Because Freedom

Because Freedom

man walks along a dirt road and enjoy the freedom.

Today, in honor of Independence Day, we’re going to have a change of pace from the usual tactical level, immediately applicable financial tip. Instead let’s get philosophical and explore the situation in front of us from a more strategic vantage point. Let’s talk about something you need to understand as you make life choices of all stripes. Let’s talk about valuing your freedom.

Recently I ran across an article/photo essay on the UK’s Daily Mail website which provided a glimpse into a handful of “Peter Pan generation Lost Boys” as captured by the lens of one Liz Calvi of West Hartford Connecticut. The content completely captured my attention, and my ire, not so much for the photographs but for the language used to explain why these young men had all dropped out of college and moved back in with mom and dad. And I quote (emphases mine):

  • They “were forced to move back in with their parents, unable to get a job…”
  • “You’re almost in this trap, where you have to go to college to get a job…” (but college is untenable due to the costs)
  • “But college costs so much money, so sometimes you have to go back home to live with your parents.”

I reacted so viscerally to these statements, and to the representative photographs, because I don’t find this line of thought uncommon at all among the lost boys I encounter with regularity. In writing the following I do not specifically pick on any of the men in depicted in the article. I speak to every young person when I seek to clear something up once and for all with another quote, this one from my mother:

“Nobody’s making you do anything.”  

Continue reading Because Freedom

Credit Hours and Cost

Credit Hours and Cost

Speedometer with neon backlight isolated on black


It not only matters in college which classes you take, but also how you schedule said classes. As such, let’s take a look at credit hour enrollment in light of affordability. But first it helps to know how your college charges for tuition, with the two basic flavors being per-hour and block rate. Figure out the specifics of your particular school’s billing metrics and you can save some serious coin. Continue reading Credit Hours and Cost




I’ll never forget my most bitter college moment. I hated a pre-req humanities class. I labored to stay awake through my professor’s monotone delivery, the textbook dried my eyes out, and the assignment loads amounted to arbitrary busywork. One day as I sat at my desk grinding through a reading section my roommate walked in and asked, “Why didn’t you just test out of that?”

He then explained that instead of taking this class he had studied a prep book, paid a small fee, and then passed an exam administered on campus. In return the college granted him three credit hours and waived their requirement to take a class on the subject.

I nearly cried. I certainly fumed. How come nobody told me about this option until it was too late? Continue reading CLEP. CLEP. CLEP.

Chart: The Value of a Buck by State

Chart: The Value of a Buck by State

How much $1 worth in each state

While on the surface this chart selection seems to have nothing to do with college, it highlights a very important factor in college and career affordability. Thanks to an analysis conducted by the Tax Foundation we get to see the relative value of a dollar state-by-state (they also offer a more detailed breakdown here). Once we grasp the concept of differing amounts of purchasing power between regions we get a little insight into our ultimate prospects for affordable endeavors.

I stumbled into this phenomenon in the years surrounding my college experience. I came from a retirement mecca in Arizona but went to college in a region of Ohio where seemingly everything -groceries, gas, vehicles, housing, services – could be had for less. While there I could convert my minimum wage campus employment into cheap sustenance from Aldi and entertainment from the dollar theater. After graduation I returned to Arizona eke by by on my $8/hour wages before wising up and scampering back to rural Ohio where the same pay freed up enough money to consistently pay extra on my student loans.

Keep this in mind as you explore schools and jobs. If you have two relatively similar schools of relatively similar expense, you may want to tip your interest in favor of a school in a region where a dollar buys you more. You will have to, after all, continually purchase items off campus. And when entertaining job offers don’t always bite for the higher paying gig, particularly if that would land you in a region of greater expense.

In fact, I often advise youth from my area to move out of town to get their start in the South or the Midwest where it’s much easier to find cheap starter homes and  hoopties to tide them over until they have enough net worth to make choices based on wants over needs. I’m sure glad I did, even if by happy accident.


Universidad Gratis (Translation: Free College)

Universidad Gratis (Translation: Free College)

gratis grunge retro red isolated ribbon stamp

Lately there’s been a lot of debate about whether or not college could or should be free. As costs here in the United States continue to soar, does it make sense to advocate for a free public university system like what students in Germany, for example, experience?

What usually gets lost on us as we read these debatable policy proposals is that college is indeed free in many places overseas… and free for us as well. Just as foreign students can apply for colleges here and pay according to our policies, we can apply to foreign schools and pay according to their policies. If that country’s schools’ tuitions happen to be free for the locals, it’s often also available at no or little cost to us.

Continue reading Universidad Gratis (Translation: Free College)

Chart: Managing Disappointment

Chart: Managing Disappointment

expectations vs realities


I have a very dear and wise friend who once told me that “disappointment” is just another word for “unmet expectations.” In other words, we can chalk up most of our disappointing experiences to our actual results not meeting our forecasted results. Therefore, managing our expectations is critical to managing our disappointments. It might sound cynical on the surface, but one secret to the happiness is to have low expectations, thus setting ourselves up for a life lacking in discouragement and full of joyous surprises.

Continue reading Chart: Managing Disappointment

Chart: More Aid = More Pain

Chart: More Aid = More Pain

Student Financial Aid


This chart comes from a recent staff report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which took 51 pages of dense economic jargon and methodological explanations to tell us what many of us commentators already knew. A big reason, if not the main reason, for the rapid rise in college tuitions over the past few decades has been the steady increase of Federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans. After all, we cannot attribute the cost increases, which would naturally go down in the face of lower demand, to rising wages or increased savings rates among Americans.

No, it seems that the main source of the pain of tuition increases has to do with the government’s number one solution to it.  Continue reading Chart: More Aid = More Pain