Could College Make You Poor?

by Ron Haynes

When I was in high school, I had no worries, no cares, few bills, and no clue. I earned money mowing lawns, working in the meat market in my local grocery store, babysitting, sacking groceries, and building a home. But I spent every thin dime I made. On what? I have no idea. There isn’t one thing left to show for all that work. Then, I went to college. College didn’t really do anything to prepare me for life in the real world.

university Could college make you poor?

Yes, it can. College life isn’t like real life and the years I spent living in college fantasy land did very little to prepare me for the important aspects of living such as finding a job, living on a budget, interviewing, or effective time management. Here are ten ways that college made ME poor.

1. I took out multiple student loans and I didn’t use the self discipline required to succeed. I simply wasn’t motivated to study. I was borrowing and going into debt just to stay in school because that was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t have a real goal, graduation seemed so far away, and I was easily distracted.

2. Free money, in the form of grants, only furthered my distorted view of reality. Need money? Just apply for it! Let someone else pay my way. Where’s my check?

3. The credit card vendors at the tables in the student center tempted me with that T-shirt! Do you know why they gave free T-shirts for credit card applications? Because college students would sign anything to get a free one, especially freshmen. Do you know why colleges allowed credit card issuers to entrap students into a lifetime of debt? Because they paid the colleges. This is no longer legal, but I was long gone from college and deep in debt by then.

4. The free health care myth distorted my world view even more. All I had to do was flash that student ID and I got “free” health care. It still hadn’t sunk in to my head that nothing is free. Someone has to pay for everything and in reality, health insurance was part of my tuition and fees. I’m the one who paid for it … and still was 15 years later in the form of student loan repayments.

5. I got free software, too. Just by being a student, I was eligible to use the software put out by a myriad of companies, and that’s how they get you hooked on their product. It’s called the “Puppy Dog Close” amongst salesmen. Allow a family to take a puppy home to “try him out” for a few nights and they will never want to get rid of him.

6. ZERO teaching on personal finance. After graduating and beginning to work is when people should be making quality personal financial decisions, not when they should begin learning how personal finance works. There was never any teaching about an emergency fund, investing for retirement, buying a home, savings accounts, living on a budget, or frugality. College taught me only about all the freebies, nothing about responsibility.

Get more information on a private student loan consolidation through a Credit Union HERE!

7. Cheap housing only perpetuated my skewed view. The dorm was cheap but my apartment was even cheaper. It was only $235/month … split 4 ways. Split the gas bill, the power bill, the cable bill, and the food and you have a student living on less than $200/month. While it’s great that I didn’t spend much on living expenses, coupled with the lack of training I had on personal finance, I spent everything I made on dining out, gifts for my girlfriend, and clothes.

8. Are meal plans available to anyone but students? Getting a 16 meals per week plan at college cafeterias where I could eat all I wanted at every meal didn’t cause me to learn about saving money on food. It only caused me to get used to having anything I wanted and as much as I wanted any time I wanted.

9. There was never any time management teaching. When was the last time YOU could schedule your workday to be only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM until 4 PM? Is there anything realistic here?

10. No teaching on interviewing or preparation for getting a real job. I knew all about regression analysis, capital structure, strategic management decision making, strategic marketing, and global human resource management, but I didn’t know how to interview, how to mimic the body language of my interviewer, how to deal with office politics, or how to negotiate my salary.

Nothing in real life is like college.

Nothing in college really helped me prepare for life. I had a great time, I made a lot of friends, I met my future wife, I did a lot of fishing, I learned how to borrow lots of money, but I didn’t learn anything about real life. I didn’t learn anything about handling my finances, or about managing my time, or about budgeting my money, or about getting an interview, or about the dangers of debt.

None of these 10 items were that bad alone, but taken as a whole, I believe they skewed my view of how life works, how employment works, and how debt works. Since most colleges don’t teach these important principles, those most in need of this education are left to try and figure out this information on their own after they graduate or drop out for a lack of money. Some will succeed in learning it and most will struggle, but all would be better off if they had learned it before entering the work force.

What’s the Solution?

Teach your children before they go off to college about:

  • Personal financial management, especially budgeting
  • The dangers of debt, particularly credit card debt
  • How to interview for a job
  • How to develop a work ethic
  • How to manage time so they get the most accomplished
  • That life is nothing like college life, and college life is nothing like real life

Photo by Michael Cavén

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.


{ 4 comments }

Daniel

Isn’t this more a reflection of the poor choices you made in college rather than college itself making you poor?

Ron

Perhaps, but I wasn’t prepared for college life when I went and wasn’t educated about what to expect either. I guess you could say that college itself didn’t make me poor any more than a spoon made Rosie O’Donnel fat, but I was just thrown into the deep end of the pool. After I almost drowned, I finally learned to swim, but it was all on my own. My premise is that without parental preparation, most 18 year olds will find themselves in a very similar situation.

Also keep in mind that I started college over 26 years ago. Things are a bit different today and financial information is much more readily available.

Starshard0

I’m 21 now, and in the Army, and I plan to attend college when I get out in around 2 years. Thanks for illustrating the common pitfalls, it will help me avoid them in the future. Is there anything you did right in college?

Ron

I learned a lot of life lessons (which I try to share here) but the best thing to come out of my college years was meeting my wife.

Previous post:

Next post: