Author Topic: Too Late for Big Change  (Read 14069 times)

69tr6r

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Too Late for Big Change
« on: July 16, 2015, 02:20:03 PM »
I found MMM a few months ago and I've been studying my financial situation ever since.  I was brought up very frugal and remain that way today.  I just feel like it's a little too late to make some drastic changes right now.  I only wish I had knew then (15 years ago), what I know now.  I'm sure a lot of people are that way too.  Let me explain.

Here is my dilemma.  I'm 44, married with 3 kids ages 15, 12 and 9.  I have a $160k mortgage, 13 years left on it, and a single $250 car payment (used Prius) for the wife.  That's pretty much it for debt except for the private high school my oldest attends, that's about $12k a year.  I know, I know, but let me say that he was enrolled way before I found MMM.  We live in a nice house, modest, but perfect for our family.  Great neighborhood, lot's of friends for my kids and it's the only house they've known.

I'm sure I could retire earlier than average if I made some drastic changes but I don't feel like that's right to do to my family.  How can I pull my kid out of the school he's in, uproot the family and move somewhere less expensive, without looking like a selfish sob?  Even if I did all of that I would still need to work for some time before FIRE.  So I would not get the benefit of enjoying my kids while they are young anyway.

I already live a pretty frugal life, and I will continue to try to shave expenses here and there.  But I don't see major change happening until the kids are out of the house, which is about 10 years.  Which is good timing for having the mortgage paid off, so maybe FIRE by 55?  Better than 65!  Anyone else have the same situation?

Cougar

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2015, 02:33:59 PM »

unless your job/career makes you miserable and miserable to be around for your family; i wouldnt change anything. if you're saving better than 3% now, you're doing better than america at large.

you might just try and get the wife in to save a little more monthly if she's on board to sell the house and retire once the kids are gone for a bteer place.

 there's lots of people here that enjoy where they are now and dont wish to change, but hang out here to pick up ways to save to improve their tomorrow; seems youre in that group.

Zamboni

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2015, 02:41:57 PM »
I hear you.

I'm pretty much in exactly the same situation with keeping things stable for my kids, who are about the same age as yours. This house is waaay to big, but I'm not going to move again until they go to college. I've moved twice since the kids were born and both times it was pretty stressful for them in terms of neighborhood friends even though they stayed at the same school.

Meanwhile, I have still been able to really up my game. I upped my savings rate drastically and cut optional things like cable a few years ago. The kids were just fine without cable, by the way. There was a very short adjustment period of about a week and then they just stopped asking about it as they had found other ways to occupy themselves. Every new raise gets funneled straight into my investments now so there is no temptation to inflate anything.

Are you going to send your two younger children to the same private school? I would advise against it if there is a decent local public school, but you should definitely talk that over with your wife sooner rather than later.

zephyr911

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2015, 02:48:14 PM »
I found MMM a few months ago and I've been studying my financial situation ever since.  I was brought up very frugal and remain that way today.  I just feel like it's a little too late to make some drastic changes right now.  I only wish I had knew then (15 years ago), what I know now.  I'm sure a lot of people are that way too.  Let me explain.
Even small changes add up to big differences over time. A decade is long enough to see those differences.
If you think 55 is in reach, then go for it! It's way better than most people do.

Bruinguy

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2015, 05:15:16 PM »
Have you figured out whether you saving enough to retire at 65?  I don't believe that including that as a priority in your current budget would make you selfish. 

You can also keep an eye out for lifestyle inflation going forward.  Future raises could mean higher savings rates in the future.

Left

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2015, 05:21:51 PM »
MMM to me isn't about "retiring" early, it's about becoming financially independent... If you want to keep working after that point, great...so in your case, just follow what you can on MMM's advice on what you want and then enjoy your life.

The part I do is I invest in indexes and well, the rest I'm doing how I want. I don't "spend" a lot, but when I do, I tend to spend in large chunks of money because it is important to me. Which is my goal as a MMM follower, I saved up/invested money to do the things I want to and not have to worry about figuring out if I can afford it or not. Sure, I sound "consumerist" in "buying what I want if I can afford it", but I use MMM to help weigh what is important to me. And consumer items just aren't my things, but vacation and time with family is, and I can drop $1,000s each year on them and not feel bad.

happy

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2015, 05:51:31 PM »
Never too late! I started MMM 3 .5 years ago, at 53, a single mum, with a big mortgage and two teens 13 and 16 at private schools, a hungry but fully owned SUV. No other debt. Now plan to retire somewhere in the year I'm age 60. I went through a phase where everything around me seemed to be face punch worthy - private schools, house way too big, lawn, cleaning and ironing services, lots of takeaway etc, etc.  At that point I decided not to move, and to leave the kids in their school, since I felt bad about suddenly changing the rules on them. Changed the SUV into a used Prius. Then have been on an ongoing program of optimisation, and I introduced concepts such as I'm not paying for university fees ( here in Australia, there is a system that makes paying them back not too onerous). Both kids now have jobs, without having to be wet-nursed by myself and my savings rate is 60%. Its taken me a while, I certainly did not do a "mustachian 180"….partly due to my personality - I do better with slow change and partly due to the whole situation. However the changes I've made a well embedded and  able to be adhered to permanently.

My question is, will you send the younger two kids to private school also? 

Spiffsome

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 06:42:01 PM »
There's also time to avoid big stupid decisions in the future. New car payment, bigger mortgage, Ivy League college for the kids, mistress ... people make plenty of expensive mistakes at your age, which you are now in a position to avoid!

MrStash2000

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2015, 06:55:30 PM »
I tell you what.... you may not be able to make big changes BUT I challenge you to start small.

Start with some small things today.

Some suggestions: cable tv (gone), car insurance (raise deductibles), cut electricity costs, shop for cheapest home alarm, go over your grocery spending (buy generic brands), stop eating out at restaurants and cook more veggies, look to cut cell phone plans.

I've made a few "small" changes and this over one year of constantly cutting I'm saving $1200-$1500 per month. You may be doing some of these things already but there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Thats part of the fun.

Rezdent

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2015, 10:00:34 PM »
There's already some great advice in this thread.

I recommend that you start honest dialog right now with your spouse.  Share what you would like life to look like in five years and in ten.  What do they want to do,when the kids are grown?  Listen carefully to what they would like their life to look like.
New ideas are often ignored and declared impossible.  It takes repeated exposure for someone to absorb ideas that aren't mainstream.
Continue to dialog - not so much that you drive them batty but enough so that they get used to these ideas.

This is what I did with my spouse.  In less than four years, they went from "oh, that's bullshit, I don't want to live lIke that" to "I see what you are saying, but it won't work" to "hey, I think we could cut X, and we'll be three months closer".

The biggest keys for me were to keep it simple, point out the consequences of decisions as we made them (no judging), and link their dreams of the future to the goals.

vittelx

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2015, 02:50:24 AM »
MMM to me isn't about "retiring" early, it's about becoming financially independent... If you want to keep working after that point, great...so in your case, just follow what you can on MMM's advice on what you want and then enjoy your life.

This is true for me also. I love my job and my colleagues. I have excellent benefits and only work around 35 hours/week on average with a short 15 min commute to work. So all in all a very good work–life balance. I am 35 years old, and should achieve FIRE within 10-15 years. However - as long as my current work situation stays like this i have no intent of going the ER road.

I will however still be aiming for that FIRE goal. I am quite sure i will find great satisfaction in the fact that i would be able to hit the ER-button whenever i want should i get tired of my work situation or if health issues should occur.


69tr6r

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2015, 07:03:22 AM »
Thank you all for the responses, it's nice to know I'm not the only one in this boat.  As for the younger 2 kids going to private school, it would be hard for us to force them to go to public school while the first born got his pick of choice.  So I don't think we can take that option away.  We will discuss it with them when it's time for them to pick a school and let them decide.

My wife is frugal too, probably from living with me for almost 20 years.  But mostly because she does all of the bill paying each month, so she sees how much and where we are spending.  I want to get more involved in that aspect, and I'm going to ask her if she would like me to take over that job.  I sit at a desk all day and can put the time and effort into it.  She is a full time real estate agent, with a lot on her plate.  Taking care of the kids during non-school hours is a major job!

I do talk to her about my recently discovered financial knowledge/interest, and I think she's glad that I'm doing it because she feels like I did a short time ago - not knowledgeable enough to do anything about it.  But she also doesn't want to cancel cable yet.  Or switch cell phone providers.  She's very conservative with some things, and changing to one of the lesser known cell phone companies isn't something she's ready for.  Same thing with having fat insurance plans.  I'm sure we can shave a lot from them if we reduce the coverage/increase deductibles.

As for my job, I really like what I do, the company and people are great, it's a 20 minute commute through back roads (I can and do bike commute occasionally - 10 miles each way), I get 4 weeks vacation plus a week at Xmas and in 3 years I'll be up to 5 weeks vacay.  So I really have no complaints there, just that I would like to be home more, especially in the summer, to spend more time with my kids.  I tend to use vacation days to get work done on the house/yard.  We also don't do enough vacations, even though I've got plenty of vacation time.  Cost is a big part of that, and my wife is not a camper. 

Thanks again.

happy

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2015, 07:18:13 AM »
Quote
As for the younger 2 kids going to private school, it would be hard for us to force them to go to public school while the first born got his pick of choice. 

This was how I felt. Both of mine were already in private school when I started mustachianism, but there were a number of other things that I had done with the eldest, that I felt I had to follow through and honour with the second one.  But immediately pay attention to what you are setting up  from now on with your eldest, so that you don't set anymore unwanted precedents.

2lazy2retire

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2015, 07:25:07 AM »
It appeared from your first post that you felt the private school was not the best idea, so I assume that public school would and could still be a viable alternative, but now it appears that you are willing to fork out another $100k over 4 years for the next 2 kids, that's an expensive choice to give 14 year old's.

SomedayStache

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2015, 07:25:34 AM »
I am in a somewhat similar boat.  We have always lived frugally but it was out of necessity not choice.

What I have gained from MMM is peace and satisfaction.   I used to be quite jealous of my co-workers new cars and my relatives gorgeous McMansions.  I resented my 10 year old beater car and daydreamed about expensive house renovations to up our standard of living. 

I started reading MMM and my situation hasn't drastically changed, but my attitude has.  Now I get in my 10 year old beater car and I think, "WOW!  Air-conditioning, tires, music, a comfortable seat, it gets me where I need to go!" And I am satisfied.

When I realized that a $30 to $50k house renovation essentially meant I had to work for another year, I decided my 1970s kitchen is pretty awesome.  We painted the cabinets and installed some roll-out shelves to create a pseudo pantry and now I look around and think that I am living in luxury.


Zamboni

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2015, 07:28:27 AM »
^Yes, be especially careful about what expectations you set up regarding paying for college. If you are thinking about contributing toward college expenses, pick a dollar amount that you will hold firm on for all of your children and be sure to tell the eldest when he is deciding that this is the total amount over 4 years that you can give him. Period.

Personally I would not yank the oldest out of his current school, but I would explain to the younger ones that they will be going to a different school for financial reasons. I would not give them a choice unless I felt that the public school was really total crap (and even then I would not give them a choice, I would just choose the better school.)

Regarding things like little optimizations, you need to start tracking every dime that gets spent. If you are not already doing that, then think you will find it to be quite eye opening.

At some point you and your wife are going to have to come together and start making one change at a time if you want to make any progress. Too much change at once might freak her out, but try one change at a time, maybe one a month.

coppertop

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2015, 09:41:04 AM »
I, too, think that you should not give the younger ones a choice about private school unless there is absolutely no other viable option.  That's an awful lot of money to pump into schooling; that money will be better saved for college.  I can tell you that I was a single mother and my kids attended public school.  They also attended inexpensive community and/or state schools for their first couple of years.  It didn't hurt any of them a bit.  One has a Ph.D. in Immunology; the second is an attorney; and the third has a Masters in Speech Therapy.  All are employed in their chosen fields and doing well.  All are quite literate and well adjusted.  I'm not telling you this to brag - but to tell you it doesn't take an expensive private school to get a kid to a good place in adulthood. And as someone else pointed out, that's an awful lot of money to be giving the option to a teenager to spend. 

EricP

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2015, 10:24:36 AM »
For someone with a low savings rate (<20%) small changes can knock many years off retirement.  Cutting cable, reducing your grocery bill by a mere $100 a month, going out to eat less, cutting out alcohol, no more Starbucks.  These things could turn a 20 year retirement glide slope into a 10 year.

And maybe you don't move right now, but in 7 years when your youngest is out of the house, you move at that point.  That could still be a few years quicker to retirement.

If you want, post up specifics: Salary, Expenses, Current Retirement Savings, and people can help you out more.

Obviously, the big rock is private school and potential college expenses, but the pebbles matter too.

teen persuasion

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2015, 02:12:40 PM »
I have to ask: is the private school truly superior to public?

I went to a private all girls high school, my next younger brother attended a boys high school, but our younger brother and sister attended the public HS.  No hard feelings - different pros and cons to each.  When faced with the same decision for our kids, DH (also private HS grad) and I chose public for our kids.  Our district has a strong music program, which our kids have enthusiastically embraced.  The larger public system has more course options available than the smaller individual schools, and more sports options.  And for us, distance and transportation were an issue.  The kids have a stronger bond with the local kids and community they've known forever, vs the parochial ES system feeding into a multi district private HS system of choices (very disjointed).

Finally, price - $12k sounds high to me.  I attended my HS on a full scholarship.  I just looked up their current tuition, and it is under $10k (still more than I expected), or roughly equivalent to my DD3's state university tuition and fees!

deborah

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2015, 03:30:00 PM »
As for the younger 2 kids going to private school, it would be hard for us to force them to go to public school while the first born got his pick of choice.  So I don't think we can take that option away.  We will discuss it with them when it's time for them to pick a school and let them decide.
I have several friends who have sent their children to different schools because children are different, and schools specialize in different things. Work with the child to find the "best fit" school.

My wife is frugal too, probably from living with me for almost 20 years.  But mostly because she does all of the bill paying each month, so she sees how much and where we are spending.  I want to get more involved in that aspect, and I'm going to ask her if she would like me to take over that job.
It might be best if you look at how you can work together on that job, rather than take it over. It is so important to be on the same page with finances.

risky4me

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #20 on: July 17, 2015, 07:03:32 PM »
I am in a somewhat similar boat.  We have always lived frugally but it was out of necessity not choice.

What I have gained from MMM is peace and satisfaction.   I used to be quite jealous of my co-workers new cars and my relatives gorgeous McMansions.  I resented my 10 year old beater car and daydreamed about expensive house renovations to up our standard of living. 

I started reading MMM and my situation hasn't drastically changed, but my attitude has.  Now I get in my 10 year old beater car and I think, "WOW!  Air-conditioning, tires, music, a comfortable seat, it gets me where I need to go!" And I am satisfied.

When I realized that a $30 to $50k house renovation essentially meant I had to work for another year, I decided my 1970s kitchen is pretty awesome.  We painted the cabinets and installed some roll-out shelves to create a pseudo pantry and now I look around and think that I am living in luxury.

What a great post- attitude can be everything and you have a good one!

Mrs.LC

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #21 on: July 17, 2015, 07:33:35 PM »
Your wife currently does the bill paying and you stated you thought about taking over the job. Big mistake. You BOTH should do the job together. Couples need to work together discussing money in and out of the house so both parties know what is going on and are in agreement of the path being taken. Give that method a try for awhile.

kpd905

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2015, 06:12:10 AM »
If you post a case study listing all of your expenses, we might be able to help find some areas to trim your budget.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/

Potterquilter

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2015, 06:31:37 AM »
Another thing to work on is to emphasize to your children that they need to strive to pick careers that will earn them a good wage. Like not picking a major that is not a career path. Spending four years at a university and taking easy a classes, partying, and spending spring breaks in can in are some kids idea of a college experience. Instead, set up expectations now as to what they hope to accomplish with limits. For instance you can afford x dollars per child for college. The parameters are they need to have a certain average, graduate in four years and so on. Set up the expectation they will be expected to chip n, if they move back home after university they will be expected to pay rent and so on. Set them up for financial success and independence. I know people who are successful real estate agents or hair dressers with high school diplomas, and very indebted college graduates who work for minimum wage with little direction and pay no rent to live at home, with parents who pay their car insurance.

You are very lucky to be figuring this out now, but make sure you work as a team towards your goals.  Don't throw a gauntlet down to your wife that it is all your way, which it seems you know already. Work on small changes.

Weyfarere

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2015, 04:41:01 AM »
...I do talk to her about my recently discovered financial knowledge/interest, and I think she's glad that I'm doing it because she feels like I did a short time ago - not knowledgeable enough to do anything about it.  But she also doesn't want to cancel cable yet.  Or switch cell phone providers.  She's very conservative with some things, and changing to one of the lesser known cell phone companies isn't something she's ready for. 

My husband was uneasy about switching to a lesser known cell phone provider, too. The compromise we reached was to find a Sprint Framily plan with enough members to get the maximum discount. The total cost for both of us is about $61 per month, including all the fees. I think there are actually two empty spots in our group right now - if you PM me, I can look it up and send you our Framily ID. Or, there are/were Internet sites that show partly-filled groups with various numbers of empty spots.

Dawg Fan

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #25 on: July 19, 2015, 06:21:45 AM »
OP, been there/done that/still sorta doing it... I'm 7 yrs older, but have older kids (2 in college/2 out), did private school for 1 due to special needs, wife has been a home mama for over 25 yrs so I have been "pulling the sled" for some time. I plan to FiRE at 55 (last kid out of college). It's never too late to start making changes and cutting the fat, but it's not always easy tuning the cruise liner on a dime. We all get used to our lifestyles and sometimes it's difficult to wean the family off certain goodies when everyone is used to them. Not clear on your financial situation, but if you have practiced living below your means most of your life, avoiding consumer debt, and putting away a min of 10 - 20% each yr in your long term investing than you should be doing enough to be on your way. If not, then it's time for you and DW to have a heart to heart on what's really important. As others have said, as parents, I think our goal should be to equip them for life on their own.
I would recommend sitting down with DW and writing out a plan that shows the math to FIRE and track your progress. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's actually kind of exciting when you see your plan actually play out.
We love our kids, but with our last one headed to college in 2 weeks we will be empty nesters... and jacked about it!!

Dee18

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2015, 06:32:52 PM »
One great thing about discovering MMM now is you still have time to establish expectations for your kids.  Here are some things I did that worked well...if teen wants phone, teen buys phone. (Did not allow phones younger) and pays monthly cost.  When you turn 16, you get a job on your own, such as the ice cream shop, without any parent or relative setting it up. (My daughter got hired because she was the first teen to dress up and submit a resume to scoop ice cream.). Parents only buy necessary clothes for teens, necessary defined narrowly.  Even a 13 year old can earn money in most neighborhoods.  I did send a daughter to private school for grades 8-12 and she made the most of it.  She got two B's in 5 years, the rest A's, and a full tuition scholarship to college.  It was worth it to me....she blossomed at that school.  But I think that decision can be made for each child.  Oh, and where we live most teens get cars for their 16th birthday.  I told my daughter our family tradition was a new bike (that was in fact what I got for my 16th birthday!) 

James

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #27 on: July 19, 2015, 07:27:13 PM »
I was a late start also, I won't be FI until close to 50. Right now we have two kids in private school, but they will switch to public as they get to HS and their tuition is "only" 5k per year so that isn't too bad. We did downsize our house due to MMM, but my wife was happy with that move since we are in town now which works out better for everyone. I think the key difference was the focus. I stopped looking at making my life better or easier, and focus now on making my life happier without spending more money. To be honest, we still spend way too much, like you we are focused on our kids and careers, and it isn't easy to cut back some things at this point. But I will point out one huge thing to consider. Raising your kids with a high standard of living is a burden, not a blessing. Make sure your kids don't have everything, make sure your lifestyle isn't "too easy", let them know there are things out there you could afford but you choose not to buy because of your priorities.


Regarding work plans, my wife loves her job and has no plans to quit. She hopes to continue working her way up and it is a matter of enjoyment in working as a librarian, not about the money. I also enjoy my job and probably won't quit when I reach FI. I will certainly cut back, maybe as low as .6, keeping my skills and paying for medical trips I go on. Starting mid-stream isn't as clear cut as MMM did it, but we make it work. :)

pachnik

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #28 on: July 19, 2015, 07:49:16 PM »
I'm a late starter too.  I found this website 2 years ago when I was 48.  If things go according to plan,I will be FI in about 5 years at 56 years old. 

Yes, obviously, earlier in life would have been better, but that's how it is.  Before I found out about this website, I was doing the conventional personal finance stuff - no credit card debt, saving 10-15% of my earnings.  I also make a median income and I don't have any kids.

Since finding out about MMM, I save about 35%  of my income.  The stuff I cut from my spending was such crap like coffee out every day, the newspaper, eating out for lunch.  I frittered away a lot of money until I found this website.  But I am proud to say I don't do that anymore and I am much happier.  I think it is because I now have financial goals and I see an end in sight to my working life (which I don't actually mind that much).  I also like the feeling of security - if I lose my job or get aged out I will know that I did my best to become financially secure. 

« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 07:50:57 PM by pachnik »

MrsPete

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #29 on: July 20, 2015, 07:46:31 AM »
Good, better, best. 
Never let it rest 'til your good is better and your better is best.

Maybe you're not willing to change things in a big way, but you can make small changes.  Having said that, looking from the outside, I see loads of excuses.   

Thank you all for the responses, it's nice to know I'm not the only one in this boat.  As for the younger 2 kids going to private school, it would be hard for us to force them to go to public school while the first born got his pick of choice.  So I don't think we can take that option away.  We will discuss it with them when it's time for them to pick a school and let them decide.
You let a KID make the decision about which school to attend?  A middle-schooler really doesn't have the long-term decision making skills to make that choice.  I teach high school seniors, and when I run into them a year or so after graduation, it seems that all I hear is, "So-and-so left State and went to X instead.  This other person is back home and going to community college."  About 1/3 of them end up changing colleges -- and that's a decision they made with another four years of maturity under their belts.  School choice is a parent choice. 

Also, unless something's very, very broken in your local school system, high school is NOT the time to splurge on private school tuition.  With a few exceptions -- like high school PE class, where everyone's thrown together -- the world of high school is self-selected into two separate groups:  The don't-care/going nowhere anyways who just want to hang around for four years and collect a diploma with minimal efforts ... and the advanced kids who are taking honors and AP classes, who have a good peer group and have many more options than the average private school. 

The average private high school isn't able to offer all the classes that a public school can offer, especially when you consider that public school kids are able to commute to a neighboring school to pick up specialty classes not offered at his home school.  For example, one of my students last year went to a neighboring school in the afternoons for their culinary academy; she graduated a year early and is now at Johnson & Wales in their pastry program.  I have other students who go to a different neighboring school for their firefighting academy.  Students come to our school to pick up our pre-engineering classes.  My own daughter took all the health occupations classes in her four years, and she graduated with a CNA -- the biggest thing was that she walked out of high school SURE that she wants to be a nurse, but the certification has allowed her to work as a CNA during her college years.  A typical private high school just can't hold a candle to all the options available to public schoolers, and when you look at JUST the top half of the class, they outperform private school kids in terms of college admissions and scholarships.  Seriously, I can see good reasons to put an elementary school kid into private school, but it just doesn't make sense for high school. 

Note, to, that education is in BIG change right now.  Online options exist that we couldn't have imagined a decade ago.  Charter schools (though they have massive issues) are popping up everywhere.  Most public schools are adding an early-college option that takes away choices of electives, but allows the student to graduate with a high school diploma AND an associate's degree. 

My youngest just graduated from (public) high school.  In the fall, my kids will both be attending college on scholarship -- good colleges, their #1 choices.  My total outlay for a semester's education for THE TWO will be around $300 for various fees and miscellaneous costs.  They did very well in public school, and the biggest reason isn't where they went to school:  It's that they had two parents who were involved in their education. 

I'd really reconsider that private school choice.  I think I'd say to the family, "After evaluating our finances, this isn't something we can continue.  It's time to cut our losses and make a change for the oldest and let the younger ones know what's coming for them." 

^Yes, be especially careful about what expectations you set up regarding paying for college. If you are thinking about contributing toward college expenses, pick a dollar amount that you will hold firm on for all of your children and be sure to tell the eldest when he is deciding that this is the total amount over 4 years that you can give him. Period.
Yes, when our oldest started the college hunt, we didn't give her a firm number, but we said we'd pay the cost of a state school X 4 years.  If she wanted to go out of state or to a private school, she had to pay the difference.  If she needed more than 4 years, she had to pay the difference. 

As a teacher, I've seen more than a few families who bend over backwards for their oldest:  Work so hard to get him or her into THE school, borrow for him, send him off with all new stuff for his dorm ... and then they realize that they can't continue it for the younger children, so they limit the younger ones severely.  I'd be pretty irritated if my parents rolled out the red carpet and sent my brother off to some expensive school ... then told me that I had to be happy with staying in my same bedroom and going to community college.
One great thing about discovering MMM now is you still have time to establish expectations for your kids.  Here are some things I did that worked well...if teen wants phone, teen buys phone.
Something that worked well with my kids:  I established what I was willing to pay for various things.  I'll pay X for jeans, Y for shoes, Z for a prom dress.  If the kids wanted more expensive options, I'd still pay X ... and they had to pay the rest.  Not often did they opt to pay more than I thought was appropriate.



wenchsenior

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #30 on: July 20, 2015, 08:43:50 AM »
I don't have specific advice for your situation, but in general I would say the following:

Like several other posters, we started VERY late to the concept of FI...hell we didn't even start digging out of debt or saving for retirement until my husband was 39 and I was 30, and we didn't really buckle down until he was in his mid 40s. Right now, we are aiming for FI when he turns 56, though I doubt he will actually quit working then because he likes his job.

If you make smart and relatively frugal decisions going forward, and make sure you are saving enough to retire comfortably at your FULL retirement age, then you are already doing better than most people, and you can be proud of that.

Beyond that, the level of MMM-style aggressive frugality you want to achieve is personal. We are very frugal in some areas, and not so frugal in others. Mostly, I set annual and 5-year financial goals, track our spending and saving progress, and as long as we are on track overall, I don't sweat the small stuff. However, when unexpected expenses really gouge our plan, THAT is when we take the lessons learned on this forum and really buckle down.

This approach works well for us because it gives us 'room' to be extremely Mustachian when needed, without making us feel deprived and miserable day to day.


69tr6r

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #31 on: July 20, 2015, 09:20:03 AM »
Seriously, I can see good reasons to put an elementary school kid into private school, but it just doesn't make sense for high school. 

Thanks for the reply.  I have a question though.  You say you see good reasons to send an elementary school kid to private school.  Can you tell me why?  And with that logic, I should take my 4th grader out of public and put him in private.

EricP

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #32 on: July 20, 2015, 09:50:21 AM »
Seriously, I can see good reasons to put an elementary school kid into private school, but it just doesn't make sense for high school. 

Thanks for the reply.  I have a question though.  You say you see good reasons to send an elementary school kid to private school.  Can you tell me why?  And with that logic, I should take my 4th grader out of public and put him in private.

I think the argument may be that little kids won't motivate themselves so you need a high quality school and well behaved kids around them to facilitate a good learning environment.  Once they get to high school, it's much easier to overcome a class full of slackers and still do their homework and succeed on their own. They can also get placed into the AP/Advanced classes where you don't have to worry about slackers.  If a public school offers a half dozen or more AP classes, it shouldn't really matter if their graduation rate is 99% or 20%, your smart kid can get what they need.

69tr6r

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #33 on: July 20, 2015, 09:51:25 AM »
I have to ask: is the private school truly superior to public?

I went to a private all girls high school, my next younger brother attended a boys high school, but our younger brother and sister attended the public HS.  No hard feelings - different pros and cons to each.  When faced with the same decision for our kids, DH (also private HS grad) and I chose public for our kids.  Our district has a strong music program, which our kids have enthusiastically embraced.  The larger public system has more course options available than the smaller individual schools, and more sports options.  And for us, distance and transportation were an issue.  The kids have a stronger bond with the local kids and community they've known forever, vs the parochial ES system feeding into a multi district private HS system of choices (very disjointed).

Finally, price - $12k sounds high to me.  I attended my HS on a full scholarship.  I just looked up their current tuition, and it is under $10k (still more than I expected), or roughly equivalent to my DD3's state university tuition and fees!

The public high school is ok, but there are a lot of kids in the school, around 1600 total.  The private high school is much smaller, 450 total students.  We felt like the smaller school would be better for him.  I will also admit, the private school has a high level ice hockey team, which is my sons passion.  I know it's not going to get him a scholarship, but it's something he loves and we didn't want to have a chance of it not being there.  We also felt like keeping him in sports was good.  I know that when I stopped playing sports I got into drugs and alcohol, and I regret it.



We live in Fairfield County, CT.  Everything is very expensive here.  The 2 other schools my son looked at were $14k and $18k.  These private schools are crazy.

b4u2

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #34 on: July 20, 2015, 09:53:13 AM »
Dude I am in a similar situation. Five kids but only three live with us full time, 8, 12, 14, 15, 19. One is in college now. I am 37 and found MMM when I was 35? I think. At first I resisted. Then I started making small changes. We paid off 27k last year in debt. Was it easy? Heck no but we did it. Will I retire early? Our aim is 50 or 13 more years. Will we make it? I don't know but we have to have a plan or we will fail. Every day we try to find a way to cut back. Just keep making small changes. Hopefully you make a journal so more of us can follow along and see your progress.

golden1

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #35 on: July 20, 2015, 09:59:24 AM »
I am in the same boat.  I am 42 years old, married, have two kids, a 170K mortgage, and I live in a high COL state.  I have made the changes that make the most sense, and I figure on retiring once the mortgage is paid off in about 10 years.  Our commutes and car costs aren't too bad.  Our house is reasonable for where we live and we have a lot of positive equity on it.  We save about 30%, and we have a mid 5 figure net worth.  Not wonderful, but better than average, and WAY better than I was a few years ago.  This site has done wonders for my attitude and it has curbed my recreational spending habit dramatically.  I focus on what I can control and I don't stress that I don't meet the "ideal".  I am also happy for all of the 20 and 30 somethings that have been able to get good use out of this blog and retire very early. 

Embok

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #36 on: July 20, 2015, 10:19:03 AM »
I found MMM last year, and I'm 55; so your position/timing doesn't seem so late.

Unlike many mustachians, I am a big fan of private schools, having grown up in Catholic schools and gone to an elite private college.  Sent my kid to public elementary school, but private high school and now she's in an elite private college.  Her elementary school was good, but she received much more positive attention and opportunities to participate in theatre, arts, advocacy and cheerleading (her interests, not mine) in high school, and the college she is attending is a feeder for high level graduate programs.  I value education beyond just it's ability to give a kid economist opportunities:  truly learning how to learn - how to read critically, think analytically and write clearly - is rarely taught well in our schools, and if you can find schools that do so, whether public or private, I think they are an excellent investment.  A good education can never (barring injury) be taken away from your child.

MrsPete

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #37 on: July 28, 2015, 11:13:13 AM »
Thanks for the reply.  I have a question though.  You say you see good reasons to send an elementary school kid to private school.  Can you tell me why?  And with that logic, I should take my 4th grader out of public and put him in private.
Sure: 

First, in elementary school the first three years are all about learning to read.  After that, the program morphs into reading to learn (meaning that in the first three years kids're reading about Dick and Jane for the purpose of learning to sound out and interpret words, but in fourth grade they're expected to be able to read a paragraph about history or science for the purpose of learning about history or science).  Public schools have -- pretty much across the board -- abandoned old-fashioned phonics programs, and the negative results show.  When my oldest was starting school, I visited a number of schools, and the #1 thing I questioned was, How do you teach reading?  In both of my girls' kindergarten classrooms, 100% of the students were reading simple sentences by Christmas, and my own girls read better than my average high school senior well before they finished elementary school.  You need the best reading program, and -- in my opinion -- that's a phonics program.

The same argument is true for math:  Kids need to focus on the basic-basics first, and public schools keep adopting this and that new program.  Kids who start out with the old-fashioned basics succeed in the long run. 

Second, in elementary school the kids' peer group matters more.  I'm not saying that all the better kids go to private school -- not by a long shot -- but in a private elementary school setting you're looking at a classroom of parents who are involved enough to make a choice concerning their child's education, and involved parents tend to mean a better peer group during those most formative years.  It means that the teacher is able to teach instead of wasting her time "managing" the kids who aren't ready for school and who are already falling behind because no one helps them practice their reading at night.  Sound snooty?  Yeah, but it's also true. 

You might consolidate this by saying, A good start = a good finish. 

In contrast, by the time you reach high school -- and I'm talking about public high school here -- the kids are "self-segregated" into upper-level, college-bound classes ... or general-level classes, which are really remedial subjects.  You might say, "Oh, but the private high schools offer ONLY the upper level classes, so it's all the same".  Not really:  The public high schools offer a greater selection of classes and wider options than the private schools, which are smaller.  The high school where I teach houses about 1200 students, and we offer 3 levels of English and math for each grade, we teach four world languages, and we offer 19 AP classes "in house".  Plus our students have the option to travel to other public schools to pick up classes we don't offer on our campus; for example, my school offers pre-engineering, while our neighboring schools offer a culinary academy, a pre-law enforcement program, and more.  Also, public schools offer a wide variety of online classes, which means our students have literally hundreds of electives (and early college courses) from which to choose.

By the time the student reaches high school, peer group no longer matters so much in terms of academics.  That kid who used to disrupt 2nd grade because he couldn't stay in his seat is now taking remedial English and shop -- he isn't in your kid's AP Calculus class.  Your kid may be with him in PE class, but so what?

I can absolutely see the point in putting a child into a small, private setting for the first few years of school, but once you reach high school, they're better off in public school.  By and large, private schools manage to make themselves "look good" by accepting only the top students. 

Regardless of what choices you make, you need to pay attention to what your child is learning; don't ever sit back and assume that the school's got it managed.  I used to teach 9th grade, and every year I had a number of students who'd attended this or that private school ... but who'd transferred to public school for high school (and I definitely see why parents make the change at that point -- everyone's new in 9th grade, so it just makes sense).  I saw definite trends depending where the students attended middle school:

- The kids who came from public school varied widely in their ability and achievement, but they'd all had a fairly balanced program in terms of having read a couple young adult novels, written papers, and studied vocabulary.  They were woefully inadequate in grammar.

- The kids who came from a certain Christian school had read NOTHING except the Bible, but they could zip through grammar worksheets like nobody's business and they KNEW the 5-paragraph essay format. 

- The kids from the expensive private school down the road had read LOADS of novels, but they'd had NO instruction in writing, and they couldn't understand why every completed assignment didn't automatically earn them an A+++. 

What choices did I make for my own kids? 

My girls started in a small Christian school, and they excelled.  We agreed to do it on a year-to-year basis.  Their kindergarten and 1st grade years were FABULOUS, and we were willing to make the financial sacrifice to keep them there ... but after 1st grade, we found that it was good.  And the sacrifice wasn't worth good; we thought the money would be better spent on travel and other enriching activities -- and we did spend heavily on art classes, robotics camp, etc. -- things which would've been beyond our means if we'd kept them in private school.  We moved them to public school, and they qualified for gifted and talented pull-out classes, which were above-and-beyond what was available to them in the smaller private school.  I think we did the right thing at the right times.

Middle school was crap for both of them.  In retrospect, I wish we'd had the insight to pull them out and homeschool them for those years -- it was the logistics of two working parents that kept us from doing it , and we should've worked it out somehow.  Private school wouldn't have been any better; their church friends who were in private school didn't learn anything in middle school either.  The thing is, the focus wasn't on academics -- it was on personal growth, liberal thinking, finding yourself, etc., etc., etc. 

They attended public high school, where they were both heavily involved in clubs and excelled academically.  They're now in college (a freshman and a senior) on scholarships.







« Last Edit: July 28, 2015, 11:29:01 AM by MrsPete »

golden1

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2015, 11:53:12 AM »
Mrs. Pete - your perspective on the education system is really interesting!

I agree that K-3 is all about learning to read and basic math skills.  I am still trying to figure out middle school.  My daughter is going into 8th grade and was segregated out in 6th into the gifted and talented pull out program, which I think keeps her from going insane.  She hated 7th grade but I think that is partly the age.  I am fairly certain that by 9th grade she will be doing just fine - if she is anything like me, which she is in a lot of respects.  My son is starting 6th and I am frankly really worried about him and how he is going to adjust.  He is on an IEP and is on the autism spectrum so elementary was a rough road, and I am thinking middle school will be worse.  He is doing fine academically, working at grade level on average (very good at math, not so good at writing).  I considered a private school, but he had a group of good friends he met at his after-school program that he is looking forward to spending time with in middle school, and with his social impairments, that is a really big deal. 

69tr6r

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2015, 09:15:24 AM »
Thank you MrsPete for the education on education, it was a worthwhile read.  You mentioned in both of your posts that there are 2 "self-segregated" groups in a public high school

 
 the world of high school is self-selected into two separate groups:  The don't-care/going nowhere anyways who just want to hang around for four years and collect a diploma with minimal efforts ... and the advanced kids who are taking honors and AP classes, who have a good peer group and have many more options than the average private school.

I disagree that there are only two groups, and anyone not in honors and AP classes are a bunch of "don't care/going nowhere anyways" kids.  There is a big fat group right in between those two groups you classified.  It's called AVERAGE.  It consists of the kids that care about their schoolwork, and try hard but maybe aren't the most intelligent kids in the school.  Schoolwork doesn't come easy for these kids, but they care and they try and they are good kids.  These are the kids that don't get any extra help from the school because they meet the school standards.

Just as you say, there are 3 levels of English, Math, etc.  This is what I remember from my experience in public high school, Level 1, 2 and 3 in order of highest to lowest, then there are AP classes that are above Level 1.  So technically about 4 levels, not counting the real "remedial" classes for kids that are struggling with their Level 3 courses.

My 15yo son is probably a solid Level 2, maybe Level 1 in some subjects, so in other words, very middle of the road.  In that situation, I can see him going either way with his studies and peer group.  He can either choose to hang with the Level 1 kids and try to maintain that level of schoolwork, studying, or he can cruise with the Level 2 students and get by.  Knowing him, we thought he would probably slip through the cracks, and head for the easy road, which may lead to a lower peer group experience.  He is a very social kid, so we thought he would benefit from being with private school kids during school hours as far as peer groups go.  So far, we are right.  He still has his friends from public school, but he also has a bunch of new friends from private school.  I think from a peer group prospective, the private setting is much better for him.

By the time the student reaches high school, peer group no longer matters so much in terms of academics.  That kid who used to disrupt 2nd grade because he couldn't stay in his seat is now taking remedial English and shop -- he isn't in your kid's AP Calculus class.  Your kid may be with him in PE class, but so what?

My son is not an AP Calculus student, maybe due to public elementary school, who knows?  Probably because he's of average intelligence, IMHO, the apple didn't fall far from the tree so can't blame him for that.  (Yes, I took shop class in high school.  Lot's of people do, and most are better for the experience.  There's not a rule that if you're in AP Calculus you can't take shop.  So, as you can tell, I took a little offense to that comment.)  Again, since my son is more Level 2 than AP, we felt the peer group would be better with private school.

Finally, our youngest is going into 4th grade, so it's pretty much too late to make a change as far as moving him into private elementary school.  Sure, I wish I had this knowledge 10 years ago, maybe things would be different now.

I'm glad you made the right choice with your girls, and that they qualified for all the gifted programs and such.  Sounds like they're doing extremely well.

Thanks again. 



« Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 09:17:50 AM by 69tr6r »

coppertop

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #40 on: July 31, 2015, 10:52:44 AM »
I'm glad there are still people who understand and believe in Phonics these days.  I was taught Phonics by nuns in the early 1960s and by Christmastime in first grade (I never attended kindergarten) my schoolmates and I could read anything placed in front of us.  I don't, however, think that one needs to utilize an expensive private school for one's children to learn Phonics.  I taught my children to read at home, phonetically, when they were three years old.  They entered kindergarten reading fluently.  All three attended public schools and all three have advanced degrees.  They are in their 30s and are doing extremely well with their lives.  My granddaughter will be four in September and already she can read children's storybooks.  She is in a licensed in-home daycare and her provider considers herself to be an educator, not a babysitter.  She has never been to preschool and will attend public school when she is five.

Potterquilter

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #41 on: July 31, 2015, 01:51:25 PM »
I just wanted to add home environment is huge in helping kids academically. Is your home full of books (library visits are fine for this) or is the TV and video game the center of their home activity? 

Many of my educator friends tell me many kids hit school with no knowledge how to spell their names, sound out basic words, follow a story etc.  other kids can for example identify the states on a map, can write numerous words, know about the solar system and read or are read to every day. And so on.  Plus throw in a couple of kids who have some learning or behavioral difficulties for one teacher to manage.

I was not an educator, but I can clearly see in both my kids and grandkids, and their friends the tremendous value in parental involvement. It is especially tough today with two parent working or divorced families. But with effort, it can be done. By the way, I taught my kids to read and my grandkids are on their way with basic phonics.

I wish every person thinking about conceiving a child could read this thread - huge amount of collective wisdom about setting limits and education.

Back to the OP, you can make changes. Small steps will add up over time.

BTDretire

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2015, 02:46:07 PM »
Quote
As for the younger 2 kids going to private school, it would be hard for us to force them to go to public school while the first born got his pick of choice. 


Give them a choice, $500 or private school.
It could alter their thinking, but your thinking is what needs to change.

Alectejas

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2015, 02:59:29 PM »
I am in a somewhat similar boat.  We have always lived frugally but it was out of necessity not choice.

What I have gained from MMM is peace and satisfaction.   I used to be quite jealous of my co-workers new cars and my relatives gorgeous McMansions.  I resented my 10 year old beater car and daydreamed about expensive house renovations to up our standard of living. 

I started reading MMM and my situation hasn't drastically changed, but my attitude has.  Now I get in my 10 year old beater car and I think, "WOW!  Air-conditioning, tires, music, a comfortable seat, it gets me where I need to go!" And I am satisfied.

When I realized that a $30 to $50k house renovation essentially meant I had to work for another year, I decided my 1970s kitchen is pretty awesome.  We painted the cabinets and installed some roll-out shelves to create a pseudo pantry and now I look around and think that I am living in luxury.

What a great post- attitude can be everything and you have a good one!
I agree.  It's never to late to put things in their proper perspective.

MrsPete

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2015, 06:48:18 PM »
I am still trying to figure out middle school.
We're all trying to figure out middle school.  It's just a mess.  Partially it's the age group -- few kids are at their best at that age -- but partially it's the messed-up middle school concept.  That is, the idea that middle school is for "finding yourself", self-esteem, and a whole bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with school. 

I disagree that there are only two groups, and anyone not in honors and AP classes are a bunch of "don't care/going nowhere anyways" kids.  There is a big fat group right in between those two groups you classified.  It's called AVERAGE. 
When I was in school, yes, that was true.
When I started teaching, yes, that was true.

Today, well, average is essentially gone.  I'd say fewer than 10% of our students fall into the description you gave.  It's a bad thing, but it's true.  The world of education changed drastically in the last five years.  And it changed drastically in the five years before that.  And each time the top grew, and the bottom shrank. 

Admittedly, I am in a state that's in some educational trouble, but even if we're on the extreme end of it, I don't think we're alone.  I remember my father telling me when I was a teen that my generation (I was born late 60s/started school in early 70s) would be the first to have little-to-no middle class.  He talked to me about how the people with college educations and good jobs were going to continue to climb in to the upper /rich class, while those who didn't have an education would suffer and be unable to find jobs.  I suspect automation and robotics were a part of this discussion.  The discussion must've made an impact on me because I remember it.  Anyway, I don't think what my father said has turned out to be true for MY GENERATION -- he was "off" on his dates -- but I see it clearly on the horizon for the kids who are currently in school -- and they're already drawing the lines for themselves in high school. 


MrsPete

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #45 on: July 31, 2015, 06:52:06 PM »
I just wanted to add home environment is huge in helping kids academically. Is your home full of books (library visits are fine for this) or is the TV and video game the center of their home activity? 
I'd venture to say that the students' home environment is the #1 indicator of his or her success in school.  In fact, I don't have to say it:  Plenty of studies have "discovered" this truth. 

Students with involved parents, students who are given books, students who are exposed to music, nature, and art from a young age -- tend to put more energy into school and tend to succeed.

Asgard01

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #46 on: August 01, 2015, 02:31:20 PM »
I think there is of course truth in the idea of better late than never. Small changes and small degrees of change can still add up when you still have years and years to play with earnings and investing.

obstinate

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Re: Too Late for Big Change
« Reply #47 on: August 01, 2015, 11:36:38 PM »
I might consider being slightly unfair to my children in exchange for $100k. That's just me.

IMO, you can cover the risk of achievement difference by redoubling your efforts to be involved in their after-school life. That might make a lot more difference than private vs. public. Considering you're in a decent neighborhood, with presumably decent schools, it's questionable how real the achievement gap is between your son's private school and the public school anyway.

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!