I was very excited and honored when I received an invite to be a guest speaker on the radio show, VoiceAmerica by my FABULOUS Financial Planner, Shanna Tingom. Our conversation topic will be my son’s DEBT FREE college graduation from Arizona State University. He now holds a B.S. Degree in Automotive Engineering! ( Read her promo above, and you will see WHY she is so fabulous! ). My son graduating debt free is one my greatest accomplishments! (that’s an upgrade from being the proud owner of about 12 credit cards). It isn’t like he wasn’t a huge part of the equation because he is definitely smart! (I often wonder where he got that from because I am still struggling with how to use the features of my Iphone, 5 years later!). It took my growth as a person (and parent), an open-mind, and a willingness to change my mind-set coupled with his smarts to make this happen. None of this was easy for me.
I also credit a lot of my own painful life lessons from the school of hard knocks (which means I will make a fantastic Life Coach when I open my business in January 2017, lol!) for success. I made just about every mistake possible within my 50 years of life! (I will proudly add, however, that I NEVER fell into the Timeshare trap!). Those mistakes included taking out $16,000 in student loans to fund my education! Even though I received Pell Grants each year, I had a hard time saying no to additional student loans after taking out the first one in my junior year, in order to purchase a car. Thankfully it was used, but it was still dumb! (Another dumb thing I did in college was accepting that first free credit card, which led to accepting about 5 others because they were sent to me, and were FREE!). I never thought about how or when I would pay the student loans back. I was just relieved a few years later when I was told I could place them in deferment since I couldn’t afford to pay on them (another mistake!). Following this bad advice turned a $16,000 debt into a $22,000 debt. Deferment sounded like a good idea at the time, I learned later that it wasn’t. My student loan was eventually paid off (sort of!) by making another HUGE mistake and taking out a Home Equity Line of Credit with Bank Of America! Even with all of these mistakes, I STILL thought the only way to get my kids through college was with student loans. Student loans were like car payments and mortgages. Something you would ALWAYS have because that’s what everyone else said. I love when I hear Dave Ramsey say we keep student loans around so long that they become like a pet!
Thankfully I heard about Dave Ramsey when I did, a year before my son started college (as well as before I was laid off for the first time in my life!). The first time I took Financial Peace University was the first time I had even heard that getting through college debt free was even a possibility! Honestly, after I heard him say it, I STILL didn’t believe it was possible (just like I thought it wasn’t possible to lose the 70 pounds I’ve lost and kept off for over 9 years!). Even though I worked and went to college at the same time, I didn’t see how it was possible for my son, just based on the current amount of tuition. When I started Cal State Long Beach in 1984, tuition was $228.00 per semester. I worked and went to college at the same time, which seems foreign to students these days! When I learned Arizona State University was $4,000.00 a semester, I had a mini heart attack! I knew college would be more expensive than when I started, but had no idea it was this much. By the time I completed Financial Peace University 12 weeks later (it’s now only 9 weeks and worth EVERY penny), I knew it was possible! Funny how when you change your environment and start hanging with people who have the same goal, you can accomplish things you never thought you could! I believe it’s true that we become like the people we hang around the most.
The key for me was DECIDING I wasn’t taking out student loans. We can all WANT something, but until we DECIDE it’s the only way, there is no change in behavior. While I had some money saved and my son did receive a Scholarship, we both picked up extra jobs ( I currently have three and he has two) to fund the balance. Tuition was covered and I was surprised at how much we still had to come out of the pocket for with so many additional fees. After the first year with tuition constantly increasing (but the scholarship did not!), I decided to pay cash for summer school so that he could get out of college because I hit retirement! They fee you to death! There is no scholarship for summer school, and that $2000.00 PLUS fee hurt the pocket. It was worth it for me to get him out of college ahead of schedule. I decided to pick up an extra hours, and told him he had to increase his work hours over the summer in order to help pay for school. It’s nice to be able to hang out a lot and have fun over the summer, but that was not a luxury when trying to pay cash for college. I also had to say no a lot. NO to going out-of-state for college because it didn’t make sense with his in state scholarship award. He was definitely interested in that option, and we traveled to tour the two Universities close enough to drive too. As a mother, it is hard to say no to our children. Especially when we value good relationships with them. I had to remember, however, that my job is to be a mother and to guide, not to be my child’s friend. It’s great to have that type of relationship, but I am not helping when I allow my child to do things he will regret later in life. I also had to say NO to living on campus. That added an extra $15,000 on top of the already overpriced cost of tuition. At one point I had to say, “if you choose to live on campus, I won’t help period”. When most of the friends are doing something, it’s harder for the child to understand why they can’t. As vocal as I am, this was hard to say because it was my child and I wanted him to be happy. I lost sleep over this decision, but in the end I had to remember the lessons I’d learned. I was in my forties at that time and still owed on student loans from college, which I’d started in 1984, over 10 years earlier! By then I’d started paying on them, but the high payments were only going towards interest. As much as I love to eat, I dislike the taste of regret even more! I didn’t want my son to be limited by debt when he graduated. I felt like it was the best gift I could give him.
I’m honored to share my story of HOPE to others that think student loans are a way of life! It’s a myth that the only way to get through college is take out student loans. Time to spread the word!
VoiceAmerica can be found on the Business Channel (3:00 AZ time, 6:00 pm eastern.), and my interview is Friday, August 19th.