Friday, August 6, 2010

Education and Four Other Expenses that will Consume 50% of Your Lifetime Earnings.

So, yah... Four huge expenses and then Education--the one that interests me most.  Here they are as cited in this article:
1. Home
2. Car
3. Kids
4. Education
5. Retirement

Which one of these things doesn't belong here? Well, if you're human you'll want children (or not, but most do).  If you're living in an area without public transportation, you will need a car.  If you are old, you will have to retire.  And all humans need shelter, i.e. a home.  An education sticks out on this list as the one thing that may be unnecessary to living a viable middle class life.  In our cases, it has actually served as a barrier to living a middle class life.  I know I piss people off when I say that education is unnecessary, but I look around me (mostly to my family) and see a shitload of blue collar people that are financially stable, and my educated self makes strategic decisions between cup o'noodle and peanut butter and jelly.  Well, I'm wondering if I'm doing the right things with my financial decisions and how this article relates to my life.  I can't imagine feeling more poor than I do now.  Maybe, I can get back my 50%?  Not sure... let's see.

So, here are the hints on how to make these 5 items more affordable, but I will focus on education last (my comments in italics):

1.  Don't bite off more HOME than you can chew. How much house can you comfortably afford? For most people the answer is a house with a purchase price of no more than 3x their annual household income. Rationale: the cost of a home includes much more than the monthly mortgage payment. It's also property tax, insurance, upkeep, etc. Typically these costs run 2%-3% of the price of your home each year. Assuming a 20% down payment, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, and interests rates in the 5%-6% rate, the 3x your income rule of thumb will translate into total housing costs of roughly 30% of your gross income.
Hmm.When bought my last home, it was 1X my salary at the time.  The problem is that the job didn't last.  Now it's about 4 to 5, or maybe even 6, times my salary.  So, it's hard to plan for this.  These days, in these volatile times, who can count on their income.  But considering what I could afford at the time, I certainly did the right thing.  I live in the ghetto and have had one attempted break-in. Thank God for ADT!
2. Don't let your CAR drive you to the poor house. The same logic applies to your car. Most people can comfortably afford a car that is 1/3rd of their annual income. If you make $60,000 you can comfortably afford a car that costs $20,000. If that seems low — now you know why so many Americans are in financial trouble. They are driving it. A car has many other costs than simply the monthly payment. There's insurance, gas, parking, maintenance, etc. If you follow this rule of thumb, your total transportation costs should be 10% or less of your gross income.  This is why I live in NYC.  I realized early on that a car is expensive and when it's cheap, there are unforeseen costs that make huge dents in your savings.  HUGE.
3. Don't let your KIDS kick you in the wallet. Kids are expensive. From a purely clinical standpoint the Dept. of Agriculture estimates it will cost $220,000 to raise a child born in 2008 from diapers to age 18. And that figure is before you add in the cost of college! Deciding to be a parent is a major financial obligation. Don't make it worse by over-indulging your love bundles.  As much as I love babies, I know I can't afford one now... and maybe ever.  So, this point doesn't apply to me either.
4.  Don't underestimate the need to feed your RETIREMENT nest egg. How much will you need to retire? A simple rule of thumb is to multiply your current income by 25. So if you make $50,000 a year and want to maintain that standard of living in retirement, you'll need a nest egg of at least $1,250,000. Understanding early on in your working life what "your number" is… will help you see just how important it is to plan for this major savings goal. Ha.  I had a savings, but the job was lost and that's down to nearly nothing.  So, I have no plan for retirement as of yet.  I have a couple of 401Ks that have nothing near $50K in them, let alone $1,250,000.00.  So, in regards to this, I am an idiot and will be a homeless old lady one day.

And Finally..........

5.  Don't forget to ask "How high is too high for higher EDUCATION?" It used to be good debt was defined as mortgage and student loan debt… and bad debt was everything else. Not any more. We've now learned that too much of a good thing can indeed be bad. Rough rule of thumb, don't take on more in total education debt than you think you are going to earn on average annually during your first 10 years after graduating (from college or grad school). In plain English, if you think you'll make $50,000 a year, don't take out more than $50,000 in loans. The logic behind this is that if it takes you more than 10 years of paying 10% of your income a year in student loan repayments, it's going to be tough to meet your other financial obligations.  So, at the time that I went to law school, the median/average salary (I don't know which one, but it was a lie in any scenario) was $74,000. That number sticks out in my mind.  I remember being satisfied with that number.  Consequently, and completely accidentally, I only had $70K in loans.  So, according to this guideline, I was one of the smart ones.  HOWEVER, the problem herein lies that the law school misguide you and misinform you as to what you should expect to earn.  So, the wildcard here is what you "think you are going to earn on average annually during your first 10 years."   I'm sure there are some careers where starting salaries are standard... but that is not the case with our careers.  You salary can range from $0 to $30K to $160K.  There is no way to know.  So the only way to get an education on the cheap and smartly is to make sure it's free.
But like I said, an education isn't necessary for so many different careers...unless sitting behind a desk is your end all be all.
When an education takes away from your esteem and security, is it really a need?


  1. Angel says:

    "So, at the time that I went to law school, the median/average salary (I don't know which one, but it was a lie in any scenario) was $74,000. That number sticks out in my mind. I remember being satisfied with that number."

    As a preliminary matter, I took out $120,000 and made $80,000 my first year out in the dot-com era from a T14. Paid it back within 40 months or so.

    However, I'm not one of those people who think "I paid them back, why can't everyone else?" with respect to bankruptcy/debt forgiveness.

    I figure, if you've made an honest effort to obtain employment, and you can't end up making more than $40K practing law 5 to 10 years out, and your debt is $200K, you should just be allowed to discharge it in bankruptcy.

    This is a government and law school created problem.

    Don't put young lawyers on the hook for non-dischargable debt.

    It a problem with the LAW SCHOOL SYSTEM ITSELF, not a "personal responsibility" problem.

  2. I like the use of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It seems that TONS of recent JDs will never reach self-actualization. Hell, many will not get past Safety, on the pyramid. They are too damn anxious and fearful of their economic situation, to think about much else.

    As far as student loans go, these would go under the category of TOXIC DEBT - as one cannot discharge them in bankruptcy. "Gambling debts? Putting your mistress in a tony apartment? Oh sure, why not get a fresh start? Oh, you wanted to 'improve' yourself by getting an advanced degree. You have no one to blame but yourself. Now, get out of here and give me my money."

  3. If you're only making $40k 5 to 10 years out, you ought to just default, what are they going to do, garnish your wages? You are already paying them more than they can garnish actually.

  4. My credit is valuable to me and I have assets because I tried to do the right thing when I was earning good money. So, I'm screwed unless I want to lose everything I worked for in the last 10 years. I have to stay current, even though it's so damn hard. Nice thought though.

  5. Thousands if not millions of otherwise responsible people will end up childless and bankrupt in old age all because of student loans. The higher education industrial complex is destroying our country regardless of what they say to defend themselves. Their business is no longer about education and accessibility to education for the poor and middle class. College presidents have made that perfectly clear by aligning themselves with corporations like BP and Goldman Sachs and raising tuition to $50k/year.

  6. Default on student loans are a simple calculation. Its the same calculation that cororpations make every day. Will it cost more to comply with contractual obligations or walk away and pay any collectable damages when required to do so. If your student loan payments are greater than garnishment or other collection devices etc.) default.

  7. But, but...the U.S. has fallen to 12th among countries with the number of college grads!

    Sound the alarm!

    "At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America’s young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment."

    Disgusting shillery! Mass producing millions more college graduates with worthless degrees and leaving them heavily in debt will not turn the country around, it will only accelerate its decline. One of the (many) reasons the country sucks so much is that we canned manufacturing and actual productive labor in favor of telling EVERYONE that they should get a college degree so they can work in an office. Then we outsourced those jobs, too.

    The blind faith of NYT types in more education, all the time, for the sake of education, is sickening. It ignores the real, structural problems we face, and repeatedly blames young people for not "bettering themselves."

  8. Saving for retirement is for chumps. If there's hyperinflation, and you save yourself a million bucks, it might wind up paying for nothing more than a can of soup.

    Almost all of the things that are on that list are things that the government has ruined by getting involved in the market.



Blog Template by - Header Image by Arpi