The High Costs of College

imgres-1My son (yes, the one who tried to give away the cat on Facebook) is in his third year of college. We began his college savings soon after he was born — and our daughter’s too. I asked the grandparents if instead of buying toys and clothing for Christmas and birthdays, could they send a check for their college accounts? One grandparent thought that was a horrific idea and how tacky of me to ask! The others said, “Great! What a good idea!”

When you have small children, you may notice how overboard the gifts get in proportion to the little guys, and how quickly the toys are overlooked, broken, and the clothing outgrown. A contribution to the college account is a present forever. Your child can help select investments as they grow older, track their account’s growth, and participate in the education of preparing for college.

You know your own relatives best and if this idea is an option for you. Of course, we were the major contributors to the college savings, but it’s nice to have help while saving for hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education!

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Do you know how much college costs these days? My son is in a public university in California and it’s about $30,000 per year. If he went to a private university, it would be closer to $60,000. I’ve read that a few schools in our state are closer to $75,000 per year. What will it be years from now, when your kids are in school?

Do you know the difference between college savings plans? 529s, UGMA/UMTAs and Coverdells? Which is best for you? As the wife of a financial advisor for 25 years — if you have questions — I advise you to ask a financial advisor for help. They help families prepare for milestones like college planning and retirement.

Here are links to helpful resources.

Comparing College Savings Plans

How Much is a College Education Worth? 

Inflation and College Costs 

College costs through the years

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The last meet is coming

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PAC 12 2015

There I’ve said it. My daughter’s last meet is days away. It’s her senior year and her final meet will be the PAC 12 conference meet in Federal Way, WA. I’m kind of jumbled up on how I feel about it. I love being a swim mom and I find myself looking back on little moments with nostalgia and sadness. I will miss going to her meets.

My husband and I were browsing through the App called Meet Mobile this morning looking at different conference results from local schools where our children’s friends are swimming like UCSB and UCSD. I realized that I know a couple of the seniors’ names, but other than that there aren’t a whole lot of swimmers I recognize.

The past few years haven’t been all rosy. After a great freshman year, she got a high ankle sprain chasing after Trax, the public transportation train in Salt Lake City. That meant she couldn’t push off the walls for weeks during long course season and didn’t get her Olympic Trial cut. I think that was a devastating blow to her at the time, although it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.

Then at last year’s PAC 12s, she got the flu. A really bad flu where the coaches didn’t let her swim or even out of her room until the final day of the meet. It was decidedly weird sitting in the stands for PAC 12s and not having a participant in the meet. Her last and only event she gave it everything she had. I was so nervous I thought I’d faint. I wasn’t sure if she was going to survive that mile-long race, but she did. Her coach said it was a “heroic swim” and he was so proud of her. It was close to a best time.

This year she’s been fighting through a bad shoulder injury. I worry if it was because she started swimming so young, so intensely or for so many years? What should I have done differently as a swim parent? Make her stop? Let her take time off?

She will take time off this year. But what I’m hoping for is next year, after my surgery and I’ve healed, that she will swim with me at a Masters meet–so I can be a swimmer and a swim mom all in one day.

 

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My daughter’s coaches and teammates cheering for her during the 1650 at last year’s PAC 12s.

Any bets on if I’ll cry at my daughter’s final college meet?

 

 

Are millennials awful? Or, is it the normal “old vs. young” thing?

 

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My millennials and pupper.

While my husband and I were driving to the movies, I had the radio tuned to a top-40 countdown. We were at number two–ready to find out who was the top song of the week–when he turned off the radio and said he couldn’t stand today’s music.

I told him, “I guess you really are an old fart.”

He said he was thinking exactly the same thing. “I’ve become one of those old geezers who can’t listen to the younger generation’s music.” He said it sounded like noise to him and he didn’t get it.

That exchange struck me today when I was reading an article in Business Insider that talked about how helicopter parents may be better than what we get credit for and that the millennials are turning out okay.

According to Libby Kane in “Millennials are turning out better than anyone expected — and it may be thanks to their parents” her generation was set up for success better than previous generations and a lot is thanks to their parents. Many of the bias against them could be due to generational differences. She talked with researchers to find out if her theory was true.

“ ‘What we’ve learned in our Generation Nation deep-dive is that, while behavior and beliefs may be influenced by generations, they’re dictated by life stages,’ wrote the researchers, who decided to do this research to have cross-generational data points after years of studying millennials specifically. ’In other words, how Gen Z is today is just as Gen X would have been today had Gen Xers been born 35 years later.’

“I spoke to principal researcher Michael Wood about the report, and floated my theory by him. Are millennials really so entitled, and lazy, and difficult to deal with? (You know you’ve heard it.) Why is hating on millennials so popular?

“ ‘If you go back in time, Boomers were also referred to as the me generation,’ Wood told me. ‘We’ve always carried biases against people who are younger than we are.’

Millennials are those between the ages of 20 and 35. Both of my kids fall into that category, although on the younger end. The older millennials were set up for success by their “helicopter-caring” parents, and then their futures got hit by the economic crash a decade ago.

“One of Wood’s standout findings from the research was the incredible resilience of millennials. ‘They’re still very upbeat, they’re very hopeful, and they have a positive outlook on their generation and what they’re going to contribute to the greater good,’ he said. ‘I find that fascinating and reassuring, and it confirms what we’ve always believed.’

“In the report, millennials were more likely than other generations to agree with statements expressing a desire to make the world a better place, confirming a purpose in life, and projecting a confidence in the US, the government, and each other to work together to solve problems.

“Plus, here’s a sentence from the report to inspire some teeth-gnashing: ‘Playing against type, millennials are actually an employer’s dream.’ This is largely because millennials are willing to work hard for an employer who supports them, and they tend to blur the lines between life and work — they’re more willing than members of other generations to catch up on work during their personal time. ‘Millennials truly care about their work,’ wrote the researchers. ‘And they care about it beyond being a means to a paycheck.’ “

During college orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, I learned many of these facts about millennials in a talk called “Supporting Your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs, and a psychologist. I wrote some parenting tips from her talk here.

I think it’s important to learn about generational tendencies to better understand our own kids and what they’re going through. Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Ellingson:

Millenials are those born from 1980 to 2000. They are a generation that doesn’t like to suffer. They like having nice things and they don’t mind working for it. But, that can interfere with their education. It’s best if they work on campus. A student that works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Also, delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 and 28.

HOPES
We all have hopes for our kids that include these things: Graduation. Career. Education. Responsible Adult. Financially Responsible. Time Management. Problem-solving.

FEARS
Our kids will go through fears during their years in college. For example, those who did well in high school with very little effort will find they won’t do as well in college and it can become an identity crisis.

They firmly believe not to stay in a major they do not like. A child dreams of being a doctor their entire life, but they may find they don’t like the smell of hospitals, or they can’t pass the Chemistry class–this can be another identity crisis. It’s important for them to take advantage of general ed requirements their first years of college to find what they do like. Internships are important, too.

INDEPENDENCE
First steps are towards you as a toddler. Every step after that is away from you. “How can I be on my own?” is another one of their fears.

Dr. Ellingson’s final statements stayed with me. “Most people who enter crises come out stronger and ahead on the other side.” And as for us parents of millennials?
You will change from “taking care of them, to caring for them.”

What are your opinions of millennials? Do you they think they are a different generation from us because of technology or traits such as laziness? Or are our differences between generations the normal living through life’s phases that we all go through?

 

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Back in the day.

 

It’s a Privilege: Hanging out With Grown Kids

 

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On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her, unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

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Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

 

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

 

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?

The Roller Coaster Ride of Parenting

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My son and swim team friends years ago.

We were leaving tomorrow for my son’s college graduation. I’m packed and I was on my way to swim practice when he texted me. He said he has a bunch of papers that are due on Monday and he doesn’t have time for graduation activities.

It’s been a tough quarter for him with prolonged illness—weeks and weeks of getting sick and staying sick.

The announcements are out. The celebratory dinner was set, grandpa’s hotel room booked. We have friends and family coming in for the graduation ceremony. But, one thing will be missing. My son.

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The day we moved my son into his dorm room at UCSB.

He’s planning on graduating, mind you. But, he doesn’t have time to celebrate and attend the activities. Seriously, why did his college schedule the ceremony the weekend before finals and when papers are due? I don’t know the answer to this. 

On my daughter’s side, we spent the weekend at her target meet to qualify for Olympic Trials. She swam well, made it to finals, but didn’t achieve the cuts she was looking for. She’s been so close, but in all honesty, it’s too bad she tripped and sprained her ankle last summer, chasing a bus. My point is that it’s hard to make a cut at a last ditch meet. There’s too much pressure and it might have been easier to make it during last year’s long course season.

Do I love my children any less? No, I do not. In fact, I’d say they are truly growing up and experiencing the difficulties of adulthood. Disappointments do occur. Things do not always go as planned. It’s how we react and handle ourselves that will determine success or failure. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams.

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Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Sometimes They Fall to the Ground Before They Fly Away

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“Sometimes when they leave the nest, they have to fall to the ground before they learn to fly.”

I was at a swim meet this past weekend, talking to a longtime coach friend of mine. The “leaving the nest bird analogy” was his answer to my question about if you should let your children fail. Or, continue to support them at all costs and bail them out of trouble?

When is it time to say no? In my opinion and according some of my best friends, at some point you have to put your foot down and no longer give in. The sooner you do that, the better off they will be.

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My son at Laguna Beach.

 

Is this “tough love” or is it merely letting our kids face reality and consequences?

My son, who is a bright, loving person, has struggled through some of his college years. His first year, he was in an accident and looking back, he should have taken a hardship withdrawal. Now, in his final quarter of school, he’s been sick for at least six straight weeks. He wants to take a hardship withdrawal now—with only four weeks left before he graduates.

Literally, it kills me. In the very least, it sickens my heart. I want him to finish, but we’ve drawn a line in the sand. We will not give him a dime more for college. He’ll have to figure this out for himself. In fact, I told him that if he withdraws from college now, he’ll have to come home. We aren’t paying for him to live in Santa Barbara without going to school. No, we’re not paying for next quarter, either.

Are we being too hard? I don’t think so. It would be easy to give in.

robertUnfortunately, I didn’t allow him to fail when the consequences weren’t so high. I was one of those helicopter parents rushing to school with forgotten papers, etc. I did him no favors by saving him from small failures. 

He’s thought through his options and I’m happy to say, he’s sticking with school. However, I came to the realization, that whatever path he takes, it’s his decision and his life. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go. It would not be the end of the world if he didn’t get his college degree in June. It isn’t my first choice for him, don’t get me wrong. But, if he had to work for a couple years and save the money to finish college, he’d learn a lot. He may even appreciate the opportunities we’ve provided for him.

Nobody told me parenting would be so hard.

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Fly Away
by Lenny Kravitz
“I wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly
I’d fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please”
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What is Your Favorite Comfort Food?

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Lincoln’s birthday was my daughter’s birthday and we flew up to Salt Lake City to celebrate her 20th with her, watch her swim, and enjoy Valentine’s Day together. I left perfect 80 degree weather to be in the snow–but loved the change in scenery and cold weather.

One of the more interesting conversations we had was about comfort food. In one of my daughter’s classes they talked about food from childhood, and how certain smells spark memories. I agree that sensory memory is powerful. It’s a valuable tool for a writer’s palette.

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My daughter and friend diving in the 500 free.

She told her class that her comfort food was Mexican food. I felt sad that none of my dishes made her list. I consider myself a pretty good cook, and I made dinner and lunches for my family daily!

I remember when she was little she called all my dinners “chicken.” When I made pan-fried sole she proclaimed, “This is the best chicken ever! This is the chicken I like!”

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Chips and Salsa at El Gallito.

I get it about Mexican food. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we frequented El Gallito in Cathedral City for huevos rancheros every weekend. We’d sit together, without a care in the world, reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times from cover to cover. Bill’s former roommate saw us there and asked, “Is this what married life is like? You sit there reading the paper and don’t talk?”

We’re back to reading the paper without interruptions. It’s kind of nice not to be busy with daily chores of kids, as much as I miss them.

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Inside our favorite Mexican restaurant.

El Gallito is closing soon after more than 40 years of being open. It’s a family owned business, and in my opinion, it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the Coachella Valley. The flavor of their salsa will be locked in my sensory memory forever. I wish someone would take it over and continue on with their recipes.

So sad that all things must come to an end–whether it’s our days of a houseful of kids or our favorite Mexican restaurant.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

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A dog’s life in SLC on Valentine’s Day.