A friend of mine is a White, male hedge fund manager. He makes a 7 figure salary and had a beautiful home in one of the most expensive parts of Connecticut.
The city he lives in is home to some of the best private schools in the country. Tuition costs in the area are about $30,000 a year. Still, private school tuition for his 2 children would be well within his budget if he believed it was their best option.
I was surprised to find out a few months ago that my friend and his family were selling their beautiful home and moving to another part of town. When I asked why, he told me it was because they were moving to a district that had better public schools. It also came up in our conversation that he would never spend what’s asked of parents and caregivers to spend on private elementary school education. He pointed out how he and his wife could hire tutors if they felt their children needed ‘more’ than they were getting at the public school at a fraction of the costs.
I thought about this deeply. My parents worked hard to send me to a good private school. I’m doing the same with my child. As I take an honest look at the impact education costs have on total financial well-being, however, I can’t help but see the conditioning in myself and many in the Black community that a ‘good’ education is worth a big financial sacrifice. Many people also believe that private and independent schools are the only real option when it comes to a ‘good’ education, and that by sending their kids to expensive schools they are planting the seeds that will bring their children career success and financial well-being.
“African Americans tend to focus on their children’s education when they get money,” says Alfred Edmond Jr., BE’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor-at-Large.
“It may have been necessary in our cultural history, and to some degree some people say it may still be necessary, but we often neglect our own retirement savings. That can leave us unable to sustain ourselves in retirement and we become burdens to our children and grandchildren because we haven’t saved. Our good intentions boomerang,” he adds.
In addition, in my 20 plus years as a financial journalist I have seen countless cases where ‘good’ schools as children did not translate into positive financial outcomes in adulthood. Most of the people I’ve seen create healthy financial lives had someone, at some point in their lives, teach them fiscal responsibility by making choices and setting examples in their own behavior that represented this ideal.
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