Get a college degree and all your financial worries are over, right?
That used to be the maxim years ago. A college degree still has value, but it is more important to watch your cash flow and treat a college education as an investment now more than ever.
Just as you wouldn't pay $10,000 a share for Apple stock right now, don't pay $50,000 a year for a degree that will pay you $25,000 per year.
In this post we will look at how to do this sensibly.
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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Well, obviously this is your first step, but frequently the most difficult.
Far be it from me to tell you to choose the path that is listed on the top 25 careers for 2020. People need to do what they want and just work their tails off.
If you know what you want to do, skip to the next section. If you're not certain, try these steps:
1. Make a list of all of the things you are good at, even what may seem to be trivial things like; I make a good grilled cheese sandwich; my mom likes the way I set the table, or my friends say I'm nice. If you have trouble with the list then ask your friends or family what you're good at.
2. Make a list of all the things you love to do, that you would stay up late or get up early to do. Again, don't be an editor, write it all down, even things like "I love Game of Thrones" or "I like walking downtown to get a coke". All these things say something about you.
3. Lastly, try and find things that are in both lists; things you're good at and you love to do. If you have one, that is the holy grail of career paths. If you don't, then try to combine two into one. For example, I'm good at being very patient and I love to read books. If you combine those two you could be a very good researcher.
Keep going until you have found one. Try not to let another person tell you what you should do or as stated earlier, pick the hot career of the moment. Usually, those choices never work out.
ACTION STEP: Schedule some time for soul-searching to pick your career.
Where Can I Become Educated?
Now, that you have your career picked out, where can you go for your college degree?
Don't overlook the possibility that you may not need to go to college. Some jobs may only require a certificate program, an apprenticeship, or two years at a trade school.
Google is your friend here. Or post a question on Quora.
Type something like: "I want to be a medical researcher" or "Where can I get a college degree in accounting?".
Make out a top ten list and start researching the cost for tuition, room and board and books.
If it's a local college, you might be able to live at home.
ACTION STEP HERE: Compile list of ten schools with total costs to earn a degree/certificate (add in graduate doctorate programs, if needed).
How Much Do I Have Saved for College?
Write down how much you currently have saved for your college or that your parents have saved.
Calculate how much more additional money you'll have saved between now and the day you graduate (from parents, and from a part-time job).
If you know you'll be receiving a scholarship or grant, note that amount too (ignore student loans for now).
ACTION STEP: Write down the amounts above and calculate the total amount of money you'll have to pay for college by the time you graduate.
What Will My Salary Be When I Graduate?
Look up your career choice on salary.com to find out what the starting salary will be.
If you can't find it there, do a Google search or pose a question on Quora to find your answer.
ACTION STEP: Research the starting salary for your profession.
Narrow Down Your Choice
So, now you should have several choices with the costs for each.
And, you will now have the total amount of money that you've saved for college.
Compare the total cost to what you have saved.
If you have more saved then what is required, you're good.
If you are short the amount needed, and the amount is less than your first year's salary, you're also good. Go obtain a federal student loan for your difference.
If you are short the amount needed, and the amount is more than your first year's salary, then keep looking or saving. I would not recommend you take out more than what you'll make in your first year. If you can live at home for your first year, you can aggressively pay off your student loan and be debt free probably within two years.
ACTION STEP: Compare your college expenses to your savings and scholarship/grant money. If you are short the amount needed, look for an alternative by choosing another college, attending a junior college, or living at home.
This post has given you all of the information you need to graduate from college without having a massive amount of student loan debt.
If you are going to college or will be going in the near future put this information to use. The benefits are huge.
And the best thing?
This is the type of skill has two really important values:
1. You will start your adult life without owing an unmanageable amount of debt. You will be able to pay this off quicker and concentrate your savings to other areas; your first house, marriage, retirement...
2. This is a useful skill to learn that can be applied to other areas like not overspending on your home or car. It is not unthinkable, if you manage these three expense categories well (college, home, autos), that you could easily end up being a millionaire one day.
So start your action steps today.
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