7 Tips for Move-In Day for Parents of College Freshman — Or, You Too Will Survive.

Move-in day for the parents of college freshman can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips I wrote when we moved my daughter into her dorm room.

 

The check-in table at Move-in day.

The check-in table at Move-in day.

Yesterday was move-in day for our youngest. It was easy to spot check-in with bright red pop-up tents, a field of red carts and dollies, and a line of students ready to help move us in. Not us, but my daughter. It sure felt like us, though.

Being 15 minutes early was an excellent idea. There was parking. There were carts. There was a small line. Later in the day — parking was in the outer limits — and it was wall-to-wall students and parents making their way to the dorms with car loads of matching “Big Box College-Bound” gear.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

Once in the room, we began lifting bedding, towels and clothing out of the cart. I wondered if I’d be strong, without tears, and how I’d get through the day. 

Here’s what worked and didn’t work:

1. Don’t try and unpack for your kid. Don’t try and put things away. This is their space, their new home. They need to make it their own.

2. Don’t hover and stay in their room. Make sure they have what they need and leave them alone. Be sure to be nearby for when they will invariably call.

3. Be prepared to shop multiple times during move-in day. We made one trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Costco — and five to Target. This was after we drove a packed-to-the-hilt Sequoia through four states with everything she needed.

4. Make lists. The large stores have lists for your student to make shopping easier. Of course, they have way more things on their lists than you actually need, but it’s a good starting point. Make your own list with the store’s list as a guide. After you move in your freshman’s things, you’ll discover what you didn’t think about or forgot — like strips to hang up pictures and art. Revise and rewrite your list as the day goes on.

5. Don’t try to stay up with the roomie. Some roommates will come equipped with flat screen TVs, $1,000 bikes, and the best and latest technology. Don’t worry about what they have and you do not. In a dorm room, keep remembering the mantra — LESS IS MORE!

6. Don’t go out and buy a router for the dorm’s WiFi until you read the section on technology on the college’s website. Most likely routers are not allowed and it’s a simple passcode that is needed instead.

7. Feed your student. He or she may be so intent on getting unpacked and settled and meeting dorm mates, that he or she won’t take time to eat. Make sure to stock bananas, apples, yogurt and other healthy snacks in their room and fridge.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter's dorm room. Years of memories.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter’s dorm room. Years of memories.

I made it through the day without tears — mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes. You can read about how I said goodbye here.

18 years ago.Here’s a song “Teach Your Children Well” that fits my mood today. Listen and enjoy!

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Are Name Brand Colleges Worth It?

images-1This week kids are making last minute college decisions. Some are waiting on waiting lists to see if they get into their dream schools.

It reminds me of my son’s senior year. He applied to top tier big-name schools. He had high SATs, was valedictorian, an athlete, musician and school leader. We had visions of him having to make the tough choice between Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and Yale.

252950_178347325554945_2205981_nWhen he didn’t get into any of the big name schools, he was devastated. His disappointment came in part from his high school teachers. They looked down at the school that accepted him and felt he should have gone to a more prestigious school. How is a teenager able understand that his teachers don’t always have the best answers? My husband and I were sad for our son, but strangely relieved. How much is a brand name college worth? Is it worth $65,000 per year? $260,000 for four years?

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There are plenty of articles that take on one side or another of whether or not a brand name school is better than a state school.

In the end, my son went to the school that accepted him. He was sorely disappointed at first, but soon learned that there was plenty of education at the state school. It was downright challenging! Like most things in life, you get out of school what you put into it.

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I went to a state school, many of my friends and family went to state schools — and we managed to be content, happy and successful. From my cousin, who’s published numerous novels, to a high school friend that reached the top echelons of Nordstrom executives, to my brother who retired with millions in his 30s after a career at the top of huge corporation — they all went to state schools.

Education comes down to the individual  — the effort and choices made while in college — regardless of the school.

I wrote about College Costs —  a Lot! It does. Even for a state school, it can be plenty pricey. In California, the average cost of a UC school is $30,000 a year. For anyone, that’s expensive! Choose a school that fits your budget, offers your child’s area of study, and is a good fit for them academically.

If our son had been accepted into Stanford, rather than deferred, I wonder what we would have chosen for him? I’m thankful now that we didn’t have to make that choice.

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My Son Agrees With the Girl Who Sued Her Parents

csfMy son called to tell me that he did great on his midterm for Differential Geometry. It’s a hard class he said. So hard that he spends 20 to 30 hours studying each week.

I am proud of him. And we had a great conversation on how he’s finally figuring out this whole college thing — until I brought up the girl who sued her parents for her private Catholic School tuition, expenses, and future college education. (her photo is below)

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I was sure my son would say, “What a jerk.”

We had a rough time his senior year and today he calls himself a jerk — looking back on how we interacted. (More on this in “My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for His Senior Project.”)

You can only imagine how I was shocked to hear him say that it’s “publicly accepted in our country for parents to pay for their kids college and that it’s her right.”

Where did we — or more importantly — I go wrong?

I read about how the judge called the high school senior “a spoiled brat.” I threw the argument at my son that the judge brought up — is it now going to be okay for a 12-year-old to sue their parents because he wants an Xbox?

My son said, “No, Mom. There’s a big difference between a college education and an Xbox.”

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I see these kids as part of the “occupy generation”  — spoiled, feeling entitled, like society owes them something. These are kids that all got trophies in t-ball for participation (I’ll write about that another time!)

Saving for 18 years for our kids to go to college was our choice. (Read my post “College Costs — A lot!”)

Going to college is a privilege, not a right. The “paid for college privilege” is earned through hard work in academics, sports, and being a valuable member of the family and greater community. I’m proud that my kids work hard. I’m just surprised that my son has a different world view.

Is my son an exception? Or do lots of kids believe that their parents owe them college? Ask your kids if they believe college should be paid for by parents. Comment below and tell me what they said.

What is Differential Geometry you ask? According to Wikipedia…

Differential geometry is a mathematical discipline that uses the techniques of differential calculus and integral calculus, as well as linear algebra and multilinear algebra, to study problems in geometry. The theory of plane and spacecurves and of surfaces in the three-dimensional Euclidean space formed the basis for development of differential geometry during the 18th century and the 19th century. Since the late 19th century, differential geometry has grown into a field concerned more generally with the geometric structures on differentiable manifolds. Differential geometry is closely related to differential topology, and to the geometric aspects of the theory of differential equations. The differential geometry of surfaces captures many of the key ideas and techniques characteristic of this field.

From the Los Angeles Times: An open letter to my kids about suing mom and dad.

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10 Terms to Test Your Investment IQ

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I know you’ve heard them talked about and mentioned a million times. But, do you know what they mean? How many of these ten financial terms can you can define:

Equity,

Bond,

Yield,

Risk,

Mutual Fund,

ETF,

Dividend,

Asset Allocation,

Blue Chip,

and DOW.

imagesIf we women are going to own the world, then we better know what we’re talking about. How many times have you listened to a financial advisor and your eyes glaze over? Is it because financial professionals take for granted that you have knowledge that you don’t have? Is it their jargon? Or, are they are just plain boring!

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Take a moment to quiz yourself. FYI, the answers are right here:

Ten Investment Terms

Equity  — stock, ownership in a company.

Bond — Unlike a stock, where you are an owner in a company, with a bond, you lend money to a corporation, municipality or government agency.  In return, you will be paid back your money plus interest.

Yield — This term is often found to be confusing.  There are several types of yield, but the basic definition is the income return you’ll receive on an investment.

Risk — The more risk you take, the higher your chance of reward and vice versa. There are many different types of risk including company, market, inflationary, reinvestment risk, etc.

Mutual Fund –  A pool of money that is collected from many investors and invested in stocks, bonds, options, commodities or money market securities.

ETF  — Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is an investment traded much like stock on the exchanges.  An ETF closely mimics an index, such as a stock or bond index.  (SPDR is an example that follows the S&P 500.)

Dividend — Corporate profits paid to shareholders of common and preferred stock.

Asset Allocation — Diversifying your investments across different assets (cash, stocks, and bonds) to protect against volatility.

Blue Chip — Large, well known companies that have performed well over a long period of time.

DOW — The Dow Jones Industrial Average known as the “DOW” is a compilation of 30 blue chip companies, that gives a snapshot of how the overall market is doing at a particular time.

How did you score?

0 to 3  financial flounder

4 to 7 fiscally efficient

8 – 10 financial wizard

imgresHere’s a link to a great article on planning and saving for college education.

 

College Costs — a Lot!

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My 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. 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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Women Own It — The World That Is!

imagesWomen are a powerful group — and despite what certain bloggers say — that includes those who marry and raise kids. Today, women control almost 3/4 of America’s wealth, about $19 trillion from inherited and earned assets. Women are gathering assets by working, marrying and inheriting.

The question that needs to be asked is — not whether you stay at home, or follow your dreams to a high powered career — but can you handle being in control of the world’s wealth?

In the 1960s, my Dad drove a black VW Beetle to work — our only car. Mom shared coffee with neighborhood moms after the kids walked to school. Later, Mom cleaned house and hung our laundry outside to dry. Our clothes and sheets smelled delicious, like a spring breeze. My Dad handled the checkbook, banking, and the business.

Many women from Mom’s generation have zero financial experience when they find themselves suddenly alone. It can happen to younger women, too. Take my close friend whose husband died of a stroke. She found herself a single mom at 47. She had never paid a bill, didn’t know how to write a check, or which bank they used. Her husband had been a day-trader in commodities. During the months it took her to unravel the mysteries of their finances, she and her daughter could have been completely wiped out by not knowing where or what they were invested in.

On the flip side, many women are very financially savvy and they make the investment decisions early on. I know a doctor’s wife who handles their medical office bookkeeping, and has taken extensive courses in investing. Her husband is the one that doesn’t have a clue about banking or investing.

We need to face the fact that we will be in charge of our finances — if not now, then in the future. How prepared and knowledgeable are you? Do you have any idea how much money you need to send your children to college? Even though it may seem like an eternity away, do you know how much money you need to retire comfortably?

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture your life twenty years from today. Do you want to travel, spend time with your family, or read a book on the beach? Write down what your perfect retirement looks like. This is the first step in taking charge of your financial future.

Don’t be afraid by how much you don’t know. Start with what you do know and what you desire. To learn more you can read a financial article daily, meet with an advisor, and be an active participant in your financial life. Remember, we women will end of up with the wealth. Let’s be prepared.