One of the best ways people can boost their financial strength is by making the right decisions when it matters most.
NOT buying the bigger house you don’t need.
NOT buying the nicer car.
NOT buying the expensive watch, just for the brand name.
It’s pretty straight-forward – If you spend less on things, you’ll save more.
But sometimes the decisions are riddled with complicated social repercussions. Sometimes we can feel pressured into making the wrong decision, or embarrassed by making the right one.
A FRIEND’S DIFFICULT DECISION
When I was graduating High School and getting ready to head off to college it was an exciting time, as it is for most. Everyone was picking the schools at which they would spend the next four years learning, living, and experiencing life.
Most HS graduates pick schools based on rankings, what degrees they offer, the location, and the facilities available to them. One thing that is often toward the bottom of the list for what influences them is the cost.
I remember one friend who was accepted to the same university as I. She was excited to go and thrilled to be going with several other people from our HS.
But after her first semester, she made one of the most difficult decisions I’ve seen someone make. She chose to transfer out of the school she was so excited to be at, and enter into a less expensive state school.
WHY MAKE THE TRANSFER?
I found out that her parents had offered to pay for a portion of her education costs, but they would only cover the cost of a state school. Anything above that, she would have to take out loans and be responsible for them, herself.
We attended Northeastern University, which is WAY more expensive than a state school.
During her first semester, she started to look into the future (something most kids have difficulty doing) and it made her uneasy to think about the mounting debt levels weighing her down. So, like an incredibly mature and wise person, she made the difficult decision to leave the university she had dreamed of going to, and transferred to a state school. (A pretty darn good one, btw!)
I remember speaking to her at the time of her decision. I could tell she was upset at the change she was about to make, and was sad to leave.
A FRIEND TO LOOK UP TO
Looking back, I am incredibly impressed by the decision she made.
Most people are so concerned about what others think of them and the decisions they are making that they let it influence what they do.
Without a doubt, my friend was sad, and a bit embarrassed at having to leave. But she didn’t let that deter her from making what she knew to be the right decision.
How many times have you made a decision and thought about what others would think?
What will people think if I buy a low-end, used car?
What will people say if I don’t buy a nice home?
What will people think if I don’t have brand name clothing?
I know a lot of people have these thoughts run through their minds, even if it’s subliminal.
And, unfortunately, more times than we’d like to admit, we make the WRONG decision. We let society (or maybe just our own heads) push us into over-extending ourselves in the name of looking like we’re doing well.
This feeds right back into the common theme of “keeping up with the Joneses.” After all, if you didn’t care what others thought, you wouldn’t be worried about trying to keep up.
If we think back to my friend, she may have felt embarrassed about her decision. I know a lot of people would be – having to pack up your belongings and leave all of the new friends you’ve made – and ultimately declaring that you made a mistake going there in the first place.
But this is a momentary feeling that will pass.
Just think of all of the years of additional student loan payments she avoided by making this decision! She traded one difficult decision for many years’ worth of financial burden and stress.
Cue the loud applause!
SOME QUICK MATH
I ran some quick numbers to try and take an educated guess of how much she saved by making this decision.
The result? I estimate she saved somewhere in the range of $162,000 – $200,000+.
You read that correctly!
Here’s the breakdown:
- The annual tuition at Northeastern for the 2019-2020 school year is estimated to be $53,630.
- The annual tuition at a SUNY school in NY is $21,790.
- That’s a gap of $31,840 that she would have to take out in loans each year. Remember, her parents offered to cover the cost of a state school tuition.
- Multiply that over 4 years and her total debt balance would be $127,360 when she graduated.
- Current Federal Student loan interest rates are 5.05%.
- If she used a 10-year pay-off with the current annual interest rate, at the end of her payment period she would have paid a total of $162,480. (Student Loan Payment Amount Estimator)
- If she extended this to a 20-year payoff plan, it would be $206,892. (The average college graduate takes 21 years to pay off their bachelor’s degree)
The numbers can vary based on what assumptions you use (i.e. – how long to pay it off, maybe she could have consolidated at lower rates, etc.), but the result is the same – She saved A LOT!
THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE YOU
Now that you have seen some actual numbers that relate to her decision, it doesn’t seem like such a difficult decision to make, does it?
But when we are in the moment it can be difficult to think about the numbers, especially when our emotions are all over the place.
I’m definitely envious of my HS friend. If I had made a similar decision, it would have saved me a lot of money, and spared me a lot of stress.
When these decision-making moments arise, the thing we should all do is take a step back and assess the situation. Try and take your emotions out of it and look at the hard facts.
This doesn’t mean emotions won’t be a factor, but give yourself time to look at things from every angle.
Your future self will always be depending on it!