Life After High School – Putting Your Best Foot Forward Financially

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College costs have soared, and the decision to save for those expenses is daunting for many parents. We have all seen financial advisors’ charts that illustrate the projected cost of tuition when your child reaches the age of eighteen. They are pretty scary. I strongly believe that we need to use data to help us make education investment decisions for ourselves and our children.

My thinking here has been greatly influenced by the well-respected local economist, Chris Chmura. Luckily, here in Virginia, we are privy to some excellent data resources to help us with this task. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has an outstanding online data portal that allows you to see degree completion rates for Virginia colleges and universities, post-completion wages by school and degree choice, student debt levels, and much more. The Virginia Wizard is another great online tool that helps you and your child determine career interests and align this with actual job openings and different educational paths to prepare for those jobs and careers.

Paying for college

When it comes to paying for your child’s higher education, it is never too early (or late) to start. Although we can debate the actual projected cost of education in the future, it is prudent to save something for that expense, regardless of the form it ultimately takes. However, your personal retirement and emergency savings needs to be the first priority. To my knowledge, there are student loans, but there is no such thing as a retirement loan.

The vehicle and strategy that you use to save for this future expense can take many forms. Consult your financial and tax advisors for a strategy that fits your goals and financial situation. Plus, I can’t say enough good things about Virginia’s very own 529 College Savings Plan, which continues to win awards for its low-cost investments, ease-of-use, and transparency.

The case for military service and/or vocational and trade careers

Personally, I think that we need to challenge the assumption that all kids need to attend a four-year college or university. College is not for everyone. Following your passion may or may not lead you to college. Beyond that, a four-year university is not the only choice available for those interested in pursuing higher education. We are fortunate to have an excellent community college system here in Virginia.

Trades and vocational careers are in high demand now because our society has been so focused on pushing every high school graduate to college.  Most of these trades have good starting salaries (compared to new college graduates), and people who work in the trades have a higher propensity to become entrepreneurs and hire others in our communities. I was at a conference once where the HR Director said he would have an easier time finding the company’s next CEO than he would finding a welder.

In addition to entering a trade directly, enlisting in the military and obtaining training in a technical MOS can expedite your career journey. Serving our nation in the military is not only an honorable thing to do, it has real tangible benefits from a career readiness perspective.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you decide to do after high school, think about the end result of your actions.  Will the costs you incur today help you generate greater earnings in the future? What are your employment prospects in this field of study?  What are you passionate about and how can you best position yourself to thrive in a career pursuing that passion?

Decisions that determine your future take time. At Call Federal, we’re here to help you with your research. If you have questions, our team of financial coaches would be happy to sit down with you and go over your options. You can email them (CCUFC@callfederal.org) or stop by any of our branch locations to set up an appointment.

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