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Thirty and Financially Incompetent

Businessweek is running an article on being Thiry and Broke and, um, it seems awfully weak to me - both the subjects, the reporting, and the general phenomena of people in the U.S. who feel neglected by the economy. It's a story of some young folks who should be yuppies, but instead have floundered through school and failed to get high paying jobs in a reasonable time frame.

It seems that Businessweek found the saddest examples they could find and portrayed them as the normal situation. The profiled students took longer than 4 years to graduate, switched schools/majors mid-stream, went out of state, majored in less practical fields, or all four. That's a great way to increase your debt by 25% to 100% right off the bat. Beyond that, it's clear from the photos that they are living beyond their means: salon-styled-hair, fancy mountain bikes, cars, expensive weddings. These are individuals who are suffering the consequences of their own decisions.

Nikki is teaching Junior Achievement and today's class was about how the budgeting decisions you make affect your ability to save and ultimately your ability to retire. I created a simple set of budget scenarios for two different options: blinging/saving and UCD/CSM. Blinging/Saving is a description of the person's lifestyle and how expensive they live. UCD (University of Colorado at Denver) and the Colorado School of Mines are two local state funded schools. Tuition for these schools can be easily earned with a part time job. UCD seniors can expect about $30,000 salary while CSM seniors expect about $80,000. No, that's not a typo - try comparing that to the cost-benefit of any business school program.

It's easy to see from the attached spreadsheet that the Blinging lifestyle and UCD will not work together. Further, it's clear that someone who earns a modest salary of $30,000 can still be a millionaire when they retire if they live within their means and invest their savings.

It's easy to look at it from my perspective and see where the right decision in terms of financial stability. It's certainly much tougher for kids, who are getting a variety of messages from parents, counselors, and peers about "following their dreams" and "having fun" when they are young.

PS, You'll need OpenOffice.org to read the spreadsheet. I'm not going to put some proprietary Excel crap up here regardless of what CAGW says.

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