Monday, July 14, 2008

Ambitious vs. Feasible

We've spent more hours than I'd care to recall being lectured on the importance of setting appropriate Big Goals for our students. It's crucial to set an ambitious goal that will move our students toward accomplishing something meaningful, possibly even life-changing, and yet also ensure the goal is something we and they could conceivably pull off. The same basic process should apply to setting financial goals.

My new friend U., who'll be teaching Biology at my school, rode with me from Houston to the Delta since he had to leave his car with his parents when he moved. We tried to keep a conversation going pretty much the whole trip, partly to get to know one another better and partly to keep whoever was driving at the time alert and focused. Out of the blue, somewhere in the middle of Louisiana, U. mentioned that he wants to save $30,000 in the next two years.

Ambitious, yes, but is it feasible? I suspect that even if I lived on ramen noodles or beans and rice for two years, lived in a dilapidated house with lots of roommates, and avoided shopping I still wouldn't be able to pull it off. We won't meet with the administration and get our contracts for a couple more weeks, but the word on the street is that starting salaries will be about $31,000 a year. Taxes, insurance, and pension contributions will take a hefty bite out of that. U. will have to buy a car sometime in the next few weeks, likely financing it since he has around $5,300 to his name, $5,000 of which is tied up in a cd for the next few months, plus another $1,500 in transitional funding that he'll eventually have to pay back. (I wasn't being nosy, I swear, he volunteered this.) Throw in that he's a great son who has promised his struggling immigrant parents he'll send home $300 a month, and I just don't see it happening. I would, however, love to see him prove me wrong.

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