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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuition Crisis Story Number 1

My kind guest contributor has graciously volunteered to answer questions relating to his story. Please use this new post as a place to ask questions and have them answered.

A big thank you to my first guest contributor for his bravery and kindness.

26 comments:

SR said...

I myself receive some financial assistance from the school my children attend so please do not take this as criticism.

Do you agree that the school is really in sort of a bind.

On one hand, it would be great to give everyone a lot of monetary help, but on the other hand it has to be financially viable as a business.

What I have found, is the school is more willing to give money to active volunteers and i believe this is a fair decision. In this manner, the school is essentially bartering the tuition for help that it would otherwise have to pay to a worker.

Have you spoken to the school about bartering some of your or your spouses services for an additional break on the tuition?

Anonymous said...

I have in mind to offer bartering my services if indeed we do not come up with the money and push comes to shove.

However, bear this in mind. And it generally becomes more true as time goes on and one's family gets both bigger and older. Parents already are alredy over-extended, often working more than one job, in addition to having their hands full with older kids and older kids' issues.

Indeed, I in fact do already work overtime at my place of employment to make some extra money -- and then on top of that I freelance my services catch-as-catch-can to make a little extra. I often work several hours on Sunday in that capacity.

I also try to be a father too.

My wife has been going to school the past few years while running the household and being a full-time mother. Nevertheless, that has not stopped her from participating in various communal activities.

I'm reticent to offer my services until push comes to shove because I am already over-committed working extra hours. If the school insists and I have to I will have to turn down potential paying freelance opportunities in its place. That may take some immediate pressure off this situation but obviously create a loss of income that could have been gotten freelancing. Yet, if the school insists, and it's the only thing that will work, I am willing.

El Cheapo said...

Hi -
First of all, many thanks for stepping forth and answering questions.

Given that your work is a little off and your wife hasn't started a new job yet, would you consider a move to a more affordable neighborhood (or even a cheaper state altogether)? (This is, of course, assuming you're in NY) Moving is definitely difficult, but having done it a number of times, I can assure you that you'll eventually meld into your new community.

Good luck, whatever your decisions!

Anonymous said...

el cheapo

We already live in the most affordable area of this community.

Moving to another state is a consideration. However, it's not so simple. First, I would need to find a decent paying job there. Second, the adjustment for the kids would be considerable. It's a big topic with multi-faceted details that we've discussed at several intervals throughout the years with advisors. Among the obstacles now is the age of the kids. It would have been one thing to move OOT in our younger days and raise our young children in an OOT atmosphere. Now, however, is a different story. You say you've moved several times; have you or anyone you know done it successfully with kids 10-18?

El Cheapo said...

I must admit my kids were way younger at the time. While not having been through the teen parsha (except, er, as a *personal experience*), my guess is that it would hit your youngers harder than your olders (the 15-16 yo + set, who may be getting mighty close to leaving the nest anyway). Someone elsewhere (I think on Beyond BT) floated the idea of living outside of an eruv (the truth is we do that ourselves) as a way to beat costs.

SephardiLady said...

Anon-I'm glad you brought light to the fact that parents are often overburdened already with jobs (more often than not both parents are working fulltime) and the rigors of child rearing (itself a fulltime job).

The give-or-get program is a necessity, I believe. But, I believe it really punishes those on scholarship that cannot already pay, and the cost to family is less time.

themarykaygal said...

I'm a true believer in homeschooling/ charter schools/ coop groups as not only a way to lower school tuition costs, but as a way to become much more involved in the education of our own children. We don't have kids yet, but I'm hoping to be able to homeschool some of them for some of the time--- I have a masters in education and I'd really love to use it in this capacity. I'm not sure what to say to a family who DOESN'T have the time or background to properly homeschool, AND doesn't have the money to pay school tuition, but there are interesting programs through charter schools and the like. You might need to get creative. I just don't think that ALL FRUM KIDS need to go to **THE** FRUM SCHOOL. It's a tough problem but having been a school director, I do see the school's side. I'm all for financial aids processes, but in the end, most of the families have to be paying a FAIR SHARE of tuition, whatever that entails. Anyway, having said all that, I *will* say that we just moved from Los Angeles to Cleveland and the move cost almost $10,000. Most of that money was a gift from my in-laws--- we COULDN'T have moved just on our own salaries. Moving a distance costs a heck of a lot between moving trucks, shipping cars, first and last month's rent on a new place while still paying rent on the old place, etc etc. In the long run, we're in a 4 bedroom house in Cleveland rather than a TINY 2 bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, so we're better off. But the move does cost money, so it's not so easy to just pick up and move. That's why we wanted to move to where we intended to raise kids BEFORE the kids came.

Ari said...

Hope you've taken a look at the Frontline feature I previously recommended.

I was asked about use of a credit card for somebody to bring home their kids from an OOT yeshivah, etc.

I'm sorry that I cannot answer that question. I do know some general info on credit and debt, as I have done some bankruptcy law in the past. However, I do specialize in criminal law, not bankruptcy, and I do not know your situation intimately to give intelligent advice.

Also, I hope I did not insult our esteemed poster when I suggested that he get credit counseling, or should have gotten credit counseling. Please take no offense. I know that the credit card companies are such vicious sharks, and that they are more than happy to make you as desperate as possible to get as much money out of you as possible. Your rush to get advice (whether good or otherwise) is understandable. I hope things get easier for you in future.

I have been thinking about your blog, sephardilady. I wish you/we could make it into a resource people can come to for all aspects of Orthodox Jewish Finance. Perhaps somebody can recuit an expert on various financial topics to put in their two cents on various issues.

I figure issues could be debt, increasing income by increasing one's skills (which skills to work on, etc), alterative and supplemental income, you know, how people make money in real estate or in the 'net (and whether such opportunities are for you, as these methods are surprisingly hard, and take a lot of work...) And of course, commercial financial gurus, such as Robert Kiyosaki of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" fame (avoid him like the plague). and other gurus to avoid or to take advice from.

To start it all off, I offer the following link.

I have no financial interest in Mr. Reed's books. I have found his articles to be informative and enlightening. As a lawyer, I say that his advice seems pretty solid to me. Mr. Reed is a real estate and publishing person. He writes about how to make money in real estate, but he does not pull any punches, he does tell you what work is involved, and what dangers are involved (financial loss, etc).

He also has a list of financial gurus to avoid (or to not avoid).

His link is http://www.johntreed.com/

Hope it helps at least somebody.

P.S. I do not invest in real estate, but have been interested in doing so. I think Reed sort of dissuaded me from trying it, as his writings seem to indicate it would not be to my temperment. But I can imagine some of you may be interested, and I figured I'd give some of you who have not heard of Reed a look in that direction.

SephardiLady said...

Re Ari's post: I am more than happy to take guest postings on any financial subject that will help frum people make good decisions or bring some of the issues with tuition to light.

I am really behind on my posting, but hope to post on a few important subjects soon.

Ari said...

Somebody had asked about travel expenses for their son in an OOT yeshiva. RE: Putting the plane ticket on a credit card and not paying the balance immediately.

I was thinking... How about Amtrack or Greyhound. Your son is young, and in school. When I was in school I "roughed it" on amtrak a few times. It wasn't that bad, and, it was an interesting experience. No need for a sleeper car, just sleep in the seat. Hey, tough times call for tough measures. And frankly, amtrak or greyhound aren't that tough... Just less convenient than a plane, which if you have to carry a balance for a credit card to afford a plane ticket, is a needless luxury. I've been in that situation. The savings are worth the extra trouble.

Remember, when the gaon tried to go to eretz yisrael, he either walked, took a boat or an ox cart. All far inferior to my suggested amtrak or greyhound.

Look up the prices. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Another money saving tip from your pal Ari.

Anonymous said...

el cheapo,

Trust me, teenagers -- even frum ones -- is a whole new ballgame. Everything is more intense.

Years ago I talked to someone about aliyah. He told me that if my kids were above 5 or so (can't recall the exact age) it will be an extremely difficult for them. Numerous kids he knows went off the derech b/c they couldn't adjust. When they're 5 or less they think what they have is normal. After a certain age, though, they have built-in expectations and ways of coping. It gets much harder, he said, to change after those are in place.

I'm not saying kids need to be treated as if they live in a glass managerie; they're adaptable. But there's lechatchila and bidieved.

If a move is necessary it is necessary. But the trauma from the move -- and the impact on their emotional and spiritual well-being -- is not to be underestimated.

Anonymous said...

MaryKaygal,

Homeschooling is a wonderful concept. My sister actually homeschool's her kid (she's not frum). However, it's not pragmatic for most frum people, in my experience.

Myself and my wife both have post-graduate degrees in education. The problem is it's really a full-time job for at least one of the parents. And the more kids you have -- and the greater the age-discrepency between them -- the less practical the idea becomes. I imagine there's exceptions to the rule. But the rule is a rule for a reason. Especially for BTs -- we don't necessarily have either the knowledge or experience to educate the kids properly as times goes on. (Middos is a different thing; middos come from the home more than the school.)

I don't want to discourage you. Prepare as best you can, but also be prepared for the possibility that it will just not be pragmatic.

Anonymous said...

Ari,

"Orthodox Jewish Finance" -- this is a fantastic idea. And you sound like the person to start it. If you need help, I'd be very interested to help.

Sounds like I could have used someone like you in my early years. The rabbis I was connected were really lacking in the area of practical finances, and it has hurt me tremendously. I think I might also have been afraid to think I didn't have enough emunah. However, from my perspective now it's not a lack of emunah to pay attention to financial realities.

Anonymous said...

Frum communities are very unique in that multi-millionaires send their children to the same schools as middle-class working families often struggling to get by. we also belong to the same shuls, attend the same smachot, and our children grow up together. This creates expectations from both children and adults that are way more un-realistic than just "keeping up with the jones'" that happens in the non-frum world. When the joneses are neighbors in a similar financial situation as one's own, its a bit easier to keep up without braking the bank. When a frum family is trying to keep up with the shwartzes who inherited family money and can afford (and have the right) to spend as they please, it is easy for the situation to spiral out of control as has happened in most frum communities.

SephardiLady said...

Anon 4:28PM. You have pinpointed the problem without a doubt. The other part of the issue is that we are so closely knit that everyone knows where everyone else's kids go to camp and what extracurricular activities they participate in and what they are doing for Pesach.

In the general world, outside of upper crust country club communities, the Jones family has no idea if the Austin family sent their children to summer camp, much less where they went for vacation. So, there is a lot more freedom to just do your own thing.

Anonymous said...

sephardilady - keep up the great posts. i typically never post comments, but am always surprised that this component (that i posted at 4:28) is never addressed when discussing this topic.

I am an accountant, mother of three young children work full time, and make many choices to be able to pay full tuition for my kids in school. people are always surprised when they see my house (needs some remodeling is an understatement) and telling me that i can do this or that to make it nice for just $5,000. well, i choose to use that $5,000 for tuition instead and so live with the yellow formica countertops (not a pretty site) and other lovely decor items that take you right to 1960.

I am not saying the tuition crisis is only due to parents making bad choices, lots are stuggling just to get by, and I know it is only with hashems bracha that we live in a house and can pay tuition rather than an apartment (where we lived for 4 years saving every extra cent to be able to move into a house). i feel blessed that i am able to afford our families necessities which i know many families can not.

When we first bought our house i felt that i had to make excuses for the outdated kitchen and other draw backs. I got over that very quickly once i focused on my priorities - not to say its easy on my kids since they do go to school with children that live in $2 or $3 million dollar houses, wear the latest fashions and drive expensive cars, but hopefully they will grow up understanding the economic realities that exist in our world, and will be motivated to pursue educations/careers that will allow them to live the lifestyle they choose.

Anyone starting a forum for "orthodox financial issues" i would be very interested in participating in as it is a topic i am very interested in, and would love to help any way possible.

SephardiLady said...

Hello 5:30 Anon. From one accountant to another, welcome. I'd love to take a guest post from you too! My email is orthonomics@gmail.com.

And, hopefully in the merit of your frugality, you will have the good fortune to someday take your countertops from the 1960's to the 20XX's!

Ari said...

Here is a good web site. This should probably be posted on the cover page here.


http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/toc.html

The site is run by a guy called Ramit Sethi, a recent grad from Stanford, I believe. Anyway, he's running a personal finance website with lots of great advice. Many articles on stocks, bonds, etc. His advice is mainly aimed at recet grads, but I'm sure much of it has carry over to our communities as well. His attitude is basically to spend less, invest more, etc.

Another interesting site:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/04/10-stupid-mistakes-made-by-the-newly-self-employed/

This tip is from www.stevepavlina.com. This guy also has some interesting tips. The 10 mistakes article is pretty darn interesting.
He also has this audio article:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/11/stevepavlinacom-podcast-006-how-to-make-money-without-a-job/

This is NOT an ad for a pyramid scheme. Just listen to his ideas, maybe they will apply to you, maybe not. But it's always good to increase skills, and increase your awareness of opportunities.

If you want to make more money, think of what skills you have, and how you can help people. Perhaps people would be interested in paying you to help them.

Ari said...

I always believed that among the things that people need to know more about are

1) Personal Finance (see my above post). Recommended book: The Millionaire Next Door. It's a good book to get an attitude adjustment for those who need it.

2) Nutrition and exercise best site I've found is www.cbass.com
3) Self defense (and by that I don't mean fighting, I mean how not to get into trouble, and how to spot trouble and stay away from it. try www.nononsenseselfdefense.com

hope this helps some of you.

cool yiddishe mama said...

I'm with themarykaygal. We are currently sending our daughter to an early childhood program for a day school. If we weren't frum and/or living in a not-so-great school district (the only way we could buy a cheaper house), our children might be in public school.

I am feeling punished (yet again!) for choosing the frum life. Kosher meat costs 3x as much as non-kosher (seemingly more so where I live).

One of my goals for next school year is to utilize my education background to barter my teaching services for my daughter's tuition.
We'll see how it works out...

Outoftown said...

I would love to see you make a blog/website about financial issues. As a former Bais Yaakov teacher, I saw how out of touch with reality so many teenagers are. Althoguh they want to marry kollel guys who will sit and learn, they also expect to live in a big house, with a maid, two cars, etc. One year, the 12th graders did a project to figure out what a budget would be in the city where I lived. They came up with, on average, about 120K a year BEFORE kids. There were girls who wouldn't go to shul on Shabbos b/c they didn't have the right suit and they couldn't afford it. The materialism in our communities is so out of hand and it makes me so sad.

SephardiLady said...

OutofTown--This would make a great guest post to demonstrate the severity of the situation.

I'm guessing the the kids also thought they could make $120K as a therapist, or even an admin assistant.

Well, the day we show an AGI of $120K (or even $100K), we will have to have a party!

Ari said...

Out of town wrote:

"There were girls who wouldn't go to shul on Shabbos b/c they didn't have the right suit and they couldn't afford it."

An idea. Teach them to sew. Not kidding. I know a woman down here who can sew really well. She makes very nice clothing, much of it of her own design.

Heck, not only could a nice girl make her own clothes, better, better fitting and cheaper than she can buy off the rack, but its a new skill to develop, and could develop into one that makes money if cards are played right...

There are enough rich people in our communities to support a skilled seamstress or tailor who can custom make clothing...

Of course early projects will turn out horribly, but a little practice and...

Just an idea.

Always a good idea to increase skills...

SephardiLady said...

Sewing these types of suits will cost as much, if not more, as buying one!

Charnie said...

Sorry to come back into this thread so late, but wanted to comment about the response to my last comment re flying my OOT learning son in for visits. It would be great to put him on a bus, but it's a 20+ hr trip from his Beis Medrash to home. Usually his visits are very short - like over a long out Shabbos, meaning he flies in Thurs. night and goes back Sunday PM. Putting him on a bus, or even a train, just wouldn't coordinate with his Yeshiva's schedule. Plus once the dorm empties out for a break, there's no one there, so he's really sort of forced to leave with the other bochurim. And try booking an airline ticket online (the cheapest way) without a credit card!
Keep me postetd (no puns intended) on progress with an Orthodox financial-services blog or website. Right now I'm worried about a friend who's gungho for one of these Amway type businesses. Hmmm. Any experiences there?

SephardiLady said...

Charnie--Feel free to email about the horrors of Amway. I know some "victims" so to speak and get your friend some financial help ASAP. Amway can destroy your base of friends and even sink you financially. It is great for those at the top of the pyrmaid. Those beneath, oy!