Undergrad, Law School, and a Car on Stocks, Bonds, and Good Grades

 We’ve invited readers to share their stories of financing education. How did you pay for your education, C.P.?

My father is a total crazy planner/saver, and he really set me up to succeed. My parents had a college fund for me and my brother that was almost exclusively stocks.  When I went off to college in 1999, the stock market was booming, and my college fund was at an all time high. But for undergrad, they hardly had to touch it.

I went to the University of Georgia in-state, and the Hope scholarship paid for my entire (super cheap) tuition. I think my tuition was like $3K a year, but all I had to do was make sure I kept a B average and my tuition would be covered by Hope. I also had another merit-based state scholarship that paid me about $800 a semester, which covered a large part of either my room or board (Athens was an extraordinarily cheap place to live). I lived in the dorm one year, I lived in the sorority house for two years, and the one year I did live in an apartment, my rent was $290 a month. 

When I was growing up, my dad would trick my brother and me into spending our Christmas and birthday cash on saving bonds. If a relative gave me $25 for Christmas, my dad would offer to match it, making it $50 if the money went towards a savings bond. (I always did this—I was easily influenced and my parents were overly generous anyway.) I also think he probably commandeered money my grandparents gave me over the years and bought us saving bonds. After my freshman year, my dad cashed in all the bonds and bought me a car.

By the time I finished college, stocks were not as high as they had been in 1999, but they were still strong, and because of my scholarships, my college fund was largely intact. I decided to go to law school, and I sold the stock in my college fund to pay for it. I again chose the University of Georgia. My in-state tuition was $7,500 a year—less than most undergraduate tuitions. I graduated from law school in 2006.

In 2007 and 2008, the stocks left over in my fund lost at least half of their worth. I found a statement from January 2006 the other day from the mutual fund where my college fund lives. I had forgotten how much those stocks used to be worth, and it was upsetting.

I would not have gone to law school if I hadn’t gotten into one of the dirt cheap state law schools in Georgia or if I hadn’t had my college fund to pay for it. Not having student loans as a lawyer has given me a freedom in my career choices that is priceless.

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

readyornot (#816)

Yeah! Good for you, CP! The Hope is a great program.

probs (#296)

I really liked the detail of your dad tricking you and your brother into buying savings bonds. Pretty awesome.

jfruh (#161)

Out of curiosity, do you have any particular plans for the money in your college fund, now that you’re done with college? Might be smart to roll it into a retirement fund … you’ll reduce your taxable income by a healthy amount for the year.

jane lane (#281)

@jfruh that’s what I’m planning to do with most of mine (custodial accounts are a pain in the ass but HOPE is by far the best part of living in GA)

charmcity (#1,091)

Rock on. My parents were not the organized planners/investors yours were (plus three kids on basically 1.5 teacher salaries makes that tough) but they ALWAYS emphasized that we should avoid debt. Even for law school, I think people get hung up on getting in rather than thinking about what they’ll have to do when they get out.

Charlsie (#442)

Jfruh – my stocks have been in a couple different accounts, and at this point I have two IRA accounts with an investment firm – about half of the money is in mutual funds, and the other half is in specific stocks. I try to keep an eye on it, and every once in a while I will play around with buying and selling. I had 100 shares of a coal stock that was purchased for $30 a share in the late 90s, and in the summer of 2008 it was selling for $95 a share. I put a stop sell on that stock, and when it dropped to $88 I sold it. This felt like an enormous windfall, especially because by November of 2008 that stock was worth pennies after the crash. I took that cash out of my IRA and used it for a down payment on a house, but for the most part I leave it alone. It isn’t a large sum of money, but having it in an IRA keeps me from using it for “emergencies.”

I work for the federal government now, so I’m not currently using it as my primary retirement account, but it is nice to know it is there.

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