Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

The school district shuffle

Housing is one of the largest expenses a family takes on. And reducing that expense is a potential source of funding for your children’s education.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

We purchased our home knowing that we were sending our child to private school. And this meant avoiding housing in the best school districts and saving a lot of money.

The numbers

In California, for example, housing in the best school districts cost 50% more. The median home value in California is $472,100 in 2015. A house in a great school district that cost 50% more would be $708,150. That is an additional $263,050 right there. And that doesn’t include the lower cost of upkeep for will be a more forgiving neighborhood. And the lower cost of ongoing operations in a smaller house (air conditioning, heating, hot water, replacing the roof and so on).

A good kind of peer pressure

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons

US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

We did exactly this in the DC area and our house is  now worth about $400,000 (on a really good day). That might seem like a lot but it’s on the low end – even for our neighborhood.  We live in a largely blue collar neighborhood with wonderful salt of the earth people. The only pressure to keep up with the Jones is to be self-reliant. With two mechanics on our street the idea of someone else washing our car or mowing the lawn is readily frowned upon. This “peer pressure” is a further financial turbo boost and part of the education of your child.

Sure the house won’t be as fancy as the more expensive version but that has its own appeal. And you are doing this for the benefit of the kid. Stop caring what other people might think of you. Embrace voluntary restrictions on consumption. Grow up. Be the adult here. You can still be cool. Forget square footage. These days it is all about how much more environmentally friendly your smaller (and presumably older) house is for the planet. Brag about your stewardship of the planet. Your an environmentalist now!

Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Really Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Your child will eventually move away from home – but the values, mental models, and behaviors they pick up at school will be part of their identity for their entire lives.

 

I look forward to seeing you in our neighborhood soon as you downsize. You are welcome to use our leaf blower – I will show you how to use it.

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.” — B.B. King

 

Do you want a $20,000 raise? Learn to use your kitchen table as a financial power tool.

My table saves us money. You can have one too. Chairs are optional but encouraged.

Here is how you use a table to save money; if you eat out at a restaurant get it to go and eat at the table you have at home. That will save you 15-20% on the tip. Ideally you should eat at home most of the time but if you don’t this simple technique saves time and money.

Paying for Private School French Country Kitchen

Paying for Private School French Country Kitchen

Tips add up

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Assume you tip 20% and eat out as a family, three times a week for a total expense of $150 a week. 20% of that cost – or $30 dollars – is spent on the tip. Skip that and in a month you will save $120 while eating the exact same food. In a year that is $1,440 not spent. And you don’t have to wait for the check.

In ten years you will have saved $14,440 in expenses which would have cost over $20,000 in income before taxes to pay for during that time. All that from  thinking differently about your kitchen table.

Keep at it!

Keep reading to collect ten of these money saving techniques and suddenly paying for private school might not seem as daunting.

Public school teacher sends child to private school

A public school teacher  wrote an article for The Atlantic on Why I’m a Public-School Teacher but a Private-School Parent

Public school teacher perspective

This was written by person who has 40 years experience working within the system;

“ …I’m not trying to be combative, but I do find it ironic that many people who argue against private schools work in the private sector. For 20 years, I have deliberately invested my life in teaching public-school kids, coaching them, and advocating for the ones who don’t have the same support that other kids have. In fact, I chose to teach in a public high school precisely because I pitied the children who felt forced to be at school, who felt trapped like I did when I was their age. I spend my own time and money advising clubs, tutoring those who struggle with English, helping students apply for college, and, sometimes, feeding kids who aren’t sure if they’re going to have dinner. On a daily basis, even as I’m surrounded by a million competing interests and distractions, I work hard to make their compulsory experience something for which they would volunteer….I am, however, concerned about the general culture at public schools—at least at the ones I’ve seen—of disengagement and compulsory learning. So when it comes to my daughter, I opt to invest a little more—to ensure she’s immersed in a community where it’s acceptable, and even admirable, to show natural enthusiasm for knowledge. I trust this particular private school, one that was created by like-minded parents, will best set her up for success.”[1]

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Choose what makes sense for your family

The point here is not to bash on public schools. It is about choice. Choosing to send your child to a school that matches your value system. This may be a public school. And it may be a private school. And there is nothing wrong with either choice despite what others may tell you.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-im-a-public-school-teacher-but-a-private-school-parent/386797/

Education options

Public education has many benefits – it provides standardized and excellent education. It is a safety net and builds community and a shared appreciation for democratic values. And it solves a core challenge which is providing education to all children. It’s a great solution – particularly when you consider what life was like before it. 

However, in the course of human history it is new.

For most of human history education has been private in nature and provided at home and by the community and religious organizations.

What is best for your child? What values do you want them to learn? Is the state the right provider of education for your situation?

Values over facts and figures

Who your child becomes as a person (values) is way more important than what they know (academic achievement).

Maybe it’s not for you

If you have doubts that public school is a match for you have come to the right place. We assert that the quality of private education, through market forces, in aggregate, will provide a more balanced education your child. Read on to learn more.

Investment pick of the month- Smuckers!

If you have been following the tips on this and other blogs you will become a producer instead of a consumer. And you will find joy in the simple life. And eventually, ever so slowly, even with a gigantic tuition you will have some money to put aside. For me that goes into dividend stocks that are high quality, repeat business companies that align with my values.

This month it is J. M. Smucker. At it’s current price of $105 this is a good source of savings and income.

Peanut butter

I have been watching SJM for a while now – it has a lot I like- automatic pilot repeat purchase items with good return on equity (10%) and a long history *and* is majority family owned so they won’t risk the company on making some bold acquisition. They have been slowly picking up brands over the decades.

 

Thursday the stock dropped a nice 10% after a missed quarter and I noticed it today at the 52 week low. The earnings yield is 7% – I prefer 10% but for such an excellent company with good finances and safety I am willing to pay more. Not perfect but 25 years from now it will be as reasonable return.

A 7% yield on a 11 billion company where people use their products daily – out of habit to eat and enjoy. Wonderful!

My investing hero

My investing hero is Anne Scheiber. She built a great portfolio on an average salary and then gave it all away to charity (for education, of course).

She didn’t follow the recommended path and she took a lot of criticism  for it in the press when the bequest became public. They only  wrote about it at the time of her death because she was able to give away $22 million  despite starting investing later in life and never having a high salary.

Ann Scheiber Photo

Ann Scheiber: Source Investing Engineer

It will come as no surprise  the pundits were critical of her life choices and her investing style. The put their values on her life – “she should have spent more on herself” – perhaps a nicer place or a personal jet! The idea of living with less to provide resources for someone else (exactly what parents paying for private school are doing) doesn’t even occur to them as perhaps worth the modest life style. Nor do they consider that a modest life style in of itself has value (simplicity, environmentalism, community).

Her investing style was and is quite unique and wrong by everything we ‘know’. Most writers overlay other models they already know to explain the results (which is incorrect) because they don’t have the time to understand what she actually did. Sort of like how financials experts write today that one *must* own your house to do well and anyone who accumulates wealth without the house managed to overcome that deficiency. This despite the many counter examples (which are brushed aside as anomalies). I will admit to studying Anne investing style since 1996 in an effort to reverse engineer it.

Anne Investing Approach

Four things of note:

1) She never paid a single mutual fund cost which helped and focused on low brokerage costs.

2) She was a focus investor and saved for years, invested for five more years and then put all of that money ($10,000  – years of salary at the time) into a single stock (Schering-Plough, later purchased by Pfizer) .

One should never do that right?

It was worth $7.5 million when she died – a 750 bagger on that investment alone.

3) She gave it all away to help remedy the inequality she experienced. This was made a big impact as the dividends when she died were over $800,000 annually.

4) Folks write about her as though she bought blue chip dividend stocks stocks which is not entirely accurate. She had a much more nuanced approach including owning MCI and Apple computer when they were relatively new companies.

She lived simply and did it her way. Your way might be different and that is ok. Don’t accept those who use existing frameworks to describe all behavior.

Occasionally, when other parents find we send our child to private school, they discuss their thought process for their own children.

Wait and see

For the few that consider private school as a possible path, a recurring theme  I have heard for those that can afford it is that they will wait to see if the child has potential to justify the expenses.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

And I get that one wouldn’t want to waste money but I struggle with their wait-and-see viewpoint.

Who should go?

Shouldn’t all children be educated to their potential, even if it is not ‘success’  by conventional  standards? Indeed, isn’t a struggling child the ideal case for a private education and most likely to see beneft?

If it makes sense for your situation, move now to develop that potential and make it inevitable.

Tell your children they are a more worthwhile investment and more important than a supersized house.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

My experience in private school

I was lucky enough to attend a private parochial school and then a private high school. For college I went off to a state school. The differences were stark.

Service as a framework

Specifically, the private school saw education as a tool to be used to serve a greater purpose. The additional knowledge, skills and understanding would be of use to understand oneself, the natural and physical world, abstract concepts and cultural and organizational behaviors.  The stated goal was learn as much as possible to save the world, not to collect a paycheck. It is not about being the best – it is about being that best you can be.

Graz Reading Room by Dr. Marcus Gossler - Wiki Commons

Graz Reading Room by Dr. Marcus Gossler –
Wiki Commons

This in turn is set in a rigorous spiritual framework to determine how to use this knowledge. Countless examples from history and present day are highlighted as role models. Year after year the greater purpose of service to family, country and the undeserved is stated and then put into practice.

My experience in a public college was confusing. It was just about the technical skill with dabbling in other technical domains. The spiritual framework was not only no longer present, it was actively ridiculed.

When I graduated from my under graduate program I thought I had learned so much more in my private school. I still think that is true.

While I was in private school, I found the extra rigor difficult, stressful and burdensome. I didn’t question its value but it is a lot to take in.

Now, years, later, in the work place I am so grateful for it. I am no saint by any measure but I am stunned by coworkers who struggle with basic concepts of morality. Their own behaviors cause them isolation. They know something isn’t right but can’t quite place their finger on it. And a one week how-to work-with-others techniques won’t fix it. Lessons on empathy, love, altruism, sacrifice, the equal worth of all and countless other lessons can’t be learned in a week. They must be seen, modeled and experienced over years.

The Basics

One example I see regularly is that of truthfulness. One view of truthfulness is that it is a way of showing respect to all, an expression of love and trust, a higher principal to strive for and a representation of your own morale standing. Another view is that it’s something that I should do because it’s good and I might get in trouble if I don’t tell the truth.

In the first framework the person comes from a position of truthfulness as a way of helping others. Of being fair. The second framework builds it as a rule that must be followed.

At work this first framework results in a person having unquestioned integrity and will lay out the facts and can be trusted with critical projects. The second framework results in a person who will also tell the truth but might leave out key facts to avoid trouble. They don’t lie but you often have to follow up to find the “full story”.

I feel so bad for them. And I feel that I have an unfair advantage at work. It shows up as a higher paycheck as well – but, as you have gathered by now, that isn’t the point of it all.

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons

US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

 

The first person values their own moral compass more than a specific job or company. They can be trusted when no one is looking. The second person is pretty trust worthy – most of the time.

And they can be entrusted to run large organizations where reputation and integrity are paramount (which is most of them).

Private and public schools both produce but types of people. There is no monopoly on morality. But the odds are so much more in your favor in a private school that focuses on doing things the right way in addition to doing the right things.

Consider the stated mission of a few private schools in my area compared to the public schools (both the private and public schools are excellent so there isn’t a problem with either).

Private School Missions Public School Missions
Excel, Love Serve
  • Promote the development of the whole person
  • Challenge and encourage critical thinking skills

Equip each student with the academic and social tools necessary for success as college students and ultimately adults

Service, Simplicity, Equality, Honesty
  • Focus on teaching & learning
  • Have High expectations
  • Engage students in a positive learning environment
  • Student progress measured by data

 

  • Academic and personal excellence, Social, emotional, and physical well-being,
  • Respect for self, others, and the environment
  • Collaboration and teamwork

 

  • Provide every student a quality education that will give them the opportunity to go to college/career ready

 

The Point? Mission Matters

Some  of the private organizations are religious and some are not but realize their entire program and curriculum is based on their missions.

Some folks prefer the focus of the public school missions. Others prefer the variety available with private schools. You must decide what is best for your children. And it is a very simple question. Fast forward 40 years. Which of these school frameworks do you hope your child internalized in their formative years?

Tips and tricks – the paying for private school links page

We aren’t the only voice out there discussing the details of how to pay for private school. Here are some great reads to help you consider the options and the trade offs:

Broad Brush Tips

Real Life Inspiring Stories

Frank discussion of the trade offs

 

Options Analysis

Have a link that you think will help parents and students? Post a comment so we can include it!

Free your mind

Wait, are you saying I just need to  do things differently, do some basic stuff for yourself  and avoid some junk and then I can send my kids to private school, retire early or donate stacks of cash to worthy causes?

That is right.

Why isn’t everyone doing this? Isn’t it going to be hard? I mean, after all if it was easy everyone would be doing this sort of thing, right?

Theory of the mind (or mind control for beginners)

There is an answer to these questions and it is called theory of the mind. This super power like ability enables you to mirror the experiences of someone else simply by watching them or hearing their story.

And throughout history this has been very useful. You can watch someone knit a few times and start to mimic them. Or you can hear a vivid story of an adventure over the hills and forever remember to avoid the cove of three trees. It’s like you are there – because, in your mind, you are there!

Fantasy Island

This also makes entertainment, well, so entertaining. You can follow your favorite team all season and when they win the championship you will share in their jubilee and say “we” won even though the team doesn’t know you exist. Or you

can escape into a fantasy land where you easily relate to and experience emotions of the hero Hobbit. And there are often valuable morale lessons in these fictional tales and they can provide much needed perspective but it comes with a steep price.

It’s Fake (News)

And, it is worth noting, it is all fake. You aren’t doing any of it. Sure, going on a wild adventure in a movie or book is a wonderful experience. But it is fake. And doing the dull but profitable job of keeping accurate records is downright boring in comparison.

 

The matrix is an illusory world

The way to fix this is to free your brain up. Specifically, force yourself to turn off the video and close the book. Sit still.  Wait a bit until you get bored. Then, think about what tiny super easy thing you can do that can improves your situation. Then do it. Repeat.

Stop watching fictional people live out their fictional lives while yours slips away. Go for a walk in your boring old neighborhood. A real walk.

G Ruga Coral Maple Tree Photo

Coral Maple Tree

As you step outside and see the soft glow of the people watching their programmed lives you will soon realize you have almost no competition, few are interested in easy, unexciting, but highly profitable tasks. You have already won by simply unplugging. Everyone is busy consuming visual symbols to stimulate their brains electrical impulses.

Now you know better.

Welcome to the real world. Let’s get to work.

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