Paying to Belong

| October 6, 2017

How much would you pay to join a group or club? Having a sense of belonging is a desire we all share. It is a driving force and motivator. Countless movie scripts and books have been written around this central theme. We often find our belonging in groups, whether it is at the office, a church, on sports teams, in clubs, as part of a community organization, in a relationship, with friends, in family. Belonging to a group, helps us connect to a desire to be a part of something bigger and more important than just ourselves.

This need to belong is the first thing I thought of while watching this Dave Ramsey segment from his radio show. It only takes 6 minutes, so I encourage that you watch it. The caller, who paid $175k to belong to something – in her case, a college water polo team – is burdened by her debt and wants to hear options. Dave implies her best and only option is to marry so her future husband can share her mistake. A 4-year liberal arts teaching degree should cost no more than $40,000, and can be had for a fraction of that, but she paid $175k because she was given the opportunity to belong to a team.

Listen to the end of the segment and you will hear Ramsey call us – parents, community, government, the university – out for failing to stop our youth from making financial decisions that will bury them. It is on us parents. What other financial decision of this magnitude do we let an 18-year-old make without informed counsel? Let’s rethink college debt by starting when our kids are in middle and high school. Here are a few ideas that might help shape the discussion at your dinner table.

1. Ask the question: What contribution do you want to make?
Image resultLet’s not define success as college admission or even college graduation. Education is a stepping stone to what you want to do when you are no longer a student.
• Serve up a steady diet of books like Kisses from Katie.
• Discuss “contributors” frequently at your dinner table.
• As part of the Christmas season, help them make a difference by investing some of their financial resources – Compassion International,, or buy a goat through World Vision.

I just received a book I have been waiting for. It is the follow up to a favorite, Kisses from Katie. Add it to your own must-read list and share with your teen. Pair it with the movie Life of a King. We should be having conversations with our students about direction and what steps they can take to get headed in that direction.

When we don’t have a vision for our own futures, we will take on someone else’s vision. America’s vision for this next generation is that everyone attend and graduate from a university. Our public school system is set up to align with this vision. While education is the foundation of a free society, we have become blind to its content and cost. When it becomes personal … when it is our student that fails to achieve the goal that we blindly accepted … then we as parents start asking, too late, was there a better way?

2. Encourage entrepreneurial-thinking.
Problem-solving is becoming a lost art. If you can solve problems, you won’t be outsourced. Even if your job becomes obsolete, you won’t. Parents, this means we should stand by, ready with a hug, but we need to let our kids fail at times so they gain confidence in their own abilities. Encourage them to start a business – make and sell something (water balloon launchers), or offer a service (lawn mowing, teaching piano). Make it a school or summer project. Learn basic accounting, seek advice from a mentor, and study and practice customer service (Dale Carnegie).

3. Let them buy their own socks.
You won’t see this one on the top of any parenting list. Before you hand over the keys to the car, teens should be buying their own socks. Starting in 7th grade by giving them a budget for clothes that decreases when they are 16 and have a part-time job. That’s also when they start paying for their cell phone and entertainment. Personal finance and budgeting starts early when you have little. Set something up in a spreadsheet or use the envelop system.

4. Expect they will decide a career focus before high school graduation.
This goes against pop-culture parenting as well. We’ve done our kids a disservice by encouraging them to be anything they want to be. The Army actually got it right with “Be all you can be”. We are created with unique gifts, abilities, and interests and we should help our students capitalize on them. This is different from passion. Passion can be a driving force, but it can also be limiting. Not every athlete will make the NFL. Watch this video from Mike Rowe, Host of Dirty Jobs with your teens. It might create a shift in your thinking too!

If your student needs some help in this area, my book has a great chapter that you can use as semester class. If your student is 16+, Career Direct is a comprehensive assessment that I have chosen to use in consultations.

5. Expect they will earn college credit in high school.
Students are studying their way through high school, so take advantage of opportunities that will give them the most bang for your buck. This includes credit-by-exam (CLEP and DSST), and dual enrollment/PSEO. Make this is part of the college financial plan you have already discussed with them. My family’s reality meant we could pay for CLEP tests, but not 4 years on campus (x 3 kids).


It’s not easy to go against pop-culture parenting. You will be judged. After you watch the Dave Ramsey segment, read the comments. Listeners are in agreement that the caller made a poor college choice to spend $175k for a degree where she earns $38k, but most commenters don’t offer a solution. Unbundling is a solution. Separate education from experience and credentials.

Education is both skills and knowledge. Don’t overpay. Self-directed study, shadowing, online, credit-by-exam, are all ways to save on education.

Credentials is what you need to get that first job. It might be a college degree or a certificate. Find out before investing time and money. Don’t overpay.

Experience comes in two forms: experience (I’ve done it before and am equipped to do it again), and experiences (notice the ‘s’ on the end). Experiences (the one with an ‘s’) is what students are looking for and colleges advertise. Don’t sell your student short. Help them find belonging and purpose and connect to their community as a contributor. The expensive campus experience will pale in comparison.

Please share this article with friends and introduce them to Credits Before College.  

Copyright 2017 Cheri Frame – All Rights Reserved

Category: Blog, Vision

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