Posted By RichC on September 17, 2018
None of us likely compliment others enough, but being on the receiving end of an unexpected compliment feels pretty good. It is past due that I do the same for someone else.
Last week I connected with a friend that I don’t see as often as I use to, but he mentioned he keeps up with my life by reading my blog, which is a compliment in itself. Anyway, he mentioned how he and his wife have always looked up to the way Brenda and I raised our two kids and lived our lives … and that it has had an impact on how they have tried to raise their children. Obviously from a distance it must have looked easier than the many questionable moments we had? Nevertheless, his compliment lead to a more personal question as he and his wife were struggling with balancing changing careers, family finances and teenagers preparing for college. His question is how much to sacrifice for the kids and how much debt to take on to make sure they can go to college. He admitted neither of them budget well or have planned ahead for college or eventually retirement.
A question like that was a little heavy after just receiving such a polite compliment on child rearing, but with him being so personal, I figured I would try to share a little. First I reminded him that Brenda and my circumstances were totally different than where he and his wife are currently. I also mentioned that we really did not plan our career moves and decisions based on a timeline or personal wants. Each opportunity was a "doors open, doors close" thought process. For me a career that starting in teaching ended up by my starting my own business part-time in the basement, then garage, then full time in my own remodeled commercial building. It was all based on circumstances.
For Brenda, being ambitious in her career and being in the right place at the right time (doors open, doors close), lead to opportunities which eventually were exciting enough to require a BIG changes in the way I ran my business. At the time it was extremely stressful, but in hindsight the timing was providential as "printing on paper" was slowing and digital communications on the Internet was growing … meaning selling the equipment, building and production side of my business happened at just at the right time. A few years later, something very similar happened to Brenda in that her founder sold the DOTcom pharmacy business about the time the bottom fell out … which worked out so she could be at home more with the kids before they were off to college.
Each "open and closed" door left us a bit better off financially than before, thankfully. Selling the business and paid off building gave me dollars to put aside for the kids college and some left over for me to invest for our retirement. In other words, it is not something you can emulate or duplicate. (but we should all be living on less than our incomes and at minimum all be saving for our retirement in a company 401-K or personal IRA).
My final advice was if as a couple they were not saving for retirement, then they should not be borrowing themselves to put their children through college … no matter the outside pressure. Help where you can, pinch a penny here or there or even perhaps consider an early downsized home if you want to help out, but as someone nearing 50, don’t indebt yourself in order to fund 4 year college "experience."
I’m not sure it is what he wanted to hear, but I hope his kids will be awarded grants or scholarships (not over do the debt) … or be smart enough to work a job, live at home and start their first two years of undergrad at a community college? Sane advice that is starting to gain traction as student debt rises and college cost continue to escalate. Good luck.