J.D. at Get Rich Slowly has asked people to post about their greatest financial success. There will probably be scores of truly inspiring stories about people who overcame great obstacles to work their way out of poverty, get out of debt, and create better lives for themselves and their loved ones. This isn't going to be one of those stories. I've had a pretty easy life when you get right down to it, and my accomplishments are pretty mundane.
I'm a twenty-one year old student with a positive net worth, and my parents aren't paying for my education. They would have helped pay for tuition if I'd needed help, but they seem pretty happy that they don't have to. I take a certain pride in knowing I earned the scholarships that are financing these four years.
Yes, I was very lucky. I grew up in a home in which education was the number one priority. I also live in a state with a serious brain drain problem so high schoolers with top scores and grades are considered a valuable resource worth spending tax dollars to keep.
However, I'd like to believe that planning and work played a role as well. I started thinking about college admissions as a tenth grader. I spent hours searching for scholarships, studying for the standardized tests, and honing my essays. Ultimately, I had to make some tough choices. My top pick, a prestigious but pricey liberal arts college, offered me the largest amount of merit aid they give, work study, and loans, but it remained financially out of reach. It just wasn't worth taking on tens of thousands of dollars of private loans when I knew I wanted to go on to graduate school as well. Instead, I accepted a full ride to the honors college within my state university.
As a result, I now have more flexibility in planning life after graduation. It's much easier to consider taking a low-paying but fulfilling job when you don't have debt repayment hanging over your head. In addition, not having to pay for college has allowed me to diligently sock my earnings away. It isn't a fortune by any means, but it's a nice little nest egg that might someday become a college fund for my own children.