Community College May Be The Way: How I Plan To Spend $1.5 Million

Thanks to several commenters in my going back to work post, I'm getting more enthusiastic about sending my kids to community college!

As a result, it may no longer be necessary for us to try and accumulate $1.5 million for two children to attend a four-year private college starting in the year 2036. It may also no longer be necessary to have to go back to work!

I know. $1.5 million for two kids to go to college sounds absurd. But the math doesn't lie.

$1.5 Million For College For Two Kids

Look up the all-in cost at any top 100 private university today. Boston University is at $86,000 ($344,000+ for four years). NYU is at $90,000 ($360,000+ for four years). USC is at $90,921 ($363,684 for four years).

If you compound $340,000 for 15 years at 5.4% a year, you'll get $750,000 for one child. But in reality, the total cost may be higher than $750,000 because costs will continue to go up while the child is in school. If you have two children, the total cost is $1,500,000. 

Why assume my kids will go to expensive private universities? It's because I'm being conservative in my financial assumptions. I'm also being conservative about my kids' intelligence and work ethic.

Although I'm trying to help eradicate an entitlement mentality by making my kids work manual labor until they leave the house, I can't assume my teachings will stick. They are born with their own personalities and will grow up in a comfortable environment.

I'm also a realist. Both my wife and I have average intelligence. We went to public universities and didn't score high on the SAT. With the reality that Asian Americans also face higher academic standards to get into many top universities, going to community college is a growing avenue for people like us.

Little will change about college admissions after Affirmative Action was struck down by the Supreme Court. As a result, I hope to save lots of money and years of stress by going the community college route.

Making Six Figures After Graduating From Community College 

If you can make at least $100,000 a year today, you are making a top 20% income. And if you can make a top 20% income by going to community college, even better!

Here's one comment that has helped convince me going to community college is a wonderful option.

Champ writes,

Both of us went to community college and earned 6 figures before we both retired in our 60’s. All our children went to community college and transferred to state universities. Total college costs for 5 children: $180,000. No grants, no scholarships, nothing.

They paid their own way. They all earn over 6 figures and one son and his wife earn 7 figures. Relocate and live responsibly instead of high-rolling nonsense.

The fact that all five of Champ's kids attended community college, transferred to a state university, and earned six figures or seven figures is huge! Champ and his wife also made six figures before retiring as well. 

The average earnings for community college graduates is around $33,538, so the above examples are high. However, the average community college graduate may not be a personal finance enthusiastic with highly involved parents.

With Champ's 100% hit rate of all his kids making six figures or more, we can postulate that attending community college was highly beneficial for their entire family. After all, earning $1,000,000+ a year is a top 0.1% income

Of course good parental guidance, grit, choosing the right major, and longevity count towards making an above-average income. So does attending a solid state school like William & Mary. However, let's embrace community college for the affordable platform that it is.

Look at all the success stories from community college graduates in the comments section of this post! Here are more community college statistics by the Department of Education in case you’re interested.

How I Plan To Spend The Savings Thanks To Community College

If we stay in San Francisco, then we will shoot to send our kids to the City College of San Francisco. The in-state tuition is $1,168 a year, which our children can pay themselves by working minimum wage jobs. As a result, the $340,000 I currently have earmarked for my son's college expenses can now be spent!

It's hard to say by then whether transferring to a 4-year state university is necessary anymore. So for the sake of this exercise, let's say K-12 + two years of community college + parental education is enough education to make enough money.

The key is to change my mindset from being a prodigious saver to a lavish spender. Given the college financial aid system only believes parents should save 5.64% for college, I must bring down my saving rate from 30%+ to match. By matching the typical American consumer, I should feel much better about spending now.

I won't fully go into the typical American consumer mode by getting into debt to pay for a lifestyle I can't afford. Instead, I'll just try to spend down the $340,000 that I already have.

And given there is a penalty for spending our 529 money on things outside of education, I plan to just spend ~$340,000 of upcoming cash flow or sell other assets with no penalties and minimal tax liability instead.

Example Of Spending Like There's No Tomorrow

Below is a great example of an 29-year-old American couple living high on the hog and now fearing bankruptcy. I'd like to come closer to feeling what it's like to spend way beyond my means. I think it'll be exhilarating!

Given I'm in decumulation mode, this type of spending habit is helpful to observe. It's going to be tough spending the $340,000 earmarked for my son's college in the year 2036. But let me at least mentally give it a go through this post.


Replying to @orchardbrooke This couple is a million dollars in debt. (Part 2) #moneytok #broke #debt #debtpayoff #nomoney #studentloans #creditcarddebt

♬ original sound – Dave Ramsey

Investments: $0

Given community college is inexpensive and could potentially be free, there is no need to save and invest for college anymore. It's easy for my children to pay for college by working while they're in college. Student loans are not necessary.

I usually like to trick myself into investing more by classifying investments as an expense. Since 1995, I've been addicted to accumulating wealth through investing. However, with community college as the #1 option, I won't be investing the $340,000 anymore.

Nice Automobile: $120,000

I plan to buy a new car in 2025 given my existing car will be 10 years old by then. If I keep the $340,000 in Treasury bonds yielding 5%+, by 2025, it will have grown to $378,000.

Given the best time to own the nicest automobile you can afford is when you have kids, I will buy a new or slightly used Range Rover or something similar for $120,000.

Yes, I will most likely be violating my 1/10th rule for car buying. But again, I'm just spending what I already have. This leaves us with $258,000 left to spend. But maybe I should save $82,000 and pick up a 2024 Honda CR-V instead. It looks great!

Community college enables me to buy a new Range Rover

More On Vacations Each Year: $16,665

When our daughter turns six, we will start hopping on planes to go on more adventurous vacations.

In three years, the remaining $258,000 left over from our son's college fund will have grown to about $303,000, assuming a 5.5% annual return. Using a 5.5% withdrawal rate in three years, we can then spend $16,665 more on vacations a year while keeping the principal value the same.

I feel that spending a lot of money on travel when the kids can't remember or appreciate their vacations is a waste of money. As a result, we've just been taking local vacations to Lake Tahoe, Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Cruz. All places are within a 3.5-hour drive away.

Starting in 2026, we plan to do more slow travel. In other words, we plan to go to places like Taipei, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Beijing, and Paris for two months during the summer and one month during the winter. We'll also spend more time in Hawaii, Virginia, and New York, where we have relatives.

Yearly global travel during grade school should provide for a tremendous education. This is a huge benefit that saving money by going to community college can provide.

More Fine Dining: $16,665

With still $303,000 left, I'd like to also bump up our fine dining expenses by $16,665 a year. Not only do my wife and I enjoy eating well, our kids might end up eating more calories. They are somewhat picky eaters, which may mean they sometimes are not eating enough.

With a $16,665 decline in the college fund per year starting in 2026, the college fund will decline to $136,350 by 2036. As a result, more spending is necessary before then! 

Around-The-World Cruise: $100,000

My parents have been good to me all my life and I'd like to be good to them back. Before COVID, they always enjoyed going on cruises. However, due to their frugal nature, they would purchase inside cabins with no views. That changes now that my kids will likely attend community college.

I'd like to buy them an around-the-world cruise for $100,000 within the next three years. The $100,000 should be enough for them to enjoy a room with a view and a balcony. If they don't want to go on an around-the-world cruise for two months, I can treat them to four, $25,000 cruises, each lasting two weeks!

After spending $100,000 on cruises, my son's college education fund will be whittled down to about $36,350 by 2036. There's only one thing left to do with the remaining funds.

Check out this nice cruise cabin I could get for my parents. Photo by Travel + Leisure.

Fancy cruise cabin by Travel + Leisure thanks to going to Community College

Roll Over $30,000 To A Roth IRA

One of the consistent feedbacks I received about paying for college is to not pay for my kids' college tuition. Let them have skin in the game by taking out loans and working during school. This way, they won't take their college experience for granted. Maybe they'll work harder at getting good grades in order to get a better job.

My McDonald's job in high school was one of my greatest motivators to do better in high school and college. I didn't want to be stuck making minimum wage for the rest of my life.

Earning $4/hour while having to stand in front of a hot stove for eight hours a day struck fear in my heart! And fear is one of the key ingredients for achieving financial independence.

With about $36,500 leftover in my son's 529 plan, I'll do the responsible thing and roll over $30,000 to a Roth IRA for him. Perhaps by 2036, the rollover limit will increase as well, thereby covering the entire $36,500 left.

With $30,000+ in his Roth IRA, he'll be able to take the best job offered to him, regardless of whether it is in a high-cost city. From there, I wish him the best!

Spending An Extra $1.5 Million Is Going To Be Near Impossible

Phew! Figuring out how to spend $340,000 in today's dollars ($750,000 in future dollars) was tough! Given I have two children, I've got to find a way to double my spending if both kids go to community college. 

I just don't think spending $640,000 today, or $1,500,000 in future dollars will be possible for us to do. We've been too frugal in our ways for too long to make such a drastic spending change.

I guess I could buy two $120,000 automobiles. But owning two cars in a city feels like a PITA. We could spend $33,000 more on vacations a year. That will be fun and probably the easiest to do. Instead of flying Economy, we can blow our budget on Economy Plus baby!

We could spend $33,000 more on food a year. But I tried this for several months and it didn't work out well. I've got a new post dedicated to this topic entirely.

Finally, we could pay for two, $100,000 around-the-world cruises. But once you've been around the world once, do you really need to go again within the next 10 years?

All this seems excessive from a consumption standpoint. I don't think I could spend this much more money over the next 12-15 years. Neither do I feel comfortable giving this much money away before my kids turn into independent adults.

And to be clear, we have a different bucket of money for donations.

Maybe Spending A Fortune On Education Is The Easiest Path

After going through this thought exercise, maybe spending $750,000 per child on a college education is a better use of funds. Education, after all, is what will set us free. It is a lack of education that keeps people down. 

It just feels dumb to spend so much money on college when everything can be learned online for free. The value of a college degree has declined. Further, if given a choice, I feel most children would rather go to community college and have $750,000+ in their bank account than go to an expensive private university.

A final takeaway from this exercise is how much LESS stressed I feel now that community college is a serious option. Not having to back back to work is a tremendous relief itself.

It feels great to no longer have to save for college. Given we superfunded two 529 plans already, it's also nice to have the option to spend a lot more money over the next 12-15 years. Finally, it's freeing to care less about college prestige.

Practical knowledge is more useful than book knowledge. But just in case going to commit college doesn't lead to six-figure and seven-figure jobs for my children, I plan to teach them as much practical knowledge as possible about making money.

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Do you think community college is the way versus a private college? Are there any other community college graduates earning six figures or seven figures a year? How would you spend your children's college savings funds if you no longer had to pay for their college?

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94 thoughts on “Community College May Be The Way: How I Plan To Spend $1.5 Million”

  1. When it comes to community college vs a 4 year university, it doesn’t have to be ALL OR NOTHING. You can go part-time to a university and part time to a community college. You can also take the bare minimum courses at a university to maintain scholarships, student organizations, sports, etc. and then supplement another class or 2 a semester at a community college. Doing this over the course of a traditional 4 year university will still save you thousands! Be creative and avoid the ALL or NOTHING mindset.

  2. Hi Sam, $750,000 for a child’s college ? Please see my story. My parents never suggested college. I decided to attend college after my own research and with my labor and savings. I enjoy your writing but fear you will stress out your children at an early age. Sorry for my blunt opinion.
    Circa 1960s, I worked every summer as a plumber’s helper with my Dad. Started at 10 for 4 hours at near by new house roughs cutting and soldering water pipe drops and ate lunch with the men. Summer and other times age 13 to 17 worked 8 hours/day learning all types of plumbing. I went to Florida at 17 to study marine tech/diving used my paper route , odd job and plumbing savings to pay tuition. I worked 30 hours/week at supermarket paying all my bills. The tech school was 1/2 VN vets. VN vets taught me the correct way to register for draft at 18. One use shared house address, then move, Two your parents are dead, Three adult self supporting, saved. I returned to WNY worked more plumbing with larger shop 1972 to 1978. I lived at home to enjoy my younger brother, two younger sisters, my parents and Hamburg N.Y. Our Mom had a nervous breakdown when I was 10 so helping the family was important to our TEAM. Saved money and enrolled in Erie county technical institute for 1975 AAS in chemical technology. 1975 passed Town of Hamburg Master Plumber exam, 1976 BA Chemistry ACS certified, 1978 MA Chemistry, 1979 Lab supervisor of Occoquan Watershed monitoring lab VATECH Manassas VA., 1981 Lab supervisor of Potomac Electric electric system lab. Retired chief electric system chemist of 3 utilities. Married 1979 in 1981 my Wife competed MS in Biology at Georgetown and entered Medical school. I worked OT at PEPCO and PT property maintenance for landlord till 1985.
    When I asked Dad in 1975 for support to continue education. Dad said NO because “I would never steal your MANHOOD by questioning your ability to work for your goals”. Dad was right I could do it all. I always made money plumbing, tutoring chemistry, work study, side chemistry analysis and MA paid $100/week teaching lab and free tuition.
    PS I struggled Dyslexia was part of my early story but help arrived. School was always difficult but I kept smiling. Sister Robertine in the 7th grade decided I would read to my level. So we worked together for 1 hour every day after school. Dad decided at 10 that I would learn a trade. So my experience is there are no failures only challenges do not give up and be willing to change your mind. My Dad was always encouraging ” Hey you got a 80 in English up from 75 nice improvement son”. I remember my Dad asking me to explain what a master degree in chemistry involved. Dad said sure sounds interesting and NYS pays your tuition and $100 a week because you teach chemistry labs. Son you sure came a long way in a short time. My Dad always said if you can figure out that school thing no person will ever out work you. My Dad was removed from school at 16 in 10th grade to work in train wheel forge supporting his blind Father’s new family of 9 lazy adults that did not work. Dad always said go for all the life experiences possible and meet all the wonderful people life will present. Some ideas to consider.

    1. Crazy right? Thanks for sharing your story. Amazing how much cheaper education was back in the 1960s and 1970s.

      I’d you have kids, what did they do for college and work?

  3. Thank you for your support of community colleges!

    I know they’re not all equal, but my husband and I both attended them and make 6/7 figures on average after transferring to UCs. We paid for our educations without parental support, and it’s nice to see this getting socialized with your readers. More diversity (in this case in the more elite direction) would make community colleges even better.

  4. I am a huge proponent of the community college route. I attended community college in the Central Valley of CA and transferred to SFSU in the mid-1990’s for a 4-year degree. I stayed in SF working in Finance and Banking and achieved a 6 figure salary without being very ambitious. I believe the first two years of education primarily consists of general education requirements which would be similar in scope no matter what university a student attends. I still recall I attended a community college transfer meeting where the speaker indicated he went to Harvard. His message to us was that he earned some college credits at the community college level before attending Harvard and he feels there was no noticeable difference in the quality of classes that he took at the freshman and sophomore level. From a ROI perspective, community college is a slam dunk. I think there is huge value in the community college route and more people should explore it. I couldn’t imagine being a young person graduating with $200-300k of debt after college. That would be a financial burden that could hamper a person’s success for a lifetime.

  5. This is a topic that not only can be costly, but it can destroy marriages too. It was a certainly a factor in the failure of my marriage. Following is my story. And my views.

    I came from a family of limited means. I had no choice other than to attend the local no-cost schools. But I worked hard, got a degree, continued to work hard, and later married. I am year-1 generation X.

    When our 2 children were of high-school age my wife insisted that they go to the top private school. Of course her intent was good – she wanted the best for her children – but at what cost? Well, for us, both working, it was going to cost ~20% of our net income per child for 5 or 6 years.

    My view is that this is an exhorbitant waste of money. People are successful based on their ability, their work ethic, and often their EQ. They become financially successful, in part by having a good job, but largely by following sound financial practices as taught on this blog. The benefits of a good school may amount to 5% or 10% of the outcome at most, but at a staggeringly high cost.

    But in my case there was no choice as the wife insisted. And following the high costs of a private high school there was then university and student debt added on top too.

    We divorced in my late 30’s and now I am in my late 50’s. In my late 30’s I had next to nothing. I am now FIRED with a net wealth of $4m+, a portfolio producing ~$180k in net income, and living expenses about half that. I also have a second, and very supportive, wife. I am also now able to provide financial support to my children if necessary.

    But what of my ex-wife and 2 children? Well, the ex-wife continues to grumble that she can’t retire and that life is so unfair. Hardly a surprise to me – I said over 20 years ago this would be the end result. My 2 children are both now working and both have good jobs. But looking back with hindsight was all that expense, potentially costing my ex-wife her ability to retire, worth it? Absolutely NOT. My children are doing OK – but they could have acheived exactly as they have at a far lower cost.

    This is my advice:

    Firstly, and most important (more important than ANYTHING else by a HUGE margin) choose the right life partner. It seems a long way off in your 20’s or early 30’s, but by god, understand your partners attitude towards things like schooling children BEFORE you even get married. And if your thinking is not aligned beyond-reasonable-doubt, RUN. And don’t stop RUNNING. If you don’t RUN, this alone with likely destory your financial future.

    Secondly, I am of the strong opinion that the cost of private schooling is totally out-of-control. It is not necessary. What, instead, is necessary, is the proper up-bringing of your children, teaching them what is hard work, what is perseverence, what is failure and what is resilience. THESE are the important things that are the foundations of success. Not throwing huge sums of money, you likely do not have, at private schools.

    Thirdly, I know just as many people who are highly successful in their careers having never been to a private school as I know people who have achieved tofa (two-tenths-of-f**k-all) after having attended an expensive school and thinking they are entitled and everything will just come to them (hint: It does not). In other words, I have seen no correlation between career and financial success and the school you attended. None.

    So, DO NOT put your own financial future at risk – and that of your children. All that money spent back then, invested instead in a low-cost fund (e.g. Vanguard), would have paid the deposit for a house for each child, and likely even more. Of course, as said in this article, you could just upgrade your own life-style instead. New cars. Business class. Long holidays. Chanel handbags. The list goes on! Whether you want to upgrade your own life-style or invest to set your children up with a strong financial foundation, the alteratives to the private school are stand-out better alternatives.

    Don’t get sucked in by the “oh, you have to do the best for your child” crowd. It is NOT the best for your child. And it is NOT the best for you. It is the best for the accountant at the private school though.


    1. John, thanks for your incredible comment and advice! I hope everybody reads it. In fact, I may just read it in an upcoming podcast or republish it as a wise post from a reader. It’s so good.

      “tofa (two-tenths-of-f**k-all)” HAH! I have never heard of this. Thanks for sharing.

      One thing I got to point out though is this: Now that you are FIRED with a $4M+ portfolio, maybe spending all that money on private school for two kids was just fine. After all, you’re set after spending all that money. Sure, you might have an extra $1 million if you sent your kids to community college or state school, but would that make a difference to your lifestyle today? Doesn’t seem like it.

      I’d love to hear more about this b/c I am concerned with being an old man and having too much money, then dying with all this money. B/c that would mean wasting too much time and stress when I was younger trying to accumulate money.


      1. Hi Sam,

        Thanks for your comments.

        Some further comments. I think the theme of the paragraph’s below is about hindsight.

        Yes, in most respects I am “set” in spite of spending all that money on private schools. But, at the time, in our 30’s and struggling with kids, mortgages, building careers, trying to at least enjoy life a bit – spending 40% of our net income for 5 or 6 years on private schools seemed crazy (to me). It was just more stress for me. Now, 20+ years on, with hindsight, you could argue it was fine – but I was frugal after the divorce, built wealth, had a lucky career break, and achieved FIRE. My ex-wife continued her ways with money, and still cannot retire. Had that money spent on schools been in a Vanguard fund for my ex-wife I am sure it would make a significant difference for her now. And all this aside, I am a strong believer in getting value for money and not wasting it – private schools, in my opinion, provide very low value for money.

        Regards dying with too much money. When you are young, and have little, and a long life ahead, you need to work hard and bear your share of stress to build wealth. I don’t think you can regret spending too much time and stress accumulating money – afterall you don’t know what life will throw at you in the decades between your 40’s (when you have likely accumulated money) and your 80’s (when you likely will die). It is surely better to get to the end with plenty left, than to have stopped accumlating too early, had some major black-swan event hit you, and die destitute.

        Ironically, I often think the opposite to you. That is, I often wonder whether I should have endured MORE stress. Why do I say that when my wife and I are arguably “set” with $4m+ in our 50’s? Well, as they say, ~$5m is enough to look after yourself. ~$10m is needed to look after others. And I often wish we could do more for others. At times I feel guilty, I guess, for having an easy life now, when I have the skills to earn very good money (along with very high stress!), that would enable me to help others who simply do not have these skills/opportunities.

        So, in my view, if you are lucky enough to have been able to continue to accumulate after being FIRED, have not had any black-swan events hit you, and you start to forsee having too much, then you are in the most envious position of all. You can now achieve the ultimate that money can bring – helping others. So help others. Decumulate. Leave a legacy. Was the extra stress (that is only extra with hindsight anyway) you endured worth it given what you can now do for others? The answer to that is personal, but for me it would be a resounding Yes.


        1. I agree, during your 20s and 30s and 40s, it’s hard to feel fully comfortable financially, unless you have a massive windfall.

          I am just trying to look at the positive of perhaps a suboptimal situation due to your divorce.

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but being able to have well-adapted kids who can make their own money and establish their own lifestyles has to be the ultimate reward for a parent, no?

          I would think every parent would give everything for their children to live dignified and productive lives. So in that sense, maybe paying for expensive private school tuition all those years is actually a discount?

          I am constantly struggling with thus situation between private and public school, as a public school grad, who feels life turned out just fine.

          And I also don’t know how my kids will turn out until maybe 20 years from now. So everything is kind of a gamble as I try to figure out how to consumption smooth for the second half of my life.

          So your perspective and others are very valuable.

          1. Sam,

            I am a public school grad too. You struggle between private and public schools because, like any parent, you want the best for your children, and we are “sold” over and over again that if you want the best, a private school is necessary. But the thing is, it is not necessary (in my view). Come back to sound financial practice and be clear on what is a “Need” and what is a “Want”.

            It just shows how powerful the marketing is. While most of us on this blog would understand a new BMW, for example, is a want and not a need, and can resist the marketing that it is a need, we still fall for the marketing around private schools because it “pulls” at the most personal of things – our desire as parents wanting the best for our children.

            Yes, being able to have well-adapted kids who can make their own money and establish their own lifestyles IS the ultimate reward for a parent. 100% agree. But here is the thing – no amount of money can buy a well-adapted kid – “Well-adapted” comes from upbringing. Not from money. And not from schools.

            Often those who are given the most become entitled, and are not able to make their own money. That is the irony. Send your children to a private school, mixing among the children of other wealthy parents, and it is easy for them to become detached from reality and entitled. On the other hand, there is the view that adversity builds character. It helps create resilienace and endurance. This is an argument for giving your children less – would it be a bad thing if your children struggled a bit and learnt to manage for themselves? Like you did. Or is it better to give them everything? Has our own successes in life and satisfaction that we now have come from adversity and making things work, or being handed everything we needed and wanted?

            My view is that you CANNOT always solve issues by throwing money at it. Money CANNOT address nor solve many things in life. In fact, inappropriately deployed money may damage our kids and work against that goal of having children who can make their own money and their own lives.

            Take Bill Gates for example. He is reportedly only gifting $10m to each of his children. A tiny amount of his wealth, all be it $10m is a fortune for most. He is on public record as saying he expects his children to build their own lives, and most of his wealth will be given to charity.

            And that comes to the last point – it is ultimately up to our children. No amount of money can ever ensure our children live dignified and productive lives. As parents we provide what is needed (needs V wants again) and the best upbringing we are able, but ultimately it is our children’s responsibility to make their own lives.


  6. Coming from an immigrant family with little financial means, I went to a CA CC after HS as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and didn’t want to burden my family with high tuition. Found my way, transferred to a UC, and now, earn solid six figures with a great work-life balance.

    Going through the CC system is a great path for students looking to explore with lower financial risk. There are even some well-paying careers that can be started with an Associates degree — e.g., registered nurse, respiratory therapist, radiologic technician. These are great avenues for those interested in pursuing health/medical-related professions as one could work in these professions while in 4-year university gaining relevant clinical experience, and if they desire, apply to health professional graduate schools (MD, PharmD, DPT, OPT, etc) with a competitive advantage as these graduate programs strongly prefer clinical experience.

    In addition, there are many CCs that partner with businesses to provide internships that are only for CC students. I partook in such opportunity and had a part-time internship that lasted as long as I wanted and paid 4x CA minimum wage (early 2000s), which covered my daily expenses and allowed me to save toward my UC tuition.

    The trade-off though is if a student has no guidance, they may be left wandering aimlessly and never transfer to a 4-year university or graduate. One example is I had a coworker who spent 6 years in CC before finally figuring out what he wanted to do — got advanced degrees and graduated in his early 40s.

    For my kids, I’m planning to encourage them to participate in their high school CC bridge program whereby they take CC courses during Junior and Senior year. CC tuition covered by the high school and my kids would finish their general education requirements for college allowing them to potentially graduate from a 4-year university in 2 or 3 years. Huge cost savings and gives them the opportunity to start their careers earlier.

  7. I’m a professor at a community college in California, and here’s an easy hack to get the best of community college. While in high school, all three of my children completed two or three UC transferable classes (follow the IGETC coursework for your California community college) per year at community college (i.e. dual enrollment) and had terrific GPAs because of the smaller workload. As a result, their high school transcripts were stellar and they had their first year of college completed by the time they graduated. They entered college with year 1 completed and thus avoided overcrowded general ed courses. Better yet, the state of California (and many other states) offer free community college tuition to high school students which saved us $5k in expenses. They will or have completed their B.A./B.S. degrees in 3 years thus saving roughly $50k in year one expenses between tuition and living expenses. Better yet, they’re in the workforce a year sooner which results in another $50k-75 swing.

  8. Meh. My SAT scores saw me being recruited by the like of Harvard and several others but I figured that was unrealistic and chose a solid engineering school not too far from home, I had a scholarship anyways.

    Then I discovered I had very little interest in being an engineer. My grades were abysmal; turned out chemistry and calculus, with no motivation, are a bad combination. Spent a year living at home, working 30+ hours a week, and going to a community college, and making Dean’s list for all 3 semesters. Then back to a big school to finish the bachelor’s. A few years later I picked up a masters in my spare time. Then got drafted by my employer (who’d paid for the masters) to go teach for a few years at yet another university as a member of the faculty (and where I ran into the prof that had flunked me a couple of times my freshman year as he hosted a function to welcome us new faculty members — small world). Obviously, the community college experience didn’t cripple me for life. In fact, I consider it the best educational experience of my college career on an hour for hour basis.

    My daughter got her entire teaching degree at a junior college and it was usable anywhere but, after teaching overseas for a few years (she wanted to see the world) she returned and became a professional computer gamer and streamer for a couple of years (I was a bit shocked that there was actually decent money in it, apparently a female excelling in the area of strategy war games was kind of a novelty), then took a job as a social media manager for a large computer game company. It’s a weird world. Glad she graduated with zero college debt and not from Yale with a 200k student loan.

  9. Community college is a no brainer to me. I paid for my community college working full time as a security guard then got a job in computers with a company that paid for my college and transferred to a 4 yr college. Make six figures in computer security now for over a decade. My son just turned 22, did 1 year of community college in high school where it was half price. Dropped out of college after high school and got a full time job. Decided he didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer…his passion was being a mechanic. So now he’s been a mechanic for a couple of years and loves it. Has no debt and considerable retirement savings already from participating in the 401k and contributing to his Roth IRA.

  10. I thought your article was a bit tongue in cheek and more about learning to spend (working on your deaccumulation phase). I think you know there is a huge amount of options between Ivy league big $$$ education and community college.

    More interesting to me is learning to spend. I have been in such a saving and investing mode for so many years (and been successful) that I could spend $100s of thousands of dollars this week on “stuff” and not make a difference to my long term financial plan. On one level that is unfathomable to me since I started with nothing and is cool. But also I have no real interest in fancy cars or houses or boats. Buying rental properties to accumulate even more wealth also not that appealing. At 60, I want to simplify my life. Not interested in rental agreements and dealing with rental management companies.

    I have become intentional about travelling more. I do like to do that and I think a neat way to spend. Travel in a bit of luxury. Otherwise I give alot away and support my kids when it makes sense. The biggest benefit is probably that work is now optional – huge benefit for daily life.

    1. Yes sir. This article is purposefully a little “tongue in cheek” so to speak. I’m trying to highlight the opportunity cost of what you could spend to enjoy life by not sending your kid to a private university.

      I’m shocked at the cost and the rising costs of college. I want people to really think about their college spending decisions b/c it could hurt or help them for decades after.

      Spending money decumulating is hard!

  11. Simple Money Man

    My wife and I both went to a community college then transferred to a state University.

    We both make six figures.

    Community college still has a cost though. Did you factor that in; I may have missed it in your post.

  12. My son did his 1st 2 years at a northern CA CC and then the last 2 at Columbia University. Saved me a fortune by completing 2 years at a Community College.

      1. I don’t remember if it was different. The CA CC system is very good at guiding students into either public or private universities, it is all mapped out and the counselors were very helpful . It was great going to New York back in May to see him graduate. My daughter did the same, 2 years at a CC then 2 years at SF State.

        1. Gotcha. What is your son doing after Columbia?

          Given Columbia and SF State are two very different schools, was going to CC a default route for both kids, regardless of their academic prowess? Just curious why not have your daughter apply to schools like Columbia as well?


  13. My daughter worked her butt off in high school, captain of two sports, 36 ACT, 4.0 GPA IB diploma all driven by dream to go to Notre Dame. Fast forward she just graduated from ND, has a great career and had a wonderful experience. I would do it all again (especially instead of a Range Rover). I get what you are saying but your kids will have a say in the matter, invest in them! Obviously I was blessed to do that for her with no loans.

    1. Congrats! But what about the kids who are not captains with high academics? Not everybody can do it. I know I couldn’t, although I was captain of my varsity tennis team.

      What is your daughter doing now and how much did ND cost you?

  14. What about the joy of spending four years with new friends, freedom, networking and potentially finding a spouse? Seems like a terrible thing to rob your children of if you can afford it.

  15. Buddhist Slacker

    While I was working in private industry my degrees were useless. However, the one place where a degree is absolutely essential is in government, which is also the only place you can get a pension anymore. You need those credentials in a government job. I am so happy I got my MBA all those years ago because without it, I wouldn’t have the job I’d have today and I wouldn’t have been able to pivot my career. I paid for my MBA myself and got it in the evening, which was a much better education because we all had professional or executive positions and our group projects reflected that and we all learned from each other. I think the advanced degree is more important than the undergraduate degree. My friend’s son is basically getting paid to get his PhD from UCLA. He has a position funded by grant money and he lives at home. Your kids could live at home and graduate from Cal.

  16. No one cares where you completed English 101 or other compulsory courses. People might look at the degree, but never where/how you spent the first one or two years. I went to a well-known four year school, and now work with students at a community college. The assignments they come in with are at least as, if not more, demanding than what I had in my overblown college. Just because something costs a lot, it doesn’t make it valuable.

  17. Justin Gross

    I grew up in Northern California and went to Yuba College, where I got my AA, then I graduated from Sonoma State University with my BA. Took me 5 years to get it done. Then I got my teaching credentials at a Chapman University extension. The only debt I took on was $5K for the credential, but paid it off immediately.

    I enjoyed the college process. My dad encouraged me to go for a liberal arts education. I think the California state system was fantastic and economical. And it gave me a great start.

    Through luck, creativity, persistence, and a great mindset, I think I’ve been successful in my life, according to me:) I taught in a classroom for a short while, then got into teaching on movies sets (kid actors) in the entertainment business, coordinating home school groups, became voice over artist, renovated houses with my brother, moved to Texas and built and operated two mobile home parks, opened a donut shop, got a real estate license then a broker license, operated a small property management business….I went to college for none of these endeavors. Life is what you make it. Your own attitude and mind set will determine so much of your success. How you treat people, how you learn to value your resources and energy, how you spend your time; these make a difference in life.

    I live back in Northern California with my spouse (together 19 years) and have no debt, our home and rental properties are paid off, cars too, and we have a good income stream from our investments that truly makes work optional. At 51, I feel happy and ever so grateful to God and my parents for instilling in me a proper mindset.

    I didn’t go to a fancy school. Yuba College. Sonoma State. Life is up to you.

  18. Sam,
    It’s been a pleasure reading your posts throughout the years. Most things we tend to agree on. However, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything it’s fun hearing new and different perspectives and ideas! Isn’t that why we like to read?
    I’ve always thought your take on college savings was extraordinarily high. First of all because like with everything in a free market, if something becomes too expensive it will no longer be worth the price tag and investment. We are seeing that with colleges and degrees already. More people starting to think about the trades again, skipping college and starting a business, going to CC etc. Colleges cannot keep raising prices at the rates they have been. The plethora of learning that can be done without going to college is only growing with technology as we all know. Secondly, bigger price tag does not mean better education necessarily. If you come from a good hard working family that teaches good financial values sky is the limit no matter where you go.
    My dad was a blue collar worker that ended up starting a self storage business and investing whatever he could in stocks and bonds in the side. He never made much more than 60k a year but now has over $3 million. I’m so happy that him and my mom are comfortable and living well.
    My brother and I went to a state school university and stayed home to save money. I am a nurse anesthetist and he’s a dentist. I’m 35 yo and have been a CRNA for 10 years now. I make $400k a year now because I have my own business. I started investing in the real estate and stock market with the little I had at 18 yo. I kept rolling my money and adding as I made more. I have about 1.7 million in stocks bonds and cash. And almost a million in real estate equity. No need to go to a fancy school. I’m hoping my boys go to a cost efficient state school. Put that 750k for each kid in the sandp 500 instead. Way better investment! By the time they are 48yo with a 9 percent return they’ll be rolling in 10 million! Without ever having to save a dime. As long as they do something they like, do it well and help those around them I’ll be happy for my kids! And I’ll know I’ve set them up for the long run.
    Best regards,

    Brett from Michigan

  19. After reading your post I’d have to say my Dad got a helluva return on his investment. After going to Ventura JC, I had my heart set on USC since I was 10 years old. We have 6 SC alums in my family and I was next in line. My Dad wasn’t a rich guy by any means, but insisted paying my way through college. After gaining acceptance in ’95 we sat down and went over the costs. At the time, USC tuition was $38,000/yr and once my Dad saw that his eyes were the size headlights.

    While he still insisted on paying, it would’ve wiped out his entire life savings to do so. That look on his face changed my mind and I opted to go out of state and attend Arizona State. It turned out to be the best move for me and my Dad. Out of state tuition was $8k/yr for 3 years and I not only had the time of my life, but learned how to fend for myself and stretch my dollars from part-time work and odd jobs to pay rent, food, and misc. on my own.

    Once I graduated with a degree in Sociology, it took me 6 years to get to six-figures and have been making that ever since. I started my own business 7 years ago which was a total gamechanger and have been making $500k + for the last 5 years. This year I’m on pace to make just over $900k.

    For me, a fancy degree looks great on a wall and on your resume. But ultimately, your degree is what you make of it. With a “party school” degree I was still able to make it to the top 1% of income earners in the US. And it feels good to be able to give back to my parents anytime.

    I’ll likely send my son through the JC route to see how serious he is about earning a degree and to save some money. But I will ultimately leave his college choice to him and where he sees the best fit. Not going to push any one college over the other and we’ll take tours of every college he considers.

    One thing I will stress and teach him myself is financial literacy and investing your earnings. If I can hammer that into his head before 18 that’s a win in my book

  20. Bill Bredall

    Hi Sam –

    Sometimes you can’t put numbers behind the experience that a 4 year college offers to a freshman out of high school (assuming the child is prepared). Moving into the dorms with other students in the same situation and being on their own as an 18 year old, allows for an incredible personal growth situation. Yes, California State colleges and UC’s are an affordable solution. However, if a child shows a deep passion to an exceptional private college, I think it’s money well spent.

    1. Experience is overrated for an 18 year old unless learning how to party is needed for success in life. Parents are suckers for this stuff. Parents should do themselves a favor and visit the campus they are interested in around Halloween and then ask themselves if they want to fund what happens.

  21. Both my wife and I went to Community College and transferred to UC Berkeley and graduated with degrees in Business and Engineering. We find it interesting amongst our friends and acquaintances that there appears to be an unstated bias against CC. Some would prefer for their kids to go to what are commonly regarded as less academically strong party schools. We do not understand it.

    1. Really? It is my understanding that if you go to a CC in California you have a MUCH greater probability of acceptance into the UC system.

  22. Community college is a great option for specific circumstances. Yes, save money. Yes, can transfer to 4 year. Yes, most jobs are attainable and won’t care if you started at cc. Yes, great for specific professions- trades etc! But in my experience- unless for a trade- or specific technical education, wealthy* (say top 1% income) parents do not target or promote cc. It is practical, and not a bad idea at all, but it has no prestige. That’s hard to promote in that social circle. More likely to find a top public college if Ivy is not in the cards. As you know- still expensive in US. Don’t spend down your money.

  23. Hi Sam – Suggest you look a bit harder at the quality of the education at some community colleges these days, pass rates of standardized tests, graduation rates and admission standards. For some degrees and career paths, at some community colleges, it absolutely makes sense. But the quality of education at some community colleges has become questionable. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

  24. Hi Sam, I went to community college in SoCal and transferred to a run of the mill state school after. I went back later to that same CSU and got an advanced degree — for free — thanks to the CA employee fee waiver program. Look into it if you haven’t already, maybe that’s another post! I make $270k a year. I always say it’s not where you go to school, it’s what you do with it. And hustle counts for just as much.

  25. Good topic of discussion. I’m in a very similar life situation as you are at this current moment. In this situation, I believe there is no right or wrong answers, and it comes down to each families values, priorities, and view points on education and the future for their children. To each their own, and my viewpoints are just our families and I respect anyone that agrees or disagrees. As long as they don’t try to interfere with what we are implementing, we are all good. :)

    I just turned 40 years old. I graduated from a California Community college and went to paramedic school through a community college. I transferred to a 4 year school, and graduated with a degree in Communication. Going to a 4 year school for me, was totally unnecessary but very enjoyable. No regrets.

    I’ve been in the fire service professionally full time roughly 15 years.

    Over the years my wife and I were able to build and manage a multi family real estate portfolio and we decided to sell a majority of it in 2021, to make sure we spent focused quality time with our young growing family.

    We are focusing to have minimal education pressures in our household. We live in a great small Southern California OC beach town and several of our kids go to the cheaper full time preschool ( they have plastic dinosaurs, tonka toys, the basics.) Our kids are outside and engaged with other neighborhood kids all the time as a lot of the kids live local. Our kids are really happy, engaged, and love school.

    Our kids will go to our local public elementary school initially. We will more than likely get kicked out but we are hoping we can make it to 5th grade. lol We want to travel with our kids, and we aren’t too pumped on the current U.S. educational system. My personal belief is the US educational is way too stiff and archaic in a lot of ways. I don’t want the expectation that my kids have to be at some institution at 7:30 am Monday- Friday. My wife and I don’t run our life that way and I don’t believe my children should have too as well. Politically, I’m a registered Independent but I’m not really into the mask mandates and the LGBTQ/gender identifying stuff in elementary school. (Just my opinion, fully supportive for anyone and everybody else and their families.) I’d prefer if school was more focused on business, physical education, and diet/nutrition. Just my opinion though. We found a local charter school which caters to families that don’t fit the normal educational institutions and offer a focused regime in being an athlete of a specific sport (hoping pickleball is added in the next 5 years) and a lot of the school work can be done on the road or from home if needed.

    I’m not too worried about college for our kids. I know that probably sounds crazy. I believe there are so many different opportunities to take advantage of and we will find them and make them happen. What I’m more invested in at the moment is making sure we raise and are engaged every day in raising street smart, savy kids, and trying to make sure they have confidence socially. Personal Finance, Business, Sports, Physical Fitness, Nutrition, and Real Estate is open every day discussion in our household between my wife and I, and these values will be passed down and instilled in all our children. Our kids will have an active hands on role in rentals starting around 8 years old until they leave the house. Our final goal will to create a family real estate portfolio with each kid and have them run it 100% on their own by the time they are 18. We don’t have any money invested or put into a college savings account and we have no plans to. Our style might seem a little weird to most, but I’ll tell you what, I’ve never been more happy in my life and really enjoy the life my wife and I have created.

  26. Community college worked out very well for both my wife and myself. She went to CC for 2 years after HS and graduated from veterinarian school from UC-Davis, at the time the #1 ranked school in the world.

    I went through a career change and started at CC in my early 30s, transferred to a directional state school for mechanical engineering. I attended grad school at a flagship state university while I worked as an engineer and have a M.Eng.

    We both look very favorably on our time at a CC and it did not hold us back since we combine to make about $600k now in our mid 40s. We had public education growing up as we are both military brats.

    Our daughter, just started an early college program at the local CC which is free. She is college ready and did not like attending HS and all of the immaturity which goes with it. She wants to be an engineer as well, which I cannot see her being held back because she went to CC.

    What I have advised her, it does not matter too much where you do undergrad, what might matter is where you do grad school. And if you think you have to go a to private or public ivy for grad school, I had two classmates from my no name directional state school go to MIT and Notre Dame for grad school in engineering. It can be done much more cost effectively, without delaying your career.

  27. IMO, community college is the only way unless there are scholarships involved to pay for a four year college out of high school. The money parents spend to send their 18-year old kids off to party and make bad choices is beyond me when they could be attending two years for free and working. That is the best life lesson to offer them. Daughter is completing grad school this year with zero debt (and qualified for no financial aid during undergrad) and will earn six figures in her first year.

  28. I am not as frequent a reader as some, but I caught up a bit with this post and your “back to work” post. I am a little surprised you, of all people, had not thought about these issues before, but better late than never!

    And, I really *don’t* mean that as a dig–as you’ll see below, I have my own serious “issues” with not having thought of everything. It turns out, being a parent and making these types of plans is more complicated.

    Now, at the outset, my two “beefs with America” are the cost of education and health care. Both are absurd.

    On the topic of education, I’ve always spoiled my twins–and I accept all the blame.

    Although I’d also thought of and was a huge proponent of my kids starting at a Community College and transferring to a four-year in-state university, countervailing pressure from family, their friends, and even high school guidance counselors caused them to pretty much “demand” to go to out-of-state colleges.

    This, despite my expressly telling them that if they go out-of-state their quality of life might not be as good in terms of a car, housing, etc (I caved on this) and I would not necessarily be able to pay for graduate school (I am about to cave on this too).

    Again, all of this is my fault. I’ve tried being “tough” with them and I fail miserably time after time. Indeed, I can’t even make my now college-graduate daughter pay for her own speeding ticket that she got after visiting me the other day. She cries and talks about how she is broke and has no ability to pay and I cave.

    More on this in a second.

    What I am trying to say is as much as both financial and college planning is crucial, actually being able to follow through when your doe-eyed kid is pushing for a different alternative–as well as being pressured by family and others–is something I had not considered (obviously, “better late than never” does not apply to this mistake). And, incidentally, it’s a cascading mistake that affects everything from college to speeding tickets.

    As far as earning potential, I would love it if my girls could get 6-figure jobs or anything close to 6-figures. That’s really what they need to live comfortably, but there’s no way that’s happening any time soon.

    Twin A is working for a non-profit part-time and studying to take the LSAT. As a former lawyer myself, I think she is going to absolutely hate law practice but who am I to try to talk her out of “following her dreams”? Moreover, with her undergraduate degree in “public health,” there are not a lot of opportunities for her–and nothing paying 6 figures or anything close to it. My understanding is that she would need a master’s degree to move forward in the public health field (so, I believe, that’s why she’s “defaulted” to going to law school).

    Twin B, on the other hand, graduated with a degree in psychology and is now teaching yoga and working as a receptionist at a yoga studio. She has no clue what she wants to do and recently she told me she had a “long day.” When I asked what she did she told me she “did yoga, studied yoga, meditated, and journaled.”

    I said nothing, was just in disbelief. Oh, and by the way, you get $40 for teaching a yoga class and she was only able to teach one class a week.

    Needless to say, both graduates are not able to support themselves or anywhere close to it, so I’m still carrying that water, but as a parent, I’m wondering where this all goes … I mean, as a graduation present I told them I would pay for their expenses through the “end of the year” after graduation (Dec 31, 2023) … shortly after graduation, they claimed they thought “end of the year” meant the end of what would be the next “school year” (May, 2024) and, like the sucker I am, I told them that was ridiculous but quickly caved and said that, since it was their expectation, I’d pay it.

    Pressure from kids and family when it comes to college (and other things) can be pretty intense. Unlike when your kids are young, things change when they get older, and adding in familial pressure, peer pressure and other factors (like exuberant guidance counselors) can really derail the most well-thought-out plans. Indeed, these outsiders had my girls believing they could go to Brown, Stanford, etc when I knew (based on their test scores) it would never happen. They toured all these colleges with their excited grandparents (who did not pay for their education) as though they’d be actual choices … it was so dumb, but frankly not much more expensive than the out-of-state colleges they ultimately attended.

    I could go on and on with this topic, but it’s *much* more complicated than merely planning for FIRE.

    1. Love the feedback! So awesome. Some thoughts.

      * Being late on thinking about these issues.

      Am I really late? My kids are 3.5 and 6.35 years old. I’ve got 11.65 – 14.5 years ahead to plan. Most people think I’m planning to far ahead. What are the things you think I should have thought of and when? I’m all ears, which is part of why I love hearing from others.

      * In retrospect, would you say providing more “tough love” would have been better for your twins? Based on what you’re telling me, as a lawyer, you guys lived a pretty comfortable lifestyle. Do you think my making my kids do manual labor during the summer and explaining to them the cost of college and the alternatives will make a lick of difference? I fear it won’t based on your situation, unless you never made your twins do the time and explain to them the choices.

      * Why not just stop being the “sucker” and just say “no”? Tell them to figure out how to live on their own and suffer? The more they suffer, the greater the chance they will figure it out. And when they do, they will appreciate the growth.

      * I’ve already set expectations there is no way my kids will be able to get into a top 25 university. We’re neither rich enough to legally bribe our way, smart enough, or unique enough. I clearly see the reality and the rates. We should be able to know by age 14 whether our children have the intelligence to get into these caliber schools too no? When your twins were growing up, did you believe they could get into those schools? If so, why do you think they could not?

      Thanks! I say just say no! You got your own retirement to think about.

      1. * Being late on thinking about these issues.

        I guess what I meant to convey is I was surprised you, who is a pretty advanced planner, had not previously thought of college for the kids. I opened up 529 Plans for mine the week they were born. But, once again, I truly, seriously did/do not mean that as a dig. You do, indeed, have a decade or more to figure it out and, as my own story shows, thinking about it in advance made little difference to what they decided.

        * In retrospect, would you say providing more “tough love” would have been better for your twins? … Do you think my making my kids do manual labor during the summer and explaining to them the cost of college and the alternatives will make a lick of difference?

        Maybe, but so many other things come into play. For example, consider your neighborhood. How will your kids feel when “all the other kids” in the neighborhood are going to out-of-state schools? I think if you’re going to try “tough love” you need to also be prepared to live really modestly overall … i.e., you can’t live in a mansion in a fancy neighborhood and expect the tough love thing to work. Your kids will just hate you … in other words, you have to “walk the same walk” as them; it’s not enough to say “when I was your age . . .”

        And, as I’d mentioned in my original post, pressure from family, peers, and the high school guidance counselors were also factors in my having to cave. Even if we lived more modestly, those would have been issues (ok, maybe not the pretentious guidance counselor, but family for sure …).

        * Why not just stop being the “sucker” and just say “no”? Tell them to figure out how to live on their own and suffer?

        If only — I may have the ability to make millions of dollars, but for some reason, I cannot tell my kids “no, this is the way it’s going to be” and stick to it. I guess we all have strengths and weaknesses. My weakness is that I happen to be a sucker for my daughters … and, if we’re being real, I’m pretty much codependent on them. I am trying to get help for this, but it’s not easy.

        * We should be able to know by age 14 whether our children have the intelligence to get into these caliber schools too no? When your twins were growing up, did you believe they could get into those schools? If so, why do you think they could not?

        My girls got all A’s and took a lot of AP classes all through high school. And with that, I think family and guidance counselors played a big part in building up their expectations.

        But, even if as a parent you disagree, what kind of “monster” tells their kids they aren’t getting into Harvard when their grandparents and guidance counselors tell them they can “do anything”?

        And, even when I saw their SAT scores I just didn’t have the heart to do it … I just let them apply and helped them deal with the rejection letters (they got into some fine out-of-state schools, just not top-tier). The same thing is happening now with my daughter’s LSAT. She think she may get into a top law school, but her preliminary LSAT scores are pretty low. I just cannot kill her dream.

        As an aside, it’s also hard for me because I did go top-tier schools (both undergrad and grad), but they were all public institutions and I managed to get in-state residency (which used to be super easy back in the day).

        1. Gotcha. Well, you’ll be pleased to know I superfunded both of my kids 529 plans the year they were born (2017 and 2019) and I’ve written several articles on 529 plans as we’ve gone along, whoo hoo! Some examples.

          * Superfund A 529 Plan Or Not
          * Recommended 529 Plan Amounts By Age
          * A 529 Plan Is A Great Generational Wealth Transfer Tool

          I hear you on walk the same walk. It’s why I got down and dirty and pull the weeds, haul the trash, move the heavy bags of rocks during this summer’s landscaping job. It’s my plan for the next 12-15 years, to be in the trenches with them. But let’s see if doing the work with them will make a difference at all.

          Peer pressure is tough. Then again, maybe not as much for me as I did walk away from work in 2012 at 34. I didn’t care what my peers thought. I wanted to be free and live an unconventional life based more on my choices. So perhaps this type of untemplate thinking will rub off on them.

          Getting All As and taking a lot of APs is great. I don’t fault them for trying to apply to the best schools at all. This way, they’ll never be left wondering what if!

          So I guess in conclusion, what are some of the things you would have done differently if you could rewind time to when they were 3-6 years old? Thanks!

          1. >>So I guess in conclusion, what are some of the things you would have done differently if you could rewind time to when they were 3-6 years old?<<

            I think I would have been more cognizant of raising children in a privileged environment and setting boundaries, but it's a hard question because translating into actionable behavior is complicated (because life itself is complicated).

            For example, I think I am now fairly codependent on my daughters so I'm easily impacted by their subjective sense of well-being. I am working on this, but basically, since I divorced their mother (20 years ago) I became *very* focused on them (to my own detriment) and now realize that it was a mistake to basically bury myself into being the "best dad" (or, at least, what I thought was the best). That's complicated.

            I read some of the other comments. You sound very healthy, Sam, and I am a bit disappointed in some of the other commentators. You really do seem grounded, dedicated and thoughtful in your parenting–although I'm proof that good intentions are hardly a recipe for successful parenting (I think it takes a bit more grit than I'd provided).

            So, in conclusion, I'd say there is a stew of unique factors to every parent's situation–psychological, financial, familial, social, professional, emotional, etc–that transcend well-intentioned, thoughtful future higher education planning for children. It's a bit of a "do your best, but shit happens" philosophy and a great deal of it is beyond your control.

            Thanks for the exchange, Sam, and know that I admire you for reasons that have nothing to do with FIRE.

  29. My 13yo in 8th has enough money in his 529 to pay for 4 years at San Jose State (CSU) now if he lives at home. I’ve been the earworm talking about dual-enrollment to him and his now 11yo sister for years. I first heard about it in the 90s when I worked with an older new college grade PhD. Her son graduated high school at 18 with an AA degree and matriculated into Portland State as a junior.

    I only have an AA and a STEM tech cert, but I’m making a little under $170k/yr total comp living in San Jose which is decent but not rich here.

    I was glad to learn today that my catch up contributions to my 401(k) aren’t going to be forced into the Roth category until 2026.

    If they both can get into SJSU while living at home I can afford it, especially since my home will be paid off at that time, and no more child support, the latter only a minor expense. That’s given I’m still employed, of course, but I think I’ll be OK having survived a layoff last year and transferring to a different division with a good pay raise.

    My Aspie son already has it in his mind to go directly to a CC to save money. I’ve been telling him that I’ll be able to pay for SJSU, and even a remote UC if he can get in.

  30. I have intermittently read your writing and it’s abundantly clear that one of the things you value most is money. Money allows you lifestyle choices and your lifestyle choices are well documented in your writing. You can absolutely predict that your children will have similar world views, unless something like a personal earthquake happens to them to cause them to choose different values.
    I went to junior college for 2 years. I then went to a no-name private liberal arts college for 3 years. I was accepted to multiple medical schools and attended a top-5 (public, as it turns out) medical school. I married into a family with 2 Stanford graduates who both became physicians as well. Neither of them ended up more financially secure than I. I would warrant I have a far closer relationship to my alma mater than either of them and I have given back in service and financial support at a rate that far exceeds the cost of my education in those 3 years. There’s a diminishing return on investment as the tuition price rises into the stratosphere, unless perhaps you’re aiming for Harvard Law and an appointment to the Supreme Court. If you wish to impart a prudent set of values to your kids, designate resources for their education, help them make sensible decisions about applying for college, support them to the extent that you can, accounting for some things you can’t control like where they will be accepted to study and don’t look at the “savings” of utilizing public institutions as a personal piggy bank. Focus on finding an excellent place for them to be educated where the values represented are exemplary, the graduation rate is exceptional, the price is as reasonable as possible and the overall experience provides a wealth of opportunities for learning in conventional and also nonconventional settings. Above all, don’t make it about money. Money is one tool to achieve objectives in life, by far not the only one, and without a solid sense of values, a clearly inadequate tool for success in life. What one can give often makes far more impact on personal happiness and a sense of well-being than what one can buy. If your children inherit a sound set of values from you and your wife, they can start from scratch or inherit large trust funds and they’ll be o.k. either way. I fully intend to pass some assets on to my son. Why shouldn’t he have a greater sense of security than I, particularly if he can then dedicate his life in service to others without the same concern about security in his old age that I had?
    What I find a bit disappointing is that I don’t read much on this site about deploying the assets you have accumulated to help make the world a better place. That doesn’t have to be a puritan’s attitude; there’s profound personal satisfaction in leaving institutions, endowments, foundations, forests, orchards, restored habitats and such as a personal legacy. It doesn’t have to be all about how many cruises, how fancy a car, how fancy a house one acquires. No matter how successful your children may become financially, what will make their legacies the richest they can be will depend on the values you impart to them and how they pay them forward long after you’ve exited the scene.

    1. “I have intermittently read your writing and it’s abundantly clear that one of the things you value most is money. Money allows you lifestyle choices and your lifestyle choices are well documented in your writing. ”

      For sure. This is a personal finance site and I try and stay on topic.

      Congrats for making a lot of money as a doctor and marrying into a family of doctors. Unfortunately, we don’t have the intelligence or the income-generating power as doctors, so we’ve got to find other ways to earn and save money e.g. community college.

      I have a feeling it’s easier to say “don’t focus on the money” if you’re already rich and have a high income. For most people, it’s harder to do.

      “What I find a bit disappointing is that I don’t read much on this site about deploying the assets you have accumulated to help make the world a better place.”

      I definitely need to do more work to help the make the world a better place. Although I feel good that I get comments and e-mails from readers around the world almost every day thanking me for helping them with their financial dilemmas. My goal is to keep everything I write free so people who want to learn more about personal finances can.

      Are you a subscriber of my newsletter? If not, feel free. I did spend about 10 hours last week raising $43,000+ for the residents of Lahaina. I plan to spend another four hours, as I’ve got to sign, package, and send about 75 more books.

      I feel bad/embarrassed talking about my giving activities though b/c it’s a personal endeavor. It’s just not part of my culture to share this stuff. Do you think I should write more about what I do to help the world? If so, how would you suggest I do so without sounding like a showoff?

      What are some of the things you’re doing to make the world a better place? thanks

      Related posts: Investor Virtue Signaling Is Fascinating In A Capitalist World

      Giving Money And Time Should Be A Private Endeavor

      Donor-Advised Funds Are An Efficient Way To Give

  31. Don’t forget the tax penalties of taking money out of the 529 for non-qualified uses….should help in the “how to spend it” discussion :)

    The earnings portion of a non-qualified 529 distribution (529 distribution used to pay for non-qualified expenses) is subject to a 10% withdrawal penalty. Since you are in CA…California even imposes an additional 2.5% state income tax penalty on those earnings (of course they do).

    1. True. Worth mentioning. However, my plan to blow the 529 money isn’t really blowing the 529 money. It’ll really come from taking ~$340,000 of cash flow over time or other assets that don’t have penalties and sell and spend them.

  32. Hi. I went to a community college. Then a four year degree. Then law school. For the next 40 years a lawyer career. That is 19 years of formal education. The best education I received was at a community college.

  33. It depends on the child. If the child is deliberate and focused, community college is a great idea. But the number of people who start community college right out of high school and then drop out is ridiculously high. Many young people are not disciplined enough to get through community college and then take the steps to transfer to a 4 year college. Many of them end up leaving community college to work. It’s easy to get distracted in a community college environment because it doesn’t feel like college.

    1. Christine Minasian

      Totally agree Lisa.
      Not all kids are disciplined enough for CC, if they are, then great Sam to spend it on awesome things for you and your wife! Going away at 18 does come with some benefits- learning to be on your own, study habits, etc. My husband went to a CC (the only way he could afford college), then went on to a 4 year college. He did more than fine in life- better than I did and I went to a 4 year college. I hope more kids choose the CC route- too much debt is being taken on, and maybe then the colleges will lower their prices.

    2. Good point on drop out rates being high in CC. Isn’t it interesting that the most responsible and mature the child is, the more they will benefit from CC. Yet most will actually go to a 4-year college.

  34. As someone who went to CC and then State – it def made my path harder. U have zero chance getting an internship or analyst job in finance. Maybe I got lucky, maybe I hustled – but it took me YEARS to get the chance that others at name brands get.

    No one at my firm that follows this path has a shot. Period. Follow this path if Wall Street is not your goal.

    1 of my kids want to work on the street and thus why goes to a top50 – result – 2 internships at top firms.

    Cost/Reward has to measure out

    1. Sounds like Wall Street firms are broadening out? When I was applying 1998, the top Wall Street firms only focused on 5-10 schools. The other entrants were b/c the MD went there or the kid is the son or daughter of a prospective client or existing client.

      1. Hire from top 10 schools only where I am. It really hasn’t broaden out at a few of the firms. U can figure out which ones. If u didn’t attend, better be a lateral move with a specific set of skills or market leadership.

          1. I was already an MD somewhere else so I like to think it’s a combo of timing and luck. Also would have been good to get that job right out of school instead of hustling for 7 years before I could even get an analyst role….that 7 years would have easily paid back the investment to attend a better school.

            I understand the arguments, but my life would have been easier NOT attending CC and State. Thankfully it worked out.

            1. Got it. One thing you might not be thinking about is the increased competition getting that finance job out of a talk to your school. You might also not have gotten the job right out of the school as a result. The competition is sulfurous I remember rejecting plenty of Harvard, and Cornell, and Princeton graduates when I was interviewing people as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in 1999 to 2001.

              You never know! I think it’s better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

              1. I think it’s not a one size fits approach. Merits to each way. I do see a significant value to where my daughter is going – and also the route my son is going which is incredibly different (ROTC out of state fully paid for versus could have went top 50). CC was never an option, think there is a lot to be said to move out and figure stuff on own – go state 4y instead imo.

  35. Projecting where your kids will go to a college is a good theoretical exercise, but it is really impossible to tell at a young age, or to make generalizations about what type of college is best. It really depends on your child.

    My husband and I have 2 daughters, both finished with college. Though they were both raised by us and grew up in the same city (New York), i.e., they had similar upbringings, they couldn’t be more different temperamentally. They also have different interests, different priorities for the college experience and had different K-12 experiences, all of which played a part in what the “right” school was for each.

    In the end, a city college made sense for the older one (cost close to $0 b/c she got a full tuition scholarship and lived at home most semesters) and the younger one went to a private college (cost over $150k b/c she got some merit but not full and lived on-campus all semesters but one for the pandemic). Would we have liked to have paid less? Sure.

    But each daughter got to go to the best school for her, and a school each of them had chosen for themselves, and that’s what counts. And when I say “best school” I don’t mean financial ROI b/c the younger one just graduated so it’s way too early to tell how much the 6-figure degree will pay off. I do know that she blossomed intellectually and socially at her college, and that’s a strong ROI in my book.

    1. True on being hard to project where they’ll go to college. But some people may simply have no choice due to finances or another situation. At the very least, it’s worth pointing out the merits of CC as a choice for our kids.

      When I was growing up, CC was never an option. Only my genius friend ended up taking CC courses in junior year of high school b/c he was so far along.

      What is a city college? Like CUNY? What is your older daughter doing have city college? And how do you determine what is a good college choice. Seems like a great low hurdle if the cost is close to $0.

      1. Yes by city college I meant within the CUNY system in NYC. I assume the equivalent in SF would be SF State, and then the UC system would be the equivalent to the SUNY system in NY state. My older daughter studied social work and always knew she wanted to work in social services. So the CUNY system is perfect for her b/c her alma mater has a great social work program, and you don’t need an Ivy pedigree to work in social services. Now if she wanted banking or consulting that would have been a poor choice. The private colleges definitely give you more options for the plum private sector jobs. Even though firms are saying they’re pulling from more schools, they really aren’t — I’ve been working in the recruiting/ career space for 30 years now, and there’s still a very narrow profile for certain hiring.

  36. Very sad for your kids. The friends and experiences from those first 2 years only comes once. JC is a great option for kids that aren’t ready academically for college but seems a waste for kids that are academically ready for a 4 year school, let alone ready to broaden their social horizons.

    And SFCC? That’s a pretty ghetto JC. Maybe give them a cheap car so they can drive down to Foothill or De Anza?

    1. Thanks for feeling sad for my kids. It’s a tough world and we got to do what we can to survive. But I hope their experiences growing up will toughen them up and make them appreciate the opportunities they have in America.

      For people like us, we must swallow our pride and do what we can to get ahead.

  37. Our five kids have all graduated in a hybrid version of your new scenario.

    Daughter got her RN, 2 sons did 2+2 Engineering School. All 3 had free Community College.
    Our other 2 sons took advantage of Alabama’s automatic Academic Scholarships for out-of-state students who do reasonably well on the ACT. They cash-flowed their room and board with frugal living.

    I think the solution for most of us is somewhere in the middle—both parents & kids saving for future college expenses, AND choosing the more affordable options for higher education.

    A fun blog post!

    1. Amazing you have 5 kids! Sounds like they all had tremendous benefit of free Community College. It must feel great to be able to raise so many kids and have them all turn out self-sufficient and fine so far.

      Great job! I’d be very proud if I were you Beth.

  38. My wife has an associate degree from a junior college and makes about $105k in an unrelated field.

    I attended JuCo then transferred a no name state school for a bachelor’s and make about $200k. I work closely with McKinsey consultants regularly and don’t feel intimidated by their superior education/backgrounds.

    A great high school friend of mine has a 2 year degree and is a cybersecurity director for one of the largest US retailers…

    The chief risk officer for my top 5 bank went to a state school for accounting and ‘only’ has a bachelor’s.

    These are just the people I know off the top of my head who are doing ok and didn’t go to top (or even mid-tier) schools…

    Be careful of the Ivy League expectations and grueling middle/high school paths, they aren’t the right track for every kid and that pressure cooker can really take a toll on a child’s mental health.

    1. Thanks for the feedback!

      “Be careful of the Ivy League expectations and grueling middle/high school paths, they aren’t the right track for every kid and that pressure cooker can really take a toll on a child’s mental health.”

      Absolutely. I am especially wary b/c I got the job many of these Ivy League graduates got (Goldman Sachs front office) and got tired of the work and lifestyle after 13 years. Making money is nice, but doing something meaningful that you love is nicer.

  39. Community colleges in California are actually free thanks to the California college promise program. My older son went to Santa Rosa junior college for free plus he received the Doyle scholarship which provided him additional money to put towards future education. Then he transferred with a Transfer Admission Guarantee, the TAG Program, to UC Santa Barbara. he just graduated and has been receiving job offers. I had already started a 529 account for him when he was born and between that and contributions from other family members he has no debt and neither do I! My younger son plans on following in the same footsteps. The other benefit is that if there is a UC that you really want to attend. You can choose it as part of the tag program, follow all the rules of it and be guaranteed admission after two years. This doesn’t apply to Cal, UCLA, or UC San Diego because those schools are too impacted but the others are fair game. High school counselors don’t talk about this because they want all students to go directly to a four-year university, so this is not widely known about.

    1. “Then he transferred with a Transfer Admission Guarantee, the TAG Program, to UC Santa Barbara. ”

      THANK YOU for this great insight! I didn’t know this at all. Sounds like all a kid has to do is do well at a CC and they will get into any one of the UC’s except the three you stated.

      If so, CC in California is a no brainer! I know so many parents who have kids who did not get into ANY UC except for UC Merced. How sad is that? Pay property taxes for 18 years and your kid gets rejected.

      I’m going to look into the TAG Program further. Awesome!

      1. Our daughter just followed the same route. Went to College of Marin, with the goal of transferring to Berkeley for pre-med. Backup option was Davis. She kept her grades up indeed, and made it into Cal, where she just finished her first week. The TAG plan may be the best-kept secret ever for California families.

  40. Skin in the game is fine, but you don’t want your kids getting enmeshed in student loans. Ugh.

    1. Yes! Yes, 529 funds can be used for room and board, whether you’re living on-campus or off-campus. Room and board is a qualified education expense under 529 plans up to your school’s cost of attendance.

      Good second question. Maybe a loophole, owning a property near campus and using your kid’s 529 funds to pay yourself a fair market rate. I’ll have to look into you. You do to. If that works, it’s a way to transfer assets back to you in a tax efficient manner.

  41. I have a child who wasn’t into high school after 1st year(and doing activities out of school so dropped high school right after freshman year and went straight to community college. You don’t need GED for community college just take placement tests for reading/math/writing. Can take GED later if needed but most colleges don’t care if you have a associate degree.. Will have associate degree finished in 3 years while doing outside activities she loves. High school does so much busy work, standard testing, drugs, etcetera(and we’re in a good public school district).

    Every kid is different but community colleges offer amazing resources(free books, tutoring, small class sizes, counseling, students that want to learn) and have lots of high school age students now post covid. They also find colleges have higher acceptance with associate degree transfers.

    1. Cool. To clarify, if you do two years of CC, do you automatically get GED? Doesn’t seem like it. If not, how does one get their GED after/during CC? Can you go to CC and then transfer to a 4-year school without a GED? I’m assuming no.

  42. Retired Agent

    Community college is the plan for our grandchildren. They will do a 2/2 plan. Two years in a community college then transferring to a state school. They can receive a good basic education that will not burden them with debt. One grandchild may go two years to community college then art school as an option. This is still under discussion. My parents always wanted their three children to have the education they were denied. We learned a lot about higher education. Prestigious schools do not assure success. The best education I can give my grandchildren is to help them be compassionate hard working adults. I do not keep financial secrets from them. I have shown them how to invest and live comfortably.

  43. My general contractor who does remodels “makes six figures” (Northeast). I don’t think the “six-figure” bar is a legitimate litmus test for anything these days (20 years ago, that was an admirable target and is exactly the number I targeted in the late 1990’s).

    The real test though IMHO is how useful your skills, education, and contacts are when things go South and/or you need to pivot. That’s where that brand name combined with smart major choice can get you through 2000 and 2008 like implosions.

  44. Going to a college abroad could also be an option. My wife and I are from Germany, went to school there, and relocated to the US. Higher education is free for citizens and non-citizens in Germany, student visas are readily available and cost of living is relatively low.

    It was a little harder for us to get our first jobs in tech in the Bay Area, but after a couple of years, nobody cares where you went to school (unless you want to work for Palantir). When you have a degree from a foreign country, it is also much harder to determine whether it is from a top school.

    I don’t think it impacted our earnings long-term (>>> $500k /year now). You’ll get paid based on the value and experience you bring and not where you went to school (and if that’s not the case, you don’t want to work for that company).

  45. So you are planning to send your kids to community college, and then not transfer to a 4-year school like Champ’s kids? There will be 2 years of costs there no ? I haven’t researched colleges they prob do have 4 year degrees these days .. And what if your kid wants to go to NYU film school ? You and the 120k Range Rover are going to say no ? I’m not knocking your plan, I love the idea of community college. But as you know, it won’t really be about what you want. Trying to sell them on the idea they have to go to community college bc you blew the college fund on cars and sushi may not go over well. But I appreciate the alternative thinking !

    1. It’s hard to say by then whether transferring to a 4-year state university is necessary anymore. So for the sake of this exercise, let’s say K-12 + two years of community college + parental education is enough education to make enough money.

      If my kid wants to go to NYU film school or Columbia for writing, I’ll tell them good luck! Dad already spent the money on the Range Rover and grandparent’s around-the-world cruise. They’ll survive not getting an expensive college degrees.

      What’s your plan for your kids?

      1. Mike Dicerbo

        It surprises me that you would roll with the “CC or CyaLater” plan. I guess you’ve kind of confused me. You want your kids to attain a level of education to “make enough money?” Is that really the goal? Kind of a low bar. You talk a lot about the pursuit of happiness in your posts. Maybe you just want them to make their own way, leave your silver spoon in the drawer. I get that.

        My plan for my kid (who is only 4 right now), is to give her as many options as possible. If I tell her she can’t go to NYU film school it won’t be from the window of my ivory Range Rover. I’ll advise the fiscally responsible, bang-for-buck educational path, but ultimately it will be up to her. And I’ll help as much as I can. I think every parent just wants their kids to be happy, whatever it takes.

        1. Mike, more power to you if you want to pay $750,000+ for four years, in 14 years, for NYU film school.

          Many people don’t have this luxury to spend so much on a college education with a major that has low returns. Most people can’t afford to go this route. I don’t think I can.

          What is it that you do and earn that enables you to go the NYU film school route? This will help me get a better sense of where you are coming from.


          Btw, I think I’ll get a silver or black RR, not ivory.

          1. Sorry we seem to have drifted. I’m not arguing for fancy 4 year schools. I agree the value is questionable and there is certainly diminishing returns with major choice. But that is a Rich Dad point of view, and try as you might to influence and guide your kids in that direction, they may just turn out wanting the complete opposite. So do you offer them the luxury of a 4 year school of their choice (assuming you can afford it), or do you keep the luxuries for yourself? Your comments above answered that question. I’m not judging you, just thought it was interesting.

            I can’t afford NYU, maybe in 14 years who knows. But I’d like to think if I could afford it, and it made my kid happy, I would do it. For the same reason you want the Range Rover, arguably a waste of money but it makes you happy.

            btw, Ivory was a tower reference.

            1. If you can’t afford $750,000 for NYU, is your argument mute? It just doesn’t seem practical if you have to borrow a lot of money for your daughter to attend.

              What is it that you do for a living?

              I know the ivory tower reference, as a way to dig at my decision on how to spend my money. All good. I purposefully put Range Rover in the article to bring out the judgement.

              But I’d like to know more about you so I can critique back. So far, you’ve told me you’d be happy to send your kid to NYU film school for $750k+, but can’t afford it. So there is inconsistency here.

              Understanding your idealism by understanding your background would helps thanks!

  46. Our public high school has several dual enrollment classes offered through the community college. The credits don’t help if your kid is determined to go to certain private schools, but if they’re willing to stay in state for undergrad, there is a do-able path to complete two years of community college as a high school student and then complete undergrad at 20. If my kids take this path, we would have ample funds for medical, law or any other elite grad school.

  47. I went to JC and then transferred to Cal.

    My career was not impaired.

    And sending kids away to college is not as common overseas. For instance, in Japan, one couple we met sent both their kids there; their kids lived at home all four years. They saved a small fortune.

  48. My brother is an IT director for a dotcom making 6 figures and no college degree. I have several coworkers also making 6 figures without degrees. If you’re talented and motivated you can make it happen.

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