Are you sure you love your kids?

Let’s face it, college ain’t cheap. I escaped with only $28,000 of debt. Many of my peers faced six figure balances upon graduation. Yikes. I loved my private education, and am extremely happy I was able to go to the college I wanted to, as opposed to the cheapest or closest one.

Obviously I try my best to be financially responsible. The goal is to have plenty set aside for my 87 baby-ninjas college tuition. I mean, college expenses have NEVER snuck up on anyone. The day your kid is born you know you have an 18 year countdown to the first potential tuition bill.

But let’s be honest, sometimes life happens. Things don’t always go as planned. You find yourself fighting major unanticipated medical expenses. You lose your job. The economy tanks and your investments are cut in half. You become disabled. What do you do then?

How far would you go to ensure your child has the education they desire?

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I don’t imagine I’ll be willing to go back in to debt for my kid to get an optional education, but until I am a parent I guess I’m not really qualified to answer. How did you respond? What did your family do for you?

Do-over?

I entered college, fall 2003, a young and ambitious accounting major. I picked accounting because I knew accountants could make a lot of money. Oh, and I was pretty awesome with a TI-83. While I did well in my first macroeconomics course, I quickly realized that “business” related subjects were of no interest to me. My introduction to psychology course, however, was a different story. I was fascinated by the content. I loved learning about the brain and how people work. I changed my major after my first semester, and eventually walked across the stage (four years later) with a B.A. in Psych.

I don’t regret being a psych major for one minute. I loved my classes, LOVED my professors (I actually played tennis with them every Tuesday and Thursday morning for two years), and just generally loved the whole psych department. That said, if I traveled back in time to 2003, I am 99% sure I would not graduate with a degree in psychology.

While I may have loved the content and the people in my major, I didn’t really love the career fields psych generally leads to (i.e. counseling). I almost feel like my degree limits my potential, especially when it comes to job hunting. My degree does very little to highlight my strengths. When a recruiter reviews my resume and sees a B.A. in Psychology, he is not going to know that I also took Organic Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, and Biochemistry because I like science and math.

Do I believe your major is the determining factor in one’s career potential? Absolutely not. But there are positions I would love to apply for, but can’t, simply because I don’t have a degree in business administration or the like. Take for example the Finance industry. It would be darn near impossible for me to land an interview for any kind of legitimate position in the financial sector… even though I may be more knowledgeable and capable than other applicants with business related degrees. Ten years down the road, I’m sure my education will become less of a factor with prospective employers, but when you are in your mid-20’s, and have only a few years of work under your belt, you better believe your education is going to be HEAVILY considered.

If I had the opportunity to do college again I would probably get my degree in Statistics or Math. And I would probably have gone to a state school instead of a private college (although I totally loved my school). Gosh, this makes me want to go punch a business major in the face (only kidding). Okay, I’m done dwelling on the past. Time to move forward.

What was your major in college?

If you could do college again, would you choose a different major?

If you didn’t go to college, do you wish you did?

Anyone out there that went to college, wish they hadn’t?

p.s. if you are wondering if you blew it when you picked your major, take a look at this chart of the ten worst-paying college degrees according to TIME…

  1. Early-Childhood Education (Girl Ninja’s major)
  2. Counseling and Psychology (My Major)
  3. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs
  4. Visual and Performing Arts
  5. Communication-Disorders Sciences and Services
  6. Studio Arts
  7. Drama and Theater Arts
  8. Social Work
  9. Human Services and Community Organizations
  10. Theology and Religious Vocations

My kids will be dumb.

Girl Ninja isn’t even pregnant (sorry Mom-Ninja-in-law), but I’m pretty sure I already hate our unborn children. Or at least, that’s the way society might see it. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely love the heck out of those little ninjas, but I wont love them enough to jeopardize my and Girl Ninja’s future.

In other words, it will be a cold day in you know where before I take out a loan to help fund their college education.

I have absolutely ZERO desire to finance anything in the future (except a house of course). You think I’m going to let my kids change my mind!?

Heck to the No I wont! That said, I DO plan on my children going to college. In fact, they really only have two options post high school:

1) Move out and get a job or

2) Move out and go to college.

Since I refuse to take out a loan for their college education, but I desperately want them to go, I have to figure out a way to reconcile those goals. The first, and most obvious objective, is to begin saving for their college education long before they plan to attend.

College has never snuck up on anybody…ever.

So why do we allow people to pretend like it does? I know, the day Baby Ninja is born, I have an 18 year countdown to college. Seems like enough time to make something happen. With 529’s, ESA’s, and prepaid tuition options, there is little excuse for me to not look ahead.

Even if I don’t have the liquidity to fund my children’s education, I sure as heck wont go in to debt to make it happen. If my kid wants to go to a private school and can’t get enough loans or scholarships to pay his way, guess what? My kid ain’t going to private school.

There will be no entitlement in the Ninja household. I just don’t get how parents can take out $50,000 parent loans so their kid can go to some obscure private school in the middle of Arkansas that nobody’s ever heard of, when public school tuition and junior college tuition is as cheap as it is (compared to private school tuition).

So why do you think people do it? Do you know any parents (or kid’s whose parents) funded their childs’ education with parent loans or 2nd mortgages? Would you ever take out a loan to pay for your child’s college experience?

p.s. COME WIN $200 on MANteresting today. It’s as easy as creating an account and nailing an awesome Halloween Costume you saw on the internet. Shouldn’t take ya more than 2 minutes tops 😉 

Your Dad is Puff Daddy? NO COLLEGE FOR YOU!

P. Diddy has clearly never seen a one dollar bill before

I was creeping on my Facebook page yesterday when someone posted this business insider article about Puff Daddy’s son playing football at UCLA. Here’s the opening paragraph to the article…

Less than a year after P. Diddy’s son, Justin Combs, committed to play football at UCLA, some consumers are raising questions over whether the well-heeled freshman should turn over his $54,000 scholarship to students who need it more.

P. Diddy is obviously not struggling. In fact Forbes listed Diddy’s net worth at about $550 million, making him the wealthiest hip-hop mogul alive.

So the question stands: Should UCLA rescind their scholarship offer?

My opinion? HECK NO!!!

First and most important, this was a merit-based scholarship. It was not a financial aid package. He qualified for the $54,000 scholarship because he is a freakin’ good athlete and graduated high school with a 3.75 G.P.A. I think this quote sums it up best, “”He’s done what he needs to do to be successful and in ‘Ameritocracy’ we have to accept that no matter who your father is, whether he be rich, poor or absent, that you can in fact be successful on your own merit.”

If Justin has earned the scholarship, he’s earned the scholarship. It’s as simple as that. We shouldn’t diminish the significance of what he has accomplished simply because his dad is a famous rapper. Could we encourage Justin to consider donating the scholarship to another athlete in greater need? Sure, but that’s a choice he gets to make, not one we, or the school, should make for him.

That’s my two cents at least. What say you? Should his family tree matter?

I got bumped

So I was in San Diego this weekend for Girl Ninja’s little sister’s college graduation ceremony. Yesterday, on our flight back to Seattle, the Alaska Airlines representative mentioned during check-in they oversold our flight by one seat. I LOVE OVERSOLD FLIGHTS! Without hesitation, I asked if I could be put on the “bump” list in case everyone checks in and they need someone to give up their seat.

Sure enough, everyone that bought a ticket showed up and I got the bump I so desperately wanted. I gave up my seat in exchange for a $300 voucher and was rebooked on the next flight out (which was two hours later). It’s too bad they didn’t have two bumps available otherwise Girl Ninja would have given up her seat too. And before you think I just put her on a plane to fend for herself, she was on the same flight as her parents so she just went home with them.

So I got home two hours later than originally planned, but came out $300 ahead. Not a bad deal for a relatively minor inconvenience. Being bumped is seriously one of my favorite things about traveling and I volunteer myself to do it every time they ask. In fact, one Christmas, I bumped myself three times in a row (they kept rebooking me on to oversold flights) and walked away with around $1,200 in airfare for a twelve-hour total delay.

I’m always surprised that more people aren’t willing to give up their seat in exchange for some free tickets. Unless someone is dying, being born, or getting married, you better believe I will be racing to the counter to give my seat up first.

You ever been bumped? 

I’ll be SOOOO pissed if student loans are forgiven

I was really hoping to avoid talking about Occupy Wall Street again. I gave insights in to my stance on the movement last week and didn’t feel as though more needed to be said. That was until yesterday when I read this story on the Huffington Post…

While the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow and spread, there is no common call to action. I propose that the first call to action to help ease the economic stress of Americans is to forgive student loan debt. What do you say?

I say, “You sir are an idiot.”

I need not remind you (readers) that I graduated college with $28,000 in student loan debt in 2007. According to Huff Post that’s $4,000 more than the national average in 2009. So before you start accusing me of being part of the 1% let’s get a few things straight. 1) I’m not. 2) My parents aren’t either. Glad we got that settled.

Let’s talk about my story. I knew full well when I signed up to go to a private school that it was about three times more expensive than a local university would have been. I also knew that I would have to take out student loans to be able to go to said private school. I didn’t really think about the repercussions of taking on debt and gladly signed my life away. These are the facts as I see them.

To be perfectly honest, I was shocked to see the total balance of my student loans upon graduation. Twenty eight thousand dollars is a big scary number, especially when you have no employment lined up. I did what most grads do, I consolidated my loans and deferred them for six months.

What I didn’t do was complain that the college tricked me in to signing up for the debt. And I didn’t expect my Alma Mater to find me gainful employment upon graduation. I knew I got myself in the mess, and I was the only person that could get myself out. I accepted responsibility for my ignorant actions.

So guess what I did? I got a job and started making my minimum payments. I then got a second job, and a third job, so I could make accelerated payments. After 2.5 years, I was debt free. I didn’t expect the government, big business, my college, Sallie Mae, my parents, or you, to pay off the loan I voluntarily signed up for. I accepted my situation, and worked my a$$ off to improve it. Sending off that last payment was incredible.

Do you know how frustrating it is to work so hard (as I chronicled in many blog posts) to accomplish a goal, only to have it marginalized by a group of people who want the same thing, but aren’t willing to go to the lengths I did to achieve it. I was EXACTLY where you are now, a few years ago. The difference was I didn’t go Occupy Wall Street, I occupied multiple jobs.

If Joe starts eating healthy/exercising more and loses 50 pounds as a result, do I suddenly have a right to demand the local plastic surgeon give me free liposuction so I can have the same results as Joe? Even if I have a genetic makeup that makes it much more difficult for me to lose weight? Fat chance (pun absolutely intended).

I can only think of one situation in which I would entertain the idea of allowing student loans to be bankrupt-able/forgiven: If and only if the individual would relinquish all credits and degrees earned. The worse thing we could do is forgive the debt and let them keep their degrees. Hell, I’d take a few dings on my credit score if it meant I got a “free” degree out of the gig.

Lastly, if you really are pissed off about the whole student loan/cost of college issue, you should probably go protest your college, not Wall Street.

I’ve already paid off my student loans. Don’t force me to pay yours off too. Unleash the hounds.

p.s. Just to make a few things clear. I am not saying the lending practices associated with student loans are great. And I’m not saying the exponentially increasing cost of college is acceptable. I’m all for reforming tuition rates and lending practices. Student loan forgiveness is not reform, it’s a lame solution that doesn’t solve the much more complex problem.

I kinda wanna get fired, but not really.


Half way through my Sophomore year of college I saw a job announcement to be a RA (residence assistant) in one of my college’s dorms. My roommate that year was already an RA so I knew quite a bit about the position and how it worked. Although the position was unpaid, RA’s receive free room and board (a $7,000 value). I desperately wanted the job.

I didn’t get it.

I was shocked. It was the first time in my life I had really wanted something, worked hard for it, and didn’t get it. At first I was pissed. Why didn’t I get it? I was definitely qualified for the position and I knew all the right people. I was a shoe in. So I thought.

In the blink of an eye my world came crashing down. I panicked. What the heck am I going to do next year? Am I going to be forced to work in my college’s cafeteria? What is wrong with me? If I didn’t get this job, will anyone hire me?

Once the panic wore off, I was able to take a deep breath, calm down, and establish a plan. A few weeks later I ended up getting a different on campus job as a building manager. If you don’t know what a building manager does, neither do I, ’cause I’m pretty sure I got paid to surf Facebook and watch movies. It ended up being the sweetest job ever and actually paid better than the $7,000 stipend I would have gotten as a RA. Being rejected from the RA position was one of the best things that happened to me in college.

I miss that feeling. The “Holy $#!%, what am I going to do” feeling. Part of me wishes I got fired tomorrow. I feel like I’ve become complacent (read: stagnant) in my personal and professional development. If I got fired, however, I’d be faced with a huge challenge; finding employment in a crappy economy. The thought of not knowing what the heck I am I going to do is both scary and exciting. Maybe I’d focus more on growing this blog (self employment), maybe I’d land a better/higher paying gig elsewhere, maybe I’d end up at McDonald’s asking “You want fries with that?“.

Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, and ya know what? I think he’s right. Although I don’t REALLY want to be fired tomorrow, I’d be lying if I said the thought of it wasn’t slightly intriguing. What is/was the most difficult thing you’ve faced recently? Do feel like you grew because of it? Do you ever feel unchallenged/stagnant/boring/predictable like me?