May 13, 2013
There is a buzz around related to the expense of a college degree versus the costs associated with it. Here's my two cents:
If planned well, the college experience is well worth the time and money.
If planned poorly . . . well, anything poorly planned is a disappointment.
A young adult with a college diploma seeking employment will retain an edge over the one who lacks that diploma -- that's not going to change during the lifetimes of our children.
Skill-set and work experience, mid-career will count for a lot. Nevertheless, if the promotion or new hire comes down to a choice between two, otherwise well-qualified candidates, would you pick the one lacking a diploma over the one who earned a diploma?
Entrepreneurship is a completely different issue. In that case perhaps the costs associated with a college diploma may be re-directed profitably into business start-up costs.
Do not send your young adult off to college "to find himself/herself." It's waaaay too expensive for that. For that young man or young woman fulltime employment following high school, or military service are practical and valuable options.
May 6, 2013
April 30 & May 1 I was in Philadelphia for the Spring Convention of the National College Advocacy Group (www.ncagonline.org). NCAG is a non-profit and membership is open to both professional planners like me, and to families who want help with the college process.
Tuesday eight of us were given a private tour of LaSalle University and Haverford College. We had several hours at each school with the Director of Admissions and of Financial Aid. It was enlightening and reassuring. Those administrators impressed me as being sincere and truly interested in a positive outcome for every student.
Bottom line -- college is expensive now, and costs are going to increase annually. Schools are making greater amounts of financial aid available to help families. Never has college selection (from our side of the equation) -- student selection (from the school's point of view) been more important. We all have at least one objective in common -- gettting the student into a college where he/she will be happy socially, and successful academically. read more
March 14, 2013
Which part of my dream is weirderer the poop or the planet?
I'm a member of an astronaut crew on temporary duty at a Martian colony. Wearing full astronaut gear -- white suit, bubble helmet, insulated gloves -- the time has come for our crew to leave. We have to clean the place up and leave it fit for the next group. My job was to clean out the cat litter boxes. There were several, and each was well used.
At this point my brother-in-law would ask, "Were the cats martian or earthling? and if earthling how did they breathe?" Answers: don't know, don't know. I never saw the cats, just the litter boxes.
The more poop I scooped, however, the more poop there was. I'd scoop one box only to notice another, also full. As I progressed I noticed poop everywhere on top of equipment, on piles of old newspapers; more and more.
Amazed, aggravated and frustrated I finally decided the next crew would just have to deal with it and started making my way to our space craft for return to earth.
End of dream. But not the end of the story. I have to go now and clean out the litter boxes of the three cats (all earthling felines) living at my house. read more
March 10, 2013
Think back, oooh, say 18 months ago. What were you doing? It was the fall of 2011; think. . . .
More than likely, at least one thought that passed through your mind was, "Where did the time go?" Students currently in 10th grade will be in the middle of college applications 18 months from now; and current 11th graders will be in college! Or working, or something.
There is no time to waste. Few decisions will impact more the cost of a college education than the decision-making-process by which you select a college.
Make a plan. Work your plan. read more
April 16, 2012
Opportunity, for most of us, doesn't knock just once; she raps a continual tattoo on our doors. The pity is that much of the time we're either too preoccupied to hear or too lethargic to answer. Benjamin Franklin
I am fortunate to have someone keep watch over me, to help me stay focused stay on course keep priorities in order. No, not my wife. As wonderful as she is, she is also in the trenches with me daily and susceptible to the same myopic vision. I am blessed to have a mentor. I also pay for that blessing, which helps!
My mentor sent me Franklin's quote, and he added this comment:
We will spend hours discussing Opportunity Cost and the impact of what a loss can end up costing us over time. There is
the other side of that same coin, which is Opportunity Gain. It is easy for people to become so busy making money that they do not spend any time learning how money works. Remember, as a professional you bring opportunity where, for many people, there was once little or none at all.
When I follow-up with families who have requested an appointment with me, the most common response I get is, "Yes, we need to do that, but right now we're sooo busy!" My job then is to keep knocking, reminding them of their high-priority matter of unsurpassed importance long-term financial success.
The deceptive words are "long-term." People tend to put it off because it seems to be "put-offable." We do not consider that our greatest financial asset is time. Modest savings, cared for properly over a long period of time, can and will grow to become large sums. Shorten the time frame, and the necessary increase in savings rates usually comes as a shock.
Example: 21 year old saves $5000 per year, every year through age 66. Her total savings has grown (at 5.5% rate of return) to more than one ..... read more
April 2, 2012
For Christmas I bought myself a present a reading improvement course. That was many evergreen trees ago, and I still look on it as some of the best-spent dollars of my life. My reading speed went above two thousand words per minute with comprehension well above 80%.
Prior to that Christmas I was reading under 500 words per minute, and my comprehension was poor. Honestly, how I maintained dean's-list grades throughout my undergraduate and master programs I do not know. When I saw the required reading list for my doctoral program, however, I knew I had to do something, and quick!
Many environmental and scholastic conditions change between high school and college. Few, if any, are more significant than the reading required. Poor reading skills drag a student down like combat boots on a swimmer. The work load becomes exhausting and unsustainable.
Are you trying to think of something meaningful to give your child as a graduation gift? Are you pondering how, in some practical way, you can advance your child's success at college? My recommendation is a reading improvement course. read more
April 2, 2012
Play ball! Opening Day is more than just a day on the calendar, or the first game on the schedule. Opening Day marks a tidal change in your year; in your outlook on life; in the pace and rhythm of your life. Baseball! Throw away your clock. Grab your home team's cap, scorecard and a pencil oh, and don't forget your mitt. You never know when a ball will come within your reach.
Every year my father took me to Opening Day. Skipped school. 1 o'clock. American flag bunting covering every wall. Sunshine. Stadium packed. The smell of cigars, hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn. And, where we lived, the President of the United States threw out the first ball. My dad always found us a seat in general admission on the third base side so we had a good view of the presidential box seat along the first base line, next to the dugout.
Ted Williams is reputed to have declared that the skill of hitting a major league baseball is the most difficult to master among all sports. Even the greatest fail more than 6 out of 10 tries. Who would argue with Ted Williams?
Let me ask you, if I were able to arrange for you to be on the starting line-up of your favorite team on opening day which would you rather have Albert Pujols' bat or Albert Pujols' swing? If you could hit like the superstar would any good bat that fit your hands do?
Something significant changed for me awhile back. When I first became a financial services professional I was a "me too" representative. Every one else in the business sold bats; so me too. My time was spent selling potential customers on the virtues of one bat over the others. Problem was, when we were done the customer was no more skillful than when we had started at using any of the bats (nearly all of which were very good). I knew it wasn't the ideal way, but it ..... read more
March 31, 2012
Find yourself among these three families.
Family #1: two incomes, around $70,000 $90,000 per year. Mid-40's and a child or two in high school. Owe some on the mortgage, making a car payment or two, and a few thousand dollars in other debt. Retirement still a distant thought, but they are beginning to listen to the TV ads about that. Figuring they'll do ok; just keep the payroll-deduct to the 401k. College and financial aid? They know they'll have to come up with some, but plan to borrow the majority of it. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
Family #2: family income in excess of $150,000. Late 40's, maybe one already 50. They have a mortgage and are chopping away at the principle with monthly swings of extra cash. "Debt-free" is the promised land for them. A child or two in high school; maybe another in middle school. Large sums in both tax-qualified and non-qualified investment accounts. Net worth above $1 million. Don't give a lot of thought yet to retirement, but when they do they feel confident about the years ahead. They realize they are fortunate and do not expect any college financial aid, unless there is some scholarship money for their high-achieving children. Pay-as-you-go is their strategy for college.
Family #3: take-home pay around $35,000 $50,000 per year. Early 40's and substantial balances remain on the mortgage, on car loans and credit cards. Very little set aside towards retirement and, when the subject comes up, they say, "I'm never gonna retire. I'll work 'til I drop." Eldest children are teens, and another close behind. Not sure about college for the kids. They went some; never finished. If the kids go, they figure they'll be financial aid to cover the costs. If they have to borrow some money to help a child finish college, they will.
..... read more