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Archive for May, 2017

Counting Down the Days!

May 17th, 2017 at 07:49 am

MH only has to drive MM(13) between schools for 5 more days. Woohoo! We are ALL beyond ready to put this school year behind us.

Yesterday was payday. All the bills were paid already (we just pay all the cash bills and credit cards off on the 1st of every month). Both our checks are going to savings. $3,800. This includes a $100 price match MH got on his big TV purchase.

Still VERY busy at work. Thus, a short update.

More on the Common Data Set (College)

May 9th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

I had wanted to share the common data set as to starting to nail down actual college costs (versus just picking numbers out of the air).

{See last post}.

But of course, if you've been looking up this information, you see that there is loads of other useful information in these reports.

I was just poking around a bit today and found a series of interesting articles on the subject:

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/tag/common-data-set/

Enjoy!

I think that for myself, none of this is terribly useful until my kids start nailing down where they might want to go to college. Wink

The Cost of College

May 7th, 2017 at 06:47 am

I get the sense from college conversations that many are just making stabs in the air as to the actual cost of college.

It's actually kind of ironic because I know many people seem to think I am crazy when I talk actual costs. But the reality is that I have been tracking actual costs and real numbers. That is what we are planning for.

That said, it's apparently been a while so I will adjust my projections today. With a kid starting high school this fall, I will probably make it an annual thing to update actual costs. Should probably start keeping a closer eye on it, as to planning ahead.

So... I heard this tidbit about a decade ago? Every (4-year) college provides a "common data set" report on their website, for every school year. There is a lot of information in these reports, but includes a clear and concise summary of actual tuition + fees that students pay. They also share room and board costs, the cost of books and supplies, etc.

When I first heard this, I looked up my alma mater. My alma mater had this information going back to the years I attended, so I looked through those numbers and I will say that this is really good information.

Confident in the usefulness of the numbers, I started to track public school costs in our state. This is probably easy for us because we live in a large state with so many excellent college choices. So this is all I am bothering to track, for now. & of course, I presume we can narrow down as kids get older and start to zero in on what they might want to study or where they want to go to school.

In a recent college post, I did throw out $20k as the number I have been using to estimate the cost of 4 years of college. I don't remember the last time I looked up the numbers, and was clearly rounding. But as of today, I will revise to $30k. Per information below.

For me personally, I am leaving out room and board, and the cost of books and supplies. Kids need room and board regardless, and dorm living is not a requirement to go to college. I figure at the very least they can pay for their own books and supplies, so I am not going to worry about that part.

So I took the tuition and fees for the 4-year public college, and multiplied by 4 (years). Tuition + fees = $29,762. I will just round up to $30k. & of course I know that costs will increase in the next few years. But I have those years to adjust and save more. For now, I am going to take some time to wrap my brain around this new $30k estimate.



The costs above are from my alma mater. It's probably hard to come up with a better cost/benefit scenario as to college. This is in the middle of Silicon Valley. Location location location.

We have another public option. The UC (University of CA) system:



That comes up to about $14,000 per year, tuition and fees. I would presume community college first 2 years (cost pennies). Rounding up, that's $30,000.

So I know that planning for $30,000 will buy my kids a lot of options.

{Over the years, it's worked out that both options cost about the same}.

As an aside, our community colleges cost $46 per unit. I would just budget -0- as to saving ahead for community college. We can cash flow any community college costs.

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I mentioned in earlier post that in-laws were giving us money (annual gifts) for college. We have $40,000 saved already, from these gifts. I'd like to get this up to $60,000 ($30k x 2) to cover a full degree for each of our kids. It seems we are well on track with that. I don't need *all* that money before they start college, but looks like we most likely will, with future gifts and investment gains.

We would like to match this sum, to buy our kids more options and/or maybe cover room and board.

For now, we have $20,000 saved up. We are saving $8,000 per year. This puts us well on track to match their gift money before they start college. We will make $60k our new "college savings" goal.

I know costs will increase and we will have to increase our goals over time. The nice things is we have time. We don't have to have all this money saved up before they even start college. I think knowing this and planning for future increases is why I Feel rather *shrugs* about adjusting my estimates.

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Edited to add: Based on comments below, I wanted to edit to clarify a bit.

The colleges I cut and pasted above have very low on-campus living rates. There are several excellent public colleges in the region we grew up in. These are areas we know very well. Also, my kids *can* live at home and get a perfectly wonderful college degree. Rent/dorms is just not a necessary cost of college, for us.

Much Better!

May 6th, 2017 at 08:57 am

I had a long overdue day off, and feel very rested now. Phew!

Thursday night we went to DL(11)'s school open house. His (art) school is always just so much fun. They had musical performances going on everywhere and we also saw an art exhibit. They also had food trucks, so we splurged a bit on some food.

Yesterday I did a bit of running around since both kids got off at odd hours. But we got the pool to ourselves in the afternoon. I don't know that we generally go quite this early in the year, but it's been HOT. Yesterday ended up being quite pleasant.



This is our neighborhood pool, two blocks from our house.

Now we are just counting down the days until "school crazy" ends. Only two more weeks, for this crazy math schedule. Hard to believe that it's just two more weeks!

I have another picture to share. We were over by the old Tower (movie) Theater and it just looked very pretty (lighting) so I snapped a picture. The theater was built in 1938. It is where we went to see that free movie during spring break.



& across the street from that is the used book/movie/video game store. We stopped by because DL wanted a video game. It was $60 full price. $40 at the used shop. $32 with coupon. He spent his own money.

I am not planning to do much this weekend. MH is going to make us watch some movies. In turn, I will probably drag him to the art museum.

Real Estate Update

May 6th, 2017 at 06:51 am

Our house value has been rather stagnant for 3-4 years at this point. When we moved here (2001) so many people were moving up from So Cal and Bay Area, for the more affordable housing. At the time, the median house price in the Bay Area was $500k. (We thought *that* was absurd). Now? $1 mil! $1 mil-ish, if you just want to buy a small starter home.

& so I have been wondering why things are so stagnant here. I know that was really instrumental in the housing bubble, regionally. Not that we need another housing bubble, but I would expect a little more growth. I guess I have mixed feelings about it all. I do like that housing is more in line with wages and people are being more prudent.

In the end, I saw an article last week that so many people are moving here that we should be building an extra 2,000 homes per year. So I guess it's happening. I just haven't seen it so much myself, and home prices seem to be left in check.

I also got a flyer from a local real estate agent and it listed that a 3-bedroom house (down the street) sold for $450,000. What in the heck!? I figured that must have been a typo or it must have been one of the bigger houses which have been selling at that price point, but I looked it up out of curiosity. Indeed, the largest home model on our block and the smallest home model just both sold for the same price. WOW!

I have to back up a bit though. It's funny when I look back and some of the most ridiculous splurges in our family have ended up being the best long-term investments. & it's not like these purchases were made with any regard to long-term investments or making money. It was just about ridiculous splurging. So, our home is the perfect example of this. We changed cities to lower our housing costs by 70%. The housing seemed so cheap to us, that we decided we would buy a home with space for a movie theater. In the end, the price was an even trade for our Bay Area condo. (We didn't even spend any more money to get the theater space).

The sole purpose of this purchase was "ridiculous splurge". The End. But, we ended up only paying pennies for the extra space. The reason is because land is so expensive here that land is the primary driving cost of housing. If you buy a larger two story house, it's not going to cost a lot more. I've said before, but our first floor cost $130 per square foot. The second floor only cost $35 per square foot. Seriously!

We did buy new construction, which is a lot of why we got such a substantial discount on our home. On the open market, our house had never fetched less than a $100,000 premium over the smaller models, so this was obviously an immediate financial gain we received for going bigger. & of course, bigger was better during the boom. At the peak, our home could fetch an additional $200,000 over the single story homes.

As our house prices have stagnated, I have noticed the trend of increasing values of smaller homes. It's clear that people are buying what they can actually afford, and maybe even embracing that more is not always better.

For the most part, we weren't planning to sell for another 6 years minimum, so it will be interesting to see where things head. A lot can change in 6 years. I expect the market to eventually adjust and allow some benefit for bigger homes, even if it's just a very small premium. I expect that we will see some movement on our home value this summer. Will see.

The other interesting thing is that our house is still a solid $200,000 below the housing bubble peak. The peak is nothing I expect to get back to before we sell. It was pretty absurd in our region. But it just hit me that the single stories in our neighborhood have hit peak levels. Amazing!

Another College Post

May 5th, 2017 at 11:04 am

I had a couple of other (college) posts I wanted to get to (and I will eventually) but saw an interesting article today from the NY Times:

As College Deadlines Near, Families Wonder What They Can Pay

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/your-money/paying-for-col...

"The colleges talk a good game about affordability. But once the teenagers do their part and gain admission, their families get lowball offers for aid and are daunted by the debt they would have to take on to make the numbers work."

& re: free college in New York:

"Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University professor of higher education and sociology, and author of “Paying the Price,” worries about the New York program and the assumptions that many overly optimistic students may make. Data suggests that at least 20 percent of students who are financially eligible at first will end up leaving the state and having their grants turn into debt."

I think a lot of this is moot for us, having access to many high quality and affordable colleges. But, I've always been skeptical of the private school/aid route because it seemed like there is a lot that could go wrong (that would mean ending up in piles of debt). & of course, I don't see anyone talking about this, but this is just what I was thinking. You know, what if you take some kind of aid, lock in a college, and then lose the aid for some reason? So I was intrigued to see that my concerns aren't unfounded. At the end of the day, there's some value to just taking the low sticker price and not worrying about keeping your aids and scholarships. I share because I know this will weigh heavily in our own college decisions.

Regardless of your perspective or opinions, it's an interesting article.