Last week’s lesson focused on the post high school/college search starting early on with paying attention to your child’s strengths and gifts to help steer them to the best post high school situation for them.  Same with finances.  Making children aware of finances can start early on with having your kids see you pay with cash on occasion so they can learn that things and services cost money.  I recall our daughter’s dance teacher saying to me when I handed her the monthly tuition check, “Let Sasha hand me the check so she understands that dance costs money.”  Of course, paying by credit card has many benefits, like seeing where your money is being spent, accumulation of points for travel, etc, not having to carry cash.  If you pay it off every month and don’t over spend, it can be a good thing.  However, using a credit card makes it easier to spend money, it’s just too easy to hand over a card or rattle off/type in a number.  It’s also the dialogue as kids get older that is important such as, “When you are an adult and have your own home” or “I am excited to see what you will decide to do as you get older…” A dialogue that encourages them to realize that being financially  independent is something to look forward to and to be proud of.  Let them know that you’ll help them along the way.  Of course the conversations are age appropriate so a child won’t be stressed over the thought of having to take care of themself before they are able to.

    So how does this have anything to do with a college search, you may ask?  It leads in to the kind of job they choose, which will determine what type of life they will have and how will you pay for the training/education you will need for them to be prepared for this profession/lifestyle.  Get kids thinking  about what kinds of hours they would want to work.  For example, if your son or daughter wants to become a musician but they don’t want to work evenings, they many want to consider music education as that would most likely be a day job where as music performance would involve most likely working evenings.  Also important is to ask a child, how much time do you want to spend in school.  A career as a doctor, attorney or college professor is going to entail many years in school before earning a living as well as many dollars in tuition, possibly loans and how long will it take to pay them off and ‘break even,’ asking is the worth it?

    Over the recent years, the phrase, “marketable skill” has become more popular, as college tuition has become more and more expensive, increasing more than inflation.  You want to have discussions with your child that it is so important to get the most for their money when it comes to their post high school education and to spend your or their money wisely.  For example, they may get into a very prestigious university, but the cost may take years to pay off and if they plan on either going in to a career area that does compensate enough to commensurate spending top dollar on an education, or maybe they are looking at a career path that will require even more education in a graduate degree, does it make sense to spend big bucks on an undergraduate education?

    Talk to teenagers about scholarships and encourage them to keep their grades up so that they are good candidates for scholarships.  Every year there are numerous scholarships that go unclaimed.  Contact your school guidance office and the colleges you are looking at to inquire about how to apply for any scholarship your child may be eligible for. Remember “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.’

    Should your child be a candidate for a trade school or any other type of training that does not fit into the traditional college realm, inquire about scholarships and grants.  Mike Rowe, who writes about trade school education offers numerous scholarships for students pursuing this route of education.  “Trade Schools” come in a variety of occupations.  These programs can start in the high school through your local district, county or community college in the areas of automotive, welding, cosmetology, building trades and healthcare.  I have heard that over the last few years, even some of the big tech companies have started recruiting kids out of high school for training programs on their own campuses so that they can “get the cream of the crop” right out of the gate, providing a ‘college campus residence situation,’ offering training, the away from home experience and the reward of employment and early in the door to a tech education.

    Look at this all as a fun and long journey with your child.  Finances are part of life and the earlier they start learning about saving, being smart with their money and making good choices, the longer they have to enjoy the benefits of their good choices.  Allowing to have your kids to have ‘skin in the game’ helps with their accountability.  Consider reasonable ways your child can take on part of the cost.  Maybe they earn their spending money/books, or getting a part time job during high school or after high school to help out.  If kids have skin in the game they are more likely to value and work harder in school if they are paying some of their tuition.

    If you have a child who has worked hard to earn an athletic or performance scholarship, that is their job.  Their time spent playing/performing is earning them and you money.  There are many scholarships for girls that go unclaimed as there are more boys playing sports than girls.  Consider a smaller Division 1 school.  It might not be your child’s first choice, but they may have more opportunity for playing time and the scholarship are there too. When you go to talk to a coach let them know that you are shopping around and that finances are part of the equation.  Sometimes, in addition to athletic scholarship dollars, there are some academics dollars that can be combined if your child is a good student.

    All along teach your child that keeping as many doors open gives them more choices.  We have a family friend whose son got into a few top schools and ended up going to a public state school, the University of Florida where he played on the tennis team, received numerous academic scholarships as well  and then he ended up pocketing money as well.  The family felt that, that was the best option for their son, since he was planning on law school. So his undergraduate cost the family not a dime and he ended up with money in the bank.  He did get in to Columbia Law School (receiving some scholarship dollars), deferred a year to go on the ATP tour as a hitting partner for a top player.  A few months before his first semester at the start law school, he was offered additional scholarship money to defer and additional year as Columbia had admitted too many students. He was able to go on tour again and next month, he will start Columbia Law School with academic scholarship, residential scholarship and a very part time role on the tennis team as a coach.  He hopes to pursue a career in the business of sports representation or working for a major sporting team.

    The opportunities are there you just need to keep inquiring and learning along with your child.  Help them carve out a niche that is just right for them and don’t you go broke along the way.  Remember, your future is important to, you cannot work forever, you need to be mindful of your retirement too.  Next week, Part 3 “Finding the Right School for Your Child Once You Know Their Interests”