Life’s Twists and Turns

We never know where life will take us, even if we plan till the very last minute.

For instance, I started my debt reduction plan in August of 2008 because I realized I had fallen into a huge money hole. I was reading PF blogs like there was no tomorrow and realized that if all these other people could take control of their finances, well SO COULD I!

A year and a half later, I’ve turned my life 180.

And a year later, as I talked to my dad on the phone in August and he told me that he hadn’t closed a deal in 8 months (at the time, longer now) and was getting by with a gig at Costco giving out samples, I realized I had another goal: My Sister.

See, my sister is 16, and a junior in high school. She’s a smart kid, but because her mother (my ex-stepmother) has never worked a full day’s work in her life (due in part to physical injury and in part to mental inability) and my dad being unable to even pay rent on an apartment – she figures that she won’t be able to go to college.

She has mentioned going to a community college for the first few years and then transferring to a 4-year school. I know this works for some people, but I also know that it doesn’t work well for science majors and it doesn’t work for most younger students. My sister LOVES Chemistry (perhaps that is genetic?) and to top if all off she is terribly good at it (even without my help!)

So I really, really, really want my sister to go to a decent 4 year school. I mean, she can’t afford the best, but seeing as her mom lives in California and my dad in Arizona, she has quite a few decent options for herself with in state tuition.

And this is one of the reasons why I really want to get out of debt so quickly. I want to be able to use that extra money that I pay to my credit card every month to help my sister go to college. I have been doing some math in the background (nothing I’ve put up on here) and I think I could be able to give her $3-5,000/semester. That should greatly help the tuition at any of the in-state schools in California or Arizona.

I haven’t thought of the conditions I would put on the money. If it would be a gift or an interest free loan. Or if it would be stipulated with grades or behavior. I may only ask that she just doesn’t open a credit card of the money goes away. This will obviously require more thought and will be contingent on me still being able to save aggressively towards my E-fund to get it to $10k and save $5k/year towards an IRA (I already get 10% of my income put into a 403(b) retirement plan automatically by my employer as one of my benefits).

And when I started out the money journey I didn’t think that I would end up paying for my sister to go to college, and I won’t be able to afford to pay for all of it, but I can afford to help make the burden less for her. And I never would have been able to if it wasn’t for this blog and for you readers. So thank you for the help you’ve given me, and my sister!

23 thoughts on “Life’s Twists and Turns

  1. That’s so kind of you. 🙂 It’ll be nice for your sister when she hears this. Though if she’s getting good grades, she should also look into scholarships and bursaries. There are TONS that no one ever applies to.

    1. If she were getting good grades I’d agree with you.

      She has only done well the past year, the years before were disasterous. Essentially, until she took a chemistry class she didn’t get much higher than a B on any class. Now in her chemistry and biology class she’s getting As, but still Cs in most everything else. Essentially I’m not sure how competitive she’ll be (if at all) for scholarships.

      1. When I went to college, the vast majority of undergraduate scholarships were need-based. In other words, she’ll be competitive if she can get in.

        If she can’t hack a scholarship, though, I think there’s a lot of value in letting her stand on her own two feet. It seems like her mother doesn’t really model that for her; maybe what she she needs is not money but a role model.

        Also, I wouldn’t let my sibling starve on the street, but my little brother is in his third round of undergrad, at age 29 (will graduate at age 31), and he is only now able to give school the time and commitment it needs. If I’d been paying his way the last two times, I’d have been really mad. Will you be mad if she majors in beer and threesomes and fails out within the year on your dime?

  2. @Lost Goat

    You make some really excellent points. However, I’m not sure at 17 she’ll be “ready” to stand on her own two feet. I know that I didn’t. I mean, I had a full tuition scholarship (that included room, board and books) and yet I still wasn’t standing on my own two feet. My parents still paid my car payments and registration under the conditions that I maintained my scholarship.

    Would I be angry if she majored in beer and 3somes? Absolutely! Perhaps the stipulation just will be that if she graduates within 5 years it is a “gift” and if she doesn’t it is a loan that she’ll have to pay back. I think she is responsible enough to understand that – however, I don’t want her to feel like she HAS to go to a CC just because of money. I want a 4- year school to be an option for her like it was for me.

  3. That is so nice of you! I’d make sure though that there are a number of stipulations on what she has to do in order to earn the money. Make sure it’s really clear!!!

  4. That is very generous of you. There are so many scholarships out there that can also help her. Tell her to check out fastweb so that she can start cranking out the essays. I hate to believe the reality that cost is a barrier to education, and I really want her to check out all avenues of funding so that she can get the best.

  5. Another though…. could you talk to her now about her planning for paying for some of it herself. So maybe if she raises $5,000 you’ll match half of it? To give her some inspiration?

  6. I like Jessie’s of the matching, but also as a reward for good grades. What if it’s a matched gift as long as she maintains good grades, and a matched LOAN if she doesn’t get good grades?

    Also, don’t underestimate her. 🙂 I had no inkling that I could stand on my own at 17 but when I thought I had to, I tried really hard and managed to do way better than expected. If she’s a rise to the challenge girl, she may only need your help the first year and more of a push to make 4 year college happen on her own the rest of the way.

    It might be hard work but it’s also something to be proud of. Just as much as your taking ownership of your debt is something to be proud of, this could be a great learning experience for her and a great teaching one for you.

  7. I taught several very good senior and junior biochemistry majors who did the community college route to get into the University of California. Although the recession has tightened things up quite a bit, doing two years in CC and getting good grades has traditionally been a great way for students with mediocre test scores or grades to get into the UC system, and that’s before the financial benefits.

    From a Personal Finance point of view, spending two years in community college is a way smarter plan than spending four years at a traditional college, at least if you’re going to pay full price. For those lucky enough to get scholarships and grants for said 4 year school it gets more complicated. There also is the social aspect. Many people make life-long friends their first year or two of undergad; by junior and senior year many students are pretty busy and no longer taking applications for new friends. Also, if transferring leads to college taking 4.5 or 5 years rather than four there is an added cost there.

    All that said, I think it will be incredibly awesome if you can help your sister out financially. She also should be open to taking on debt in the form of student loans. As a chemistry major she can be fairly comfortable knowing that she wouldn’t be taking on thousands of dollars in debt just to work a sales job or something low paying unrelated to her field. Although it’s not quite free money, in general student loan debt is “good debt”. It’s also arguably more important for you to fully fund your retirement before trying to avoid having your younger sister take student loans.

  8. what kind of lass is she? My husband is currently having trouble with his eldest son, who has started university twice, done his last year at high school (fee paying) twice and has just flunked his first year exams which cost a lot to retake. He is 19 and has had his education paid for. and doesn’t seem to understand that more effort is required of him. He has never had a job and doesn’t seem to understand that it all costs a lot of money. My Husband is wondering what to do. It is as if he is not ready to be at college. But your sister could be very different. but if she wastes your git it could be really difficult for you both. just to think on

  9. What you want to do is great. I think giving her stipulations is key. I would also encourage you to push her to find a job. When I was 17, someone helped me land a great summer job. I worked hard and returned every summer plus Christmas break. With the combination of financial aid, job income and the poor student mentality, I had enough money to survive w/o working during the semester.

  10. That’s awesome. My older sister helped me out by co-signed for an extra loan to help me get by, we didn’t have help from parents to pay. Hopefully it all works out and she realizes what an awesome sister she has!

  11. I went to a private university in the a major northeast city. When I applied my parents and I had no idea how we would pay for it, but we later found out that the school offered grant money from their endowment to students that had a financial need. We were unaware of this money until I received my award letter with a grant of $25K.

    My advice to you and your sister is for her to apply to all schools that she has interest in and don’t make a financial decision until after she has received her award letter.

    Regardless of her grades she should apply for scholarships. If she doesn’t get them that is fine, but it won’t be because she didn’t apply.

  12. Your story is totally awesome.

    Don’t overlook 2 yrs in CC. In California where doing a degree in 5 years is ambitious, she might have to. A lot of kids at UC-Berkeley get boxed out of classes because of over-enrollment. They have to wait a year taking stuff they don’t need for their degree because their required courses for graduation get filled to quickly and box them out. Sometimes as an incoming junior, a school will give priority to upperclassmen to add classes they need for graduation. (I know at my school, seniors always got priority for courses just in case they needed the class for graduation.)

  13. Please reconsider you’re thoughts on Community Colleges. I did 2 years at a CC right out of high school and then transferred into an engineering program at an instate school. My boyfriend (we didn’t know each other at the time) did the same thing with computer science. The basics are the basics no matter where you take them. You’re going to have to take English, humanities, social sciences, econ where ever. Might as well get the credits heavily at a discounted price.

    And the classed I took at community were tough. Tougher than those at the 4 year school. They’re not messing around. My study skills were leaps and bounds beyond those of my peers once I got to the 4 year school. And the university gave me a scholarship I didn’t even expect for being a CC grad.

    My advise for going the CC route though…Have a transfer school in mind from the beginning so you know you’re signing up for classes that will transfer. And based on my own personal experience, when she does transfer, move into the dorms with the freshman. I made the best friends that way (though that could be just my experience).

  14. Pingback: The Sister «

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