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Teens, Money, Saving, and School Debt: The Money Expert Weighs In

Teaching my kids about money wasn’t easy for me.

If you are listening in and want to support your tween or teen to learn about money – the value of a dollar, how to make and invest money, and to get a vision for how they can build wealth for their future, you will love this episode.

Today my special guest is Robert Farrington, and he is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™. He is also the founder of The College Investor, which is an awesome website full of resources.

I learned so much talking to Robert about empowering and equipping our kids with money. He is full of creative ideas and resources that are fun and will not only motivate your kids but also, if you’re like me, you will feel inspired from listening to Robert too!

Let’s dig in!

Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.

What You Will Learn: 

  • Is there a difference between Gen Z and Millennials and how they view money?
  • How do you teach tweens and teens about money and starting to save?
  • How would you recommend parents encourage teens to save rather than burn through all the money?
  • What are some other tools to help parents teach their children about managing money?
  • What are a few top tips for parents, tweens, and teens when paying for college and financial aid?
  • What are some practical tips to get out of student loan debt? 
  • What are a few of the most popular side hustles to make money for teenagers or those in their 20s trying to pay off student loan debt?

Where to find Robert:

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

Sign up for our Moms of Tweens and Teens newsletter HERE

And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone, and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

SHERYL:  Well, hi, Robert. Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I’m so happy to have you here.

ROBERT:  Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

SHERYL:  Yeah, we’ll have such a good conversation all about tweens, teens, college-age kids into their 20s, and how to handle money. And you’re the experts. I’m excited.

ROBERT:  Oh, thank you. It’s an important topic; I always tell my kids, like, if you can be a good person and good with money, you’ll be set with life.

SHERYL:  Yeah, and it is something that I get asked a lot. But we don’t often talk about it, and we don’t get support around, which it’s kind of shocking when it’s such a big issue.

ROBERT:  And I think that’s the precipice for so many financial issues that we’re seeing across the country: you don’t learn about money in school or get the tools to talk about money. And unless you were blessed to see some good habits, maybe when you were growing up. 

But it’s hard. And it’s hard to figure out what you’re supposed to tell kids what you’re not. Do you share? Do you not share? What tools do you give them? And then the tools keep changing with every app and smartphone? And who knows, right? It’s a tough subject.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head, too, with if we didn’t grow up learning how to manage money or having anybody teach us now, I’ll date myself. That was back in the days when you wrote in a checkbook. 

I was bad at math. It was always not matching up. And I wasn’t very good. And so it was really hard to support my kids in that area, not being as having learned how to support them. So it was a little bumpy. 

ROBERT:  And now things just move so much faster with technology, and smartphones and transferring money and everything online, which can be challenging for families.

SHERYL:  It can be. So I want to start, and I want you to tell the audience a little bit about you; you have two kids, just how you got started with TheCollegeInvestor.com. And doing what you do.

ROBERT:  Absolutely. So I unintentionally got into teaching people about personal finance. Growing up, I was always passionate about money; I liked a side hustle. I have been working since I was 12. And I was taking that money by the time I was a late teenager and investing it, and I thought that was so cool. 

Because like you could invest your money and see it grow. And then, a year later, you have more money. I thought that was just phenomenal. And so I wanted to share some of these ideas by the time I got to college. And I didn’t know where to start. 

I read about the whole blogging thing. And so that’s what started the college investor. And I wanted to share ways people could earn and invest money. But I quickly learned and had my stumbling blocks with student loan debt. 

And so we talked a lot about getting out of debt and how to navigate your general personal finances. So you could get to this point where you can invest. And now here we are a decade plus later, and we all have kids, and everyone’s growing up. 

And now we’re like, how do you teach your kids about money? And how do you save for college and do these things? And so it’s just been an evolution of my personal financial life. But I love sharing these topics with families and helping people understand these topics so we can build wealth, support our children and families, pay for college, and hopefully not be burdened with student loans.

SHERYL:  Yeah, yeah. And I’m curious as you share your story, what got you interested in making money creatively when you started? At 12?

ROBERT:  I have to thank my parents. For this one, they were very much like, if you want it, you gotta go around it and figure out how to pay for it. And so I can remember some of my earlier memories were wanting to rent video games at Blockbuster. 

I’m dating myself here. But, you had to go to Blockbuster, and you could rent stuff. And so my parents would graciously say they take me but weren’t about to pay for it. So I had to figure out how to save and earn that money. 

So whether that was through chores, or my parents played bridge, and so I would caddy at the bridge studio, or anyway I could figure out how to make an extra buck, I would. And then I would save that, and then I could rent video games on the weekends. 

And then, as I got older, I got my first job, like real quote-unquote, a real job at 15 working at Target, which I thought was great. Making $100 a week in high school was like, Yes, and I could take some of that money and start investing again. So that was fun, but I am blessed that my parents forced that upon me.

SHERYL:  Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? My husband was like that, not me, but where he was at the train station. Having coffee early in the morning, he had a paper route; all these ways that he even they had, there was a laundry mat he wouldn’t even go, and he had like a magnet thing to go get all the quarters when he was little like he always had that hunger and desire, because his parents weren’t giving him money. 

And he had to go out and earn it. And do you find that we’re not allowing our kids to feel that as much, and this generation of kids where it seems like we just are so much more prone to pay for everything?

ROBERT:  Yeah, I think it’s hard because you’re right. We’re not giving kids as many opportunities. And I do feel like. In some ways, the system is not letting us give those kids the opportunities. You see people cracking down on lemonade stands and not letting kids get up and hustle. 

And it just breaks my heart because it’s like, you need to let these kids go out and learn how to earn money so that they can feel like they have a say in what’s earned and what is spent and what’s going on. 

And if you just keep giving it to them, you create a sense of entitlement, but you also don’t create the skills they will need when they hopefully leave the nest in their 20s. And they’re done. 

And it’s as if they’ve never had to figure out what earning is and what saving is, and what the tools are to use it. It’s harder to learn it when you’re later in life than when you’re young.

SHERYL:  Oh, for sure. And then you get the credit card. And you don’t know you must pay it off all at once. 

ROBERT:  They make it so easy to spend now with apps; you just double-click a button and Amazon one clicks, and it’s at your doorstep. And it’s like, you don’t know how it is to have that cash and know what it’s like. It can get out of hand quickly.

SHERYL:  Yeah, you don’t know how it all adds up. So right now, so fast. Absolutely. What made you decide that you wanted to save too? Because mom’s share with me, and I have this question asking, twice a month, the same question. 

My kid has a job but will not save money; they spend everything they have. And yet you were saving. You had that desire. So what would you say to moms that are listening can do to help to light that fire for their kids to want to save?

ROBERT:  So I think it becomes the difference between saving and investing. So to me, when you’re young, the idea of saving is that you just put this money there, and it stays there. And nothing happens with it. And that’s like, that’s kind of boring, doesn’t feel good. Like doesn’t serve a purpose. 

But if you start teaching your children that, if you put your money in and it can grow, and for you doing nothing, you could have more money. And I think that was the point for me: if you put $100 in his bank account, earning 5% interest, you just get $5 for doing nothing. 

And it was like this light bulb moment. And it’s like if you put $200 and get $10. And if you didn’t, you start realizing that the more I could put into this, the more money I would get for doing nothing. 

It was a cool phenomenon that I don’t think is shared, we talked about saving, but we don’t talk about how that can grow for you. And we don’t talk about how investing can grow significantly. 

And we don’t share with young kids that if you saved $100 a month when you were 18 years old, you could be a millionaire by the time you’re 60, it takes that little bit, and you’d be a millionaire

But if you wait until 30, you must save $3,000 a month. And the only difference is that time, so the earlier you can start, the less it takes to have much more money.

SHERYL:  I love that. I haven’t thought of that that way. We say saving, which I did with all my kids where they put it in the bank, but it was boring. But if you can see a growing, you’re like, Wow, I was sleeping last night; I made some money here. That feels exciting. And that’s motivating.

ROBERT:  It is, and when you realize that, if you just keep doing it, you can get more and do a little more, and then more will come, like a cool feeling. And I don’t think we share that feeling with our kids enough.

SHERYL:  Okay, you have such great resources, everybody that’s listening. You’ll have to go to the website because I read some of your articles that were so much fun about ways to make money on side hustles. 

I copied and pasted it and sent it to my kids. So what resources can parents access to help their kids see just a few because they have a lot, but to see that their money is growing? 

ROBERT:  I mean, there are many different accounts you can set up for your kids. And it all really kind of depends on your priorities. But of course, I think every kid should have a bank account and a savings account. 

And that when you’re young, that could just be birthday and Christmas money. And maybe they have a little side job allowance. They put that in. But it’s important to keep checking in and showing them, hey, this account earning interest, by the more you put in, this is what it grew, what it grew. 

And I think that enlightened them that, wow, there’s some potential here, then as your children get older, we’re talking tweens, and then definitely teenagers, it’s time to empower them to start working and putting some of that money into these accounts to grow. 

Now, we want them to have fun, we want them to go out, and you know what, they’re gonna blow some of that money on sneakers, or who knows, right? Like, it’s just gonna happen. And that’s okay. 

And I think parents need to realize that they should make these financial mistakes young, because it won’t hurt their lives, like whatever, you wasted some of this money, do it when you’re 17. Not when you’re like 40. 

But you can see the investments there if you can start saving and showing them. So once they get to be a teenager and have their real job, it’s time to start looking at things like a Roth IRA or a brokerage account where they can start investing some of that money along with having that checking account for the spending and all that, because that investment will get to grow with them for their whole life. 

And they can start seeing the gains. And it takes a little time, but the more they contribute, the more gains will be.

SHERYL:  Yeah, so let’s say somebody has not done this yet. And they’re listening and have a 16-year-old; where should they start? Can they have their kids invest in something where they don’t have to put a lot of money in besides a saving account at the bank?

ROBERT:  Absolutely. So that’s the cool thing that we live in today with technology is that you can start a brokerage account, an investment account; with $0, you have no cost; now, you can trade for nothing. So I would say, look at where you’re already invested; many people are at Fidelity or Schwab. 

And these accounts have some cool things for children. So Fidelity, for example, does have a youth account, which is designed exactly for these teenagers, they can open up the youth account, and inside of it, they can just transfer money and invest it. 

They can even use it like a checking account all in one place. And then it can link up to your parent’s account too. So you can always keep a little eye on things and make sure it’s not getting too crazy. But it also helps to transfer money, things like that. 

So I highly recommend that you start showing, teaching, and educating them to realize they will make mistakes. Let them pick an investment, and teach them what it means. It might not go anywhere. And then when that happens, and they fail, you can say, “Hey, maybe you should look at like a broad index fund. I know; it’s not as cool as Tesla. But it’s gonna work for you over the long term” or something like that. 

But all those little moments can become teachable. And I think we all know, as parents, that’s when the real lessons occur. You can give them a speech that goes out the window ahead of time. But once an actual event happens, you can say, Hey, this is why you can show them, teach them, and hopefully, things are different moving forward.

SHERYL:  Yeah, that it’s a teaching opportunity. Yeah, I’ve like that that they are going to make some mistakes, but better they make them now when they’re tweens or teens, and they learn from it, and they’re gonna be like, Oh, okay, well, that didn’t feel so good like a whole week’s worth of work went out the window there two weeks or whatever. But that’s what they’ll learn from that.

ROBERT:  Yes, and just having them use their own money becomes so empowering because you can tie it back to that; oh, you want to go to this concert? And the tickets are this. I mean, you saw what you earned last week. Is that worth a whole week of work to go do this, and you know what? 

It might be to them, and you just gotta let them do it, but they might also have that second thought that maybe I should wait a little bit or catch that in the future, right?

SHERYL:  Yeah. That’s so funny that you say that because my youngest one started working. I was always buying her dresses for homecoming or, you know, different things. Now that she’s out alone, it’s funny because she borrows dresses from her friends. 

Now it’s like she’s not been in that new dress because mom’s not buying it. So it’s kind of funny, they learn, and they learned to be very creative, or they go out to eat, and they can’t maybe get that home meal, they have to share an appetizer, they learn how to budget.

ROBERT:  And that’s what I love to instill in people. Because now that you have this set amount of money, you have two choices, right? It’s just math; it’s you can earn more money, or you could spend less money. And most things are gonna be a combination of both of those. 

But I love it when you’re young because they have these creative ideas and so much energy that the idea to go out and earn and do this could be a lucrative thing for him. 

You and I are like. I’ve been doing kids all day; I can’t go out and do extra things. But they have so much energy to be able to do that. So instead of always saying budgeting or cutting costs, I always like to frame it to have like, can you go out and earn, can you go out and work a little bit more, get an extra shift, go side, hustle, go do something like that.

SHERYL:  Yeah, and you had lots of really good side hustle ideas.

ROBERT:  Because we live in this day and age where there are so many opportunities just on your phone, there are apps that you can deliver, drive, and do things like that. You can be a little entrepreneurial. 

I know a lot of young adults that are selling stuff on Etsy, or a lot of actual women are selling on Poshmark. Like, they’ll get their dresses or designer clothes, they wear them for a little bit, and then they just sell them on Poshmark, which allows them to get the next thing, and when you start having this mindset, it becomes helpful for these young kids.

SHERYL:  You have to think of those creative ways. Well, I know you shared how when you first got interested in creating the blog because you were getting your MBA and heard many scary suggestions about how to make money for ideas. And you’re like, oh, what were those?

ROBERT:  Yeah, so I was very passionate about investing. And I wanted to join our college Investing Club, and I think most colleges do. And everyone there was talking about penny stocks. This was back before the crypto craze and different things, but really like just trading. 

And yes, that’s a strategy, but it’s more akin to gambling than investing. And it wasn’t what I was looking for and wanted to share. I’m a big believer in the Warren Buffett style of investing, where you find some valuable companies, you hold them for 40 years, and they pay you a little dividend. They grow over time. 

It’s not as attractive as doubling your money overnight, but it works. And so that’s what I wanted to share how I can earn a little bit more to put money in things like the S&P 500 or an index fund, watch it grow over time, and then reap the benefits of that? 

I think it’s important to show children and families that if you do that early enough, that can grow into a sizable portfolio by the time you’re in your 30s. And you can start making decisions that could be more impactful for your life, like how you want to spend your time. 

Do you want to do this job? Or do you want to spend more time with your children like, having that growth from being in your early late teens, early 20s? All the way through can radically change your 30s.

SHERYL:  Yes, yes. And to get them thinking about that now. Yeah, serve them so much better later on. So you support a lot of millennials. And what are you noticing?

I was just curious because there are millennials, and then there’s a whole Gen Z. I wondered if you see a difference in how they view money. And what those differences are, are similarities. So I wanted you to speak on that.

ROBERT:  Yeah, it’s so hard because I think I was still in college when I was a millennial, and today Millennials are in their early 40s to like their early 30s. And now, Gen Z’s are in their teens and 20s. So you just have different lifestyle issues that you’re confronting. 

So the millennials today are having families, navigating mid-career, workforce, and things like that. Whereas, like the Gen z’s, they’re still grads. They’re in high school and college, having fun, and then getting ready to start their first job in their early career. 

And so, the hard part is like your money priorities are just different, as you’re a millennial, you’re trying to build that financial stability and look towards retirement; when you’re a Gen Z, you’re just trying to exit the nest, figure out how to get started, navigate paying for college, things like that. 

And so, many of the tools and tactics for both generations are extremely similar today; we both grew up with technology. So online banking is just how everyone does things these days. 

And online brokerage accounts and investment accounts are just the common practice. And so that’s nice to see. I think Gen Z things move a little faster in transactions, sending money to friends, asking parents for money from Venmo, or cash app, all these apps. I don’t see many millennials still doing that. 

Unless you’re sending something for a kid’s school event, it’s not as much of a thing. But the younger ones are doing that. So, it’s very technology-driven, which makes things faster, which makes things potentially harder to track potentially easier to track. And it’s teaching them the skills to do that.

SHERYL:  Yeah. You talk a lot about college, and college loans, which are a huge issue now. There’s been a lot of talk, even in the last year. We won’t have to go into that. I think most people know what we’re talking about. 

But where do you even begin? If you’re thinking, Oh, my gosh, my kid’s gonna probably have to take out a loan, what would you say to the parent? Where should they even begin? 

ROBERT:  I mean, it’s really important to realize what the problem is. And I don’t think the media and the general populace frame the problem very well. The problem isn’t student loan debt, per se; the problem is taking on too much student loan debt to not get enough money to pay it back. 

So to me, it’s no different than the housing crisis in 2007 and 2008. People borrowed too much for their homes and couldn’t afford them; they lost their homes. 

That’s the same problem we’re seeing with student loan debt and slash paying for college today; people are paying way too much for college. And then they’re graduating college and not earning enough in their careers to pay for that. And why are we here? 

Somehow, we’ve allowed college to balloon in costs, but we’ve also not educated our children and families about ways to not pay much for college. And then there’s like the luxury Mercedes college you can go by. And that’s the root cause. 

So you’ve probably heard the statistics that going to college is a good thing because you will earn a million dollars more in your career than those that only graduate high school. Well, great. 

But the question is, what’s the value of a million dollars over 40 years of working? If you start doing the math back to today, it’s about $80,000. And so you get to this inflection point, where you will be a statistic if you spend more than $80,000 on college. 

And it will be hard for you to navigate and pay that back; if you spend less than that, you have a good chance of not being a statistic, and the value of college is still there. And so these are the kinds of conversations that I think families need to have, especially for the late middle school, early high school person; college isn’t necessarily the end all be all. 

College is a ticket to potential, and that’s the key word earn more once you graduate. And now there are a lot of paths there, though; maybe college isn’t the right fit for you. There are a lot of trades, military, being an entrepreneur, and many different paths. 

Maybe college is something you do in a couple of years after you graduate high school because, I promise you, there’s not a college in this country that won’t take your money if you want to pay for it when you’re 24. I think everyone thinks they must do it at 17 or 18. No, I promise you, they won’t say no. 

So like, realize that there are other options here. And there are a lot of risks to going to college. And so, some of the biggest statistics we see with struggling with student loan debt are people who didn’t graduate. So, for example, one in four college freshmen don’t return. And that’s just the statistics or one in four. And that’s just the statistics. 

And I’m not trying to belittle it; maybe it wasn’t fit or the right time. Like, we’re talking about 17-year-olds here. We know what is going through their minds, but if you took on many student loans, you still owe them even if you don’t return. And so how are you going to pay for that? 

Well, what’s that gonna look like? There’s also like not getting a job in your field is a big risk, right? If you planned on doing something with this $100,000 degree, and then you don’t end up going into that, and now you’re making significantly less money, how will you pay for that? 

And there’s no right or wrong answer here. That’s the hard part. But the real question is, let’s talk about what you’re getting for what you’re paying for. 

And this is where families, I think, need to be very transparent when their 14 and 15-year-olds hear, hey, this is how much mom and dad have saved for you. This is kind of what we’re expecting, maybe you’re blessed that you have a lot of resources, and they can go to a private school, and they’re not going to have to borrow, but maybe you’re not. 

Maybe you say, hey, this is all we have, or we don’t have anything, and you’ll have to look at alternatives. But the earlier you share this with your kids, it also gives them some ability to look at scholarships, apply for things, and go out and work in the community. 

And maybe there are opportunities there, like, you give them the accountability they need to take on some ownership of this process. And then hey, when you’re making that list of where you’re applying to school, like okay, maybe we put like the stretch, really expensive school on, and hopefully you get a scholarship, but we should also probably look at our local state school. 

And maybe you live at home and have a variety of various colleges you apply for that fit your kids financially and academically. So it’s having a holistic open conversation. But do it earlier; too many parents do it later, like when they’re 16. And they’re going to apply for college in two months like that’s a little too late, be more transparent earlier on so that everybody’s going on the same page and tracking in the same direction.

SHERYL:  It seems like being intentional and planning what we often get. My kid wants to go to this school so badly. And it’s a great school, but not thinking mindfully like, do we have the money here? Or what’s that gonna look like? For them to have to pay it back? Or are there some scholarships available for them, and there’s more available than we even realize?

ROBERT:  Absolutely. And I think that’s honestly the harder part. So I talked to many 16-year-olds and their families every year during the college application season, and I talked about this ROI conversation. And I think we don’t give our children enough credit; I would say 60 to 70% understand the cost and the benefit. 

But many of them face this family and the psychological burden of embarrassing their family. Like if I only went to the state school, I come off as an embarrassment to my family and my friend group because, like so and so, I was going to Harvard, and my dad went to a private Ivy League. 

And if I choose this path, like I’m letting them down, and they feel that then they decide based on that. And so that’s where I encourage families to help their kids look at that burden they might be putting on a challenge and push them to say, like, go to a school that you feel is a better fit for you or our family circumstances. 

Because they do make, I would say the sad part is, is most families make decisions based on the emotional aspect of college, not the financial, when the whole value, like 95% of the value of college, is financial. And there’s a 5% of value in terms of emotion and growth. And like what you get up all the soft stuff.

SHERYL:  Yeah. And do you find that there is a connection between what kids are capable of doing based on the college that they go to?

ROBERT:  What do you mean by that? Like, what they’re capable of?

SHERYL:  Well, it seems to me that – I know I live in a place where you go to college. There’s so much pressure. And then so, the kids will go to this prestigious school, but then they spend all this money. 

But then you have a kid that went to a state school, and they get a great job, and they’re doing so well, and they’re thriving, and then maybe the kid that went to this prestigious school is like nannying. Now Nanning is not bad because plenty of people love working with kids, and they pay well and all of that, but it doesn’t seem like it translates all the time like we think it’s going to.

ROBERT:  It doesn’t translate in any way, shape, or form. And the ironic part is everyone’s like going to these prestigious schools, and you get a network and all this stuff. No, you don’t. And I don’t think people realize that today, maybe you did in 1950, when a school like Harvard was 800 kids, and you knew everybody, but today, those aren’t the facts. 

And the scarier part is that the college degree is the highest return but the fastest diminishing value object you could have. And what I mean by that is, if you get it, theoretically, you earn that million dollars more over your lifetime. 

But if you go to this fancy school, when you get that piece of paper, and you don’t get a good job in the first six months after graduation, it starts to become a really bad thing to have. Because now people will look at who you are two years later, you got this degree from a fancy private school, and you have a red flag about you. 

And so, I don’t think people start to realize that if you don’t execute that plan and get that fancy job right away, it could become a problem for you. And then the irony that I think we all know is that no one cares about your second job. After you have one job, no one cares where you went to college, and they only ask you what you did in your first job. 

It’s not about what you went to school or any of that kind of stuff. It’s all about what you can do for the business. And that’s what I tried to instill with kids that there is value in some of these schools, but it’s not as high as the sales pitch you get. And you have to realize that all of these schools, for profit, nonprofit, you’re their customer, they’re trying to sell you on a story. And at the end of the day, though, it’s on you, as the young adult going to school and the family supporting them to execute on that. And it’s very hard to do. 

And so the average kid doesn’t necessarily see any difference in value from going to a fancy or state school, which most of these schools are phenomenal. The real value will be what you do with it after you graduate. I mean, that’s the hot, cold, hard truth here.

SHERYL:  And they’re looking for experience now. It’s so that’s a big part of it. If your kids go out in the summer and are interested in a field, they see them working hard. That seems like that goes a long way.

ROBERT:  Absolutely. I mean, we have done a couple of surveys on this. And there are two skills. There are two things that most employers want; it’s not a college degree; they want to know business communication skills. So can you talk to me and or talk to our customers who want to know business problem-solving skills? 

If I give you a task or an assignment, can you do said task or assignment? And so if we can get kids to get out and work, even retail, food service, or whatever, it can help build those skill sets. So well, that becomes complementary to the college experience. 

But too many kids don’t get those skills, and they go all in on school. Then they’re lacking is you’re not going to learn how to talk to somebody in a lecture hall, you’re not going to learn these things, you need to go and have a customer yell at you try to solve that problem for them. 

And that’s what’s gonna build those skills for you. And then when you don’t know and fail, and your boss shows you how to do it, that kind of thing. That’s how you get better at these extremely valuable soft skills in the workplace.

SHERYL:  And you also realize I don’t like this, after all. This is not what I want to do for the rest of my life.

ROBERT:  Sure, but those skills transcend, right? Like, maybe don’t want to work in food service your whole life. Great. But the idea of getting to a customer promptly and speaking to them, looking someone in the eyes, maybe making some small talk, those skills just transcend every single job no matter what.

SHERYL:  Yeah, so good. So good. So I will ask you a question I probably should know the answer to but don’t understand. So student debt i- what’s the reason that it ends up being so difficult for them to pay back?

ROBERT:  It’s not as difficult, I think, as people portray it. So in all the surveys, math, and statistics, 90% of everyone with student loan debt pays it back just fine. No one likes it. No one wants to have their debt. Like, let’s be real here. If you gave me the option to not have it, I would choose not to like it, but when you look at the math, 90% of everyone has been repaying it. 

Now there’s the 10 percent that does struggle with it. And there are reasons for that – job loss; it is a high amount of student loan debt like life didn’t work out as planned, and I can respect that, right? Some Americans feel things don’t work out despite student loan debt. 

And the hard part was student loan debt, as it’s hard to get out of. So like, again, like we went back to the housing crisis in 2007 and 2008. If you made a mistake and borrowed this house, it’s not great; they’re gonna foreclose, and you lose the house, but after that, the situation’s kind of done, right? Not great, but it’s done. 

The problem with student loan debt is that people don’t realize the collateral of your loans is your earnings. And so when you don’t pay your student loans, they start garnishing your wages, they will take your social security payment if you wait until retirement, they’ll take disability payments from the government, they have a lot of recourse because it’s the government to just do things automatically. 

And it continues to snowball in this cycle that becomes harder and harder to get out of because it’s just continually coming at them. And so that bottom 10% is what struggles to pay it off. 

Now, granted, again, there’s a big majority that just doesn’t want to have them. Because it is a burden and it does keep people behind. But on the flip side, it’s an investment, and hopefully, you can start boosting those earnings to get to a point where you can repay them.

SHERYL:  Thank you for that. That’s helpful to understand. You have a lot of resources, and I was reading that some of your resources are on how you can pay back student debt. So I want you to share some of those resources you have so that they can go to your site and they can find them.

ROBERT:  Yeah, if you go to thecollegeinvestor.com, you can find it right there and the student loan debt tab. And we have lots of ways; the thing that a lot of people don’t realize with student loan debt is that there are a lot of repayment plan options, and some of them are income-driven. 

And so these are the ones that if you don’t make much money, your legal loan payment could be $0 per month. And then, yes, as you hopefully start getting back on your feet, your income will rise while your student loan payment will rise. And it’ll usually stay at about 10 to 15% of your discretionary income. 

It’s not great, but it’s a great way to manage your loans while you’re getting through your hardship or trying to increase your income. So number one is to find a repayment plan you can afford. The other aspect I always say is 50% of all student loan borrowers, 50% qualify for some type of loan forgiveness program. 

This isn’t like what you see in the news, the 10,000 bucks, and everything else. This is just what exists today by Congress by states. And there are over 80 different loan forgiveness programs. So you owe it to yourself to spend 30 minutes on Google. 

See if you qualify for something like it’s shocking; we just ran a survey on the college investor because student loan payments are going to restart again. And 50% of student loan borrowers have never Googled their research if they qualify for loan forgiveness programs. I’m just like, hey, you could get your loans forgiven. All you have to do is fill out some paperwork, and you’re not doing it. 

But again, I think this speaks to the fact that we’re not teaching people these programs exist. We don’t teach them they’re available or how to find them. But you owe it to yourself again. And one of my favorite sayings, and I don’t know where I heard this. It’s not my quote, but it’s no no one’s going to care more about your money than you will. 

That’s the truth. No one will care, financial adviser or call center rep. No, Sallie Mae, like they’re not here to necessarily help you. They’re trying, but they don’t know your financial situation. They don’t know what you’re dealing with. You have to take that accountability and go find out these resources. 

And so there’s a lot of free resources out there. We have many of them on the college investor, but like student aid.gov, they’re out there; you owe it to yourself to see if you can save money, get your loans forgiven, and lower your monthly payment. There are a lot of options. Please do a little bit of homework on them.

SHERYL:  I’m so grateful for what you’re doing because I need to know this is available. And all of the different ideas that you share, even on how you can have side hustles that are good side hustles and that you can make money and think outside the box. I was like, gosh, these are such great ideas.

ROBERT:  So you’re right. And that is what I always say goes back to our kids and teenagers: we all learn through observation. We see what our friends are doing and hear about what people are doing. And that’s what we come to know. 

So if you don’t see or get exposed to it, you just don’t know it exists. And so by hopefully sharing these ideas and listening to this podcast, people will start learning that there are’s options out there, and then they’ll start doing their homework to hopefully improve that.

SHERYL:  What are two side hustles that you think would be good for a teenager? 

ROBERT:  Yeah, so if you like to create something, and I know many teens like it, I highly recommend you create it and try to sell it on Etsy. And I love it because it’s like, if there’s no cost, it’s just your time. But, like this hat I’m wearing, I got it on Etsy and created it. And so my sister-in-law, she makes wedding invitations on Etsy. She puts them all together, and people order him, and she sends them out. 

You can create and sell crafts, projects, or similar things in so many ways. But again, there’s no cost unless someone orders it, then you gotta go buy the material and put it all together. But I love that type of thing. 

The other one I’ve done, and love, is selling stuff on eBay. I’m a flipper. So it’s one of my favorite things. So when I was in high school, my eBay account was in 2001 when I started it, and I sold all my old video games like Super Nintendo games, I sold all of like I had, like, Pokemon cards and that kind of stuff. 

And I had all these, and I was like, I’m going to college; I don’t play this stuff anymore. So I started listing it and selling it. And once I ran out of stuff to sell, I would go to state and garage sales. And I’d buy stuff to resell it on eBay. And I did that through college; I still do it today if I find a hot deal I can’t pass up. 

Some other places you can get merchandise to sell or the clearance racks. You go to Target, Walmart, or your favorite store, find it on clearance there, and you can resell it. There are so many ways if you go to like a Ross or a dress for last or something like that they have, they have like the designer jeans and stuff. But you could probably resell those on eBay if you have the time and know what things are worth. It’s a really fun hobby. 

Because again, it doesn’t take much effort; you put it on eBay doesn’t cost anything. So if the other joke is that you buy these designer jeans, they don’t sell; just take them back. 

I love side hustles that don’t cost anything upfront except your time. So you can spend your time doing this, and either you’ll learn you can make a little bit of money, or it didn’t work out, but you’re not out any money either.

SHERYL:  I love that. I know a mom that did so well. I mean, raking it in doing what you’re saying. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of moms that are like, yeah, maybe I should do that. And it’s great; it’s a great idea. So I love it. 

And kids can get excited about that and start looking for deals. And that’s another way to see what it is worth. And know when they’re seeing a really good deal. And then how much money they can make. I mean, gosh, I think that I’ll do that even with my grandkids. 

ROBERT:  Oh, that’s the perfect age. I mean today with your phones too. It’s like you can scan something or google it quickly. And you can know what it’s worth. I mean, ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. And you had to have a little bit of knowledge. It’s all digital, and you can figure it out. 

SHERYL:  I love that. Well, Robert, thank you so much for coming on and letting everybody know where they can find you. You’ve got you on Instagram; you’re on all the different social media.

ROBERT:  Absolutely. So our main home base is thecollegeinvestor.com. We have everything you need to learn about saving for college, paying for college investing, personal finance, and banking geared toward younger adults and families. 

If you like to listen, our podcasts are on your favorite podcasting platform, The College Investor audio show. If you’d like to watch, you know we are on Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, and Instagram reels. @thecollegeinvestor is our handle. You pick your poison. Whatever way you like to enjoy your content. We’re here for you.

SHERYL:  Yeah, and very everybody here. It’s all educational and fun. 

ROBERT:  I appreciate it. Our goal is to take these complex topics and show them that they’re not always fun, but it is real. And then here’s how we can solve it and what we can do.

SHERYL:  Yeah yeah, awesome well, thank you, Robert, for coming on.

ROBERT:  Oh, thanks for having me. This has been so fun; hopefully, some families got some ideas out there.

SHERYL:  Oh, they did.

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