More on teens and planning for the future

With so many interesting comments from my recent post on teens and financial planning, I needed another post to respond to them!

>>A degree is no guarantee that you are going to make a good living. Do you know how many teaching jobs in the frum world I was turned down for because 1. I had a degree 2. they felt bad paying a married woman with a degree so little!<<

I don’t believe that there are any guarantees in life, but I do think that we can make good choices that would set us up in the best possible way.  I don’t believe a degree by itself is of much value.   Some degrees are much more valuable than others.  Whatever path one pursues, it’s critical that it be part of a conscious plan.  I wouldn’t support just any career that a child wants to pursue.  For example, teaching is a low pay profession, so I’d have to do some research to appropriately redirect a child with strengths in that area to a field where he/she could use those strengths and be appropriately renumerated.  There are some fields that are flooded by capable and well-trained individuals, and there are fields that could easily be outsourced to cheaper labor in India or China – these are additional concerns to the financial reward issue that we keep in mind when we discuss careers.

>>The reason why we landed in debt is not because of lack of education but the literal forcing down his throat about budgeting and therefore he just wanted to break free and not be so frugal.<<

It’s not uncommon for people to go from one extreme to another.  As a frugal parent, I’ve felt it important that frugality not be seen as an exercise in deprivation but rather as a way to achieve one’s goals while living within the constraints of your current reality.  A good education or vocational training can’t overcome a lack of discipline with regards to spending.

>>Most of the young men getting married are marrying girls who will work . They do get some parental help too. I happen to not go for full parental support but to help the young couple.<<

I know this is true but this isn’t the kind of ‘planning’ that I support, and therefore in my opinion, marrying someone capable of bringing in a good income doesn’t obviate the need to develop one’s own skills and abilities.  (By the way, this is true for girls or boys – I don’t support girls not developing their abilities because they hope to get married young and not need to work.)  Nor do I support those who plan to marry women who have parents who are willing to generously support the young couple.  There is a tremendous character development and maturation opportunity that is totally missed when young men voluntarily choose not to take responsibility for a primary part of their lives.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve made it very clear to my children that if they’re old enough to get married, they’re old enough to support themselves. Someone recently asked me if this was because I don’t have the resources to offer my married children significant financial help.  My answer was no, it’s not contingent on how much money I do or don’t have, and that I’ve told the kids that even when we’re blessed with much more money than we have today, this is our position.  I don’t want to handicap my children by bypassing the need for them to take responsibility for their own lives, and needing to handle finances is a major maturing factor.

>>My father has a BA and made a “good living” but we never had anything!My mother had to keep a super tight budget and work full time since we were little.<<

It’s not how much you make, but how much you keep that matters!  This is where financial management skills are important.

>>College/vocational training doesn’t have to be right out of highschool. There is no harm in going to college later should they need it.<<

Theoretically I don’t disagree.  But once children enter the picture, it gets more complicated.  My goal is to help my children develop a conscious plan for the future.  I know they want to get married fairly young and start families fairly soon after that.  If they are all committed to actively parenting their children and then decide they’d like to go to college while raising their children, where does it leave them?  Conflicted and overextended.  There will be bumps in the road for every person, but I’d like to help them avoid those that can easily be avoided with a little forethought.

>>I think it’s very brave of you to be sending your teens to a college campus but I don’t think that at their age I could have withstood all the pressures of it, especially while doing it alone, at such a young age.<<

To clarify, my kids will attend commuter colleges, not living in dorms. There is a very big difference in the campus atmosphere when there are no dorms or campus ‘life’ and everyone is just going for their classes and then heading back home.  As of now I’m planning for dd14 to start college classes next year with dd15 (they’ll both obviously be a year older then), and have them in the same classes (because of her age, dd14 will only be able to take a maximum of 2 per semester).

I’ve striven to raise my children to know who they are and be able to hold their own in different situations, and that includes the secular college environment.  But I wouldn’t put them in situations I don’t have confidence that they could handle.  The current experience of both dd15 and ds17 are bearing out our confidence in them as they handle challenging social situations while far away from home, skills that will continue to come in handy as they encounter more and more of the adult world.

>>You could get a profession by taking a good vocational course. College isn’t everything. Also needs to have a good head on his shoulders. You can have the best college degree and then blow your money or not be able to hold down a job.<<

I used to think that vocational schools offered good alternatives to college, until a year or two ago when I checked out several vocational programs.  After all, why should someone spend all those years getting a college degree when in a year or two he can do a vocational program and come out being able to make a lot more money than most college graduates.  Right?

Not quite.  Let’s say someone wants to be an electrician or plumber – if he wants to be paid well, he needs to be at the master level to run his own business, which entails about seven years of school and apprenticeship.  And then the salary still isn’t fantastic – it’s highly dependent on him being able to start his own business.  Many people have the work skills but running your own business is another skill set altogether.  The programs tend to be very expensive, and I don’t remember if any of them offered federal financial aid that is generally available to qualified students at a college.  And the peer group is ….. not of the highest quality.  So we figured, once you have to spend all that time and money on your education, you might as well go to college.  Also, we didn’t feel that any of these professions matched the self-image ds17 had of himself and his future.  So even though he’s very good with his hands, can figure things out just by looking at them, and enjoys that kind of work, we (together with him) decided against vocational training for him.  But it can definitely be a great option when it matches someone’s interests and strengths.

I realize there are other vocational courses that are shorter term and don’t require this investment of time, but they don’t generally facilitate the earning capacity that I believe to be realistic in supporting a large family.

>>I think that if a man has a good work ethic and knows how to manage his money then everything could be fine.<<

These are very important, but without having marketable skills, it will be very challenging to find employment or to start one’s own business.

There were a lot more comments that were specific to the Orthodox world that I’ve often discussed in detail in person but feel that my blog isn’t the right place to do that, since many of my readers won’t understand what is being discussed.  (For example, why the girls schools are doing a much better job than the boys schools, where that’s coming from, and why I feel it’s problematic.)  Hopefully I responded in the past post to comments so you won’t feel that I ignored you, but if I didn’t, it was due to this constraint.


3 thoughts on “More on teens and planning for the future

  1. I just wanted to add in a response to the first comment (without trying to be rude). The commentor notes wants to be a teacher and being turned down in many religious schools. To me, it sounds like the poster did pursue a degree, but not a career path.

    Education can be an excellent career path for the so inclined. Education might get a bad rap for low pay, but there are districts with very generous pay and there are ladders to climb once you are in the field. There are positions in curriculum development and administration. A teacher can pursue paid opportunities beyond the class if they have a talent for coaching sports or other extracurricular activities. There are also opportunities in private education if you know how to pursue them.

    But going into “teaching” without the necessary credentials to be able to teach in public school, e.g., will severely lessen opporunities at the most basic level.

    Avivah seemed to imply that teaching has low renumeration and that she would redirect a child with talents in this area. If it were my own child with such a calling and an appropriate temperment, I wouldn’t redirect, by direct towards a career path that does open doors, rather than locks them into a path without many forks along the road.

    1. Ortho, you make a very good point and I’m glad you commented. It’s true that when pursued in the way that you suggest, teaching can provide a decent income.

      My lukewarm response to teaching comes in part from having spoken to many teachers (in the public and private school system) who feel that the beaurocracy of teaching doesn’t allow them to actually use the strengths that caused them to go into teaching in the first place. For a person who wants to actively work with children, inspire them, etc, I think there are probably other fields which will provide them with the outlet to use those skills, but would require thinking outside of the box. Of course, I only addressed the financial aspect in the post, but to me financial reward is only one part of choosing a career path, and being able to find fulfillment in doing what you love is primary.

  2. There are many in education, public and private, who can handle all the red tape inherent in teaching. I simply can’t and was grateful when I was told education was not a good route for me. I have another friend whose parents convinced her not to be a teacher because of a low pay and it is a true shame. She hasn’t developed any particular passions or marketable skills. I think she would have been a great elementary school teacher. And, I think she would be able to put up with all the red tape.

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