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.