So far we have talked about thinking about college as an investment of time and money. We also talked about your values and prioritizing courses to make admissions to certain schools and programs more cost-effective. Step Three is rather easy—regardless of how much money you earn in scholarships, you have to save money. Never depend on the aid given by the school or outside scholarships.

My basic premise is this: when schools give financial aid, they are providing that money for a student to attend school. That says nothing about what happens the second the person graduates. You can imagine how uncomfortable it might be to have a degree in hand, having done everything necessary to make that degree marketable, just to have to move back home until the next transition takes place because you can’t afford to keep moving forward.

You also don’t want to be in a position where something doesn’t quite work out with financial aid—perhaps a check takes longer than usual to arrive or there was some confusion with paperwork—and you’re stuck, unable to attend that semester.

Savings plans are interesting since there are a variety of types that can fit most needs but really depend on what you ask for. Remember that banks make their money by how long you keep your money in the bank. So when a banker starts talking about higher interests rates if you keep your money there for twenty years, it may sound great but how much money is that really compared to when you are going to use it?

The other interesting thing about saving money is it forces people to look at how they are spending money. Saving $2,000 in a year can just be a matter of stopping that daily coffee run. And another $2,000 saved by making your lunch at home each day. Remember your values and make those financial adjustments accordingly.

I also believe that soft skill of constantly evaluating priorities is extremely valuable as it keeps one’s eye on the end game.

Next we’ll talk about making a return on the investment. See you next week!