The American dream of yore is no more. The days when your steps on the road map of life were sketched out for you, even if in pencil, have passed. What worked for your parents, will not work for you.
Used to be you graduated from high school and moved on to college. Once you graduated, you got a job, you met that special someone and got married, eventually bought your first house and had 2.5 kids. Somewhere along the line you bought the car of your dreams.
The rat race, pay check to pay check life is not a happy life and none of us have to live it. Get out while you can, or better yet do not get in at all.
As planned you received several promotions, upgraded to a bigger house once or twice, the cars also got bigger and better. The kids, college educated adults, left home. Now you are empty nesters with way too much house.
You now attempt to downsize, retire and sadly realize that you are way too tired and all the things you wanted to do have passed you by. Don’t worry, your kids will repeat the cycle. You taught them well.
Forbes recently estimated that a four-year degree at a private college cost approximately $59,000 per year. Many are looking at student loans to fund their education. That four-year degree could potentially cost you more than $250,000.
Starting life a quarter million dollars in debt is not a good idea. You don’t have a job just yet and are already deep in debt. You will spend the next twenty years of your life paying for your four-year degree. Nowadays a four-year degree appears to not be enough and many go on to get a masters and beyond. More debt still.
Higher education is a business; education stopped being the primary goal a long time ago. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the salary of a football or basketball coach, or what a school gets for winning a bowl or a tournament. Ever see the TV money the NCAA generates. Compare the student-athlete facilities, the dorms, cafeterias and gyms to the facilities available to other students.
You do not have to go to that fancy college and perpetuate the vicious cycle. Try your local community college. At least for your basic classes. Get your degree from a state university; they are much more affordable. The local State U. here is recruitment heaven for engineering firms, and the sciences and pharmacology program graduates are also sought after. Same degree at a much lower expense.
Along the way you meet that special someone to share your life with. Big, big wedding to celebrate the happiest day of your life soon follows. You share the special moment with 300 of your closest friends and family. The wedding planner, huge cake, the band, the DJ, fanciest reception hall possible, open bar, the works. You guys pay for most of it, you figure you only get married once; why not go all out?
The cost of the average wedding was recently estimated at $33,306. That is more like a nice down payment for a house. The wedding is all about the bride; the dress, the hair, the photos… as it should be, everything else is secondary. Where to save?
First step is to pare down the guest list and then do it some more. Some on your initial list are so close that you have not seen them since the last family wedding, or funeral.
Your mother’s cousin’s nephew does not warrant an invitation. Uncle David does not get one either, not sure if that is his name or if he is even your uncle. Invite fewer people, make it more intimate and memorable.
You do not have to hold the reception at the Ritz. A reception hall will cost much less and serve the same purpose. One of the biggest causes of divorce is debt. Can’t start married life like that!
Time to buy a house. What do people always do? They run to the bank with the pay stubs and ask, how much can I get? The bank will loan you as much as they feel they can safely gamble on you. You will wind-up buying more house than you need and pay more than you should. Debt keeps piling up.
You should buy as little house as you need and not as much house as the bank tells you. They look out after their bottom line, not yours. You need at least a 20% down payment to avoid the PMI. have two kids? You do not need that four bedroom, four bathroom house you have your eye on.
The car, that one has to be brand new. There is nothing better than that new car smell! Price is no object just as long as it is better, meaning more expensive, than whatever your neighbor is driving. When he upgrades so will you. And on and on it goes…
The sad truth is that you do not own that car until you pay it off, it owns you and your payments will dictate how many extra hours you will have to work, what you do with your free time and where you are able to do it. Great concept.
You are better off buying used. Many people think a car is an investment, but it is not. Cars do not increase in value with time.
A car is simply a tool that gets you from point A to point B, nothing more. By year four your new car will be worth about half of what you paid and you have several more years to pay. Let someone else be the fool. Take care of the car and it will last many years.
Forget about the Joneses, they are not going to pay for your car, your mortgage or any other bills that you may have. You have no idea how deep a hole they are in. You should not want to join them.
Do not want to buy an older car; a two-year old model costs about 30% less. This is a much better option over buying new. One that is a couple of years older than that cost even less.
When you go out job hunting, you will most likely look for the highest paying opportunity and disregard everything else. When I got out of the service and was young and single that is all that mattered. We feel indestructible at that age. Thing was, within four years I was married with children. Priorities change.
While salary is important, it should not be the only factor taken into account when applying for or accepting a job. Do not forget about employee benefits offered in addition to your salary.
Due to rapidly rising premiums, health insurance should be the first item on your wish list. Some type of retirement plan is also of paramount importance as social insecurity will not be enough to get by on. Best part of many employer sponsored retirement plans is that said employer will also contribute into your retirement fund. Giving you free money. How can you not take it?
Another thing to consider is the commute. At first, many will say that it is “only” a two-hour daily commute. The “only” will disappear after a few long delays caused by accidents, road repairs and the unavoidable long work days. This commute will slowly erode your sanity.
Make the smart choices and life will be easier, simpler and happier.
The views here expressed are all my own. I am not a financial advisor and as such this is not financial advice. Consult a professional before investing.