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Reader Question: How Do I Prepare My Son Financially For Law School?

Law School

Frugal Rules is all about helping people. That’s why reader questions are always welcomed. Let’s be a good community and help this reader out with any helpful insight you have to share. After you read this post, makes sure to go over to my friends’ site Fearless Men and check out my guest post Starting a Legacy That Will Last A Lifetime and Beyond

 

I received an email from a Frugal Rules reader several weeks ago in regards to his son starting law school in the fall. He was concerned about preparing him financially for the high costs associated with this chosen path. I am always humbled and invigorated by emails from readers seeking guidance because it is truly why I started Frugal Rules in the first place – as a way to help people make wise financial decisions.  After engaging in a few back and forth emails with this gentleman, (let’s call him Frank) he agreed to let me share his story with my readers to see how we as a community can help him. I’ll start by saying that I truly admire how Frank and his wife want to best prepare their son for law school, especially in light of how the job market has been over the last few years. Frank gets sick at the thought of his son graduating with upwards of $150,000 in student loan debt. To be honest, I would be too and I have written about student loan debt before. There are times when it is not a wise decision, but I do not believe that’s the case with Frank’s son. He wants to be a lawyer and has been looking at this decision for some time. After discussing it with Frank, I see no problem in this and believe that they have made a fully informed decision. Their son was able to triple major and double minor for his undergrad in four years, while also working part-time and getting a scuba driver certification and pilot’s license. Motivation and working hard are not foreign to Frank’s son and I think he will do quite well academically in law school.

A Little Background

Frank’s son has been accepted at several law schools and offered a full ride. The rub is that these schools are all recently accredited and to quote Frank “are not very good.” The likelihood of his son getting a decent job with a law degree from these institutions will be poor at best. He has been accepted at other law schools that are very well known. They’re not Harvard or Yale, but are highly respected. Frank’s son will be financing the schooling on his own. He has been offered scholarships to most of them, but will still need to pay for about $30,000 per year, and that is just for the school year. All of these schools will be out of state for his son and thus more than likely cost him more than the $30,000. Frank mentioned the possibility of trying to negotiate award packages with the school his son selects, which I think is a great idea. I have heard numerous stories of families who have found success doing this. In my opinion, going to one of the more reputable law schools is probably the best option for a number of reasons. Those are namely the network that comes with the schools as well as the increased likelihood of decent job placement, even considering the potential student loan debt.

To date, Frank and his wife have covered their son’s living and paid for his undergrad degree, traveling and car. He is concerned that he did a disservice to his son and that his son does not have a sufficient understanding of what student loan debt will look like. I know that some in the PF blogosphere might jump on this and say that a disservice was done, but the past is not the issue; only the current and short term matters at this point. Being a parent myself, I can understand the feelings of looking back, however we must now look to the future.

My Suggestions

Knowing that Frank’s son is roughly seven months away from starting law school and will be funding a large chunk on his own, these seven months need to be savings time for Frank’s son. He has a job making $10 per hour and is living at home. Frank indicated that he is saving nearly everything he makes other than some fun money to socialize with his friends. I suggested that Frank give some incentive to his son by offering to match his son’s saving, up to a certain amount and to look for potential side jobs he can pick up. Frank indicated that he has offered to match his son’s savings up to $10,000. I think this a great motivator and hopefully his son will be able to take full advantage of that. Frank’s son will not be able to work his first year in law school as any of the schools he is considering will not allow it. This is where being frugal will need to be of utmost importance. He will be living off campus, so I suggested he contact the school he selects to see if they have any network available where students might be looking for roommates. There are numerous other things he can look into like renting textbooks or buying used ones from former students. The main concern Frank has is that his son likes to eat out. I encouraged Frank to have him look at something like buying a crock pot and making meals to cut down costs, make meal preparation easy and providing multiple meals at once.

Finally, Frank and his wife are roughly ten years from retirement. They have put both of their children through college and paid for numerous extra-curricular activities and are debt free. I highly commend them for doing that. They are, understandably, tired of paying for college and feel like they need to focus on retirement. While their son can always get loans for law school, there are no loans for retirement. My suggestion was to focus on retirement saving as much as possible and maxing out all of their retirement vehicles.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around! I now turn this over to you. What are your suggestions and what did I miss? The point here is to give constructive input to Frank and his family. I might add that many parents would not care and just let their children go into something like this unprepared and the children would face further challenges as a result. Please leave your thoughts for Frank (and anyone else reading who finds themselves in a similar predicament) in the comments below. Thanks!

 

Photo courtesy of: Steven Goodwin

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally

57 Comments

  • Has their son determined what type of law he’s interested in practicing? There’s a big difference in pay between say a chemical patent lawyer and a public defender/social work lawyer. If it’s the latter, then I’d seriously consider to going to the cheapest school that he can find to get his credentials because the pay is so low.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted…He Said She Said: What We LoveMy Profile

    • John says:

      You know, Mrs. Pop, in all of our emails back and forth I failed to ask that. You bring up a great point, and one that should be considered. That said, I get the feeling it’s not to pursue the latter, though still a very valid issue to consider.

  • I really like the idea of matching his savings and think it is great that Frank is wanting to help his son to succeed in his future career.
    Eating out is going to happen regardless of what you say or do. I know when I was heading to university whenever my friends decided to go out and eat I would always go with them otherwise you miss out on the social aspect of it.

    Perhaps just sit down and show him the amount of student debt and the amount of time and interest that will be involved in paying it back. Perhaps then he might not spend as much on eating out when he gets to campus.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…January 2013 Goal ReviewMy Profile

    • John says:

      I liked the idea as well Glen, especially if it can be done while also not sacrificing their retirement saving. I agree that the eating out will happen, to some extent and can’t always be avoided. Maybe the answer is to budget the amount he spends per week/month so as to keep it in check while also allowing him too have that as an outlet.

  • I love the matching savings idea as well. It seems like Frank and his wife have done a great job so far in terms of helping their son prepare. One thing they could maybe do as well is to offer to make, and give or sell him (if they are worried about not preparing him for real life living costs) some frozen meals in reusable containers each month? Even if they charged him, it’d be cheaper and healthier than going out to eat.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…The Road to Debt Free: Not for the Faint of HeartMy Profile

    • John says:

      I think it is a pretty solid idea as well Laurie. That is a good idea for the preparing of meals for him. The only downside, is that any school he’ll be going to will be out of state, so may not be a long term option for him.

  • Pauline says:

    the son looks serious since he already has a small job, but like med school, I think it will be hard for him, should he want good grades, to find a part time job. He should investigate TA positions and other jobs at the university since they offer tuition discount on top so they are the best value for your part time work.
    If I could afford it, I would pay for tuition if it is a prestigious university and he keeps a very good GPA, so he can focus on doing interesting internships and network instead of frying burgers.
    Pauline recently posted…Little house in Guatemala, week 14-15My Profile

    • John says:

      I would agree Pauline, that he does seem serious and I am confident he’ll succeed. The TA option is a great idea! I don’t know how it differs in Law School vs. doing so in grad school, but might be an option in the future for him. I would tend to agree that the better name school should probably be the one he chooses.

  • Jason @ WSL says:

    I completely agree with Mrs. Pop. A lot of people believe that lawyers make great money but that’s simply not the case for a lot of them. I can’t remember where I saw it (maybe Your PF Pro) but he showed that the median salary for lawyers was $80k. When you’re going $120k into debt…that’s not really a lot.

    Anyhow, I’d look to take on the least amount of student loans as possible unless it was a really lucrative law field. If it is a very specialized area then paying a little more won’t hurt. Love the matching idea and DEFINITELY focus on your own retirement.

    I coached a lady (in her 70s) about 6 months ago that had nothing left for retirement because she paid for her kid’s college education.
    Jason @ WSL recently posted…Best Online Tax Preparation Software – H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxACT, FreeTaxUSAMy Profile

    • John says:

      That’s a very valid point Jason and one that should be taken seriously. I know that Frank expressed some concern over that much student loan debt and concern that is son is not cognizant of how much debt that truly is. I think they’re seeing the possibility of pretty good scholarships and hoping to be able to negotiate more.

      I would agree on taking the least amount of loans available and should do what he can to maximize what Frank and his wife will match, savings wise, for him.

      That is sad to hear of the lady you worked with. I have seen similar situations myself and, while I admire the desire, fully funding schooling at the risk of retirement is not the wisest of choices. Like I said, you can always get a student loan, but you can’t get a loan for retirement.

  • AverageJoe says:

    Great tips above! I’d just reiterate what Jason mentioned. Before jumping in with both feet to save junior, make sure that you’re going to be okay for retirement THEN help out however is possible.

    I’d be interested to see the son’s status in a FAFSA analysis. As a graduate student earning money on his own, he may qualify for a fair amount of financial aid, as well.
    AverageJoe recently posted…Banks and Financial Advisors of the Future – 2 Guys and Your Money 027My Profile

    • John says:

      Thanks Joe! I could not agree more. This is primetime saving/investing time for them as they’re looking at retirement in 10 years. I think the $10k is on top retirement savings, so they should be good if that’s the case.

      Great point on the FAFSA analysis. I know that of primary concern is earning in state rates plus getting more due to his working and earning money on his own.

  • Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy says:

    Buy that boy some cooking lessons! I really love that matching incentive plan. I believe that Frank’s son should try to super charge his savings by supplementing with side income. What are his hobbies, is there anything he potentially can monetize? (ie, guitar lessons, landscaping, heck, even pet sitting, etc.) Law school will cost a pretty penny, and require oodles of sacrifice to avoid a behemoth student debt load.

    Best of luck to Frank and his family.
    Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy recently posted…Good morning, Monday. Some bits and bobs.My Profile

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Jennifer! It really would not take a whole lot for him to be able to learn some basics that’ll help him make some meals that will help him in the long run.

      I agree on the supercharging the savings. He should be looking for ways to bring in the extra income. Even if it’s not for the match, just to get him in the mode of what this endeavor is going to cost him.

  • I am with Mrs Pop and Jason in that whatever type of law he is going to practice is the key. If you work for the DA, no one will care where you went to law school. If he is looking to get into corporate law or politics down the line, the school choice would matter more. Students are going to go out socially and I think that’s a given. You also always think you will land the mother of all jobs and be rich after professional school. $80K seems like a huge amount when you are used to making $10 an hour, but on $120K loans that’s over a grand in monthly payments. I think the key is to take only what you need during school and avoid credit card debt at all costs. I wouldn’t worry about trying to work. Law school should be for getting good grades, making connections that might give you a recommendation, and finding internships. I think the key is to avoid lifestyle inflation after graduation. If he lands a good job, he should be able to pay the loans off quick if he can avoid the pitfall of thinking he needs and deserves better things. Hard to plan that far ahead, but I was there once and that is the best way to go. Otherwise, you’re looking at 40 years old and still paying back loans. I applaud Frank for being proactive. I don’t think most parents even grasp that there might be an issue down the road.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted…7 Steps to Take Before You Put Your Home on the MarketMy Profile

    • John says:

      Great thoughts Kim! I agree that many parents would not care or grasp the possible future repercussions. I agree that the type of law he’s wanting to practice should be a valid concern and making sure his schooling choice lines up with it.

  • Stephanie says:

    His son seems like a very goal oriented person and has done well so far academically. I would advise working with his son to put concrete goals together for his spending. Maybe it’s reasonable to set a goal of eating lunch out once a week, drinks with friends once per week and a weekend outing. I know that probably seems like a lot frugal minded people but it will probably not seem like a lot to this guy. Or maybe advocate to cash system for his eating out. Challenge him to learn to cook some dishes that he likes – eggs and sausage, pancakes, quesadillas, etc are all quick and easy dinners and not expensive. He can use this time before school starts to prepare himself for living frugally on his own. Most of the schools will have some student lounges/centers that have microwaves for heating up meals in between studying and classes. He’ll need to plan to use them. Have him start menu planning . . .
    I agree, though, that going to a more prestigious law school is the better choice than a marginal or recently accredited law school. You have to focus on the long term options that a marginal school will not open doors for you.

    • John says:

      I agree Stephanie that he does appear to be a goal oriented person and working to establish some clear goals can go a long way to help him out in the long run. Looking at the long term is a vital issue, like you stated. I have experience with a recently accredited grad school myself and now wish I would’ve spent more to go to a name school for the many things it offers.

  • Catherine says:

    Franks son isn’t a child anymore. Grad school/professional schools should be self funded in my opinion. I will contribute to my daughters undergrad but once our money runs out, that\s it.. If she plans on continuing on she’ll need to have a plan in place to pay for it. I would tell Frank to be honest with his son, tell him that they’re tapped out financially and cannot afford to help him (financially) anymore. His son has his entire life in front of him , Frank and his wife need to concentrate on their retirement. They need to tell their son that he will need to learn how to budget and plan his income and loans appropriately and this includes how he will pay them back. If he has a plan to pay back his debt it’s not a bad thing!! Debt is a nesessity for some people it’s what people do to get out of debt that makes the difference. If he’s responsible about it there shouldn’t be an issue. He will graduate with a decent paying job. Borrow as little as necessary and start paying off immediately. Don’t use the money to go away on spring break, capitalize on school breaks to make money (spring/winter breaks, summers).
    Catherine recently posted…Investing In My HealthMy Profile

    • John says:

      Good points Catherine. I completely agree that Frank and his wife need to focus on retirement and maximize, if possible, all of their retirement accounts. To my knowledge, the matching idea is on top of all of that and would not hinder their retirement savings efforts. I also agree that he needs to be wise about the amount of loans that are taken out, not use them to fund travelling and have a serious acknowledgement of what paying them off is going to look like.

  • Kay Lynn says:

    Unless you want to work at a firm in the largest cities (NY, LA, Chicago), I don’t think a law student needs to go to a top tier school. When I hired a lawyer, I didn’t care where they went to school; just that they could do a good job for me.
    Kay Lynn recently posted…Menu Plan Monday: February 11-18My Profile

    • John says:

      I would agree, to a point Kay Lynn. There are a lot of schools out there, though that does not mean they’re all good schools. Having the network a good school can provide can be invaluable in the long term. That said, it’s a balance, which is difficult to find.

  • I think that Frank and his wife’s guidance regarding budgeting will be much more valuable to his son than a few thousand additional dollars. We’re talking about $100k in debt at minimum here for law school no matter if the son eats our or uses a crock pot – the lessons regarding debt and budgeting are going to have to last for decades while he is repaying.

    In fact I would go so far as to say that the son should move out and provide for himself until he starts taking out his student loans. That lesson will have a much greater impact than matching some savings. If the parents absolutely refuse to encourage their son to provide for himself, they could charge him rent, utilities, car insurance and so forth at the going rate and put the money in a savings account to give to him when he stars law school. Maybe 7 months of budgeting on his own will incentivize him to get a roommate and make all the other good choices on his own without his parents having to be so instructive, which will be much more effective. Of course his parents can provide suggestions if asked – but let him get to the point where he asks!

    I am speaking as a grad student BTW. People pursuing professional degrees should be treated like professionals, not children – this isn’t college round 2.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted…Should You Count Your Employer’s Contribution into Your Retirement Savings Percentage?My Profile

    • John says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Emily. I agree that teaching him the fundamentals of budgeting will be invaluable and serve him long past his time in school. That said, I think the matching thing is a good idea as it gives him the potential to have $20k in the bank when he goes off to school.

      I agree that eating out or using a crock pot are a drop in the bucket compared to how much debt he’ll possibly take on. That’s not the point though. The greater point is that he’ll also need to learn how to live in light of the fact that he needs to watch his spending while in school so he can manage his expenses.

      Moving out on his own for the seven months, while a good idea and one that I’d be inclined to suggest, really is not a viable option at this point as every school he is considering is out of state. If he were to move out and stay local he would run into issues of getting a short term lease and the like.

      I agree that someone pursuing a grad degree should be approached/handled professionally. I have a Masters as well and know what it’s like to get it and pursue one. It is a truckload of work (to put it lightly) and requires much of you. It is not college part 2, but there’s also a balance between that and how to teach/train the child if you’re the parent.

      All that said, I agree that the skills of budgeting and managing debt are an invaluable trait that they should be working with him on as I view that a vital part of parenting in order to best set up your child for success in life.

  • The question Frank’s son needs to ask himself is what does he actually want to do with his law degree. If he wants to get into a reputable law firm, then yeah, he needs to shoot for at least a tier 2 school. High powered firm like Skadden, probably going to need an expensive name on the diploma. But those are the kind of high paying law careers that can pay off those massive debts in a few dilligent years.

    But if his aim is more modest, like working for the government, maybe as a public defender or even DOJ, then the school isn’t as important.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted…Meet the 2013 $3K ChallengersMy Profile

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Edward. He does need to look at how he plans on using it and what his career aspirations once completed.

      A big issue is that many of them do cost a truckload of money and at the end of the day you want to go to one that’s going to give you a good foundation and set you up for success. The free schooling offered by some of the newer ones will mean nothing if he can’t secure a decent job in the end.

  • In these types of situations, I say to handle it the only way I know how – by ripping off the band-aid and getting it done as quickly as possible. Frank should just have a man-to-man talk with his son and let him know how its going to be. From there, he should “coach” him on how to setup his finances and budget. That’s the thing people always forget. You can cut the funding, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut the advice they need (which is often more valuable).
    My Money Design recently posted…How to Invest a Million Dollars and Why You’ll Need to Know How SomedayMy Profile

    • John says:

      Great point MMD! I would do that very thing and be real with his son and get started right away. The finances and basic budgeting are going to serve him well beyond the three years in school and can help set him up for success in the long run.

  • Michelle says:

    I have a post just like this scheduled for Wednesday. Looks like Frank contacted both of us, multiple opinions are always best :) I do find this a topic that many people debate on and hopefully our readers can help them.
    Michelle recently posted…$2,420 in Extra Income, Life, Wedding UpdatesMy Profile

  • It’s very commendable that they put their kids through college and I totally agree with your advice that they need to focus on retirement funds because there is no loan for that. I’ve suggested the same thing to my parents.

    Also, thanks for the guest post! You really brought forth the vision of Fearless Men in your article.
    John @ Fearless Men recently posted…Starting a Legacy That Will Last a Lifetime and BeyondMy Profile

    • John says:

      I agree John. They all did it while coming out debt free to boot, which is freaking awesome in my opinion. They do need to focus on retirement and I think they see that.

      No problem on the post. Thanks for letting my share my thoughts! :)

  • As a financial advisor, I have to advocate that the parents make sure they are set to meet their retirement goals and are not doing anything super risky to finance their son’s education that may put their livelihood at risk. As a mom, I understand their desire to pay for their son’s law school. Financing a child’s education is a tricky business. I absolutely love the idea of doing a savings match. I think it’s good for children to pay for a portion of their higher education. They appreciate it more and probably put more effort into doing well. It sounds like this family has thought through the pros and cons, which is fantastic. I think one of the best things they can do is help prepare their son for the fact he will have significant student debt. Based on what type of lawyer he wants to be, check out the average salary earnings (especially for someone starting out) to make sure it justifies taking on this much debt. Help him put together a budget for college so he doesn’t take on more debt (credit card) and when he graduates, help him figure out a plan to reduce his debt as quickly as possible.
    Shannon Ryan @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…Valentine’s Day Love BoxMy Profile

    • John says:

      It is a tricky balance Shannon and I know exactly what you’re saying. Their main focus needs to be retirement as it is close enough to be able to have on their radar. That said, I understand that pull of being a parent as well and wanting to do as much as you can for your child.

      I agree that it can be an invaluable lesson to have the child to pay a good portion of their schooling as they’ll have more skin in the game and will “feel” the cost more. I think the savings match is a good idea as well as they can do it on top of their saving/investing while not sacrificing in order to do it.

      Establishing that budget, like you pointed out, will be vital. I know the temptation will be there in order to use credit cards and that’ll just make the situation worse.

  • I agree with the matching savings plan. The first semester will be a lot of work, but when he gets his bearings on his studies a TA position or a side job should not be out of the question. As long is it is not a ton of hours per week, it should not cut into studies too much, and may even enhance his experience in school. Balancing the finances and the work is key. He sounds like he will be making decent money while out of school IF he does well. Best of luck!
    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce recently posted…The Art of Doing NothingMy Profile

    • John says:

      I think that is a good way to go as well Tony. I agree the first semester will be a lot of work. The problem though is that he can’t have a job the first year in school, and I think that is pretty justified. He will be staying in the state he chooses to go to though in the summers with the hopes of establishing residency and thus lowering his tuition costs.

  • I’m not sure if I view what Frank has done so far to help his Son as a disservice. Maybe I’m just softening as I get older but I’ll do anything I can for my kids if I think it will genuinely help them and not spoil them. The reality of the world we live in is that it’s tough, tough to buy a house, insure a car, get a degree and even get a job. When I was younger I used to have a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I’d never had a leg up in life, I’ve had to do everything on my own. As much as it has given me a respect for money I think it’s undoubtedly led to a few missed opportunities in life. If you’ve worked hard all your life and are in a position to give your kids a helping hand to a life you never had then I don’t think thats wrong, as long as you don’t ruin them in the process.
    Money Bulldog recently posted…Is There Such A Thing As Ethical Banking?My Profile

    • John says:

      I don’t know if I would either Adam, though it was a concern that Frank expressed. I can understand the second guessing though as many parents do it. I don’t think it’s wrong either to help children either and will do myself to our ability. The issue though is not putting it ahead of retirement savings, especially at the stage that Frank and his wife are in at being ten years or so away from retirement.

    • frank says:

      Hey, Money Bull Dog – thanks for your insight. Totally get it. And you’re right – no kid should have to do everything on his own – EVER – but the flip side of that coin is that you can’t spoil them either. It’s a tough balance – so you give it your best shot and hope for the best. Thanks for your comment. Really appreciate it ’cause it made me remember how hard I worked when I was my son’s age – and that, no doubt, will give me some wisdom. Thanks.

  • Mackenzie says:

    Wow, what a dilemma! I’m sure I may be repeating what others may have said but, Frank sounds like a caring father who only wants what’s best for his son. My parents paid for my undergraduate tuition and it was a tremendous help!
    That being said, I am glad Frank wants to focus on his retirement, which he should. He definitely should not pay for his son’s law school but the savings account idea is a good one. And depending on what kind of law he wants to practice, I think should have more bearing on what school he chooses.
    Mackenzie recently posted…Your Wedding Doesn’t Have to Break The BankMy Profile

    • John says:

      I know Mackenzie, that was my thought when I got Frank’s first email. I agree that he does come across as a very caring father and one that did otherwise would fall terribly short in my opinion. Your other points are very valid and should be a part of the decision.

  • frank says:

    John, guys/gals,
    Thank you ALL for your input. Every one of you has added something of value to this discussion and I want you to know that it is all appreciated very much. This helps a lot. It’s a difficult balance between tossing him into the real (financial) world and helping him as much as we can without endangering our retirement. (The 70 year old lady with no retirement savings makes me cringe – as does the thought of my kid going hungry and being under incredible stress).

    He wants to be a DA and eventually join the FBI so he’s looking at east coast schools primarily. They aren’t cheap. Even with scholarships/financial aid he’ll be looking at several thousands of dollars each year (and that’s assuming he keeps his gpa up so the scholarships are renewed each year). I love the “buy him a cook book/lessons and teach him to cook” – tried that without much success, but he did manage to feed himself in undergrad so he’s just going to have to continue to do that. There are no TA positions at any of the schools he’s looking at. He can’t work his first year, but he can get a clerking job/internship for the 2nd and 3rd years (as well as the summers/breaks etc). Trust me – this kid ain’t going anywhere over Spring break except to WORK.

    I agree that he needs to be treated as an adult, but moving out for 7 months isn’t feasible. We had him on a pretty strict budget in undergrad, but that doesn’t change the fact that he never paid a dime for his undergrad education. He did make some $ for extracurricular things, but we covered his food, rent, tuition etc. He never got into credit card debt while in undergrad, so we’re not concerned that he’ll start that now. I think we’ve put the fear of God in him on that. I’ve had the man to man talk with him re: how we need to pay off our mortgage and fully fund our retirement and he understands that – he just doesn’t have any experience with debt – I mean NO eperience with debt and maybe we should have made him take out a loan so he’d have that experience, but we didn’t so now we’ve got to deal with reality.

    We’re in the middle of a “bidding war” with his 2 top picks and once we get all the numbers in (and have a handle on what an apt etc will cost) we will definitely be sitting down with him and helping him with a budget.

    Thank you all for your input – this really does help. The recently accredited law schools are now officially off the table. Right now we’re thinking that we will continue with our “retirement/pay off the mortgage” plan and let him fend for himself (other than the $10,000 we offered to match). Meanwhile, we’re going to put some $ aside (that he does not know about) so that when those loans do come due (and some of them will come due while he’s studying for the bar and/or otherwise unemployed) we’ll be able to at least help him a little – but not before he’s scared to death of that kind of debt and is motivated to pay it all off as quickly as it is humanly possible to do so. (And, that assumes no health problems or other unforeseen incidents).

    Seriously – I find your willingness to throw your thoughts out here incredibly generous and it is very, very much appreciated. Thank you.

    Frank

    p.s. Michelle – yes I am asking everyone to chime in – we need all the input we can get – thx much!

    p.p.s. John – again – thank you for your generosity in throwing this out there and weighing yourself. Much appreciated! (I am just loving these pf blogs I just stumbled across)!

    • John says:

      First off Frank, am happy to be of help and glad that the comments/insight were of some help. That’s the whole reason why I started Frugal Rules, in order to help others.

      I think it’s awesome your son wants to eventually join the FBI! Knowing that, I would agree that the lower end schools should be likely off of the table. I wish you luck in the bidding war with the two schools. Knowing your sons ambitions and his work ethic, etc will hopefully weigh with both of them. In the long run having someone reach their goals like he has will only provide to benefit their network, which will hopefully benefit him now with the award packages.

    • kathryn says:

      All our kids knew from the start if they wanted higher education, they were going to pay for it.None decided to go. I’ve seen to many young people who fool around when someone else is paying for it.
      I guess the moral problem is, you paid for the previous children? Why not this child?

      Have you considered ways of your child living free when in school. Sometimes older people will provide free/cheap room and board, just to have someone as company, and do small maintenace (lawns.shovelling).
      Another option is to rent a 4 bedroom apt/house.(you can co-sign) Rent out rooms to others. Do not split the expenses, but rather charge them a set rate. Example: the rent and utilities is $1000 month. You charge each boarder $400-$500 a month. If you go this route, make sure you have a complete set of rules and obligations for the boarders.

      • John says:

        That’s a great point Kathryn, one I’ve seen all too often myself…the kid goofs around while on Mom & Dad’s dime. That, though, is not the issue here. The issue is that they paid for the undergrad as they did with their other child. This is going above and beyond and while they can help (ie the matching idea) they need to make retirement their main focus.

        That said, the living option is a great idea. It would have to be a very unique situation, but I know one that has worked in the past for others.

  • Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    Has he thought of looking at a law school in state and perhaps commuting? I understand that Frank may not want his son to go to some of these recently accredited schools, but if there is a local public university within driving distance that may be a better choice.
    Unless he wants to work for a top firm in New York, this would be a much less expensive, if it’s possible.
    Also, I think that it’s great that Frank is matching his son. This is something that I also plan on doing for my children.
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    • John says:

      I am not certain on that Justin. While a great point I am not certain what state they live in, so not sure if that would be a truly viable option. I agree the matching plan is a great idea and one that we’ll more than likely implement when our children get to that age.

  • In all branches of military service they have what’s called JAG (Judge Advocate General) which is basically the job description for military lawyers. I have had multiple friends fund their law school education by promising the military a couple years of their young adult lives. This is how I was able to pay for my school
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    • John says:

      That’s a great point Marvin. I have heard of JAG’s as we had a good friend doing that a number of years ago in the military. I don’t know if it’s an option for Frank’s son, but it is a very good idea.

  • I used to date someone who always wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer. He eventually did (after we were no longer together), and decided to pay $180,000 to a better branded universtiy rather than take a full-paid ride from a lesser known university. He had a lot of trouble finding a job afterwards, partially because of the economy, and feels that he will be paying off these loans for the rest of his life (he is a very smart person, and started up his own law firm when he couldn’t find a job; he’s now a lawyer for another law firm). Just something to consider from someone who was given some of the same choices.
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    • John says:

      Sorry to hear that Amanda. You do bring up a very valid point in that it’s not always the name that gets you what you want. The economy has made it difficult for many and having $180k in student loan debt just makes me cringe.

  • Frank says:

    John,
    Guys/Gals,
    I just want to once again reiterate our sincere appreciation for all of your financial advice. Really, really appreciate it. We sent your comments (supportive/appropriately harsh and everything in between on to our son) – HE got YOUR message (as well as ours). THANK YOU.

    Together we were able to add fuel to his fire. He has been negotiating law school offers with various schools and he just recently got offered a full ride scholarship to a really good school. He’ll be checking that out in a couple of days, but I’m pretty sure it’s a done deal. Thank you all soooooooooo much. I promise you, all of your generousity is going to pay off for you and your loved ones in ways you’ve yet to imagine ’cause this kid is a really, really decent, caring kid and he’ll give his life for you and yours. With the education he’ll now be able to get, the sky’s the limit (and this kid loves the sky) and will personally ensure that he more than pays back all of the benefits of your guys’/gals’ advice.
    Thank you all, very, very much. I hope you all realize what a service you provide by putting your talents/ knowledge out here for those of us less-knowledgable to learn from. Sincerely, Frank

    • John says:

      That’s awesome Frank! I am so glad to hear that it worked out and that your son ended up being able to get a full ride to a good school. No problem on the help, anytime. :)

  • No Waste says:

    The law school graduate supply has a glut, and those high-paying jobs that would let him properly service that debt are few and far between.

    They’re typically reserved for graduates out of the top tier schools, or people that have already made connections.

    I hope he’s becoming a lawyer because he enjoys procedure, compliance, etc. and not because he wants to make a lot of money.
    No Waste recently posted…Net Worth – July 2013My Profile

    • frank says:

      No Waste,
      Our son is not going to law school because he wants to make a lot of money – ha That’s about the furthest thing from his mind. He wants to go to law school so he can serve his country – folks, just like you.
      I’m curious – is your bias such that you just assume all lawyers are in it for the $? I only ask because of the tone of your email and the fact that I know a lot of lawyers and not ONE of them went in it for the $. They actually are in it to help people.

      My wife would add, (as a lawyer) that being a lawyer is not ALL about procedure, compliance, etc. In fact, it’s often just the opposite of that.

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