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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"The Total Money Makeover" (chapter 10)

If you have been reading this series from the beginning, this is the step where many of us start to worry a bit. I know what you are thinking: "How can I worry? I've got an emergency fund in place and I'm automatically saving for retirement!"

It's because the kids are getting older and college is--last time I checked--not getting any cheaper!

In chapter 10, "College Funding: Make Sure the Kids are Fit Too," Dave discusses how to pay for college. At the outset, let me say that I agree with his premise (no debt), but I do not agree with everything he teaches in this chapter. You'll see why soon.

The first part of the chapter deals with the basics of college. Why do we want our kids to go? Simply put, an education is one of the best investments anyone ever makes. I know men and women who didn't go to college and make a tremendous amount of money. But, I know many more who did go and are making great amounts of money. As you well know, many employers are now requiring a college education.

College is fun, but Dave teaches--and I agree--that our kids need to understand the real purpose for their attendance in those classes. They are not going to school to learn how to party, meet girls/guys and live off-campus. They are going to school to get an education and learn better how to work.

Most people think that, to attend college, you have to have student loans. Dave's plan wants us to think otherwise. How can we send our kids to college debt-free? Here are a few suggestions from the book:

  1. Start young. As soon as you reach this baby step, no matter how young the kids are (if you have kids), start a college fund. If you don't have kids, start a fund the day they are born!

  2. Contribute to the fund automatically and take advantage of tax shelters. The point of this article is not to discuss specific plans, but 529s are a popular choice, and provide tax advantages.

  3. Teach your kids to work and to pay for part of their education. My parents did this with my sister and me. We didn't have to pay for our entire education, but we did have to pay for part of it. This gives the student a sense of importance and responsibility. He/she is less likely to waste money when it's his/her own!

  4. Work on scholarships...over and over and over. Get as many as possible. Dave loves to talk about how to get lists of unclaimed scholarships. While those are great (and should be explored), I like to urge young people to start applying for scholarships well before their Senior year of high school. Build them up. Apply for as many as you can.

  5. Live in the dorm, not off campus. Many students get deeper into debt because they are living off campus in high-rent apartments and eating out every night. That's not the purpose of school!!!

The final way Dave suggests going to college debt-free is to only attend community colleges and state schools. He strongly suggests staying away from private institutions. Obviously, I disagree with this, seeing as how I sent to a private university--and did so without student loans.

It's not easy to do, but you can even pay for a school like Freed-Hardeman (where all four writers of this blog went to college) if you will plan ahead. And, as much as you are going to hate this sentence, student loan debt is not the worst kind you can have. If you use the loans to pay for school (and not for pizza and off-campus living) and if you use it for a solid Christian education, it's worth it.

Use the points listed above, but, if you want to attend a school like FHU, do it. Go as debt-free as possible, but don't miss out on the opportunity to meet Christian friends in a great environment. That's an eternal investment!

But, if you will plan ahead, you can even go somewhere like that without one dollar of student loan debt when you graduate.

And then? Step 6.

3 comments:

Wes said...

Just a note. I attended Freed Hardeman without any student loans and without placing the burden on my parents. Work hard in High School to get good scholarships. Work hard in the summer time to make lots of money to pay for school.
You made a good point in that one of the biggest problems with student loans comes when young people us them to live instead of working a part time job to meet those expenses. They will pay later.

Wes

almcfaughn said...

Good comment. I also went without student loans....but NOT without the hard work!

(not that I didn't pound you in Mario 64 a few times!!)

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