND the houses you grew up in would be about $800k now. Additionally, you’re just used to going out to nice restaurants on a regular basis. Chick fil A or Chipotle is something that you “grab,” but it’s not an event in itself. (Don’t laugh, I’ve seen people on FB of different backgrounds who treat CFA this way.) Then, your dad always taught you that you should never keep a car past 100,000 miles because it’s just not safe (maybe it’s especially unsafe for a woman, who knows if that played into it).

    Things like a vacation are supposed to be a week at the beach, in a house on the ocean, not two blocks away. Cell phones are supposed to be the new model, clothes should be brand name.

    It’s all little stuff, but it does add up.

  97. We don’t paint, due to sensitivity to the smell. However, we are the only family on the block that mows their own lawn.

  98. They probably make $110k or so.

    They should be able to do something about that but I imagine that requires the sort of hustle they simply don’t have.

  99. Rhett – I don’t use the tape (I’ve done a lot of painting and I’m the daughter of a guy who’s business is painting houses).

    Milo – I used to live in that H county in my 20s (my roommate/best friend taught there). It was not particularly happening for a 20 something but it was pretty.

  100. I’m debating whether to paint some indoor rooms myself with the kids helping or to have a professional do it. I’m SURE we could do it if we set our mind to it and devote a couple of days, a weekend. It could be fun. I would have to run roughshod over them in taking extreme care with trim painting, making sure the edges are neat. I’m speculating how much a professional would charge. I’m sure it would be much more than I expect, which is the case with almost all home repairs/maintenance services. $25,000 for the entire house interior? More? I honestly have no idea.

    I would hire a handyman to do prep work like repairing some water damage because that is something a professional could handle better than I.

  101. How old are these kids? Mid 20s? They sound like all of the 20 somethings I know.

  102. “They should be able to do something about that but I imagine that requires the sort of hustle they simply don’t have.”

    It might require different degrees. I was just thinking that, as long as you don’t have kids or any other responsibilities, why not get part time jobs together for the weekends. Work for a wedding/special event catering company. It could be kind of fun and adventurous in its own way.

    Back when they were poor, DW’s mom worked weekends demonstrating and selling cooking gadgets (including the Vitamix). But to your point of hustle, that’s the hustle that you get from growing up working-middle class and all that that entails, with parents who see their job as keeping you warm and fed from 0-18, and that’s kind of it.

    That’s the only way they could afford the mortgage of the houses that they lived in in this area. They’re rich now, by most anyone’s definition but theirs, and while those earnings pale in comparison to what really got them there, it did allow them to live where they wanted back then, and those houses are all in their rental portfolio now.

  103. Long time, no post. Hope to be around more.

    My biggest money mistake was taking a huge risk with my first job out of college. It was low paying (relatively speaking) but with an opportunity to quickly advance. It ended up being a horrible fit and my exit opportunities were almost non-existent. I turned down a Goldman-Sachs type job for that, which would have paid 3x as much and had good exit opportunities. I’d been told to “swing for the fences when you’re young” but it was a horrible mistake for me. Normally I’m not much of a risk taker at all; still can’t believe I made such a bad call. In fairness to my younger self, I got some bad advice from trusted mentors.

  104. After I read it I thought no way will DH and I ever own a house. Too much work!

    It’s really not that much because you don’t do it all at once.

    I’m debating whether to paint some indoor rooms myself with the kids helping or to have a professional do it.

    July, how much painting do you want to do? We had our entire downstairs painted about a year and a half ago, which included family room, dining room, living room and part of the kitchen, all with vaulted ceilings up to 20 feet high. We paid about $2,500. Obviously you need adjust for NY area markup.

    We’ve always painted the bedrooms ourselves. We only hired out for this because of the height of the rooms.

  105. “I’m debating whether to paint some indoor rooms myself with the kids helping or to have a professional do it. “

    IME, the most difficult part of indoor painting is moving everything out of the way, and the second most difficult part is masking things (e.g., windows, moldings) that you want protected from the paint.

    Unless you’ve damaged your house somehow, there’s typically very little prep required for indoor painting.

    As long as I’m physically able, my default would be to do it myself, especially if it’s just a small part of the house. The amount of time spent finding and hiring a contractor could be pretty close to the time spent just doing it.

  106. “My biggest money mistake was taking a huge risk with my first job out of college. It was low paying (relatively speaking) but with an opportunity to quickly advance. It ended up being a horrible fit and my exit opportunities were almost non-existent.”

    And on the other side….I turned down a job with Oracle in the late 80s because the pay wasn’t that high and they offered something call stock options. What the heck were those?

  107. “typically very little prep required for indoor painting”

    Ha! Hahahaha! Except if you have nail holes from the previous curtains, or wallpaper, or both like we did. Wallpaper takes a ton of work to remove (especially around the corners) and then the walls may need some work after the wallpaper is taken off to re-plaster, etc.

    Repainting painted walls, however, if the walls are in good shape, is much easier.

  108. Ronald Gerald Wayne (born May 17, 1934) is an American retired electronics industry worker. He co-founded Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, providing administrative oversight for the new venture. He soon, however, sold his share of the new company for $800 US dollars, and later accepted $1,500 to forfeit any claims against Apple (in total, equivalent to $9,296 in 2016). As of March 2017, if Wayne had kept his 10% stake in Apple Inc., it would have been worth over $75.5 billion.

  109. “Don’t laugh, I’ve seen people on FB of different backgrounds who treat CFA this way”

    Hey, it’s big deal for us to go to CFA, and an even bigger deal to go to Chipotle.

    I’m hoping to get to go to both Chipotle and Shake Shack soon, when we help DS move into his dorm.

  110. “Except if you have nail holes from the previous curtains, or wallpaper, or both like we did.”

    Nail holes are very easy to fill with spackle.

    I’ve not had to deal with wallpaper, but I’ve heard it can be a pain.

    I just had to do some drywall repair yesterday after pulling a mirror and backsplash off the wall of a bathroom. A big chunk of drywall came off with the backsplash.

  111. “Our neighbors across the street are the only other people we know who also paint themselves”

    I feel obligated to point out that there are multiple ways to interpret this.

  112. “Those numbers probably assume that the parents are still paying a mortgage, and have no significant assets outside of retirement accounts?”

    I don’t think it matters about the mortgage, but yes, it does assume no significant assets outside of retirement accounts.

    It really helps to have parents that are still alive.

  113. Milo — MMM would be so proud of us. In my last year of professional school, DH and I worked for a catering company on weekend evenings (could have never done that the other 3 years, never had weekends reliably off). We worked weddings, made $10/hr. On a Saturday nights, we would work 4-12 and come home with $160 and think that we won the lottery. It meant a lot of extra spending money for us. Oh, I guess MMM wouldn’t approve – then we would spend it on restaurants and stuff during the week. But it did feel like a bit of an adventure. We were both barely working during the week, so that helped.

  114. Also, I thought I was well informed when I headed off to grad school. (I’d been reading the wsj for 2 years!!). However, it was impossible to figure out the cost of my federal student loans, and I did not max them out. At the advice of the university, I took out a significant amount of institutional loans at 8%. These loans were terrible – not able to defer during residency, not able to consolidate. I had a windfall at graduation (shhhh….don’t tell DH’s parents that the money they gave us for a house downpayment went toward paying my student debt) so was able to get rid of them. In contrast, my federal debt is happliy being paid down while it accumulates interest at 1.8% It wasn’t a great tragedy, but it would have been much smarter to let the federal government loan me all of the money I needed to complete my degree.

  115. I was discussing financial aid with my neighbor and she mentioned that an officer from the financial aid office at her daughter’s university called about a large discrepancy between their CSS profile and FAFSA. Her daughter didn’t qualify for any financial aid, but she did receive a large amount of merit aid. The university official said that there was a $275,000 difference between the two forms. My friend explained that is because she got very confused while she was completing the CSS. She couldn’t identify that difference, and finally after discussing with her DH, they realized that it was his pension/retirement assets from the NYPD! He was a police officer and retired as early as possible before going into a fraud division of one of the major credit card companies in the US. She is an attorney and they seem to make a lot of money on paper even for this area.

    These are friends that we spend a lot of time with, and they tend to be cash poor. She told me that they put away so much for their retirement that they have to “borrow” for their day to day living expenses. They use a HELOC, bank of Grandma and some credit cards to help with their living expenses. I know they have an advisor at Fidelity so I told her to sit down with this guy and figure out why they don’t have enough for their day to day when it appears that they have plenty for their retirement, The Grandma created 529s for the kids, so they just have to pay for stuff such as books or dorm stuff from their own pockets. I was trying to explain to her that some of the interest that they’re paying on their HELOC and credit cards might not be worth it, and they might want to re direct some of the retirement savings to current spending since they’ve already saved a lot for their retirement.

    Our financial mistakes involve missed opportunities with real estate. We moved here instead of buying an apartment in Manhattan because it was right after 9/11. We have barely made any money on this home, but we would have made A LOT if we bought that apartment in ’01. The same is true of a house that my FIL asked us to buy in early 2000s. He was moving to a condo, and his house was located in a so-so beach town. He gave us an opportunity to buy it before he put it on the market. The town was going through some hard times and the schools were not great and the taxes were high. The town was spiraling downward for about 20 years, and we just didn’t think it was a good investment. We were totally wrong. Some people started to re develop properties after the financial crisis. A lot of properties were torn down and rebuilt with beautiful new homes. It was all about location, location, location since this was one of the closest beach towns to NYC. Over 50% of the homes were significantly damaged during Sandy. We thought this would slow the price climb, but people re built and property values are even higher now. We visit all of the time, and we couldn’t believe the prices that homes and condos are selling for this summer. We easily could have doubled our money in less than 15 years, but I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the cleanup of hurricane Sandy.

  116. “So you make more than $250k but you don’t think you could afford college without merit aid?”

    If you have multiple kids in HSS, it’d be real tough without significant assets to tap.

    Let’s assume an overall tax rate of 25%, including social security and medicare, bringing takehome pay to $187.5. Subtract $36k of 401k contributions, leaving $151.5k. Subtract $70k college costs for one kid, leaving $81.5k to live on. Doable, but likely requires a lot of lifestyle changes.

    If you had 2 kids, you’d be left with $47.5k to cover living expenses and 401k contributions.

  117. If you have multiple kids in HSS, it’d be real tough without significant assets to tap.

    If you have multiple kids the amount required plunges even more.

  118. “Where did you learn about all this stuff?”

    I remember my 8th grade social studies teacher devoted a part of that class to personal finance, and he shared his mortgage statements with us. I was stunned to learn that his payments were almost all interest, so I did the math to confirm that. I understood the concept of interest, but the actual numbers really took me by surprise.

    That was an eye-opener and undoubtedly contributed to my distaste for debt.

  119. I almost choked on my drink when I read that the assumption of an overall tax rate of 25%. I guess another one of my financial “mistakes” is to live in the northeast.

  120. “If you have multiple kids the amount required plunges even more.”

    OK, yeah, if your kid goes to a school that provides need-based aid, it may be doable without merit aid.

  121. We easily could have doubled our money in less than 15 years

    Wow! A 5% return? That’s insane!

  122. “I almost choked on my drink when I read that the assumption of an overall tax rate of 25%.”

    Just a rough number on the conservative side to illustrate my point.

  123. “have your kids construct a pin-hole camera to watch the events unfold without ever having to look at the sun.”

    Or take selfie videos of themselves with the eclipse behind them.

  124. “it’s just unless there is an eclipse there’s no reason to look directly at it.”

    Don’t you ever want to see a beautiful sunset, or sunrise?

  125. Scarlett – late to the party today, so sorry if repetitive, but to leverage the $3000 cash back on the 2017 model but I recommend you target your purchase by September 5. End of month incentives and all that. Specifically i’d contact the dealer(s) on Thurs 8/31 or Fri 9/1 and say you’re willing to buy today for the right price and get their bid(s) over the phone.

  126. I removed the wall paper and painted the rooms in my first house. I was excited at the time because it was my first house. We hired professionals to do our floors. Our friend redid his condo, including the flooring himself but took ages and made rookie mistakes.
    Now, years after cleaning my home myself I have no desire to do any work in my house myself and will gladly outsource it.

  127. “Also wondering if I *will* make a financial mistake by buying a 2018 Toyota Sienna (major design overhaul) instead of getting a 2017 model.”

    Consumer Reports suggests not getting the first year after a major design overhaul. Can you squeeze another year out of your existing vehicle, and buy the 2019 Sienna?

    Fred points out you might get a good deal on the 2017 Sienna, but it might be at the cost of a bunch of new safety features.

    Another option is the Odyssey.

  128. “We have discussed refinancing to a 15 or 20 year mortgage. But every time I do the math, it would be better for us to just put $100 extra to principle every month.”

    We refinanced to a 15 year mortgage, but that was because we got a rate that was 3/8 of a point lower than the 30 year rate.

    If the rates are comparable, I agree with you that it’s better to just pay extra principle, assuming you have no prepayment penalty. This allows you more flexibility, e.g., if your finances are tight for a bit, you can skip the extra principle payment, but you can’t just make a lower than minimum payment of your 15 year mortgage.

    You also save all the costs associated with getting a new mortgage.

  129. Rhett– I think you are making a big assumption that most Totebag kids will go to schools that can fill all of their need with grant. Sure, the HSS usually can, but PItzer or RIT or Carleton may not. These are all good schools, but they may expect a hefty loan portion of your “unmet need.” A family with 1 million in assets and 250k in HHI may get a great package from Harvard, but they are not getting that from St. Louis Univeristy.

    I agree with SSM – we are too rich for SLAC or other private and too poor at the same time. I do not think that an education at Gonzaga is worth a quarter million dollars. I would not send my kids to private unless there was substantial merit aid OR it was one of about 10 schools I deem “worthy” – and my alma mater is not on that list. I loved my undergrad experience, but I did not pay sticker price.

  130. A family with 1 million in assets and 250k in HHI may get a great package from Harvard, but they are not getting that from St. Louis Univeristy.

    If you can get into Harvard, I bet St. Louis would pay you.

  131. Biggest mistake…hard to say. The lesson(s) learned from financial decisions that didn’t turn out particularly well have all been parlayed into better future decisions.

    – I bought options on stock I thought would jump in price and never really made money. Sometimes I broke even, but mostly lost some of the investment
    – Buying a couple of used cars when younger that then needed more work than I could really afford even though they had been checked out by a trusted mechanic
    – buying nice dining room furniture shortly after we moved here, mostly because over the years it has gotten little use and really our family memories have been made in other parts of the house (family room, kitchen particularly)

    The only decision I kind of rue is putting all we had budgeted into our current house when we moved here vs paying less for our everyday home and putting the rest toward a lake cottage 45-60min from here. We have made little on our home but all the well built lake cottages have appreciated nicely. But that’s just the financial end of things. Even if we had rented the lake place except for a couple of weeks for personal use in the summer, just having it would have limited other trips we took and those memories, like of going to DW’s family’s house at the Jersey shore for a week+ (like we’re doing now).

    Now, thru the long lens of 24 years of parenthood, perhaps the biggest financial error was getting wrapped up in travel sports for a few years. And it wasn’t just the $$, but also the time. Water under the bridge. Largely fun, but the opportunity cost on both fronts is/was real.

  132. Ada,

    To your larger point I totally agree. Weighing the difference between Davidson and Wake Forrest isn’t worth the effort. No one gives a shit.

  133. Thanks Fred and Finn. I am planning to sell my 2013 Sienna to a family member who will need it by the end of 2017 so I can’t wait for the 2019 model. I really like the Sienna (mine only has 45,000 miles on it) and otherwise would be keeping it for years. My previous vehicle was an Odyssey, which had about 150K mileage, and I wasn’t wild about their new design — it reminds me of a hearse — plus I would like AWD in our climate, which Honda doesn’t offer.

    Finn, I feel obliged to mention that one pays principal on a loan, not principle.

  134. “I have had other money decisions not turn out optimally, but I can’t really call them “mistakes” because I made a reasonable decision at the time.”

    Yeah, the money decision I regret the most seemed reasonable at the time. My broker convinced me to sell some of my Amgen stock, take profit, and diversify.

    Had I just held on, our net worth would be a few million higher than it is now, and I wouldn’t have wasted any time trying to be eligible for need-based aid.

    The other decision I regret was not selling more stock when we bought our house. We sold some to make a big enough down payment for a jumbo loan to cover the balance, but we could’ve sold more. Not long after, the tech bubble burst, and we took significant paper losses.

  135. “If you can get into Harvard, I bet St. Louis would pay you.”

    That sounds similar to what I told DS.

  136. Scarlett, from https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/refreshed-2018-toyota-sienna

    “As far as redesigns go, the 2018 Toyota Sienna’s is pretty mild. The 2018 rides on the same platform as the 2017, with dimensions and an interior layout that appear to be mostly the same.”

    “The biggest news with the 2018 Sienna is that it will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense-P suite of safety and driver assistance features. Toyota has been more aggressive than most other non-luxury brands in rolling advanced safety gear into many of their cars as standard equipment.

    Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that works at all speeds, lane departure warning with steering assist to ensure that you stay between the lane markers, and automatic high-beam headlights that sense oncoming traffic and dim to avoid blinding other drivers.”

    Based on this, I suggest getting a 2017 if you can get one with these safety features at a good price, e.g., taking advantage of the offer Fred mentioned.

    OTOH, if you can’t find a 2017 with the safety features, you might want to just go ahead and get the 2018 model. This suggests it’s not a huge design overhaul, and thus might not have same level of problems often associated with major redesigns.

  137. Ha! Hahahaha! Except if you have nail holes from the previous curtains, or wallpaper, or both like we did. Wallpaper takes a ton of work to remove (especially around the corners) and then the walls may need some work after the wallpaper is taken off to re-plaster, etc.

    You just paint over the wallpaper. And it takes about two minutes to spackle the holes the day before.

  138. You just paint over the wallpaper.

    Most wallpaper is textured and all wallpaper has seems. It’s really not going to look “professional” if you paint over it.

  139. Most wallpaper I’ve seen isn’t textured, and after painting the seams aren’t noticeable unless you are looking for them.

  140. A friend used some sort of primer-product they sell to paint over your wallpaper first, then when it dries, you paint the wall. The product keeps any moisture from seeping into the wallpaper in the future and letting bubble. I know all this because I thought she removed the wallpaper, and couldn’t tell at all from looking at it that it had wallpaper underneath.

    I made mostly the standard stupid mistakes when we were young. One regret we have is that we did not take oil company ex-pat jobs when we were first married. We had a couple of opportunities, but didn’t understand the financial benefits, and Saudi Arabia did not really appeal to me. We could have paid off student loans quickly and saved up for a down payment (instead of our $500 down HUD house, that I actually really liked). I also would not have given my DH flying lessons as a Christmas gift. I knew he’d love them, but I did not understand at the time that I was signing up for flight time for years. It was the most expensive $300 gift I’ve ever given.

  141. Speaking of college dining amenities, do colleges still require the students to buy meal plans ? Coming from overseas I had no idea so I purchased the maximum – three meal plan for the first year. It was a waste as I wasn’t the type to eat three big meals at a set time each day. A one or at most two meals would have been enough.

  142. Louise, many colleges require freshman to buy a meal plan, but there are choices of plans. Neither of my kids’ colleges required meal plans after freshman year, although we usually bought a plan of some sort.

  143. ” In my last year of professional school, DH and I worked for a catering company on weekend evenings ”

    Were you in rotations at the time? That’s impressive.

    I would do it now if it weren’t for kids. I would figure one day per weekend of earning extra cash; the other day to blow it on gas for the boat, or a nice restaurant or something.

  144. Louise: At DS’ college, freshman who live on campus are required to buy meal plans. DS is living in an apartment, so he bought some meals but not the full dining plan.

  145. Houston – so, did that all work out well for your DS, the whole living off campus thing? Did he find roommates? Is he close to campus? Is it a student-filled apartment, or maybe one run/owned by the school?

  146. Denver – it may be the era of wallpaper that we are looking at. All of the wallpaper in our last house (and in this house that we’ve removed so far) was textured and/or coming up at the seams, and wouldn’t have looked right if we had painted over. The last house was late 60s or early 70s era, and this house was early 90s if I am estimating correctly.

  147. L, our house is early 70s although I don’t know when they actually put the paper up.

  148. Houston – I hope off campus living is working for your DS. I would find it a bit daunting but then again eventually everyone will move to apartments

  149. Ris and Louise: It is an apartment complex that’s across the street from campus–it’s for students only. It’s insane–pool, penthouse gym, club room, media room, study rooms, etc. DS was on the wait list for campus housing, so we found the apartment as a “Plan B”.

    When he finally got assigned a dorm, DH and I strongly encouraged him to take it. He looked at the dorm room–old dorm, sharing a small room with another guy, sharing a bathroom with 3 other guys, etc. Then he looked at the costs–the apartment would cost maybe $50 more than the dorm for the whole year (not $50 per month). His apartment is also roughly the same distance from his classes when compared to his potential dorm.

    At the apartment, he has his own bedroom, his own bathroom, full kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. Everything is new. I can’t blame him, but geez. Did I mention the video gaming suites? DS2 wants to move in.

  150. Why did DS end up on the housing wait list, you may ask? He forgot…FORGOT…to apply for on- campus housing. When I..ahem…brought this up his response was (and I quote) “Oh………..really?” That was it. Argh!!!!!

  151. Houston – my DS will be ready to move down there too !
    I used to be envious of Boston University’s high rise dorms overlooking the Charles River.

  152. Houston – so glad it worked out for him! And if he can just stay there for the entire 4 years, that will be amazingly convenient for him and for you/your DH.

  153. He forgot…FORGOT…to apply for on- campus housing

    So he “forgot” and ended up in a place 5x better for 0.5% more money? To that I say, “Good job!”

  154. Random vent with totebaggy overtones. DS finally got around to starting his physics summer work yesterday and found out he needs a graphing calculator. I found it on Target’s website for $30 less than everywhere else, so I was going to do the online purchase with store pickup. But it said the Target by us has limited supply so you have to make the purchase in the store, you can’t pre-buy it online. We went to the store to get it last night and it was $15 more in the store than on the website. I tried to order it online on my phone so then we could go to another store to pick it up, and it wouldn’t process the sale for some reason. We went home and I tried it on my laptop and it went through fine, so I need to pick it up today.

  155. DD – Did you try to take the in-store model to Customer Service and just ask for the online price?

  156. he needs a graphing calculator

    I assume because he can’t use his phone during the test?

  157. Use his phone during the test….

    HeHe ! My kids are lazy enough that if they could they would just ask Alexa, not even text their friends.

  158. “Houston, maybe his plan all along was to live in the apartment.”

    Unfortunately, he didn’t know that apartments were an option. He was not being wily–He was just being a teenage boy. As Rhett said, he definitely landed on his feet.

  159. As Rhett said, he definitely landed on his feet.

    That can take a boy pretty far in the world.

  160. Milo, it was locked on the shelf so I would have had to hunt down someone who could unlock it, then take it to customer service and i didn’t feel like dealing with it at the time.

  161. To each his own. It seems faster and easier to me to find someone to help you since you’re already at the store than to place a new order so that you can drive to a different store.

  162. Each location is different but our suburban Rite Aid stocks school supplies. It’s much closer than Target or WalMart so in a pinch it is my go to store.

  163. The other store is right by where I’m working today so it’s not a big deal.

  164. Is it just me or does it seem as if lately some non-political comments are being posted in the politics thread, maybe just because they’re controversial. The latest comment falls into this category imo, but maybe I view these things differently.

  165. I can’t think of any particularly painful financial lessons I learned on my own. Now, from my parents I learned a ton of “what not to do”!!! Out of that, I learned to always be able to take care of myself and get a good job to get out of my small town. So many arguments about money when I was growing up. The real issue was that we didn’t have enough, but my parents compounded it by continually making poor decisions and overspending regularly. Both of them.

    I did learn some helpful things from more UMC college friends. Little rules I am passing along to my kids – like if you can’t pay for the car with a 36 month loan, you can’t afford the car. Now, we pay cash but that seems unrealistic for 20-somethings.

    As an almost 50 year old, I still watch what I say to my mother so she doesn’t really understand how much money I make. I’m afraid she’ll expect me to take care of her. While I won’t let her starve, I don’t need to absorb that any earlier than absolutely necessary.

  166. July,

    The google engineer getting fired? That could be a post I guess. Also the article below about how symphonies dramatically increased the number of women by going to auditions behind a screen. If you go from 5% women to 30% women when you go with auditions behind a screen then it must be gender discrimination. The remaining 20% may net be gender related but the first 25% sure was. I assume the same thing is occurring in SV. People have an idea in their head about what an software developer should look like and anyone who doesn’t fit the image doesn’t get a fair shake.

  167. DH and DD painted DD’s bedroom on Sunday. I helped with the prep work (moving small pieces of furniture, taping, covering the floors, etc.) and painting some trim. DD just wanted to do it herself but she had never painted before, and it turns out that she’s a very messy painter. DH spent most of last night cleaning up the areas that she worked on. We’ll do individual rooms but not rooms with cathedral ceilings, stair walls, etc.

    The biggest money mistakes we made were not accepting certain job opportunities because we didn’t want to move. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Also, I remember keeping a credit card for points without realizing that I was being charged fees and interest. They were buried in the statement, and not easy to see like they are now.

  168. “Rhett– I think you are making a big assumption that most Totebag kids will go to schools that can fill all of their need with grant. Sure, the HSS usually can, but PItzer or RIT or Carleton may not. These are all good schools, but they may expect a hefty loan portion of your ‘unmet need.'”

    @Ada: Carleton has long followed a policy of requiring students to take out the federal loans they are eligible for (IMD @$2500) and then filling the gap with grants, not Parent Plus loans or the like. See https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/sfs/prospective/aid_chart/ — I think most kids with a Carleton degree can manage @$15K of loans.

    Of course, that “gap” is the delta between the costs and the EFC, so if you don’t think you can afford the EFC, then yep, you’ll be filling the gap with loans. But that is true everywhere.

  169. “The google engineer getting fired? That could be a post I guess.”

    Rhett, My point is not that it could be a post (although I think it could), it’s that it does not seem to fit under the “politics” umbrella. But clearly you and others think some of these topics should be limited to the politics section.

    The EFC calculated by colleges seems unreasonable and catches many parents by surprise, so yeah more loans are often needed if the student wants to attend that school.

  170. Rhett (responding to your comment from yesterday) – combined, DH and I make about $210k. We don’t qualify for any merit aid. This could be because we’ve lived in our house for 20+ years and its value has increased significantly – but the value does us no good since we want to stay in Seattle and all the houses here have gone up significantly. So no, we can’t now take $70k (or 30%) of our pay and send it to a college. And I don’t see the value add in doing so. If DD really wanted to work in investment banking, then yes, I can see that the connections you could make at a place like Harvard would be valuable. But she doesn’t. If DD was really interested in some specialized field that was only available at some particular school – maybe – but she’s not.

    DD may be interested in computer science or engineering – and the University of Washington has great programs. As does Oregon State. And if she wants to settle in the Pacific Northwest, I’m guessing both of those names would carry more weight out here than Swarthmore, Middlebury, Amherst, etc. These are great schools that I love – but I just don’t see the extra value they provide as being equivalent to costing $30,000-$40,000 more a year than UW or OSU. Or being better than places like Tulane or Emory or Georgia Tech where she can probably get significant merit aid. We’re certainly willing to pay for DD’s education – just not $70k a year.

    Side note – in September, we may be touring some combination of Tulane, Emory, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, or George Mason University. DD is not sure if she wants to stay in the Pacific Northwest or go to another part of the country entirely. Any observations of any of these schools would be appreciated.

  171. We don’t qualify for any merit aid.

    Yes, you do. Maybe not at a given school but at some schools you would most definitely qualify for significant need based aid.

  172. Oh sorry, I thought you said need based aid. That you qualify for. Merit aid I can’t speak to.

  173. Actually, did you mean merit aid or need based aid? Your second sentence seems to indicate you meant need based aid.

  174. Rhett – we do not qualify for need based aid. I’ve plugged our numbers into several college cost calculators – including Stanford (not that DD could get in – but I figured if there was any place we could get need based aid, it would be Stanford).

    I think DD can get merit aid because she has really strong test scores and grades. But not all schools offer merit aid – many HSS don’t offer merit aid.

  175. “The EFC calculated by colleges seems unreasonable ”

    You know my personal thoughts on this. But I wonder about the mentality and underlying assumptions behind how the schools arrive at those figures. Some ideas or considerations:

    Presumably, the people who come up w/ the thresholds are:

    1) tenured academics
    2) often living in rural areas or small towns, but generally in places more affordable than where most of their contemporaries who also earn about $210k combined are living
    3) planning to work until about 70, more or less, perhaps quite a bit longer on a reduced schedule, and are not at much risk for age discrimination or obsolescence

    I think that’s probably why there’s a disconnect.

  176. I thought about the article Rhett posted on the Google engineer. Our family has many engineers but they are all male. It’s not that the women were not encouraged to do well at Math and Science, they were. But they went into other occupations. The male engineers did well, because they dealt with the advanced technology of the day be it textile, automobile or more recently computer engineering. The women did well in their chosen occupations.
    Is the Silicon Valley attitude because there are limited numbers of women engineers ? If so should we be focusing on engineering for girls or continue with a Math and Science education without focus on ultimate occupation. Just thinking out aloud.

  177. Emory – have several friends and a BIL that went there. BIL did not feel in retrospect it was worth the money but had a good experience (but certainly if you get merit aid it’s an excellent school). It’s a pretty campus but it does have a bit of a reputation for the student body being sightly coddled (needing safe spaces and what not but probably not specific to Emory as I see a lot of that at SLACs these days) I know a bunch of people who went to Emory for law school (and the law school also got some snickers when it provided puppies for the students to play with during exams to relieve stress but whatever).

    Georgia Tech is of course great. They’ve had some student muggings but nothing that I’ve seen lately (and not out of the ordinary for being in the middle of the city). I’ve also had some nice babysitters from Georgia Tech and a lot of them were liberal arts majors.

  178. George Mason seems different from the other schools on the list. What made her pick it? It is very suburban and a high % of students live at home/commute to school. Maybe not a great pick for someone from OOS who wants a traditional college experience.

  179. “The EFC calculated by colleges seems unreasonable ”

    In terms of financial mistakes the one I always think about is not keeping closer track of the money. I know folks who, let’s say make $7200 every two weeks and every penny of that has a place to go – savings retirement and taxable, mortgage, vacation home mortgage, car payment, lease payment, etc. etc. I’ve always structured things so there is a lot of slack in the system so I often think what might have been if I’d gone with a 33% of gross income mortgage.

    In terms of the EFC I think the most likely senario is people have expanded their lifestyle such that every penny is accounted for and they don’t think (or actually can’t) spare $50k a year. Your situation puts you in a tiny minority that I doubt is on anyone’s radar.

  180. Fred – curious as to why you say that travel sports was a financial/time waste or mistake. We’re on the other side of just getting into it. I’m interested in any lessons learned.

    I’ve made lots and lots of financial mistakes, especially compared to many on here. I didn’t learn much financially from my parents or from school growing up, so I’ve learned over time.

    The paying for college discussion is interesting to me. I think the most Totebaggy thing is that nobody on here is assuming that they’ll take out loans for their kids to go to school, or I missed it if they did. Our plans for college primarily will come from having our mortgage paid off and then a few years of no mortgage payments to save and then cash flowing a lot of it. I figure between no mortgage and not paying for private high school any more, we’ll be able to cover 50-75% of the cost, if not all of it. We may have to take loans out to cover the rest, which I don’t think is the end of the world. Where one goes to college doesn’t seem as competitive in my city / work experience. A lot of kids go to local schools and don’t leave the state. The alumni networks for jobs is strongest with the local schools – and not the “best” ones. I don’t see myself pushing my kid to pick the most prestigious school. I want them to pick the school that is the best fit.

  181. “nobody on here is assuming that they’ll take out loans for their kids to go to school”

    That’s a good point.

  182. they’ll take out loans for their kids to go to school,

    Several things.

    1. It seems like cash flowing a health percentage is growing more popular.
    2. I think the kids should have some skin in the game.
    3. No loans seems like paying cash for a car.
    a.. From the point of view of the kid does it make sense to liquidate assets held for him in
    order to avoid him paying 4.5% of deductible interest? I don’t think the numbers make
    sense given that at 22 he has a +40 year investing horizon.

  183. “nobody on here is assuming that they’ll take out loans for their kids to go to school”

    Were anyone else’s kids concerned about having to take our loans for college? Our eldest was until we had a someone uncomfortable conversation about the relative income/wealth levels between her and some of her classmates. Basically, while we are significantly less wealthy than some of her classmates, we were also significantly more wealthy than others, and that we have planned for college costs. We also had to explain that qualifying for FAFSA was not anything to do with her accomplishments.

    Anybody else’s children miss some seemingly obvious life facts?

  184. 2. I think the kids should have some skin in the game.

    Completely on board with this. My kids (including the youngest this year) have all had summer/part time jobs and a portion of that money goes towards their college fund.

  185. My kids (including the youngest this year) have all had summer/part time jobs and a portion of that money goes towards their college fund.

    How does that compare to fully funding a ROTH IRA? Or is their ROTH IRA already fully funded?

  186. “Where one goes to college doesn’t seem as competitive in my city / work experience. A lot of kids go to local schools and don’t leave the state. The alumni networks for jobs is strongest with the local schools – and not the “best” ones. ”

    I agree – for MSP and for Chicago too. Most of the Big Ten schools have big alumni networks here too since so many people come here from surrounding states. Especially for jobs outside of the few very competitive industries/companies. But even with that, there are so many people I know who went to a state school and then go to one of our Top MBA programs (two top-5 local schools) & get into consulting and the like that way. I can’t speak as much to, say, engineering, although again – lots of Big Ten alumni networks help there too. I think an engineer from Michigan State or UIUC is going to get more attention/recognition on a resume than Harvey Mudd, depending.

  187. 2. I think the kids should have some skin in the game.

    I agree with this too. We are currently discussing how this might work for DS. A college friend was talking about the option having the kids take out loans, but then paying them off in full ONLY if college is successfully completed. I don’t know about that, but I’m not sure what the best way to handle it will be. The 8 years we have to determine this will go fast.

  188. “Presumably, the people who come up w/ the thresholds are:

    1) tenured academics”

    I don’t believe the professors have anything to do with the tuition costs or the various aid decisions. I think that is the administration, which looks at the annual costs of running the school and the funds available from the endowment, and figures out how much they can charge the wealthier kids and how much aid they can provide the less-well-off to get the kind of class they want.

    I think the huge tuition spike originated from two things:

    1. On the private side: Growing applicant pool — basic supply and demand as the Millennials began to work their way through the system — which sparked a collegiate arms race to offer more and better facilities to attract the best kids.

    2. On the public side: the shift at the state level from “our job is to educate our citizenry” to “universities should pay for themselves,” which significantly cut back the state funding, thereby causing tuition to rise to offset the difference.

    And on the flip side, there was really no downward pressure to counterbalance those forces, because the ethos was/is you need a college degree, and loans were available to fill the gap.

    Personally, we always intended to cover about 1/3 from savings, 1/3 from cash flow, and 1/3 from loans. But between my stepdad’s death and our doing better than expected the past few years, we now intend to cover the basics from savings/cash flow and omit the loans, because it’s fairly likely they will both go to grad school at some point, and I’d rather they go into that without debt. They can work in the summer and do work-study to cover their pizzas and extras and such. I was always a “skin in the game” believer, but I’ve changed my tune; if my kid isn’t mature enough to manage college appropriately at 18, then neither one of us should be shelling out tens of thousands of dollars at all, and requiring some token amount of loans on principle isn’t going to suddenly fix the immaturity.

  189. A college friend was talking about the option having the kids take out loans, but then paying them off in full ONLY if college is successfully completed.

    1. Do the numbers make sense?
    2. You’d have to give them the option of doing a gap year (or more). Of the kids I know who struggled there were either immaturity issues or mental health issues. The paying only if successful would, to my mind, come only after a long and judgement free discussion about readiness.

  190. My kids all (except the one with a very large scholarship) took out loans. I controlled the entire process and the average debt load (perkins and stafford) was 12-15K for the other three upon graduation. The deal was that if I had the funds I would make the payments, but they were still their loans. I am totebaggy enough to think that an undergrad college education is the parents’ financial responsibility, but everything else after 18 is on them. If we can help a little, great. If not, finance the life you choose. The finance type paid and managed her loans. We (Dad wasn’t so depressed by then and decided that helping the eldest, at least, wasn’t all about enriching me) paid off the others, mostly. I filled out the consolidation paperwork in the 2 percent years. As for parental loans, I took out 2 low interest state or fed subsidized loans for about 10K. I borrowed from my 401k to make a couple of tuition payments without a spread out fee, but paid it back asap at bonus time. My 401k did not reduce the agreed interest for prepayment, but I was just putting it back into myself, albeit with after tax money, and the rates were low. I shoveled money around lots of credit cards to manage the day to day cash flow, but sorted that out over time. No colleges took tuition payments on cards. And in the thick of it I had no assets other than less than 100K in the 401k, decent income, modest child support, and on the red side my own grad school loan payments (about 12K) a five year car loan and the credit card debt which ballooned to 50K at the worst point. Merit aid for one kid; major need based aid at HSS for another; nothing much for the boys (one of whom went to instate state univ, the other to out of state state univ – the baby so EFC was pretty high by then).

  191. I think an engineer from Michigan State or UIUC is going to get more attention/recognition on a resume than Harvey Mudd, depending.

    This is something that whenever it comes up shows the northeastern bias of a lot of posters here. There are a lot of colleges that don’t have big name recognition or cachet nationally that carry a lot of weight regionally. If you want to go into investment banking in NYC then an MBA from the University of Denver is probably a waste of time and money, but it’s going to open a ton of doors for you in the mountain time zone.

  192. I didn’t know that my mom was well off back then, but I did know that she had enough that that we would never be homeless and that a kid doing well in school would not have to drop out for lack of funds, although a transfer back to in state might have been required. So between parental educational level, native smarts, and lots of strings attached extended family my kids and I had cultural capital and a safety net, if not true financial security. It was hard psychologically, having to please the landlord to stay housed in our well located dump and to get along with a series of hostile bosses to stay employed, and the lack of physical contact because of no travel budget, and especially keeping the worst of the insecurity from the kids.

  193. “Our eldest was until we had a someone uncomfortable conversation about the relative income/wealth levels between her and some of her classmates. Basically, while we are significantly less wealthy than some of her classmates, we were also significantly more wealthy than others, and that we have planned for college costs. We also had to explain that qualifying for FAFSA was not anything to do with her accomplishments.”

    Same on all counts!

  194. We may be making our worst financial mistake with the scope of the remodel. I’m very cautious and don’t spend money on things I just want; Mr WCE says he doesn’t mind working a couple extra years, but if more confident than I am that age/health won’t be factors that limit his employment.

    The comments about DIY vs. hiring out hit home yesterday, where I troubleshot the broken dishwasher at church camp and then helped handwash spaghetti dishes for 60. (Resetting the motor, circuit breaker and letting the dishwasher cool down gave us a few more loads, verified by observing the old-style pressure and temperature gauges for “wash” and “rinse” before the motor got super-hot and the dishwasher stopped working again, which combined with the dead-motor noise says “motor” to me. I suggested to the church director that she ensure motor information is provided to the appliance repair person.) I understand that for people in Rhett’s echelon, DIY skills aren’t necessary but for 95% of the population, they’re good to have. I liked Meme’s plan to complete the insulation/drywall task.

    July, if you’re still reading, I started posting potentially controversial topics on the politics page after my article about the Minneapolis superintendent directing that issues including what I consider “severe” sexual harassment be reclassified to improve discipline statistics by race was so poorly received because the students with severe discipline problems were called “thugs”.

  195. It is *ridiculously* easy for kids to take out loans–even by accident. In DS’ student portal, there are various boxes to check–one of them is a FAFSA loan. He asked me if he was supposed to check the box. I yelled NO!!! Wow.

  196. If the only 2 options are Alabama for free or UVA at full pay and income is $130k, there are no college savings and 2 kids need to get through, the kids are going to Alabama.

  197. ” I was always a “skin in the game” believer, but I’ve changed my tune; if my kid isn’t mature enough to manage college appropriately at 18, then neither one of us should be shelling out tens of thousands of dollars at all, and requiring some token amount of loans on principle isn’t going to suddenly fix the immaturity.”

    I guess it is less about taking out loans to pay tuition (which I’m iffy about) and more about my general belief that about HS/college kids having a job being a good thing vs. having “school be your job”. I don’t really intend to fund my kid’s pizza/beer/Uber budget through HS & college, paying for a luxury apartment when a dorm will do (if the cost is different unlike the example above), or covering Postmates delivery every night, but we’ll see.

    @Milo – VA isn’t The South?

    @DD – ” If you want to go into investment banking in NYC then an MBA from the University of Denver is probably a waste of time and money, but it’s going to open a ton of doors for you in the mountain time zone.”

    Exactly. I’m pretty sure that’s true most places, no?

  198. And as someone not from Va or the south, UVA is definitely in the south. They even dress up for sporting events. So weird!

  199. I understand that for people in Rhett’s echelon, DIY skills aren’t necessary but for 95% of the population, they’re good to have.

    Kenmore Dishwasher 1978 $279,95 ($1.097 in today’s dollars). Kenmore Dishwasher today $299.00. The value of having those skills has fallen dramatically is my point.

  200. Not sure about skin in the game. Told my DS we would pay an allowance freshman year of $50 per week for pizza, groceries, haircuts, stuff. If he spent more than this, he can supplement out of his summer job income. I believe that school is his job and that engineering classes will take some getting used to. I want him to get out and have fun, to meet new kids, join clubs, etc.

  201. @Milo – Wow. DC Urban Baby indeed. These are the same people who said Bethesda(?) is a cesspool of violence and the wrong type of people, right?

    “The guy that started Google turned down MIT and went to UMD.”

    HA!

  202. Milo- I started reading that thread but had to stop, the back and forth was sucking me in.

    For us, both UVA and Alabama are part of the college tour circuit – South (non engineering students)

  203. But HS/college jobs are a way to meet people and make friends too. And they are sometimes even fun!

  204. I don’t really intend to fund my kid’s pizza/beer/Uber budget through HS & college,

    But if they work they’ll get a 3.85 not a 4.05 and then how will they ever get into college? And if they somehow manage to get into college and get a 3.85, how will they ever get into grad school? And if they don’t go to grad school they’ll end up living in a van down by the river.

  205. I also think these DC Urban Baby people are WAY overestimating the amount of esteem a UVA degree is going to carry outside of the Mid-Atlantic vs. Bama.

  206. @Rhett – Ha! Exactly.

    I think part of it is that both DH & I had jobs that were formative experiences for us in HS/college We made friends, learned a lot, made money to blow on stupid stuff, and gained a little more maturity from the experience. Some of DH’s closest friends to this day are from the ice cream shop he worked at in HS/college.

    Personally, as a person who hires a lot of new grads, I like candidates who have work experience outside of a summer internship as well. Doesn’t have to be extensive, but if you spent your college summers wrangling kids for a day camp all day in the heat, I am pretty sure that you aren’t going to be too worked up about making copies (or the 2017 equivalent – saving PDF’s and copying them to different folders & share sites and emailing out notices).

  207. Not only do faculty have no input into determining tuition levels, some faculty here argue with a straight face that the university’s endowment is so large that tuition should be free.
    It drives DH nuts. He wonders why they can’t see that high tuition is an exercise in income redistribution, which these faculty love. He thinks that tuition should be even higher than it already is, with the surplus paid by the rich providing even more scholarship aid for the poor. That is why faculty are not allowed to set tuition.

  208. I intend to write the Target CEO an email about my experience with that stupid graphing calculator. It was like bait and switch. It was even cheaper last week. I bought it on Saturday and it only told me at checkout that I had to go to a store. I had until 11pm on August 4. They even sent me an email at 3:21 am to remind me to pick it up that day. I drive to store and it wasn’t there. They employees said my order was canceled. I showed them email and it made me log into Target web site. As soon as I did that, the higher price popped up. It’s the employee that he could call Minnesota, or give me the lower price. I also told him that I wanted my gas and time reimbursed if he wouldn’t give it to me. I was loud and angry. They gave it to me at lower price and offered me another 10% off. I’m still writing to Target because the whole experience stinks and it is so not what I expect of Target. I usually love their customer service.

    The graphing calculator is pretty standard for most kids now, and it will be used in other classes in the future. A group of parents complained to our middle school and high school administrators about the high cost. I think the PTA offered to buy for any kids that couldn’t afford one because it seems to be “required” for the course work.

  209. Scarlett, I’ve shared enough that you can guess our HHI. In your husband’s view, is my family “the rich” or “the poor”?

  210. “He thinks that tuition should be even higher than it already is, with the surplus paid by the rich providing even more scholarship aid for the poor.”

    To the poor, and to dependents of faculty, of course. :)

  211. “You’d need at least $650K”

    Oh, then ITA with your DH. Screw those rich bastards.

  212. One of my friends was sent to Purdue University after yelling “Roll Tide!” too often in his parents’ home.

  213. My older two are at sleepaway camp this week for the first time. I know this is very typical, so mentioning it is trite, but it’s weird to have no contact with them, or even updates about them. I know that they were going to have a swim test that would determine their eligibility for venturing beyond the shallow end of the pool, and I know they were at least a little bit nervous about it, so I’d kind of like to know how it went, but we’ve got nothing. There’s no point in writing, as we pick them up Friday night.

  214. Milo, the first summer is always the hardest summer for the parents. Do you see pictures?

  215. No, I don’t think they have any pictures. DW checked the camp’s FB page last night.

    My youngest is the one who keeps asking how many more nights they’ll be gone.

  216. DH and the kids are away for a week at a Boy Scout thing. So happy! So quiet! The house stays clean!!!

  217. Milo, this week is also my boys’ first time at sleepaway camp, and my stint as kitchen help was because they only agreed to go if they could come home with me if it was terrible. (It wasn’t terrible and they all wanted to stay when I checked at breakfast this morning.) Twin2 came over at campfire time to tell me he passed the swimming test.

    It’s faintly humorous to have everyone else be focused on God/spirituality while I’m reading gauges and flipping breakers on the dishwasher.

  218. Interestingly, mine were super-excited to go, from the moment they heard about the possibility, through the day we visited in the Spring, through Sunday. And my oldest is normally a little shy and timid, like I was (am).

    But I always marveled — and now my kids are equally incredulous — about the fact that Grandpa (my dad) used to get sent away for the entire summer to camp upstate with the Catholic “brothers,” and from an incredibly young age, no less (maybe 6?).

  219. My daughter first went to sleepaway camp a couple of weeks after she turned 6. She really wanted to go, and she was (barely) eligible.

    It’s back to school today for my kids. At the middle school there was a line of teachers waving and cheering along the drop-off curb, and someone in the Buccaneer costume they acquired last year (it includes an oversized head so you can’t tell who volunteered to wear it), and music playing, so my son was mortified and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening.

  220. Since this is about money, I am putting it here rather than on today’s topic.

    I applied online for Social Security today. I did Medicare last year, and I have had an electronic account for years, but because I want to take advantage of the two earner freebie – taking half of DH’s for 4 years so that my benefit will increase by 32%!! at 70 – (Loophole closed for you all) I was being very very careful about everything. I even put in the comment box that I was of sound mind and freely chose to take less money now. And had the payments start the month AFTER my 66th birthday, just in case I blew it by starting in my birthday month. You have to change your password every 6 months, and now they have 2 factor authorization. I don’t see the average person navigating the online process particularly well, especially if there have been several marriages along the way. Of course, you can always file in person…..

  221. Meme, do you have any kind of emotional response after doing this? Or is it merely a transaction in your mind? Curious if it feels like a watershed life event.

    For those of us to whom the loophole doesn’t apply, would you suggest starting payments at 62? I looked at the charts recently, and it seems that unless you live well over 80, you end up with more $ if you start at 62. And even if you live over 80, the difference isn’t so much that waiting makes much sense. Seems wiser to take it asap, use the extra money when you’re young enough to really *use it* (travel, etc) and then fund the post-80 years with a combo of SS and retirement. Thoughts?

  222. @Ivy — yeah, I was talking about loans, not jobs. My current plan will be to cover the room and the basic meal plan, and other stuff is on them. This is my inner old coot talking — dammit, I had to clean the dorms from 7-12 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings for my work study, you can $%@#! sit at a desk in the air-conditioned library and study for 8-10 hrs/week.

    But that may change. I.e., “I believe that school is his job and that engineering classes will take some getting used to.” Y’all here have all scared the bejeebers out of me about how demanding an engineering course is, and knowing DD’s temperament and tendency to go deer-in-headlights, I am worried about a crash-and burn. So I may revise that plan to, say, give her Freshman year to adjust — she’s still going to need to work that summer, with that money going to her extras, but I might supplement depending on how much she earns, what the real costs are, etc.

  223. Risley – There are two decision points – 62 and full retirement age, which for you is probably 67 under current law. For me and most of my cohort, taking it before full retirement age (66) is not even on the horizon, unless you (the individual) are earning less than 17,000 a year (and former workplace stock option exercises and other deferred comp count as earnings, as well as consulting and book royalties). You have to give most of it back until you reach full retirement age. The second decision point is very salient for me. I have only a minimal pension, less than 1000 a month. I have investment income, and of course will have to the RMDs from my IRA type accounts after 70 1/2. (No Roths in my portfolio). The difference between taking today and waiting till 70 is 750 a month. The decision is easy when I can collect 1200 a month in the interim as a spouse, but even if I couldn’t, I’d probably wait it out. If you do the math, it is the cheapest inflation protected supplemental annuity you can buy simply by waiting. I have every expectation of living into my 90s. That extra 9000 a year will come in handy. And if I die at a younger age, I won’t have run out of money now, will I. No brainer.

  224. The watershed event was going on Medicare and becoming a senior for every possible reduced fare. My monthly high deductible plan premium dropped from 500 to 134, and my coverage is better. Social security is just money management. I got my national parks senior (62) pass over the weekend – DH had one, but I needed my own. $10 – lifetime. Until a certain branded empire makes the govt an offer it cant refuse and they are privatized….. (joke, folks, not actual political comment)

  225. Meme – Congrats! And I had my parents get their $10 lifetime national park passes while we were in Maine, before the deal runs out.

  226. LfB, in case you care, I didn’t work during the school year. To have a job, you have to show up every week and the sequential nature of engineering coursework means all your tough, time-consuming projects come in at the end of the semester. I could not have achieved the GPA I did (not nearly as high as 3.85 but top eighth of the engineering class) if I had to work 10-15 hr/week near the end of the semester. And you can’t sit in the library and study because many/most of the projects are “group work” so you are at the mercy of the group’s schedule and having to cover for group members who flake out on you and/or edit work by group members whose first language is not English.

    Your DH may disagree with me.

  227. To have a job, you have to show up every week and the sequential nature of engineering coursework means all your tough, time-consuming projects come in at the end of the semester.

    To get paid you need to show up. Back in clown college they were very flexible about schedule changes due to classes, projects, etc. I can’t imagine that’s changed all that much.

    Although, I assume you’re talking about work study jobs.

  228. “It’s faintly humorous to have everyone else be focused on God/spirituality while I’m reading gauges and flipping breakers on the dishwasher.”

    Ask them to pray for the motor.

  229. Not being diligent about reinvesting my Rollover IRA last year prior to Brexit. Things seemed expensive then. Once Brexit came out, I called my broker to invest and I let him talk me out of it.Then I thought Trump’s election would cause the markets to go down and I could invest it then. Now I am basically waiting for a market crash to feel like things are a good deal. I am still sitting with it all in cash.

  230. Risley, I agree with Mémé, especially on this point:

    “it is the cheapest inflation protected supplemental annuity you can buy simply by waiting.”

    We plan to wait until 70 to collect (our plan was for DW, who is younger, to do what Mémé just signed up for, but Obama took that away from us) for this reason. SS is our old age insurance; unless we’re in LTC, we should be able to live comfortably (none of LfB’s catfood fears) on SS and our small pensions indefinitely with the higher payout we get by waiting.

    The time horizon until we hit 70 is finite, and the chances of things like needing LTC are much lower before 70 than after, so we can plan to cover our needs until 70. Beyond that is much more uncertain, and the higher payout due to waiting better covers that uncertainty.

    “There are two decision points – 62 and full retirement age, which for you is probably 67 under current law.”

    IMO, there’s a third, which is waiting beyond full retirement age. While that’s actual a window and not a point, my guess is that most who decide to wait until after full retirement age will wait until 70.

  231. “You can’t time the market!”

    Everyone agrees with that in theory, and long-term, but in so many specific situations, they think they know better.

  232. Rhett, I was talking about jobs that engineers can compete successfully for in a land grant college town. Employers (work study or not) weren’t that flexible, because there was a surplus of people looking for jobs. Admittedly, I also decided it made more sense to take a heavy courseload and earn $14-$17/hr as a co-op in my off-semesters than to earn $3.35-$4.25 an hour on-campus with a more moderate courseload.

    My brother-the-electrical-engineer-athlete (6′ 3″) had a job as a supper server at a sorority where they paid him a minimum of 2 hr even if he was there only 1.5 hr, they fed him in the kitchen while the sisters ate in the dining room and the house mom sent him back with leftovers which dramatically moderated his food plan costs. That was a good deal. :)

  233. “do colleges still require the students to buy meal plans ?”

    Some do, but those are typically also schools that require students live in student housing. I think (but am not sure) that requirement is typically limited to private schools.

  234. “With one kid and a 210k income the sticker is 70k you pay 48k.”

    That depends on assets.

  235. Employers (work study or not) weren’t that flexible, because there was a surplus of people looking for jobs.

    I think we’re about the same age and 20 years ago the work study budget was part of federal student aid they had as many jobs as there were people who qualified and wanted one.

    It looks like it’s still the same system:

    https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/work-study

  236. The availability of work study jobs varies by school depending on numbers of students who qualify and on that school’s funding.

    The hypotheticals I recently saw on social security showed that for the majority of UMC recipients it almost always made sense to wait until age 70. The main exception would be a known health issue that might cause an earlier death.

  237. “in September, we may be touring some combination of Tulane, Emory, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, or George Mason University. “

    Are you driving, or flying to the general area, then driving?

    Some additions you might consider, given the area, especially if you’re driving between Atlanta and New Orleans. I don’t know a lot about these schools, but they’ve recently been generous with merit aid:

    UA (RT). As discussed many times here, and there are a lot of very positive posts over at CC after campus visits. OTOH, I’ve heard indications that they may be getting less generous to OOS kids as their academic profile increases.

    UA-Huntsville. I don’t know much about this school, but I’ve read positive posts about it in CC, and they apparently have a strong engineering program.

    USC (Gamecocks, not Trojans)

    Another school I suggest should be on your DD’s radar screen at this point is the other USC (Trojans, not Gamecocks). According to DS’ college counselor, they have the highest academic profile of schools that are generous with merit aid, and also meet your DD’s possible desire for a school outside of the NW.

  238. “Non-retirement assets excluding home equity.”

    Yes. This is often dependent on the state of grandparents.

  239. “she had never painted before, and it turns out that she’s a very messy painter.”

    There is likely a causal relationship between the two.

  240. Meme/Finn/July – thanks. Guess I need to look into it a little more. I have some time …

  241. “1. It seems like cash flowing a health percentage is growing more popular.”

    In part because costs have gotten high enough that it’s difficult to save enough to cover it. EFC calculations also incentivize early mortgage payoff over savings.

    “2. I think the kids should have some skin in the game.”

    Schools agree. At HSS that meet full financial need, EFC typically includes about $6k/year student contribution from things like summer and PT jobs.

    “3. No loans seems like paying cash for a car.”

    Doesn’t it make as much sense to save for a car as to save for college? Actually, even more sense to save for a car, since there’s no such thing as need-based aid to buy a car.

    “a.. From the point of view of the kid does it make sense to liquidate assets held for him in
    order to avoid him paying 4.5% of deductible interest? I don’t think the numbers make
    sense given that at 22 he has a +40 year investing horizon.”

    Doesn’t that depend on the assets?

  242. “At the apartment, he has his own bedroom, his own bathroom”

    Houston, I’m curious– is your DS’ apartment arranged through the school, e.g., rent by the semester, they find his roommates, and he’s only responsible for his rent? Or, is it more like an independent rental, where he and his roommates need to find another roommate if one moves out, and they’re all jointly responsible for the rent?

    I’m also curious if the other regular with a kid at the same school is aware of this housing option.

  243. I see that Amazon’s deal of the day is on beginner-to-intermediate band instruments. Not name brands, but inexpensive alternatives with good reviews.

  244. The trade right after Brexit came out would have been good. Frankly I don’t really understand this market. You have a handful of tech companies, majority of which are not profitable, that are valued at over $1 trillion. There are fewer publicly traded companies and not a whole lot of incentive to go public. The VC investments look like total crap and I am not going to finance their exit. There is a lot of capital currently raised sitting on the sidelines uninvested – so I am not the only one. I know the rollover IRA is still 20-year money and it will even out but I feel like there is a high likelihood of a disruptive event and I am willing to sit out just a bit longer. Still putting new funds in 401K and have 30% of retirement assets invested in the market (the investment in my prior company’s stock has been subpar but it is still in the money relative to the strike price on the options that I walked away from).

    I realize the above is a nonsensical rationalization for someone in early 40’s to be sitting on this amount of cash but that’s my reasoning so far.

  245. Off topic but I think my younger son may have a math learning disability. He failed the state test after pull-out instruction and after school tutors all year. He has crippling anxiety with all math tests (always has had this) but is a bright boy otherwise. At 10, nearly 11, he has not mastered multiplication tables or really basic number properties. He can’t figure out how to set up a problem after being given several of the exact same problem. We are homeschooling this year and I am interested in math textbook suggestions. I hate the Texas GO Math textbook. I want clear instruction that will help him understand how numbers work. We are using math manipulatives and multiple methods so that he can understand that there is more than one path to the answer. Saxon Math? Singapore Math? He is using Khan Academy and Eureka Math for remedial 4th grade work. Any other suggestions?

  246. MiaMama, when you say “basic number properties”, can you elaborate?
    1) Does he intuitively grasp greater than/less than?
    2) Does he understand that multiplication tables represent an x by y rectangle of something? For example, can he take sets of 12 sprinkles (our math manipulative of choice- Ross sometimes carries animal shapes) to represent all the equations that equal 12, i.e. 1×12, 2×6, 3×4, 4×3, 6×2, 12×1? Does he understand why anything times 0 is zero?
    3) Does he struggle with factoring?
    4) Does he struggle with fractions? if you read Loreen Leedy’s “Fraction Action” together and discuss, does he understand it?
    5) How are his spatial skills? Does he understand the surface area and volume of geometric figures? Can he explain why the surface area of a cube is 6 x the number of square sides? Can he draw a picture of how the surface area of a square changes with side length? (A square with side length 1 has an area of 1 unit, side length 2 has an area of 4 units, etc.) Can he tell the difference between a decagon and an octagon?
    6) Do you see a pattern to the questions he misses on Khan Academy?

    Saxon math has a lot of review and people I know whose kids struggle with math like it. Some tutors focus on getting kids to pass a test (“Use this formula to calculate the area of a square”, “Memorize your multiplication tables”) rather than spending time to understand their roadblocks.

  247. But that may change. I.e., “I believe that school is his job and that engineering classes will take some getting used to.” Y’all here have all scared the bejeebers out of me about how demanding an engineering course is, and knowing DD’s temperament and tendency to go deer-in-headlights, I am worried about a crash-and burn. So I may revise that plan to, say, give her Freshman year to adjust — she’s still going to need to work that summer, with that money going to her extras, but I might supplement depending on how much she earns, what the real costs are, etc.

    I had a roommate in EE who worked as a cook at IHOP one or two nights a week all the way through. And this was a top 5 EE program. I think everyone is overstating it a bit, especially since freshman year you are taking a lot of the general ed/liberal arts required classes.

    Rhett, I was talking about jobs that engineers can compete successfully for in a land grant college town.

    I went to college in a land grant college town and anyone who wanted could work five hours a week from 12-1 M-F at any of the fast food places. They would pay $5 an hour (minimum wage was $3.50 or so) and give you a free lunch. That’s very easy to fit in for anyone.

    If someone is motivated enough to get a job, they can find one that will work for their schedule.

  248. WCE:

    1) Yes (as long as I tell him to think of decimals in terms of money/cents)
    2) Not really – he is doing a lot of counting on fingers to complete his multiplication tables. I have him completing them by hand regularly. The flashcards don’t seem to help.
    3) Yes – big struggle.
    4) I will order that book and find out.
    5) Not good at spatial skills when it is time for math. He is lost in understanding how lengths and distances correlate to surface area. Oddly, he can free hand draw virtually any cartoon you have read to scale and has great memory for music, people, and names. He usually can remember the names of all of his friend’s siblings and where they attend school.
    6) He only started with Khan Academy this week and he was having problems with subtracting. Really basic numeracy was a challenge.

    I really want him to understand why math works. It is important that he have a strong base so he won’t get lost as he proceeds through middle school. It also helps you understand basic economics and personal finance.

  249. I also want to add that back in the day, it was expected that you would get a summer job to earn spending money for the school year even if you didn’t work during school.

  250. MiaMama, would he think it fun to draw on graph paper and then count the squares for the area of various figures (or aspects of figures) that he drew, in order to understand area better?

    I referred to Fraction Action because DS1 picked it out of the library and thereon understood fractions. I don’t know if it’s the best book out there/whether it’s worth a particular cost.

    Denver Dad,
    We didn’t have any fast food options less than a few blocks away, so working 12-1 would have had significant overhead and some chem e classes were only offered at 1 PM. My freshman year, I was already in a couple engineering classes, differential equations and organic chemistry because of AP chemistry. I assumed LfB’s daughter would have similar background. I agree that a sufficiently motivated student can work ~5-10 hr/week; I just don’t know whether the trade-offs are worth it. I’ll expect my kids to work in the summer but would encourage choir or a foreign language class over a 5-10 hr/week job.

  251. “Saxon math has a lot of review and people I know whose kids struggle with math like it”

    I personally had great success with it. IMO it’s a good combination of manipulatives that help understanding and practice that helps fluency. If you’re homeschooling I think it’s worth a try.

  252. I wasn’t around much yesterday, but y’all’s money mistakes are so sensible. My money mistakes had to do with spending tons on long-distance phone calls to boyfriends, travel to see boyfriends, travel with boyfriends, etc. If I just had the money from the long-distance phone calls back and invested for 30 years at 4%, DH would have retired by now.

  253. WCE, the point is that there are plenty of options for an engineering major who wants to work.

    but would encourage choir or a foreign language class over a 5-10 hr/week job.

    It’s the same time commitment, so if there’s no time for the job, how is there time for an extra class?

  254. Denver Dad/LfB, there *is* time for a job, but is the money earned from the job more important than the experience of being able to take a class NOT in your major? It’s a priority question for LfB. For me, the money from a job was less important than being able to take a non-required class.

  255. You’ve heard this from me before, but if your kids are attending college full-time, and the tuition cost is fixed, independent of how many classes they take, I would suggest looking at whether it makes more sense to get a job than take another class.

    When I was in college, the typical guidance I remember was about 2 hours outside of class for every hour in class, so about 9 hours/week for a typical 3-credit class. So, e.g., at a typical private school with COA of about $70k/year, cost of a single class is somewhere around $7k to $9k. That’s far more than most kids can make working 10 hours/week for a semester. (If your kid can make that kind of money, ask if that extrapolates to a FT job.)

    Thus, I’ve told DS that if he has 10 hours/week for a PT job, he should look for a job that will directly further his education, and preferably be something unique to his school, e.g., research assistantship, or take (or audit, given that his school pretty strictly limits the number of classes freshmen can take) an additional class, or take advantage of other opportunities unique to his college.

  256. “He thinks that tuition should be even higher than it already is, with the surplus paid by the rich providing even more scholarship aid for the poor.”

    Or, a surplus paid by those willing to defer gratification and be fiscally responsible providing even more scholarships to the profligate.

  257. I agree with classes, jobs but young people will be 18 to 21 only once so let them keep time to have fun as well. There will be more than enough time for nose to the grindstone for the next forty odd years of their working lives.

  258. more scholarships to the profligate

    The kids aren’t usually the one at fault you know.

  259. “I think everyone is overstating it a bit, especially since freshman year you are taking a lot of the general ed/liberal arts required classes.”

    Denver: Totebag kids usually quiz out of general ed/liberal arts required classes by using AP credit. They usually are able to skip intro classes and move to advanced, so they are studying harder material.

  260. Finn: The apartment is run by an independent company, not the university. DS is being matched with a roommate by the apartment people. He is only responsible for his part of the rent.

  261. Denver Dad/LfB, there *is* time for a job, but is the money earned from the job more important than the experience of being able to take a class NOT in your major? It’s a priority question for LfB. For me, the money from a job was less important than being able to take a non-required class.

    There’s also the experience gained from working, even at a “scut” job. Plus a lot of employers like to see work experience on a resume rather than an extra non-required class. But now we’ve gotten totally off of the original point, which is that majoring in engineering doesn’t preclude someone from getting a job if they want to.

  262. Denver: Totebag kids usually quiz out of general ed/liberal arts required classes by using AP credit. They usually are able to skip intro classes and move to advanced, so they are studying harder material.

    And if they get credit for the gen ed classes, that frees them up to take free electives, which are even easier. Again, even totebag kids have time to get a job if they want/need to. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with parents funding them instead. I just think people here are way over-stating how busy college students are.

  263. I agree with classes, jobs but young people will be 18 to 21 only once so let them keep time to have fun as well. There will be more than enough time for nose to the grindstone for the next forty odd years of their working lives.

    I agree completely.

  264. MiaMama – I love Beast Academy books for math, but not sure if they would fit your needs. They series starts with level 3, though level 2 will be released over the next year. Each level has four workbooks and 4 comic books. It often comes up as a good series for kids who are gifted. However, it is really engaging and focused on conceptual math understanding – lots of deriving answers. Check out the website and if it looks good to you, I might pick up 3A or 2A and see if the reading material captures his imagination at all.

    Life of Fred is not something that I have personal experience with, but I think I will be using it as part of the homeschool curriculum this fall. It is pretty basic and should be supplemented with something that drills a bit, in my understanding. On the other hand, it is geared toward getting the conceptual understanding down.

  265. DH went to one of those really hard engineering schools. He had a job, and I think most others did, too. He did not qualify for work study, but there were other on-campus academic-ish jobs – I think he worked in the computer lab, did development work for the college (student calling alums, mostly). It was 10-20 hours a week, for beer money, and he had plenty of time to drink the beer.

    There’s a good deal of benefit in assisting in the chem department (even if it is making copies or checking out equipment) that is non-financial. Being around the department gives you insight on the mechanics of how the summer grant applications work, how letters of recommendation get written, and makes you a familiar face to a lot of faculty. I put in 4 hours a week through all of my undergrad reporting to the secretary of our science department. Time well spent, for $7/hr.

  266. Mia – have you got your DS evaluated ?
    My thought is that he may require specialized help beyond what you can do with home schooling. Maybe you can use this year to figure out how to meet his needs long term if his school was not adequate in this regard.

  267. Thank you for commenting about the national parks senior pass. I had no idea; how did I miss this information???

  268. Or, a surplus paid by those willing to defer gratification and be fiscally responsible providing even more scholarships to the profligate.

    This can also be interpreted in as families making choices that may not lead to them maximizing their income potential. Those choices may be considered fiscally irresponsible by some. Just throwing that out there….

  269. I just think people here are way over-stating how busy college students are.

    Is that true for totebag kids? My theory is go to a school where you’re in the top 20% of ability and you’ll have a great time, get a great education all without killing yourself. The totebag ethos seems to be get into the best school you possibly can, which to my mind means being in the bottom 20%. I figure you’re going to have to work a lot harder in the bottom 20% than the top 20%.

  270. ” I would suggest looking at whether it makes more sense to get a job than take another class.”

    I think I put more value on a job than many in this discussion vs. an elective class. I would argue that working for pay at a low-risk job (e.g., not in your desired field) teaches more important life skills than one semester of German. Of course, I would also argue that you can do both. Which leads to…

    “I just think people here are way over-stating how busy college students are.”

    I totally agree with this. And maybe how hard a lot of student have to study (or actually study).

    “My theory is go to a school where you’re in the top 20% of ability and you’ll have a great time, get a great education all without killing yourself.”

    I think your theory holds true in the top 50%.

  271. “I agree with classes, jobs but young people will be 18 to 21 only once so let them keep time to have fun as well. There will be more than enough time for nose to the grindstone for the next forty odd years of their working lives.”

    I agree with this too. But I don’t think working 10 hours/week during the school year is going to get in the way of all that much fun.

    The jobs I did during the school year weren’t that taxing – tutoring, babysitting, working concessions at hockey games, odd jobs/errands for a local family (e.g., grocery shopping, putting snakes in the windows before winter, light cleaning/dishes), working the college switchboard on weekends (this job probably does not exist anymore!), etc. Lifeguarding was an easy job too – one of my hard science major roommates did homework by the pool 8-10 hours/week and continued lifeguarding when at a Top-20 med school for a little extra cash.

  272. TCM (side note to others: this is probably going to be long, and perhaps for many, boring) –

    To start, this is not about my feelings about other families’ decisions on this topic.

    Kid 1 played travel hockey from about age 9-12, when baseball really became his sport. I think travel hockey around here is like travel hockey in MSP…many tiers from top to bottom and below the bottom rung of travel is house, which is basically all-comers and everyone gets shared/equal playing time. For the families that were on his teams, it was generally enjoyable because the head coach made it so. But there was still a pretty big time suck between 2-3 practices/week (M-Th) from late Aug thru March plus 2-4 games/wknd Fri-Sun. Weekends we were home were ok, just very broken up (20min drive to the rink, arriving 45min before the game, game, 10-15min post game at the rink, 20 min drive home, so ~2.75-3 hrs total). And there were 2 other kids with things going on, too. The official $$ wasn’t horrible, but every weekend away, even if just 1 day an hour away meant more spending on gas, food out. Overnights meant a hotel. We never went farther away than 4 hours (Cleveland) but we drove a lot.

    Then baseball for him. Tournament teams in the summer meant Th-Sun someplace else 5-6 wknds / summer. Honestly baseball was more fun because he actually ended up having college opportunities, and we started the heavy involvement much later, and because the klds were older not every kid had their parent(s) with them every tournament, so the time suck maybe wasn’t so bad, but it still took away from the other kids/opportunity to do other summer stuff.

    Kid 2 played 1 season of travel hockey after being convinced by the coach and hated it. He did play travel baseball 12-17 and really enjoyed it/did well, but never wanted to pursue beyond HS. This was a more local team (same coach) but still traveled to Ohio and thruout our part of the state a lot.

    Kid 3 did travel hockey age 7-10 and by then I was pretty done with having to be away most weekends. A lot of the other parents were far more intense than I had experienced on other teams, and so critical of players who made mistakes. Maybe I was too thin-skinned about that in thinking my kid (goalie, and the only one on the team at least 2 years) bore more than his share of the criticism, so I didn’t have a great time. But my kid made a lot of friends from that group and is still pretty close with a lot of them to this day.

    So, my bottom line about the travel sports is (1) the money can be relatively high vs. just house/local teams and (2) the time/money opportunity costs can never be recovered.

  273. Funny, I find myself agreeing with everyone on the kid/college/work/money thing. :-) I guess that is because my experience was so different than DD’s that I can see the validity in all of the theories but don’t really have the knowledge or experience to identify which combination will be right for her. I honestly had a ridiculously easy college career, with plenty of time to screw around, work, etc. But there are a lot of things that lead me to believe DD’s experience will be different:

    – I was an English major, which rewarded things I did well and quickly (reading, writing, independent thought and analysis). DD will be some sort of science/engineering major, which requires a lot more time (problem sets, labs, studying).

    – I tend to grasp concepts quickly, and cramming is my superpower. Combine that with the minimal ongoing work required for my English major, and I had very little class preparation/study time during the semester, and one miserable week at the end of term. DD I think is a more ground-up thinker, which means she needs to get all of the building blocks to put everything together; since her ADHD leads her to miss some of those blocks, she needs more time going through the work to get the big picture. And she is not an efficient studier. Ergo, she will require more daily work through the semester + significant end-of-term exam prep.

    – I get the sense that all majors nowadays involve a lot more TPS forms. I know I wouldn’t have done nearly as well in HS if I were going now as compared to back in the stone ages because of the explosive growth of nitpicky bullshit masquerading as educational improvements. So, again, she may have more ongoing busywork regardless of her course of study.

    – I am very theoretical/abstract; DD is very boots-on-ground. I worked because I had to (and was happy to cut my hours once I had enough to get through); she is much more interested in a regular paying job as a way to learn “adulting”/learn “real” skills. So she may really prefer to add in a paying job for its own sake.

    Maybe the real problem is that I don’t have a strong sense of which is going to be “best” for her — I mean, Finn’s approach is awesome for Finn’s DS, Rhett’s approach worked for Rhett, DD’s approach worked for DD, and mine worked for me. But none of those people are my DD. So I guess we’ll just have to do what most people do and muddle our way through and figure out the right answer by trying a couple of wrong ones along the way.

  274. So I guess we’ll just have to do what most people do and muddle our way through and figure out the right answer by trying a couple of wrong ones along the way.

    This +1000.

  275. LfB, you’ll get an idea of the job/flexibility/time demand scene when your daughter starts college. Recall that my department was ranked in the top 25 undergrad programs nationally and had to have 75-80% of people who initially chose it “choose another path” so the weeding process was pretty intense, and that made it busywork intensive.

    Overall, I agree with Denver Dad, just think that working summers and co-op semesters gave me plenty of work experience.

  276. When I was in college, the typical guidance I remember was about 2 hours outside of class for every hour in class, so about 9 hours/week for a typical 3-credit class. So, e.g., at a typical private school with COA of about $70k/year, cost of a single class is somewhere around $7k to $9k. That’s far more than most kids can make working 10 hours/week for a semester. (If your kid can make that kind of money, ask if that extrapolates to a FT job.)

    I forgot I wanted to respond to this. When I was in undergrad 25 years ago, it was a fixed tuition regardless of number of credits you took. Full-time tuition was 12+, part-time tuition was 6-11, and <6 was pay per credit. When I went back through all my nursing stuff fairly recently, all the schools I looked at for both undergrad and grad were per-credit. So if you were full-time and wanted to take an extra class as Finn suggests, you had to pay for the additional credits, so you wouldn't save any money this way. (Yes, if you did enough to graduate a semester early you'd save the fees for that semester, plus the extra income from starting working a semester early). But essentially there is no cost savings since you're paying for the credits regardless of when you take them.

    Are there still a lot of colleges that do the flat tuition rate?

  277. Fred, I agree with you on the travel sports. One of the girls on DD’s old softball team is a bona fide stud (I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t get a D1 scholarship – her middle school doesn’t have a softball so she’s the best player on the baseball team) and has been widely recruited by travel teams and her parents have said no freaking way. Her brother played travel baseball for a year and they said the time commitment was ridiculous and there is no way they’d ever do it again.

  278. Fred and DD – thanks for the feedback.

    DS loves, loves, LOVES soccer. He is constantly playing soccer in the basement or watching soccer on TV when he’s not playing soccer outside. At school all the teachers know that he loves soccer because he always has a soccer jersey on and plays it during recess and after school. Soccer is a great outlet for him because he needs a lot of physical activity. He hasn’t stopped moving since he was born. We put him in traveling this last year because he wanted to play “real” games and in tournaments.

    I had been struggling with how kids these days really play one sport year round compared to BITD when you played multiple sports. But I’ve been thinking that if I were playing now that I’d only play my favorite sport as there are more opportunities to play off season compared to when I was in school. I played other sports simply to keep from being bored. I do worry though that one day he’ll stop loving soccer so much and that he’ll struggle with having had his whole world be about soccer. We’re trying to keep him involved in other activities too. I have told him a few times that he can quit at any time and that we don’t expect him to keep playing. But if things continue on, we’ll be spending a ton of time in traveling sports.

  279. TCN, that’s a big part of the dilemma, at least to me. If you focus on the one sport you love, it becomes hard to get into another sport later on, for the average/below average athletes.

  280. tcmama – I worried about DD playing soccer year-round. Her response was that yes, while she played soccer year-round, she also added in other sports too – so she wasn’t just playing soccer :-) In middle school, DD picked up basketball for a year. In high school, she added in lacrosse for 2 years and is thinking of trying tennis this year. It helps that she’s a) athletic and b) the lacrosse and tennis teams at her high school aren’t that strong so they welcome athletic kids who may not have much background in the sport. She especially enjoyed lacrosse – most everyone was new to the sport so it felt like a lot less pressure.

    I will say that for soccer, if your kid is really interested in it, it’s helpful for them to play on a better team if they want to get better. It’s such team sport, that it can be hard to improve if your teammates aren’t improving with you (for things like passing, ball distribution, making runs off the ball, etc.).

    And at least with soccer, you get to spend a fair amount of time actually watching your kid play. As opposed to track where DS only ran one event (400 meter) that only took a couple minutes – but required hours of sitting in the stands waiting for his event to start.

  281. TCM, I hear you on “what if his interests change”. If he does the traveling team, have him focus on general athletic development that would also serve as a good foundation if he switches to other sports. So more time on conditioning or strength, less with the position coach, etc.

  282. Rhett – that describes my undergrad experience. I could skate by with little work in about 70% of my classes. Large state U – business classes and intro to whatever classes were huge, no one took attendance and nearly all were taped with class notes legally available for sale and a center available for class replay at your convenience. All tests were multiple choice. Cram the night before and being a good test taker gets you through. I had smaller honors classes and language classes that I had to show up for but those were usually really interesting and still not that hard. I had to keep a certain GPA for my scholarship so I never took any classes after my first semester that would cause me to sweat my grades too hard (Chem 1/2 nearly lost me the scholarship). Selected my major because it had the least amount of requirements to graduate. If I was less lazy, I probably should have double or triple majored (came in with a lot of AP and tried a little harder with a few classes to boost the GPA. As it was, you only had to write a thesis and turn it in and keep GPA above a certain threshold to graduate with high honors. I don’t think anyone read it and I wrote 1/3 of it the night before. My last semester was two required classes and the rest fun electives taken pass/fail.

  283. DD – I think every orthopedic surgeon is against year round sports for developing kids, especially baseball. Their bodies were not designed for that type of intensity and repetitive use required by year round team sport. I wish my kids were into sports at all but I am also glad we aren’t traveling around and sitting on sidelines every weekend.

  284. Mia, that is a big concern as well – the repetitive use injuries. I don’t know if you follow baseball, but all these Tommy John surgeries are a result of overuse during the youth/HS years.

  285. “Mia, that is a big concern as well – the repetitive use injuries.”

    It’s not just with sports. We know people who’ve gotten RSI from playing the piano and violin.

    Similar recommendations apply. When our kids were young, we were recommended to not let them practice more than 4 hours/day.

  286. TCM, at my kids’ school, a lot of the soccer players took a break from soccer during cross-country season.

  287. “Are there still a lot of colleges that do the flat tuition rate? “

    All the schools DS looked at, including local flaghip, charge a flat rate.

  288. “When our kids were young, we were recommended to not let them practice more than 4 hours/day.”

    Rhett, get the Golden Totebag out.

  289. “DD I think is a more ground-up thinker, which means she needs to get all of the building blocks to put everything together”

    That approach is well suited for engineering.

  290. Laura, if she gets a job to learn general adulting, let her feel the benefits of it by using the $$ as she wishes now or keeping track of how much are absorbed into her general operating fund so she gets something”extra” later.

  291. “I think I put more value on a job than many in this discussion vs. an elective class.”

    I know WCE mentioned electives, but I didn’t.

    While electives are one thing to do with an exta 10 hours/week, taking an extra class per semester (even not doing this the first semester to allow the kid to settle in and decide if that’s viable) can obviate the need for an 8th semester. For a current freshman, that could easily be worth upwards of $40k.

    Add in some AP credits, and graduating a year early, or getting a master’s in 4 years, is a possibility.

  292. Selected my major because it had the least amount of requirements to graduate.

    Mia – me too!

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