Sunday, February 24, 2013

Secular Sacraments: Childrens' College Fund

Most of my friends have a college fund for their children. I don't. I try hard not to roll my eyes when the talk about their college funds. They also like to ask me why I don't have one. OK.

  • It makes you wonder how I paid for college. I used student loans and my GI Bill. In fact, many of my friends did the same thing.
  • Neither my dad nor I were ready for college at 18. It would have been a galactic waste of money. My dad got an associates' after he retired from the Air Force. I got my Bachelor's degree when I was 33, 9 years after I left the Navy. I won't factor my brother into things, but he was in his mid-30's when he started taking college seriously. I think we've established a family history of not going to college right out of high school. My grandfather on my dad's side did not go to college. I don't know my mother's side very well, but I think my grandfather on that side was a union worker. They were from Pittsburg, so I guess if he didn't run a sandwich shop, union steel worker or union railroad worker were the only jobs available. Last time I saw him I was 16. 
  • I personally think there is an education bubble going on at present. It is likely to pop before my 8 year old is ready for college. Already, alternatives to college are popping up. Open source textbooks are coming available. What we currently know as the college experience *could* change in the next decade. 
  • I'm hearing a lot of rumblings that our government, in one effort to continue operating at record levels of spending and debt, will probably nationalize our retirement accounts like Argentina and some other nations have done. You really think the 529 plans won't end up in their sites?
  • I've had one financial calamity after another for the last several years. I can barely put away for retirement, much less college, assuming things won't drastically change in the next 10 years.
  • Finally, my mom drilled it into my head that we appreciate things more if we have to pay for them or earn them ourselves. College to me seems like too large an item or decision to just hand to an 18 year old on a silver platter. That's how we end up with so many unemployed philosophy or psychology graduates.
When the time comes, I will encourage my children to follow the path that helps them accomplish their goals the best, be it college, trade school, fast food, military, or just spending a few years trying to figure out where they fit in. I will not "tell" them what path to follow. I'll give them a few guiding principles:

  1. Whatever you do, it will be ethical.
  2. Whatever you do, it will be productive. No starving artists.
  3. You will support yourself and any family you produce.
  4. You will educate yourself. Read x amount of books per year. Learn new skills. Keep growing.
Never let your schooling interfere with your learning. While I do believe in many cases, a college degree is valuable, I don't believe in a "one size fits all". I don't believe "just get a degree; any degree; it'll open doors!" No, it wont. There is no skeleton key of success. Figure out who you are and what you want to do, then pursue what you need to get there. 

I will also make sure my children read "Worthless", if I have to tie them down and read it to them.
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