Category Archives: general guidance

The Big Ts and College Outcomes

The Big Ts and College Outcomes


Why can you fairly consistently put any two people into a given situation and end up with vastly different results? The question has fascinated me for some time, particularly as I am privy to the financials of numerous people through work and ministry. I have met public schoolteachers with money to burn and flat-broke corporate executives. Some folks feel blessed by their wealth and others curse the day they came into it. Some walk through hard times with head held high and others with self contempt. Whatever the events in question I observe outcomes of greed and generosity, fear and excitement, success and failure, personal responsibility and others-blaming. Why the differences?

Over time I have come to find that one’s financial results have not much to do with externally observable factors. Rather, how one fares largely comes about due to one’s philosophical view of money. What is money to you? Once I ferret that out then with fair certainty I can tell you the sorts of results you can expect to show for your financial circumstances, whether it involves earning, saving, spending, or investing.

In a similar fashion when we look at the college scene today – the stats, the stories, the trends – if nothing else we note vastly different outcomes across the population of students.  Some graduate without a hiccup and some drop out; some credit their degree with a higher quality of life while others strive with careers and debt. Why? And what will your results be? Tell me what college is to you and I can probably answer that question. And for the record: my earlier-held views sure account for my struggles and failures as a student/early graduate.

Continue reading The Big Ts and College Outcomes

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

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Giving a praise


Today let’s talk about two seemingly disparate realities I regularly observe about student activity in and out of school: 1) the stress (and importance) of declaring a major and 2) “unspent” school breaks. And then I’ll dish you this handy tip, which should in a sense kill these two birds with one stone. Continue reading Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Chart: The Disappearing Male

disappearing male


Chart: The Disappearing Male

This selection comes to us from a Forbes article by the venerable Richard Vedder titled “The Disappearing Male on College Campuses.” Today’s chart shows that there has been a consistent, downward trend of male participation in college for several decades now. As professor Vedder points out, this is both a function of declining male enrollments on the front end and a lopsided tendency to drop out early on the back end.

While the policy wonks and sociologists worry about the causes (though I certainly have my own theories), affordologists must contend with the effects. Today let’s not get caught up in the big picture of “why is this happening?” or “what should we do about this?” (political) but “why should I care?” and “what should I do about this?” (practical).

Continue reading Chart: The Disappearing Male

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.


Dorm Room Enterprises

Dorm Room Enterprises

Brown Bag School Lunch

In an interesting 2015 survey of the uber-wealthy we saw that a lack of formal higher education credentials isn’t an obstacle to billionaire-dom. This has great application to the aspiring student in that we get a hint as to one of the approaches we can take to tackling tuition bills through work income. Turns out, mere high school graduates have the potential to generate larger-than usual incomes if they know where to look.

In order to achieve better pay for their labors, students may want to join the “results economy” instead of working by the hour. As I’ve pointed out before, nothing really stops a student from joining the ranks of the self-employed (along with the majority of millionaires) and competing directly with their would-be employers. But with everything else going on must a student run a full-fledged, traditional business in order to be paid well? Continue reading Dorm Room Enterprises

The Traditional Job

The Traditional Job

This image is a sarcastic take on the value of a university/college degree

The Traditional Job

When a young person hears “get a real job” the underlying encouragement is to go out and get steady, regularly scheduled, “W-2” employment. College towns boom with such arrangements, particularly in the services and trades sectors of the job market. Finding such work is as easy as picking up the local newspaper, a job-specific classifieds newsletter, or searching out Craigslist and employment websites. Continue reading The Traditional Job

Understanding How Work Works

Understanding How Work Works

landscapers II

Al & Alicia

Work is Not a Four Letter Word

To this point we’ve focused on the resources available to college students that don’t directly involve any “I work, you pay” transactions. This not because a student should avoid work but because college students uniquely have access to other forms of money not readily available to the population at large. It therefore makes sense to explore those first. Whether or not those avenues succeed I highly encourage college students to pursue work with vigor for several reasons. Continue reading Understanding How Work Works

Hack Your Brain and Save Your Money

Hack Your Brain and Save Your Money

old saw cutting in skull

Once upon a time as a young lad I couldn’t keep money in my pocket any more than I could a handful of water. Money in, money out, even as the specter of college loomed large on the horizon. As a result I showed up to school with only a week or two’s worth of summer paychecks in the bank, an amount far short of what I could have brought to the table had I been more prudent. After limping to graduation I found things had changed significantly in this regards: I could stretch my meager hourly wages as a laborer a long ways.

So it was with particular interest that some time ago I posted a chart detailing the fact that college graduates, as a whole, tend to save greater percentages of their income than their lesser-educated counterparts. Why? Is it because their relatively higher incomes allow this? Because something fundamentally happens in college that contributes to one’s ability to save? Or, perhaps, because only those who learn to save/control spending survive?

Whatever the case today’s students don’t have the luxury to fart around. Affording an education requires preparation, including all of the various strategies we’ve been exploring in these pages, and it requires rigorous financial discipline. Among other things, students need to learn to save to get ahead of the big bills coming their way. But how?
Continue reading Hack Your Brain and Save Your Money

Moving Beyond Just Giving Fish to Kids

Moving Beyond Just Giving Fish to Kids

Fisherman of Lake in action when fishing, Thailand

∼ Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life ∼

We’ve probably all heard this saying at one point or another. It relates a poignant and pithy philosophy of giving we should all take to heart. Any time someone else needs our resources we can either meet that need from our reserves- just to be back at square one the next day- or we can take a little more time with that person to teach them how to meet that need on their own forevermore. There’s also an unstated but relevant practical corollary to this idea we should note: if men want to catch fish for themselves they not only need the skills to perform the task but also the equipment.

How can we apply these principals regarding men and fish to kids and college funds? Continue reading Moving Beyond Just Giving Fish to Kids