One of my biggest worries as a parent is whether I'll mess up my son's life by sending him to private school instead of public school. If you go to private school, there will be much more pressure for you to succeed. For if you end up doing the same thing your public school counterpart does, then what's the point?
The Debate Between Private School And Public School
I'm fortunate enough to have a choice. But sometimes, more choices mean more headaches and possible wrong decisions.
I went to an international private middle school when my parents were stationed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as US foreign service officers. The cultural experience was amazing.
But I was also surrounded by a lot of extremely wealthy kids who had drivers and mansions in the hills. There was a innate aura of privilege that I was apart of which made me lazy.
My friends had parents who either owned successful businesses or held high paying jobs. Many of my friends didn't study very hard because they knew that through their parents' connections, they would get choice jobs after graduation. That, or they'd simply get a job at their parents' company and eventually take over the business.
Public School For High School In America
After four years in Malaysia, I came to the US for high school and attended a public school. Public school is where I learned to become more independent and how to deal with many of life's realities.
In the US, some of my high school friends lived in government housing. I had to fight back against bullies and find ways out of hairy situations more times than I can count.
In high school, I got suspended a couple times for fighting back. Some of the kids I hung out with smoked, drank, and shoplifted. I sometimes did the same.
The cast of characters was much more diverse in public school than in private school. But they were a closer reflection of society once I graduated.
I'd like to think that attending public school is what made me into a gritty person who never backs down from conflict. I want to believe coming from an underdog status helped me fight harder to achieve financial independence.
After college, I always used to carry a chip on my shoulder that motivated me to work harder in banking because I had attended a public university instead of an elite target private institution like many of my colleagues.
Without a financial safety net, for me, it was either drown or swim across the ocean to the promised land.
Democratic Socialist AOC Gives Private School Alumni Hope
After seeing some amazing private grade schools in Honolulu and in the SF Bay Area, I want to send my boy to one of these schools if he feels comfortable. All these schools have wonderful teachers, reputations, and campuses.
Further, these schools have a zero tolerance for bullying. Gosh I can't stand bullies and the parents who allow their children to bully.
But I'm conflicted because I fear that by going to private school, he'll come to believe the private school environment is a true reflection of the real world. With its massive skew towards wealthy families, clearly, the private school demographic is not.
Further, there seems to be a growing distaste for rich and powerful people in America. Hence, the importance of practicing Stealth Wealth.
Developing Grit In Our Children Is Important
Is it appropriate for a parent to take away the development of grit and hunger? Providing a completely sheltered environment feels wrong.
The conflict within me became almost unbearable until I witnessed the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Congresswoman of New York's 14th District.
Say what you will about AOC's policies, she is an incredible success story as the youngest person to win a congressional seat. I know some 28-29 year olds still living at home with the parents trying to figure life out.
As I learned more about her, I discovered that she attended one of the most expensive private universities in America: Boston University. Check out the latest tuition below.
Boston University Tuition Is Outrageous For Average People
Boston University costs roughly $70,000 a year to attend + other related expenses equaling another $7,000. One must make roughly $100,000 in gross income a year just to pay for one year at Boston University.
For comparison, Harvard University tuition is approximately $45,000 a year, or $7,800 cheaper than Boston University's tuition.
Very few can comfortably afford such tuition. Even if you have loans and grants, deciding to attend Boston University over higher-ranked Harvard, MIT, or Boston College must mean something.
Growing up in a working-class household, I assume AOC received grants and financial aid to help with college tuition.
Most people would rather attend Harvard University for $7,800 less than Boston University. But of course, only students of legacy donors have a 70%+ chance of getting into Harvard. Students with no wealth or connections only have roughly a 5.9% chance of getting in.
You Can Still Be Relatable To The Middle Class If You Are Rich
So I got to thinking, despite going to one of the most expensive universities in the country that's ranked #42 in US News & World Report, AOC has been able to position herself as a woman of the people.
Not only have the working-class people of New York's 14th district embraced AOC, so has the social media world. AOC is the #2 most popular politician on Twitter after Donald Trump.
I’ve read zero pushback online about AOC going to expensive BU, and neither will you because AOC is an inspiration also for the middle class and poor.
Therefore, AOC's example proves that just because you went to an expensive private university, it doesn't mean you are destined to become the stereotypical spoiled rich kid. Nor does it doom you to end up lazy and unmotivated.
Reputation Management Strategies For Private School Alum
If you are going to spend a fortune on sending your kid to private grade school and/or university or if you are a private school alumni, here are some strategies that may allow you or your kid to thrive like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
1) Embrace your privilege.
The best way to defuse other people's bitterness towards you is to come straight out and recognize your privilege. Acknowledge full-on that you were smart and/or wealthy enough to attend private school. As soon as you point out all your advantages, you've taken away their thunder.
Every time someone attributes any success I have to luck rather than to hard work or risk-taking, I agree with them that most of my success is luck. I then take it a step further and describe how fortunate I am to live in America as an Asian person.
After all, the overrepresentation of Asians at America's top universities must mean that Asians must be extremely lucky in academics.
Because I'm Asian, I'm blessed with nonstop creativity. Further, being Asian gives me incredible endurance. We are the champions of meditating for long periods of time. If I wasn't Asian, I'm not sure I'd be able to publish 3X a week for 10 years in a row on Financial Samurai.
Given only 5.6% of the American population gets to be Asian, I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this select group.
2) Take on student loans to feel the sing.
Whether you need to take on student loans or not, it's best to take on some student loans so you can blend in with the millions of graduates who do have student loans. Of course, don't take on a crazy amount of debt. It has to be enough to notice, but not enough to bring you down.
Student loans are a big problem in America. The $1 trillion+ amount in student loans has now surpassed the amount of revolving credit card debt, the most insidious debt of them all. Even filing for bankruptcy does not absolve you from repaying your student loan.
Student loans have delayed millions of young adults from launching. They're forced to live at home with their parents, take suboptimal jobs, delay buying a house, and delay starting a family.
The median age for starting a family has gotten older, but biology has not adjusted. As a result, many more couples are finding themselves seeing infertility doctors, trying IUI and expensive IVF treatments, and going through countless cycles of hope and heartache.
3) Work minimum wage jobs to appreciate your education and work.
Meanwhile, it's imperative you spend a respectable amount of time working a minimum wage or close to minimum wage service job. By working as a barista, burger flipper, dish washer, driver, bartender, waiter, furniture assembler, gardener etc, you adhere yourself to the common person.
Nobody will be able to say you don't know what it's like to get yelled at while making next to nothing. Instead, you will feel the pride of busting your butt for a living. You will learn humility and never take any progress for granted.
Make no mistake about it. The skyrocketing cost of higher education is hurting the American dream. If you are privileged enough to attend and afford a private school education, it is imperative you do not stick out and blend in.
4) Do something more for society.
One of the saddest things about being rich and smart is that so many rich and smart people end up working at jobs purely for the high pay and prestige. Then they end up depressed and miserable.
Going to work at a tech company to optimize ad tracking seems like such a waste. Creating pitch books at an investment bank to win teenager-targeted tobacco alternative maker Juul's business can't feel very good.
Of course, if you don't come from a wealthy family, by all means, get the highest paying job you can find to get your financials in order. But if you're already rich, then come on now.
Imagine a world where all rich and smart private school kids became teachers, social workers, scientists, doctors or politicians like AOC who want to help the people who've been left behind in this competitive world? That would be pretty amazing.
We don't need more billionaires who hoard more than they could ever spend in a lifetime while residents in their city are starving. Here in San Francisco, we've got 74 billionaires, yet we still have a tremendous homeless problem. What is going on?
Personally, I continue to want to educate the public about money with Financial Samurai. I've been publishing 3-4 times a week every week since 2009. Further, I've got a great book coming out with Penguin Random House entitled, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom.
I strongly believe BTNT will be the best personal finance book on the web.
Private School Kids Will Be Fine
If you went to private school or plan to send your kids to private school, I wouldn't worry too much about future backlash as AOC's case demonstrates.
All of our major politicians went to private school, yet millions of working-class people still voted them into office and adore them.
If you can afford to pay private school tuition for your child, go for it. I don't think you'll ever regret spending money on trying to help your child's future.
I want to thank AOC and the American people for shedding light on a very big blind spot of mine.
No longer do I feel guilty about sending my son to private school. The world is full of love for all people, no matter their socioeconomic background.
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Readers, are you impressed with AOC's ability to position herself as a Democratic Socialist after attending Boston University? If you went to an expensive private school or come from a wealthy family, what are some strategies for making yourself be a man or woman of the people? Did you also just realize that nobody really cares if you went to an expensive private school?