Money Advice for Parents of Kids who are Grad School Wannabees
Some baby boomers have completed the task of helping their kids through college. Some of those kids are now contemplating graduate school, the kind that may cost a lot of money. These include law school and business school, where scholarship money is rare. Why are scholarships rare for those programs? Because many exist primarily to feed cash to the university. Our culture and economy do not need more lawyers or MBAs but the colleges don’t want you to think in that direction.
Wait, let me be more accurate with a quote from the article:
The more college loans and credit-card debt that young adults 18 to 27 have, the higher their self-esteem — and the more control they feel they have over their lives. They tend to view debt positively, rather than as a burden.
This attitude is beyond sad. It’s pathetic. These goofball students – when they graduate – will learn too late that debt is a big deal.
My first advice to parents of grad school wannabees is to make sure your kids understand that if they insist on going to grad school (thus further delaying their entry into a productive economic life), they will be on their own financially. This is critical because if you are like most baby boomers, you are woefully lacking in the retirement savings department.
My second piece of advice for parents and kids alike is to understand that you do not have to incur debt to attend a professional school. I know, because I made it through law school without borrowing a penny and without any help from my parents. How did I do this? I prepared. I knew that I had to. My parents were very generous and paid my way through undergraduate school. This was such a blessing. However, I still remember a brief conversation I had with my father during my senior year of college. I mentioned that I was considering taking a fifth year to earn a Master of Engineering degree. He calmly said “that’s nice but you will have to finance that yourself.” I appreciated his directness. He was right not to take on more financial burden on my behalf. After all, he had three more kids behind me!
So my plan for financing law school was simple. First, I targeted an in-state public school with reasonable tuition. I worked in a full-time engineering job for four years and saved enough money to pay for three years of tuition and my basic living expenses. (Yes, it can be done because I did it.) Third, after my first year of law school, I took on a part-time law clerking job at a local law firm. I kept this job for most of law school, including summers. Fourth, I did well enough in school to earn an appointment as a legal writing instructor, which was also a paying gig.
Now as a matter of full disclosure, I married Mrs. ToughMoneyLove during my first year of law school. She was gainfully employed so we were able to upgrade our standard of living based on her income. Her contributions to our family income were a windfall to my DIY grad school finance plan.
So don’t concede any more territory to the student loan racketeers. If you need to get grad school out of your system by actually attending, pay for it yourself.