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Private School Fallacy

On the weekend Garth Turner railed about a parent he met who was sending his child to a private school, even though he could not afford it. I couldn’t really tell whether this child was smart or learning disabled, but Garth went on about how Public Schools are perfectly good, and you are a fool if you send your child to a private school, given you are paying taxes for the Public school system.

Let me state my opinions on this (leaving Garth’s odd commentary aside for now). The public school system is set up for the middle 80% of

This is not very cheap

This is not very cheap

children, in terms of “intelligence” and such, that is a fiscal truth (unfortunately). Depending on the school and teachers, most folks kids will do just fine in the public school system (most of the time), however, if your child is in the upper 10% (i.e. gifted) or the bottom 10% (learning disabled, or other issues) there are few programs in the public school system in Ontario. Yes there are “gifted” programs and there are programs for kids who need more help, but they are woefully underfunded and very hard to find (and to be included in).

For those about to leap into the “you are generalizing, I know of a kid…”, I am not. I have been blessed with 4 wonderful kids, two which went through the “gifted” program in the public system, and 1 that is on the Autism spectrum who is in a private school. The “gifted” programs are being cut, due to budget issues, and the “rules” ¬†for placement in a gifted program are getting tighter and tighter (so they really only serve the top 3% ).

As for the Public Board’s Autism program, it is set up for the kids much more disabled than my son, so he ends up “between” the two programs, and hence why he is in a Private School program (maybe this will change, we shall see how he develops over the next few years).

Different people have different reasons for putting their kids into Private Schools, but if you cannot afford to put your kid into a Private School, and you are only doing it for “prestige” and not a specific educational reason, maybe you should review that. If your child does need a special program at a Private School, investigate if there is help you can get for in the public system.

What is your opinion, Private or Public school systems?

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I Don’t Have Time To Learn All This!

Many folks complain that they just do not have time for their financial education and to that I say, Mule Muffins! (apologies for the salty words).

financial education

If you want to expand your financial education in general there are so many ways to get good information you are kidding yourself if you say you don’t have time to learn (and you are doing yourself damage financially as well).


The good news is you already have started, because you are reading this blog (and hopefully many other Financial Blogs (look in the right column on this page if you are reading it in a browser). Good for you, you get a gold star for this, but there is so much more you can be doing to get your financial IQ up.

financial education

There are financial podcasts all over the place, our friend Preet has a great one, which you should listen to and there are countless other ones. Financial E-Books are everywhere so you can read or listen to so much information, that will enrich your understanding of the world of finances.

Financial Education While Driving ?

You don’t have time, you say? Horse Hockey! If you commute to work, there is your time right there.

  • If you drive, can you connect your listening device to your car’s radio system? Then, you are in, simply put all the audio financial info you can find on that device and listen away. That is where I listen to podcasts, and interesting financial books.
  • If you take the bus, you have many options: You can either read using an e-reader, or your tablet (or even a printed book (how old school is that)); or listen with your favorite audio device. When I was taking the bus downtown I listened to countless books during the commute. Reading the paper is fine for the commute, but you can do more

This all sounds expensive does it? Horse Fritters! Remember your library is your friend and in Ottawa we have a wonderful collection of all kinds of e-books, audio books and written books to fill your educational gap. If you are in Ottawa and you don’t use the library (and maybe donate some money if you are), you are not taking advantage of this valuable resource. You can download audio books and listen to them straight from there.

In the New Year, your resolutions about losing weight, working harder and not kicking the dog so much, while important, pale in comparison to expanding your financial education, go do that now (don’t wait for the new year).

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The Cost of University Residence

One of the more interesting discussions I have had with folks about the cost of University, is the cost of a child to go away to University. In most cases, children (for some time) who live away from home to go to school will live in University Residence (or on campus housing of some kind). On campus housing when I was at school usually included the cost of food and such, but even that has changed.

How much can “Residence” cost? I can only draw on my own experiences and residence with food is now costing upwards of $4000 per term, or about $8000 a year.

Before I get a plethora of comments about how living off campus is cheaper, and getting your own apartment is cheaper, I realize that but let’s just stay on topic for now, and work with the $8000 per year cost of going to school away from home (note I have not included the costs of getting the child to and from this foreign place, which depending on the foreign location could be quite expensive as well (a child wanting to go to Memorial in Newfoundland whose parents live in Vancouver, this cost would be huge)).

This figure is $8000 without actually going to school, and this can mean that if the child stays in residence for a 4 year degree is could cost well over $30,000.00, which is a very large amount of money.

One of the interesting solutions I have heard from a few parents is that they have offered their own children (who are near post secondary age) access to a car (or outright buying a car), if their child chooses to stay in town and lives at home during their degree. Is this bribery? Maybe, but it does have some method to the madness as well:

  • The cost of a good used car is much less than $8000 a year (gas, insurance, and parking).
  • If you already have an extra car, it can cost a great deal less than this.

I have made this offer to my youngest child, but I am confident she will not take me up on the offer (unfortunately her two older siblings have gone away, and she does not want to stay at home, if it means she might have to watch her younger brother).

Strangely we have had folks have very strong negative reactions to this idea, and I am not sure I completely understand the concern. The reaction usually is, “Why are you wasting that money, you should save it!”, but is this solution really ‘wasting’ money? I don’t think so, but I am curious to hear my reader’s point of view on this interesting financial plan.

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What is Your Degree Worth?

I have a degree from a traditional University, which has served me well throughout my working career. I was lucky enough to get the right degree at the right time (i.e. Computer Science in the early 80’s), and the school I got my degree from has a degree of cache with employers, so my degree was worth every penny (that my parents paid, I’d also like to point out).

These days, what are the degrees the new grads are getting worth? Having 3 children either about to start or about to finish University degrees I am keenly interested in this subject. My kids are at a University in Canada, but there are also Colleges which offer some interesting programs, and I work with folks with degrees from these establishments as well.

Then there are the on line “Universities” and “Colleges”, I don’t really understand the whole system with these “degrees’ that are received and their value, however, PBS did do a very interesting Frontline piece on this exact subject. If you are thinking about getting one of the “degrees” I would strongly suggest watching this video and figuring out whether it is all worth it.

While this is only a small portion of the video, but wander over to PBS and watch the entire show.

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Scared Straight: For Finances?

One of my favorite shows on A&E is Beyond Scared Straight, where problem teenagers are brought inside of a prison and shown how life is on the inside and the kids get a chance to get a feel for what real prisoners are like.

Scared Straight
The Movie That Started It All
At Amazon.ca

The show is quite raw, and unapologetic about things (and usually says that most of the kids in the end don’t really take advantage of this chance, and end up in prison), but it is a show about redemption (or the hope of redemption), and I think that is why I am fond of it.

This got me thinking about the Financial Redemption shows that are on TV, shows like:

  • Gail Vaz-Oxlade and her various shows where she attempts to pound home financial common sense to Troubled Financial Adults, who seem to not understand that there is no fairy god mother who is going to pay their bills (but then Gail gives them $5000 so maybe that is the wrong message).
  • Our friend Preet sounds like he might be cooking up a similar type of show, we shall see (he is looking for folks to be on his show, I hear).

There are other shows like this out there, trying to get people to understand what their Financial Misdeeds will do to their lives and to their family if this behavior continues. Many of these shows seem to show that in the end even the worst of us can learn from their mistakes, but I suspect this may really not be the case.

That got me thinking if I was producing a show about Financial Redemption, I think I’d want it to be a lot more raw and maybe show that this kind of change is not as simple as most folks think.

What Would This Look Like?

If the show had some of the following it might be a little more believable (and maybe more educational for the viewers):

  • Have an actual collection agency show up and repossess something from the debtors house, even if it is paid for, to understand how it feels to have something repossessed. Point out that this will happen if they don’t clean up their act. Get the guys from Operation Repo to show up, they are a very scary bunch.
  • Have them live in a shelter for a few days or public housing? This could easily scare many folks straight, I am stealing this from the BBC show Secret Millionaire, but it would be good for folks who don’t realize where they are heading.
  • Make people live for 6 months without their cars, and no cabs either, only a bus pass. This would be an interesting way to show folks where their bad habits could lead them (i.e. without a car, or an ability to come and go whenever they wish).

I really wonder whether these folks who claim they have repented (financially) are really going to stay on the straight and narrow financially?

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