Wealth Podcast Post

Is College Worth It with John Hupalo

George Grombacher July 26, 2023

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Is College Worth It with John Hupalo

LifeBlood: We talked about answering the question is college worth it for your kids, the value of education in today’s world, how to have the money conversation with your kids, how to help them make a good decision, and when to get started, with John Hupalo, Founder of Invite Education and My College Corner.      

Listen to learn why college isn’t perfect for anyone, but pretty good for a lot of people!

You can learn more about John at MyCollegeCorner.com, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

John Hupalo

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:00
Hey, what’s up this George G and the time is right, welcome today’s guest on the pile for John. Hello, John. How are you, buddy to do this?

John Hupalo 0:10
George, I am ready. Great to be back with you again.

george grombacher 0:12
Yeah, excited to have you back on. This is our third conversation on the podcast. To refresh everybody’s memory. John’s spent 30 years in education, finance before founding, invite education. And my college corner is helping people to deal with the overwhelm and complexity of the college process. John, welcome back. Tell us about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

John Hupalo 0:39
George, I love talking about this topic. Because in 2010, when I had exited my prior life of being an investment banker, as a CFO of a publicly traded student loan company that went upside down during the financial crisis I got with one of my clients, Peter Mazur, Ray is from Massachusetts, who’s now a co founder, and was a co founder of invited education back when we founded as a Peter, how many years are we going to talk about this big problem of planning and paying for college every year, it’s the same process for students over and over again. And every year, we hear about how confused folks are. And now guess what? My daughter oldest one is getting into high school and I’m getting the soccer field and the party chatter about well, my guy says this, And my guys, and guess what their guys were wrong. And I knew this like straight out as like, well, that’s kind of odd. And then when I started to think about my situation with my daughter, I thought, I feel like the deer in the headlights to a certain extent. So we should do something about this. So Peter and I got together, we started a company called invade education. My wife said to me, you know, you’re starting a software company, is it Oh, so she was right, we wanted to do was try to bring some technology into the area of planning and paying for colleges, because we know, a couple of things from my personal experience, and now after 11 years of a professional life, is that everyone’s really busy. And people need the answer, they don’t have a lot of time for the process. So we try to find a way to make it really easy for folks to spend whatever minutes they have, at this particular juncture in their life, whether they’ve got a baby like you do, and congratulations, George, I’m here, there’s a new addition to your family since we spoke, maybe two since we spoke last, but it’s really terrific. But from the time the kids are really small, like yours, to high school juniors and seniors. So we want to plan and prepare them for wherever they are in their journey. So that’s kind of the long gated elevator speech about invite education. But what it really means George, is that we want parents to go on site. So our clients, our financial institutions, and other places, we also have a website called my college corner.com. It’s free. We have search engines up there, like a scholarship search, we have financial aid calculator, we have some articles that we post every month. And so you know, I think what we want to do is provide this information. So again, wherever people are in their journey, they say, What do I need to know today, the biggest problem that I had as a parent is I only knew what my daughter was telling me, right? Because she’d go to school, she’s got all these resources, the high school counselors are there, they’re prepping them. And by the way, the thing that I finally figured out is that they’re prepping the high school students to be independent, which means they don’t really have to involve their parents so much, right? And so what are the frustrations for parents is that the kids are getting this guidance, but we don’t have the guidance, we have each other cocktail parties, which may not be so great, right? Because we’re all trading the same, sometimes bad information. So I realized that part of the emotional aspect of this is like, so important when we talk about planning and paying for college, the emotional stuff, parents, like, I want the best thing for my child, well, who doesn’t? Right, you know, everybody wants the best thing. But what happens is it causes you to do things that we would say is irrational when you look at it, and step away from the emotion. So the reason I’m talking about this is that I think for, you know, those who are listening and thinking about this, to the extent it’s possible to try to take a step back every once in a while and say, you know, if this weren’t my kid, would my friend was telling me this, would I say, Gee, that’s a really good idea. Like George, do you think it’s a really good idea for people to dip into their 401 Ks to pay for college? No, you know, no, I don’t either. But I read that in the Wall Street Journal every once in a while, right? And I’m saying to myself, this is just not a good idea. It’s just not. So again, if I stepped away from them, by the way, I want to say I didn’t do that and I hope you won’t do that. I hope you folks will. Listen, this won’t do that. But that’s the kind of stuff you say, Oh, the Wall Street Journal says, you know, I can pay myself back in alone, this is a great idea. This is not a great idea. So again, kind of a long way of saying there was a lot of misinformation out there. And we want them to try to find a way maybe to help parents sort of orderly think about this, and say to them, we get it, we’ve been through it. But you’ve got to find a way to step back a little bit, divorce a little bit of that emotion. And then you can have a really productive outcome for you, for yourself and for your family.

george grombacher 5:31
I love it. I think that that is a great way to think about it, and, and encourage other people to think about it. We have a tendency to not make great decisions when we’re making them emotionally, even though we’re talking about our kids, and you want what’s best for them to your point. And let’s slow it down a little bit and take the perspective that that that you’re sharing.

John Hupalo 5:53
Yeah, and you know, slowing it down is really important. Because what happens is, and again, I’m going to use you as a great example. You’re saying, I’ve got like, all this stuff going on in my life, I’ve got like three kids, they’re running around, and they need things today, right? So I’m gonna think about their college tomorrow, right? And then tomorrow doesn’t come until they get to high school. And then you say, Oh, I’ve got all this, and you’re kind of on that treadmill, then even faster. So what I found talking to freshmen and sophomore parents, so we’re running out of time. I wish I knew this eight years ago, like if I started saving for my kids, when they were five, I might not be where I am today. And when you have a five year old, you’re thinking, Well, you know, I’ve got daycare, I’ve got these needs, they want to where where’s this money going to come from? And we actually trademarked the phrase a little while ago at my college corner and invite education. And the trademark is saving $1 Today is better than borrowing one tomorrow. Right? And that’s kind of like what happens with parents, they get themselves in this conundrum, say, Oh, I didn’t save enough. So I’m just going to borrow it. And that’s sometimes can like lead to really tough outcome. So again, so you know, I’m on my high horse a little bit here about you know, try to save his butt literally know, whatever savings can be done, even if it’s, you know, several $1,000 or 10. You know, bills today are so big. And so I’ve only got 10,000, I only have 20,000, or whatever you have is better than nothing. Right? And also you have the options for your student when they get a little older. So I think this is one of those topics where it’s really easy to say, I’m going to take care of it tomorrow, because my life today was just crazy hectic. And then you wake up when your your child in high school and say, Wow, where did those years go? Right? And that happened to me. And you know, there’s that old, that old kind of I know, it’s kind of tired, but I find it now it’s even more true. When I see people. It’s like, Yep, the days are long, but the years are short, you know, and you can’t get that perspective until you’ve kind of like said, oh, yeah, that’s right. My kid was in kindergarten, middle school, they were driving and now I’m taking them to college like and I blink my eyes twice. And that whole thing seemed to happen.

george grombacher 8:11
Amen. And it’s so true. It is true. So true. Long day short years. And saving $1 Today is better than borrowing one tomorrow. Money is time sensitive. Obviously there’s there’s there’s there’s a major opportunity cost and all those things which which you summed up beautifully. Have? And I don’t know if if this is I’m sure it’s something you think about over the last three years since we talked last have have trends changed? I just don’t worry. It’s just is this just a time that we just sort of shrug and say that was weird, and things gonna go back to the way they were?

John Hupalo 8:52
Yeah, great question. And the answer is no, things have really changed, at least, I’m gonna say at least in the near medium to longer term. So what I mean by that when we talked back in 2020, that was pre pandemic. And I think even you know, before we came on, as Oh, yeah, it seems like yesterday. And that’s because the pandemic somehow can press three years of our lives into one. And it turned everything upside down. Right. For instance, for those who are now have student loans outstanding, they haven’t had to make payments on those loans. And you and I last spoke there added the behavior of making payments, that’s going to be really traumatic. We even for those people who have jobs or wait, I’m not going to start paying a couple $100 a month, you know, what, what was that all about? I’m used to spending that money somewhere else. Um, so that’s one thing. The second thing that I think is really dramatic and cannot be underestimated for anybody, is the sort of psychological effect that this has had on on everybody. And we’re starting to see that play out now in really troubling ways with mental health issues for for people. All agents, right? I was gonna say all we know, it’s really everybody. Um, so we’ve kind of adjusted. But like to your point, the good news is we’re kind of moving away from that now, right, and we’re going to start to see something that we used to think was normal, it’s going to be a new normal. And I honestly believe that there probably aren’t all that many traumatic events that occur in our lifetime. But when you think about this last time, something like this happened was 100 years ago, you know, this, the pandemic they had then and their lives change pretty fundamentally. And I think there’s been a pretty good sea change here as well. Some of it will be for the better. And we’re talking on Zoom now, and I don’t remember, we were zooming three years ago. But if we were we were pioneers, but you know, now it’s part of everyday life. Also, there are much better sensitivities, I think, particularly around the cost of college, we’re starting to actually see the inflation, tuition inflation rates on colleges have really kind of normalized or even had tuition freezes, particularly in some of the states, where the state coffers are, were actually pretty plentiful toward the pandemic. And they’ve allocated some of that spending into education to try and keep tuition flat. So I think that’s helpful. The other sort of negative side of this is that, you know, last year was just a terrifically terrible year in the stock and investment market. So I was at a conference, the National Association of State Treasurer’s the other day, and they put up this unbelievably eye popping chart, which somebody like me, I’m a finance guy, CFO type, and I looked, and, oh, stocks were off, bonds were off, like, everything was down last year, and those correlations basically haven’t happened before. And their point, last year, it was truly an aberrant year, you know, we’re going to see some normalization of this going forward. So I think you don’t have to be on the optimistic side of the coin. Although a lot has changed, one thing hasn’t changed, the value of education is quite high. What is really important is that students choose wisely about what they want to do, you know, if you want to be a welder, and you can make a lot of money, by the way of being a welder, don’t go and waste four years on a college campus, right, you might not need to do that, go get a certificate program, these 529 College Savings Programs have evolved quite a lot, even since we spoke last. Now I can use the money in my 529, which by the way, is tax deferred accounts I put the money in today, by take it out for anything related to what I’m going to talk about in a minute, I don’t have to pay tax on that. So all those gains of all those years of basically, you know, just piling up in my account for my for my child. So that’s really tremendous. But what they’ve done, George, and this is really important. It’s no longer a college savings account, it’s really like an education savings account. Because they can use that money. Now for K through 12 expenses, you can use that money for apprenticeship programs, you can use that money to pay off up to $10,000 of student loans, they’ve also have a provision in there to rollover any money that’s left, if you’re like fortunate enough to actually have an overfunding of a 529 account it a couple of years ago, you’re gonna be able to roll that into a Roth IRA. So they’re really thinking hard about, like, how can we give incentives to families to save as much as they can, what’s prudent for them to do take care of their families, but have a little nest egg here. So when it’s time for your kids to go to college, you know, they’ve got a chance,

george grombacher 13:30
love to see a little bit of wisdom floating around out there?

John Hupalo 13:35
Well, you know, it’s actually painful learning, you know, the 529 programs started back in the 90s. And they weren’t getting great take up rates, you know, and then the count balances will low. And why is that? And there are all these myths surrounding the loose financial aid. So they’ve taken some years, but you know, I think, you know, it’s learning is good. And you know, the wisdom is there, but also a lot of hard work by people, you know, go and banging on doors and saying, you know, what we’ve got, we’ve got this great idea. We’ve got really good intentions, but it’s not working quite right for these reasons. And those reasons have been raised. And now they’re starting to expand different kinds of help for parents, either on the saving side or the loan side, or like, whatever it might be trying to make it a little bit easier to afford them a way to get to college. Yeah,

george grombacher 14:23
that’s great. So you mentioned that you believe the value of education to be still very high. And we need to be good consumers of that. If I intend to be a welder or a trades person, then it doesn’t make sense for me to go and study sociology at Brown University and incur a trillion dollars of debt. And if I intend to be an entrepreneur, people are probably questioning whether or not they should do that. Do you think that that’s the case? Who is who is college perfect for lots of questions.

John Hupalo 14:58
Yeah, no, it And I appreciate what you’re getting to what, where we are now as a country of saying, Okay, what is appropriate? Like, what what are my goals and what’s appropriate? And we’re, we’re kind of we’re making progress in that area. So the answer your question, college isn’t perfect for anybody. But it’s really good for a lot of people. Right? And I think the the prospect of, as you termed it beautifully being a consumer of education, right, that’s really important. Think of this and goes back to what we talked about earlier, to take that step back and say, you know, what, I want to give my daughter who’s 18 years old, a blank cheque to walk into a car dealership and buy any car she wants. Now, yeah, like that Lamborghini that’s yellow. Yeah, that’s a great car, go buy that, right? You’d say to her, Look, here’s how much we have. Here’s our budget, right. And so to get a great college fit, to make it work for you, there are three parts of that. And I get I’m a finance guy. So you know, people can argue, but I always think financial fit is like really important, right? And they’re probably all tied, but financial fit. I always like to talk about that first, because most people like to talk about it last. So you know, understand how much you’ve saved, understand what the financial aid package might be from the school, understand what gifts you might have, you know, coming for whatever right might be, and then say, when I add all that up, how much is left? And if there’s something that’s left, that means you’ve got to borrow it, right? You there’s just no other reality to that. So if I have to borrow it, how do I do that my student, they can take on debt that’s basically supported by the federal government. By the way, I’m not a huge fan of a lot of government programs. But I think the federal student loan program is by far the very best game in town for an 1820 year old student, freshman, whatever it is, they’ve got really good terms and the amount they can borrow is capped. So I love that, right. So my point is, okay, student loans, and that’s good how the student takes a loan, if there’s a gap after that, and that means it’s going to fall on me as the parent, that’s when I’ve got to really start doing that soul searching and maybe have that. And by the way, it’s easy for us to say no, yeah, that sounds like a great idea. If I sit down with your son or daughter across the table and say, by the way, I’m not sure I can afford that. Right? It’s really hard. And so what that’s why people say, well, Wall Street Journal says I can borrow against my 401k. So I’m gonna go do that, because I don’t want to tell Sally that, you know, I was unsuccessful, I was unable to, like meet her demand for education. Right. So this is like this, the emotional stuff that we’re talking about, really hard to do. Nobody wants to do that. But if you if you sit down, and you talk to your students in eighth grade, ninth grade and start saying, You know what, let’s talk about, like, what the fits are, here’s how much money we have, here’s how much money this is a game plan. Why is this about what it what it might be? And then by the way, I want you to go to a school that has a great academic fit, okay, you know, I wasn’t an Einstein, if I went to Harvard, I would have got crushed. If I wouldn’t want any of those, it wouldn’t have been a great place to me, right. And it’s the same thing. And this is where the school guidance counselors Excel, on the first point, financial fit, they don’t want to talk about it, they will not talk to families, they have no desire. On the next two points. They’ve got a lot of insight, and they’ve got great opportunities to help students and that academic fit, like what’s a really good place for you, you know, what, and then social fit, right? You know, every person in every classroom has its own personality. Every school has its own personality, right. And sometimes, literally, we were going on campus visits with my daughters. And we one time we got out of the car, and my daughter says I don’t like it here. We literally parked the car. And there was just some vibe that got a chi like, immediately picked it up. Like this is, you know, I thought was a little crazy. But you know what, we walked around the campus. And I started thinking, I don’t see her here, right? And the other kind of, I don’t want to claim wisdom, because I don’t I don’t like that for myself. But I’m gonna say one thing I’ve learned in the whole process that I hope people will listen to, is trust your son or daughter, right? You’ve raised them really well, right? You’ve, you’ve gotten them to 18 years old or whatever, they’ve got your values, you may want to like something, but you’ve done what you can do. And when they come to you and say, I really don’t want to do that. It’s not a good time that I get into that. Well, let me tell you, because it’s their instinct, right? And it’s their life. Right? And this is their first like venture into adulthood. And you know, if they make a mistake, I made mistakes too. Right? And you know, that’s part of life but like trusting them understanding like what it is that’s important to them. They might not articulate to us as parents so well, but they know their friends know, know the school counselors know they see them in these situations and the counselors are great. Oh, yeah, we you know, you go to your parent teacher things. Oh, Yo, this is your senatorial. Yeah, that’s my daughter that. And then I thought back and said, Yeah, when I was in high school, my parents had no idea what I was really like, right? You know, they probably like around the edges. But there is a lot of stuff there that, you know, I’m getting to be an adult now that the school is teaching me to be adults. So they wanted to move that along. So, um, you asked some very simple questions that have like some really interesting answers, because it’s not a straight line for anyone. And it may be a real big meandering path, but you know, that’s okay.

george grombacher 20:31
Amen. I think that that’s really well said, and thank you. I love that college is not a perfect fit for anyone. But it’s pretty good for a lot of people. I think that that’s a wonderful way to sum it up in the importance of having that grown up conversation with your very, very smart child about how much things cost and making sure that there is a fit academically and socially and trusting your kids. That’s all very, very, even though you might not want to claim wise, John, I will attribute wisdom to those statements. So

John Hupalo 21:04
you’re very kind George. That’s why I like to talk to you.

george grombacher 21:08
Well, John, thank you so much for coming back on where can people learn more about you? And how can they engage? Give us the sites again?

John Hupalo 21:15
Yeah, on my college quarter.com, that’s a free site, we’re constantly trying to evolve it, there’s contact us. So if you want to have some idea about that, offer some ideas about you know, what we can do better, we’re always sort of all ears for that. And then the last piece of wisdom I’m going to offer is take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be you know, it’s going to seem like it’s not going to be okay, sometimes, but it works out. And that includes, by the way from for my friends who kids went to two schools, like the first one wasn’t a great fit, and it was a lot of anxiety. And boom, you know, they got out they got jobs, they’ve got friend groups, and you know, people get through it. So if you can get through it out without a ton of debt hanging over your head, that’s really the success and people can absolutely achieve that goal if they do the things that we’ve been talking about this afternoon

george grombacher 22:08
of it. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show, John, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to my college corner.com And check out all the great resources that are on the site. I certainly appreciate the way that John has structured the company to be able to meet you wherever you are, and to get answers not to engage in a really lengthy process because we’re all very busy. So thanks again, John.

John Hupalo 22:39
George, great to talk to you be well good luck with that family of yours.

george grombacher 22:42
Thank you, sir. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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