Skin in the game

I Spent My College Tuition on Myself…But Whose Fault is it?

You’ve probably read or heard the story that’s been circulating around the Internet this week. It surfaced on a national radio show called “The Bert Show.” It’s the story of Kim, a 22-year-old college student who blew through a $90,000 college fund set up by her grandparents—and now has no cash in the bank, with another year of school to pay for. Ugh. Life is hard.

What did she spend it on? Well, clothes and a trip to Europe. Hmmm. Sounds fun, but it sounds like a trade-off to me. You may not get both a trip to Europe and a free college degree.

Here’s the catch: she blames her parents for her predicament.

Skin in the game

“Maybe they should have taught me how to budget a little more carefully,” Kim said on The Bert Show. “They never sat me down and had like a real serious talk about it. They said there was nothing they could do to help me anyway. They’re not being honest with me and saying they don’t have [money], because my dad has worked for like a million years, and they have a retirement account.”

Seriously, Kim? You want mom and dad to plunder their retirement account because you didn’t spend your college money on college?

You can imagine—this story has gotten lots of attention. Most folks who comment on it are saying the same things: Millennials are too often lazy, self-absorbed, entitled slackers. They need to grow up.

Can I give you my take?

I Believe There’s Something for Both Parties to Learn:

For Kim:

  1. She does need to take responsibility. It’s her life and her degree.
  2. Kim needs to learn to manage money and delay gratification. It may have been smarter to see if she had cash left over for a trip after graduation, rather than spending her college money on the trip.
  3. At 22, she needs to stop blaming others for problems she created. There are few things more repulsive than adults who manipulate.
  4. Life is full of trade-offs. If you enjoy a trip to Europe, you may give up a year of your education. It’s your call, and you must own it.
  5. She has a serious problem with entitlement, assuming both parents and grandparents owe her money as an adult. I say it’s a gift.

For Parents and Leaders:

  1. We can’t assume kids understand earning and saving money unless we make them do it. Money is a tool to teach how life works.
  2. We must have intentional conversations about hard and boring topics like work ethic, budgets, responsibility and character.
  3. We must stick to our guns when we instruct our children. Nothing creates insecurity faster than inconsistency in our leadership.
  4. We must model gratitude and combat entitlement. One is magnetic; the other is repulsive. Kim should be grateful she even had $90K to begin with.
  5. When our child displays a rotten attitude, we must ask ourselves: how did I miss teaching what’s right? What can I do now to fix it?

Observe Kim’s Logic in Her Interview…

Kim actually initiated the call to The Bert Show, which is based in Atlanta where I live. The three radio show hosts tried to offer some advice, when Kim commented:

Kim: “My parents suggested I go take out a loan at a credit union and I’m, like, how am I supposed to do that? I have to go inside a bank to get a loan.”

Co-host: “You could get a job for the school… maybe the cafeteria’s hiring.”

Kim: “That’s embarrassing. I know they’re trying to teach me a lesson and blah blah blah and character building but, like, I hope they realize [working part-time] could have such a negative effect on my grades and as a person.”

Uh…no. I’m sorry Kim, I disagree completely.

A job would likely be the best maturing experience that you’ve ever experienced. I say try it out — a job would be far less embarrassing than what you’ve already done.

This case study is just plain sad. She is an adult, who should be ready to launch into her career, and she’s belly aching about how stressed she is. (Kim, guess what? You caused your own stress. Paying tuition could have been a stress-free issue for you). Ultimately, what saddens me most is that Kim shows no remorse at all. She showed no regret for her actions.

Readers, this is not just a parent issue — it’s a societal issue. Can we commit ourselves to leading our young so well that this kind of story doesn’t happen again?

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I Spent My College Tuition on Myself…But Whose Fault is it?