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Learn from Me…Please!


We had a pretty intense conversation our first night at my parents. Princess was working on her college classes. And as everyone was asking her what was next for her, the conversation turned to what is next for Beauty and Gymnast.

That’s when Gymnast let it slip, something I hadn’t heard before. And I was devastated…

“I don’t want to go to college because look at mom, she’s still paying for school. That’s too much money and I want to be rich!”

Now I’ve known that he wavers on what he wants to do after high school, which I think is normal for a 15 year old. But for the reason he doesn’t want to consider college…never had a clue.

And I’ve spoken to all my kids extensively about how I want to get them through school without any debt. I feel so stupid for not making the connection.

The conversation became pretty ardent as both me and my parents and my youngest brother attempted to communicate the importance of pursuing some sort of education beyond high school. And we weren’t solely focused on college, but also on trades, etc.

Humbling Experience

There is nothing as humbling as bearing your worst mistakes in front of your parents, your sibling (only one of the four was there during the conversation) and your kids. But I had to say it, I had to own it all…the whole road that led to me still having student loan debt 18 years after completing my degree.

I don’t know if we made headway. But I hope we did, I hope they really heard us.

We talked about how, in Georgia, it is very possible to get through your entire Bachelors degree with no debt. I mean, that is truly a reachable goal with dual enrollment, the Hope Grant, Zell Miller and on and on. And that’s just for a decently average student.

We talked so much. And as humbling as it was, if my kids learn anything from me, I hope it’s not to be like me when it comes to finances.


  • Reply Alice |

    Sounds like it would be a good time to invest in these books, or check them out of the library, if possible: Debt Free Degree by Anthony O’Neal, and The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes you can’t afford to make in college by Anthony O’Neal and Rachel Cruze.

    At least you know early enough that you can convince him he can do it. Don’t push him toward college if a trade would be better. I know you mentioned talking about trades, but I’ve just seen too many kids go to college because it’s what the parents want. (I’ve worked in higher education for over two decades.)

  • Reply T'Pol |

    May be he can take a gap year after HS, work and save some money before he makes up his mind about College. The cost of education in the US is scary. However, I know people who went to College without getting in debt. I guess it would be very helpful to check out those books Alice has suggested. And, I think someone should sit down with him to talk about “getting rich”. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get rich when one is a teenager but, usually only a handful of people can become rich. His goal should be financially stable, healthy and happy and he can work on getting rich through hard work and perseverance. This way if he can’t get rich, he will still feel good about himself for putting in the required effort.

  • Reply Angie |

    I think it is telling how many times Gymnast has said he wants to be “rich.” That in itself should tell you he thinks of himself as poor. I don’t think his comment was based so much about college and student loan debt, but rather his overall mindset about money. You say you’re open with your kids about finances, but think carefully about how you portray it.

  • Reply Deb |

    There’s no reason for you to be devasted for HIS rationale on why He doesn’t want to go to college. There are folks who don’t go to college or learn a trade right after high school. My daughter spent one semester in college at 18 and hated it. She didn’t attend class and didn’t participate in her studies. She wasted my income and my overtime shifts that I put in to assist with paying. My adult girls are now 23 and 25. They now value their perspective trade schools that they attended in the past two years after figuring out that one can not survive or live on a meager fast food paycheck or a retail store paycheck. Your son will figure things out and if he has to struggle a bit in the beginning it may bring a moment of realizing that he may have to change his goals.

    While you owned it in front of everyone I don’t feel that was even nessasary and the response could have been that this matter wasn’t to be discussed at this time. You may have also said that how hard you are currently working to pay the loans off and acknowledge how much you paid off.

    • Reply Jen |

      If he nears the end of his high school years without having a drive to go to college, that’s not the end of the world. If he does not have an idea of what he would like to do at that time, it may even be beneficial for him to work full-time, or work part-time and take some classes at a community college. Very few people *really* know how they want their lives to look at 18, and the pressure from our society to have kids go to college straight away is unrealistic for many.

      His rationale for wanting to avoid college (avoiding debt) isn’t bad, but I also don’t think it’s a fully fleshed out mature decision. Any combination of “have/don’t have loans” and “have/don’t have money” is possible. Student loans do not equal being poor, just as having a college degree doesn’t equal being rich.

      So I think this is a good time for him to start thinking about what he *wants* to do beyond “be rich”. For some things, he’d have to go to college. For other things it might be trade school or an apprenticeship. He also needs to think about how this could look long-term. For instance, if he wants to do something that heavily relies on manual labor…he may not be able to continue doing that kind of job until retirement age. So what’s he going to do if that happens?

      Once he has some kind of idea of what he wants to do, then it’s time to look at the educational requirements, and what he can do to get that education while minimizing debt. That could be accomplished in a traditional way (scholarships, community college then 4-yr university to finish), or a less traditional way (working while going to school, pay as you go).

      There’s no “right” way to do this, just what’s right for him. But he does need an actionable goal beyond “get rich”.

  • Reply Margann34 |

    So what are his ideas for making money without a degree? Challenge him to research those ideas and see how realistic they are. That will either push him to start planning for that career or help him realize that he really does need more education. But in all reality…there are some great paying jobs that require no education. I have two brothers who drive for UPS and make a very good wage especially for a rural area. Also, not all trades require actual schooling. Some are apprentice programs. Many of those types of jobs are physically demanding though. Maybe he will find a field that he likes and get more education once he knows what he wants to do. I actually think that pushing a teenager to attend college when they are not emotionally invested is a waste of time and money. He can be fully successful without a college degree. Or he can get a degree and end up working a minimum wage job. Your job should be to help him focus his goals work toward a realistic path whether it includes college or not.

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      Like others my largest concern is Gymnast’s preoccupation with being rich. Have you asked him what that means? The reality is that as nice as it is to have enough money to pay the bills money itself does not guarantee happiness and keep you from having to experience life’s ups and downs. There are a wealth of things money can not guarantee health, happiness, and friendships among other things. It would be a shame if he discounts these things in pursuit of “being rich.”

      As far as college goes I agree with others. You can be successful without a college degree. You can be educated without going to an alma mater. You can also go broke without attending college. All it takes is access to a credit card and a lack of restraint. Have you explained to him that you got your bachelor’s degree debt free and it really wasn’t the college that ran you into trouble(You have said yourself that quite a bit of this money was “extra” that did not even get spent on college itself. It was less about college and more about your own ability to reign in your access to easy credit.) The reality is while you have had to pay back your loan your schooling has been integral in allowing you to earn too.

      It worries me that he feels that you have struggled because you chose schooling instead of him realising that it has everything to do with your relationship with money itself.

    • Reply jj |

      My brother went to school to be a chef – but the longer he worked in restaurants the more he did not enjoy it. He went to FedEx as a package handler, and now works as a manager of a team! I went to school for 4 years, and make less than half of what he does. Neither of us are rich, but he definitely makes more than I do and can provide for his family. It is so much more than the degree, you’re 100% spot on.

  • Reply Drmaddog |

    He can earn a GI Bill for serving in the military, where he would learn some skills, earn a paycheck, have health insurance, and access to a 401k-type retirement savings account (the TSP). It would give him time to mature and ‘learn to adult’, if he need to, and he can use the GI Bill benefits to pay for higher education, be that college, certifications, or vocational school.

    • Reply JP |

      Sounds like that would be a great idea and also help with maturity and growing up. I would strongly encourage it.

  • Reply Ellen |

    Our children see our successes and our struggles and you have to admire that the learn from them. Mine certainly learned from me and my family and I am proud to see what they have accomplished.
    For one, College does not equal a well paying career. Don’t try to push something on him that he clearly does not want. The outcome will not be good. You, yourself have struggled and seen that your degree did not equal financial freedom. At the same time, you do not need a degree to be financially stable or “rich”. I have my degree and spent many years working in the pharmaceutical industry. I was at 6 figures by the time I reached 23. I was on top of the world and thought I had it all. I have made the majority of my money in real estate investing. which is very far from my pharmaceutical days using my Biology Degree. My sister on the other hand, got the exact same degree that I did, and then went on to get her Master’s. Now in her late 40s, she makes $17/hr and struggles to even pay her bills. and yes, like you, she still has a good amount of student loans still left to pay off. My brother didn’t go to college or learn a trade at all. He got his CDL, bought himself a semi-truck and built his business. He now has a fleet over 50 trucks and drivers. He makes very good money and no longer drives. He sits back and makes sure the company is running smoothly.
    My point is, unless he truly knows what he wants to do when he gets older, college is not a must, nor a guarantee to success. It can lead to wasted money and struggle.

  • Reply Kiki |

    You are very fortunate to be in Georgia with the Hope scholarship. My sister lives in an Atlanta suburb and all of her eight children went to college, taking advantage of this. As you know, one must have a B average to stay on the Hope. The kids had to pony up for books and room and board, but they did this with summer jobs, and work-study jobs at school. A couple were also RA’s. ALL of them graduated debt-free, and their parents kicked in very little. Tell Gymnast there is a great route for him in Georgia, and he will not have debt. Yes, there was not a lot of traveling or extras, but they are all so happy not to have that anchor of debt. Plus, this made it a lot easier to go for advanced degrees too.

    • Reply Hope |

      Completely agree. The education benefits were one of the main benefits I chose to come here, along with the lower cost of living.

So, what do you think ?