Cindy Muchnick, co-author of The Parent Compass
Cindy is an expert in the college admissions process and an educational consultant who has had her own practice for nearly 20 years. She is also a public speaker and an experienced author.
With her co-author, Jenn Curtis, Cindy wrote the book, The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World. In the book, she and Jenn share college admissions tips and strategies to help parents of college-bound students and empower them to be reliable supporters while maintaining healthy relationships with their teens.
Questions Answered Today:
What kind of mentality should parents walk away from to help their kids succeed?
1. Competitive parenting – A parent that constantly competes with someone better and keeps up with something new. Just because the world is competitive doesn’t mean you should force your kid to compete. Being competitive only brings unnecessary pressure to the student, which sometimes has catastrophic effects such as:
- Drug addiction
- Teenage pregnancy
Some things that parents do, while always well-intentioned, only bring excessive pressure to their kids.
In Cindy’s book, The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World, she explains that it’s important for parents to take a step back and reflect on the kind of parenting they’ve been doing. Doing this helps repair some damage that some parents don’t even know exist.
2. Helicopter parenting – A parent that hovers, micromanages, and always makes a fuss. Like a competitive parent, this kind of parenting may pressure the student, which ultimately leads to the student wanting to leave home and be independent.
Remember that, as the student goes into college and leaves their parents’ side, having an intact relationship is what they need so they can seek support when they need it.
3. Snowplow parenting – A parent that paves the way for their child’s smoother journey. If you clear each and every obstacle that’s ahead of your student, what are they supposed to do without you?
Doing this is also a disservice to the student because:
- They won’t be well-equipped for an independent life
- They will fail to see and discover their potential.
4. Tiger parenting – An authoritarian and inflexible parent that makes up hard rules. Needless to say, this kind of parenting is not good for the student’s well-being, having no freedom to breathe and no opportunity to pursue their dreams.
How can I become a better parent?
“Asking good questions, and really listening, and honing in on what makes our teens who they are, and what makes them excited, is one of the best gifts that we can give them in this journey.”– Cindy Muchnick
Communicating with teenagers is incredibly hard. For Cindy, one of the keys to finding the heart of the student is to listen to them. Here are a few more highlights from Cindy’s book:
- Appreciate your kid’s strength as well as their weaknesses.
- Encourage their interests.
- Remember that you’ve had your turn. This is your kid’s journey, not yours. The most that you can do is support them.
Being in a digital era, how do I make sure that technology won’t harm my kid?
Technology is a double-edged sword. While it has greatly helped us retain connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also horror stories that go with its excessive use. Hence, it’s the parents’ duty to regulate the way their kids use technology and social media.
To help parents with this, Cindy shared some resources and tips parents may find helpful:
1. Check Wait Until 8th, an organization that firmly believes that parents should wait at least in eighth grade before their children are given smartphones.
2. Parents may find this interesting—Steve Jobs himself did not allow his kids to have any form of technology at the dinner table!
3. Read the book 24/6 by Tiffany Shlain. This book talks about unplugging from technology for 24 hours (Friday night to Saturday night) each week for the purpose of personal re-engaging and reconnecting among members of the household.
4. Model posting with “intention” rather than posting “in tension” to your kids. Think before you click! Before posting, ask, what and why are you posting?
5. Set rules on how much attention you can give to technological devices. Have rules like getting rid of computers, iPads, Apple watches, etc. when it’s bedtime.
Cindy recommends using actual alarm clocks (rather than phones), so kids don’t have to have their phones while in bed.
How can I teach my kids the value of money at an early age?
It’s very easy for kids to spend when they’re using their parents’ money, but this can change if they learn the value of money by working hard for it. There’s more than one way to teach your kids the value of money:
1. Minors may not find “real jobs,” but Cindy encourages them to find age-appropriate work such as:
- Selling lemonade
- Dog walking
- Virtual babysitting (e.g. teaching ballet, arts and crafts, etc.)
- Delivering real-estate flyers
Brainstorm with your kid to find age-appropriate job opportunities that fit their interests and wants.
If your kid realizes the value of the money they worked hard to earn, it may be harder for them to splurge $35 for movies, which may be their initial steps towards financial literacy.
Important notes: Just make sure that these little “jobs” won’t interfere with their school work.
2. Teach them to invest their earnings instead of just saving them in banks. For Brad, a smart way to introduce investing is by involving company names (Apple, Coca Cola, Disney, etc.) that are familiar to your kid.
3. Teach them what “financial literacy” looks like in real-life, such as:
- Monitoring the stock market
- Eating in college cafeteria rather than eating out/having food delivered.
4. Encourage them to take classes that teach finances. There are even some schools that offer simulations where students can gain and lose money.
Note: Your kid’s savings from their jobs can be put in a Roth IRA, and this money won’t be counted against you for financial aid consideration.
How has higher education changed over the years?
It’s now time for parents to get rid of the thinking that the traditional college path is the only path to getting a degree. The path has become so much more flexible than the way it was before. Some of these include:
- Community colleges
- Taking gap years when needed
- Careers without college degrees (then going back later)
- Trade and tech schools
- Certificates for highly specialized fields.
Another change is that, these days, there are so many colleges that have over 60% acceptance rates. This can be due to the test-optional scheme or the number of students overapplying.
Some of the things that could be in store for the future of higher education:
- A three-year degree.
However, we don’t really know what the future holds for higher education.
As Brad says, our goal is to make sure to have “happy, functioning kids that add to society and hopefully come home for Christmas.”
Links and Resources
Helpful Articles and Resources
- Taming The High Cost Of College
- The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World
- Book Club Guide
- Wait Until 8th
- Cindy Muchnick’s Contact Info:
- Book Website
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Brad Baldridge 0:00
The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World.
You have kids, they grow up, and before you know it, it's time to plan for college. Where do you start? How much is it going to cost? Will you qualify for financial aid? Should you be looking into scholarships? When will you be able to retire? What about student loans? The list of questions is never ending. The good news is all the answers are right here. Welcome to the Taming the High Cost of College podcast here is your host certified financial planner,Brad Baldridge.
Brad Baldridge 0:36
Hello and welcome to Taming the High Cost of College. I'm your host Brad Baldridge. Today we have a great interview with Cindy Muchnick. She's the co author of The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World. Now, this book is a great book for parents to pick up, especially if your student is looking to be very competitive, or you've got a lot of strain and challenges around college in your household. Now in this interview, we talked quite a bit about some of the topics in the book, I learned that all the new phrases now we've got the snowplow parent, the tiger parent, and the helicopter parent. So we learned all three of those phrases and talk about competitive parenting. We also talked about the college landscape and managing our relationship with our teens so that college doesn't overwhelm and stress the family out too much. As always show notes are available at our website tamingthehighcostofcollege.com. So let's go ahead and jump in the interview. Right, today I'm sitting down with Cindy Muchnick. She is a co author of The Parenting Compass. Welcome, Cindy.
Cindy Muchnick 1:45
Hey, nice to be here, nice to be here today with you.
Brad Baldridge 1:48
Yeah, so it's been a long, long time you actually were on the podcast eight years ago or so. So welcome back.
Cindy Muchnick 1:56
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Brad Baldridge 1:59
So you've written a new book, The Parent Compass, can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to feel the, spend the time and effort to write a book on the
Cindy Muchnick 2:10
Brad Baldridge 2:11
Admissions. Start there? Okay.
Cindy Muchnick 2:13
Yep. So The Parent Compass, I'll read you the longer title, The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World. So this book was actually born out of a reaction originally to the Varsity Blues scandal, which was a couple of years ago, when mastermind was doing some pretty naughty things with parents trying to get their kids into elite colleges. And they were breaking the law on things sent to prison for forging test scores, faking test scores and getting kids recruited as fake athletic recruits. If you hadn't seen it in the headlines, I don't know if you're ever watching the news, but was a pretty big deal. And I got together with a colleague and my co author, Jenn Curtis, the two of us had worked in private college counseling for many years, I have my own practice for about close to 20 years. And Jenn is about 10-12 years into her own private practice. And we decided together that it was important to get this book The Parent Compass written because we were noticing, even in our own practices, some of the bad parenting behavior that was creeping into the lives of these teams that we were working with, not things that resorted to fraud and bribery. But definitely parents who were micromanaging, speaking for their kids, pushing their kids into directions that kids weren't interested in and adding greatly to the stress and kind of turmoil of their teen years. And we were seeing that play out. Often in our correspondence with parents and teens or even in our own offices. So we just decided it was time to give parents a book on what are the right ways to behave as you're helping your kids through these really challenging years? And how can you do that, while keeping their mental health which is so important, as well as your parent teen relationship intact before they have left your home?
Brad Baldridge 2:13
Right? Absolutely. I mean, I think it boils down to that old adage, where people talk about, well, I need to get my get into the right kindergarten so that I can get them into the right grade school, so that get them into the right high school. So I get them into the right college so that they can have the perfect life. I think that mentality is is growing, at least in this segment of the world. I don't think it's, maybe it's only 10 or 20% of the world out there that's that focused on things. But because,it's starting to bleed into the popular culture in many ways, where we're trying to keep up with the Joneses where somehow people think that there's only one path to success kind of thing.
Cindy Muchnick 2:13
Yeah, we call, yeah, we call that competitive parenting. It starts at a very, can start at a very young age and those kindergarten years. And it can be pretty dangerous and toxic, if it just is the only route that you're that you as parents feel there is only one way to happiness for your kid. And it involves climbing and clamoring and competing and stressing out your own family and your own child, at what cost. And the cost, in our opinion becomes mental health, depression, anxiety, potentially suicide in teens, all the things that we would fear the most for our kids, by trying to create this path that we think will lead to their ultimate happiness, we're causing much more damage than we could ever imagine. And that is really, it's playing out in real time. I mean, we are told that teens in the upper middle class, demographic today are at higher risk, they're basically considered high risk youth, higher risk than homeless, and higher risk than kids getting into drugs, or alcohol, or teen pregnancy is kind of the suicide anxiety and depression, oftentimes created by this excessive parental pressure. So I mean, what a terrible results in efforts that we might believe are based in love, and in desire to help our kids and help them achieve and succeed and all of those things. So in The Parent Compass, the very first chapter requires every parent reading this book, to take a step backwards and reflect back on their own upbringing, their own biases, their own academic experience, the way they were parented, and to really deeply self examine where their perspective is coming from and their partners. And so we have this pretty in depth questionnaire that we asked the parents and then we also have a team questionnaire, it's the only place we ask teams to join the book. And that helps get the dialogue started between the parents and the teams in terms of some of the repair of damage that may have been done along the way, if that makes sense.
Brad Baldridge 7:04
Right. Absolutely. So I guess, in general, what are some of the things that families should be thinking about? Or, what are some of the key areas that parents need to be conscious of in this new world so to speak? Well, we've tried the high pressure causes a lot of challenges. So how do we recognize when we're going down a path that isn't appropriate?
Cindy Muchnick 7:33
Sure. That's a really good question. And it's broken down basically, in our 12 or 13 chapters in the book, exactly the answers to that question, I would say, a couple of key highlights or takeaways might be to remind parents to appreciate the child they have in front of them for whatever that child brings to the table, whatever their interests may be, whatever their strengths and weaknesses are, to see and appreciate that child for who they are, at whatever level academically they might be, and to lock into and appreciate and help foster what their interests are. Because we remind parents that we've all been teens already, we had our turn. And this round, it's not our turn, it's our kids' turn. And if we're trying to live vicariously, to live our lives through our kids, and have them be these trophies, then we're really viewing this backwards. And so by asking good questions, and really listening, and honing in to what makes our teens who they are, and what makes them excited, is one of the best gifts that we can give them in this journey. To let them know we hear them, we see them, we appreciate them. And as a talker my whole life, I've had to really learn and practice being a better listener. And we have a whole chapter dedicated to asking good questions and listening.
Brad Baldridge 8:55
Right, exactly. I think one of the, again, I perused the book, I haven't read it cover to cover yet. But some of the stuff you're talking about is how to have that stronger relationship with your teens. Again, so that you can be there to help and not necessarily make things worse. And I think that's where, if you ask ask a typical teen, of course, they've got, 'Mom always makes it worse, because it's so embarrassing and whatever.' But in the end, I think there are better ways to go about things. And now that we've kind of realized where we are, it's time to start reevaluating some of the things that we're doing but you actually have a couple of terminology. So you mentioned in your book, you can talk about the helicopter parent, but you also talk about the snowplow and the tiger parents, so those are two terms, I haven't heard of helicopter parents been around a while what but what's the snowplow, and the tiger, or what are all three?
Cindy Muchnick 9:48
Yeah, there's a lot, there's authoritarian and military parents too. There's a lot of different terms that you'd use so we know the helicopter that hovers around and is just constantly there kind of micromanaging. And the snowplow is the term of the one that just paves the way, smooths the way ahead of the child. I almost think of those what was it in the Olympics, they push across the ice those what were they called, the broom, they use a broom to clear the ice?
Brad Baldridge 10:17
Okay, yeah, that's in the curling.
Cindy Muchnick 10:19
The curlers, yeah. It's kind of like that it's plowing and paving the way, the tiger parent, comes more from the book, Miss Chan, I'm just blanking on it. But the tiger mom book about, just kind of hovering and being micromanaging. And I guess, really, Mike Rivera, who's someone we really admire, who's the head of a school in Los Angeles, but also has written several books of parenting teens talks a little bit more about the parent role shifting in middle school. Usually, up until middle school, we basically manage our kids' lives. I mean, we have to we drive them places, we signed them up for things, we pay for things, and we kind of sort of help choose things. But often we choose the lots of things to expose them to sometimes things we're just familiar with, and sometimes things that they ask us that they want to join. But at a certain point, we're told that our kids will fire us in late middle school as the manager, and they're just done. They're expressing their independence, they want to change activities, they don't want us to manage their lives so closely anymore. And if we're lucky, they hire us back as a consultant, which is more of the shoulder to shoulder, they'll bounce ideas off of us, we will listen and only offer advice when asked or we can say to them, 'Do you want my advice on this? Or do you just want to share this thought with me and and I'll absorb it.' So a lot of times we're just conditioned to want to fix we don't want our kids to hurt, we don't want them to feel pain, feel discomfort, feel uncertain. And because we're older and wiser, and have been through many of the things that they're now going through, we figure well, if we just fix it, then that's solving a problem. But by doing that we're taking away their self advocacy skills. We're not teaching them what it feels like to sit with discomfort or sit with failure, and how to recover from those things. And so, by doing this constant helicoptering, triggering, snow plowing, we're taking away opportunities for our kids to learn to do these things themselves. And so then they leave our home. And they're required, they're ill equipped, they're not ready to wake up in the morning without mom waking them up, and they're not ready to,they don't know what to do if they forgot a homework assignment, because mom didn't bring it in. And, when they forgot it, or whatever those things are. And so we're just not equipping our kids to be the young adults that they're more than capable of being. And that can start at a very young age.
Brad Baldridge 12:42
Right? Absolutely. I mean, I guess my wife and I were joking. Three or four years ago, when we had middle schoolers, where we would get these emails all the time about, 'well, this is what the homework is for history.' And we kept looking at each other as well, I'm not doing the homework why they keep sending this to me? I mean, I don't care what the homework is, if you tell me if I have to take the cell phone away, or if we have to ground the kid, but other than that...
Cindy Muchnick 13:07
Brad Baldridge 13:07
Cindy Muchnick 13:08
Brad Baldridge 13:08
If they're not doing their homework, you have consequences at school, and I'll back you.
Cindy Muchnick 13:13
Yeah, well, yeah, they have these, it is interesting, like, I don't even know how to log in to my kids' account. So they have this way where parents can see what assignments are turned in, and what their kids current grade is, each week, etc. And the parents who obsess over that and who log in, I don't quite understand it, because a lot of times not everything's turned in, and therefore, grades aren't fluctuating all the time, whatever might be, but again, this is up to our kids, we've been in sixth grade, we've been in eighth grade, it's their turn to be in sixth grade or eighth grade. I agree with you, Brad. And if there's a problem, let's hear about it. But no, we don't need to be alerted as to what the assignments are for sure.
Brad Baldridge 13:51
Right, exactly. And I don't know, again, I don't know if that's kind of enabling a bad behavior at home when teachers now are saying, 'Well, all the assignments are being copied to the parents.' And it's like, so I guess that's one of the things that I wonder about, too, some of these best practices and good ideas around things that are just not common knowledge, even among, quote, unquote, the experts, the teachers and those types of people that hopefully would know better.
Cindy Muchnick 14:18
I wonder if you can unsubscribe from that email list?
Brad Baldridge 14:23
Well, yeah, I mean, that was couple years ago. that makes sense, but yeah, all our kids are now in high school or college. So
Cindy Muchnick 14:32
Hopefully, you're not getting those emails anymore.
Brad Baldridge 14:34
Right, exactly. So let's talk a little bit about technology and social media. And I know it's a buzzword, and it's a topic, but I mean, it's always a big topic, because it's so pervasive. What's your take on middle school and high school and technology, I guess, primarily social media, cell phones, that type of stuff.
Cindy Muchnick 14:54
Yeah, Brad. That was you just hit the nail on the head of the hardest chapter that we wrote for our book, was the technology chapter. In fact, we went back and forth on should we even include this? But how can you write a parenting book for parenting tweens and teens without getting into technology. And the reality is there have been full books just written on the topic, many, many by experts much more expert than we are. And so what we tried to do in our technology chapter was really consult those experts from a variety of ways to pull together what we think are kind of the most distinct, best practices. And so too, it's a struggle, I think, for any parent, they say, like the middle school generation is just basically lost to technology, and there's just no way out of it. There's no way to count. So we'd have to work within the fact that kids have a computer in their hands at all moments of all day, every day. And how do we monitor that? How do we regulate that? How do we protect our kids from the bad things and enjoy the good things? And so, yes, there have been a lot of amazing things about technology, certainly during COVID, to keep us connected, certainly to share family happiness and photos amongst family and obviously have access to things we wouldn't be able to have access to during COVID, or even just globally for information. But in terms of teens and tweens, there's a lot of organizations that we really like, we like Wait Until Eighth, which is a wonderful organization that talks about having no cell phones till your kids, or at least in eighth grade, would encourage families to kind of look at their website and see more about what they're talking about. We also looked at the Silicon Valley leaders in technology and how they handled tech in their own homes. And you'd be very surprised to know, or maybe pleasantly surprised to know that Steve Jobs did not allow technology at the dinner table. There was his kids didn't even have cell phones, or iPads or any of that in the early days, when computers were kept in a study common study area, and that was that. So that we thought was was rather interesting. And then there's also other organizations, there's one about that reminds kids, what they post can be harmful. So how do you decide what to post and parents need rules on technology to so obviously, we model that for our kids to how much we're using it, how much attention they get when we're on it, what it is we choose to post, and we always say my co author, Jenn coined this phrase called 'post with intention.' So the one word intention, not in tension. So it reads a little bit better when you see it in a book, but posting with it, you have to think about why is it you're posting what you're posting or sharing what you're sharing. And when I see, teenagers hurting because everyone's posting the party that they're at, or the event they're at, and not everyone's invited. And I mean, it's so sad and so harmful, and some kids can just kind of work through it and get over it. And others feel really left out. And a generation ago, you didn't know about the slumber party that happened on Saturday night, because just those four kids knew about it. But when they're all posting pictures and videos, and all of that about it, and you're not invited, that's hurtful, too. So we talked about maybe creating a family technology contract, something that you have in your home that's kind of organic, that can grow over time, or some of your own family rules about whether you allow devices at the dinner table or not, when can tech be good and when content be challenging. So we've kind of summed that up in about 15 pages in the book, I gave you a little bit of information, but I would say read the chapter for a quick kind of cliffnotes version of handling technology. And then look at some of the bigger books out there. You know, screen agers screen wise, a lot of these tech experts that have written wonderful books about unplugging Tiffany Shlain we love her book 24/6, that talks about unplugging 24 hours a week, taking a tech Shabbat from Friday night to Saturday night, and shutting down all technology in your home so that you can reengage and reconnect, which is certainly a discipline. But she talks about the history of that in the world and that she and her family for 10 years and counting have done that every Friday night at sundown until every Saturday night at sundown so there's some really good ideas shared in the book.
Brad Baldridge 19:12
Right exactly and I think for many parents again depending on what how old you are or you have kids I've got teenagers at home and some college kids and I, you're in the same boat I guess, but I'm relatively old so I remember the battles around the teenager parent battles was can I have a phone in my room? Or do I still have to drag the extension from the kitchen down the hall under the door into my room? Or can I have a TV in my room and generally the answer in many households was no and no, you know that. And of course it mostly I think had to do with the cost of you're paid per phone and you're paid per minute on the on the phone and
Cindy Muchnick 19:59
And your parents can pick up from the other room until it's time to hang up, right or unplug it from the wall.
Brad Baldridge 20:04
Cindy Muchnick 20:05
Brad Baldridge 20:06
Cindy Muchnick 20:06
Well, one thing I would add to that Brad, is just the idea that parents families often recommend pulling technology out of the room at bedtime, and not just the cellphone, but the Apple watch, the computer, and the iPad, because those are all ways that you can still access technology after bedtime. And we recommend investing in old school alarm clock, as opposed to the phone being the alarm to wake you up every morning, because you can get pretty addicted to just having them in bed at night, kids are losing a lot of sleep. And I think during COVID, they really became vampires. I mean, they were just up weird hours, they didn't have to go to school and get dressed, they would just roll out of bed in their pajamas onto their computers for virtual schooling. And we just we've been living in a weird, kind of virtual world for so long that we have to break those habits sounds bad habits,
Brad Baldridge 20:55
Right? Yeah, that's a battle I'm fighting around. Reasonable bedtimes and etc, etc. But anyway. So what about kind of the responsibility, the chores, the getting a job? I know you speak to that in the book as well. Where does that fit in with things?
Cindy Muchnick 21:15
Sure. I mean, I'm a big believer in kids working in their high school years, or sooner if they want, I was a kid that really liked earning my own money from a very young age. And whether it was the lemonade stands, or the babysitting or dog walking, whatever, there's a lot of age appropriate jobs that kids can do. And by working and earning their own money, and obviously teach them the value of money that on Friday night, when you want to go out to pizza and movie with friends. And that costs 25 bucks, and it's taken you two hours or an hour to earn that money, it's different than putting your handout for mom or dad for 25 bucks or charging it to your Apple iPhone, or whatever that might be that then your parents pay the bill. So I think at some point, in the four years of high school kids should have some sort of a real job. It could be on the weekends, it could be in the summers, it shouldn't conflict with schoolwork that they need to get done. You know, I had a student years ago that worked at Party City like party store. And I remember she just worked in the back, loft area, like unpacking boxes and shelving things and kind of being a runner. And by the time she graduated high school, she was 18. And she became the manager of the Party City store at 18. So it's pretty incredible, because she had so much work experience from having put in the time to do that. And she was using that money to help pay for college, and to help pay for the gas for the family car, and whatever else it might be. So I do think working is incredibly important for kids, they see that we're doing it for them. And if they can make time in their busy high school schedules to do , jobs that are age appropriate, you know, that's great. Some kids can't get, quote, real jobs till they're 15 or 16. Sometimes there's rules around that, which means they can be more creative during newsletters, like my kids used to deliver these like real estate flyers in our neighborhood door to door on my foot and our little neighborhood newsletter and they need somebody doing that. I remember even at a very young age, so there, there are jobs to be found. And every neighborhood has their next door Listserv, where you can look for jobs or offer up your kids for different jobs. My daughter was doing some of all things during COVID, some virtual babysitting, where she was teaching little ballet classes to kids in different cities while their parents were working at home, and reading them books and doing craft projects over the screen. So you can get pretty creative brainstorming with your kids ways that they can earn their own little living to fill out their piggy banks.
Brad Baldridge 23:39
Right. And I think that expands into the college planning process of, again, I've probably said this many times in the podcast in the past, but most students don't really understand the difference between of 25,000 and 50,000 and 100,000 dollars when it comes to paying for their education.
Cindy Muchnick 23:58
Brad Baldridge 23:58
I mean, it's all just a big number that they've never seen before. But if they have some idea, they've actually done, dealt with the idea of, 'Gee, when I go to a movie and go off the beaten, spent $35 I mean, I just spent everything I earned for the whole week in one fell swoop.' And maybe I didn't need to do that or whatever, right? Was it worth it? It wasn't they can kind of think back on that. Whereas if it's mom's money or dad's money, it's always much easier. You know, I had that.
Cindy Muchnick 23:58
Yeah, it's also a good opportunity. Brad, you probably do this with your own kids because of your career. But we do with our kids too. You can get your kids interested very early in investing and in the stock market and savings and not just saving in a bank but saving in a way where they watch their money grow as long as they'll leave it sitting still. And my kids are very interested in that just on your own. They spend a lot of time following they each have their own e trade account. They like to put their earnings in there and they follow how it grows and they talk about not just stocks but one of my kids is very conservative and he puts some money in the S&P 500 and just let it sit there. And he's been very pleased to see over time how that's grown from his summer earnings. And so I think our kids can definitely learn financial literacy much earlier than just the, they can start with the share, save, spend and the three jars. And that's a simple way to learn philanthropy and then some savings and then some spending. But they can grow that into certainly having greater financial literacy, and also appreciating what their parents have done to put away money for college and the help that you're offering families to help them plan better, more savvy.
Brad Baldridge 25:39
Exactly. And, again, I'm just doing doing just that with my kids. And just so people are aware that you can potentially put the money in a Roth IRA, if they've earned it as a form of work, and then then it won't count against you, as far as financial aid, that may be a good thing to do, it may not be then available for college or for the car or for whatever else that they're looking to do. So there's pros and cons to that. But there is a great learning opportunity. And I have done exactly that my son pick the stocks. So he picked a company that makes computer games that he plays, and he picked what computer manufacturer and Coca Cola and Disney and a couple things, things that he was familiar with.
Cindy Muchnick 26:27
Although Warren Buffett huh? Things you like.
Brad Baldridge 26:30
Buys things he was familiar with. And then I said, well, let's take a piece of it and put it in this index and that type of thing. And he's come full circle, because I keep asking, well, how are your stocks doing? And he's like, why? Yeah, I try and figure that out. And I can kind of do the math, and this was not doing real well. But I don't know why. And so we're gonna take the effort to figure it out. I mean, should you leave your money there? Should you move it somewhere else? And he's realizing that the concept of active investing versus passive investing of, did I pick these stocks? And I'm going to continue to follow up. And when they announced a new game, that's when it's time to buy or sell? Or am I buying them for the long run? But that whole process of learning that stuff, I think, translates into young adulthood? Well, first of all, college, when you're at college, and you're trying to figure out where all your money's going, and you realize that going to Starbucks every morning and pizza every night, instead of going into the commons that you've already paid for is not, it works well as its mom's credit card. Not so well, if it's your own money. Yeah, some of those things, and then into young adulthood of do you want to sign up for your 401k? Well, what's that? And how does it work? I think we see a lot of financial illiteracy, and young adults, all that, from teenage years all the way through 30, where they just don't get it, because it's not something that they've ever really been exposed to. And it's an ongoing problem. So helping kids get involved in that is huge.
Cindy Muchnick 28:06
I read an article recently, and I can't recall exactly, it might have been Florida, but it might have been somewhere else where they're putting financial literacy back into the curriculum as a course for like seniors before they graduate or whatever else do you think is a genius like back in the days when we have Home Ec and shop and whatever the classes were, where you learned other life skills, auto shop, I think used to also be a Class A generation ago, but the financial literacy piece, I mean, I don't know like my kids' schools have had investment clubs and things like that, where kids can go during club time and learn about investing or talk about it, but to have an actual course on it would be fabulous. And it seems like it should just be a required graduation.
Brad Baldridge 28:51
Yeah, at our new school, it's not required, but it is an option and I encouraged my son to take it. And it was interesting too, because you look at technology, they actually had a simulation, kind of a this is your life. And it was a map of a city. And when you start out you can only walk around the city because you don't have a car and you go find a job and it pays this amount and then there's the colleges you can sign up for but then you have to pay for them and so you're running this little scenario and then unexpected things happen. So again, it was trying to simulate life from a this is your checking account, this is your savings account, this is your 401k, these are investments and it started as a very simple scenario and got more complex as life went on where that okay now, now that you have this kind of job, they offer benefits. What are these benefits do you want to take and he's like, I hate this game because I keep dying and going bankrupt and because you get sick and you can't afford the doctor they
Cindy Muchnick 29:55
Brad Baldridge 29:56
They have you die and if you have an unexpected, his apartment got robbed, and all his good stuff was gone. And so he had this kind of start over and all these different things.
Cindy Muchnick 30:07
Yeah, that's great. That's very cool to visually, see through these simulations, what?
Brad Baldridge 30:12
You know, they are trying, but again, it was an optional class. So I'm pretty sure that most high school, most kids, and our high school didn't take that course, but at least is an option. So I think that's another avenue. But like I said, I see that rolling into the college planning of parents having the models, we just can't pick any college any price, we've got, just like, we can't pick any pair of blue jeans, right? Yes, you'd like to $200 pair, but what about the $100 pair or the $50 pair? Is there, will they all work? Or is there a reason we need to spend the money and I think that is lacking in many, again, curriculums in high schools and colleges. And that's where we see a lot of kids that go on to grad school, as an example, borrow of $200,000 for their degree, and then realize that they have to pay it back. And it's a huge noose around their neck. And theoretically, they're adults, and they should know better. But , looking at the upbringing, and when they would have learned that a lot of cases that there was no opportunity for them to learn it unless parents stepped in and helped them.
Cindy Muchnick 31:32
Yeah, well, I think that since COVID, also, and kids taking a lot of alternative paths, not just the path straight into college, but paths into community college, or the military or internships, gap years, maybe careers, without a college degree at this point, and then going back to college later, whatever might be, I think, people are asking a lot more questions now about the value of the college degree, and for the amount you put in, but also, in addition, I think there's just a new flexibility, and a new mentality of 'It may be worth it for me to take a year or two at a community college to get my prerequisites out of the way, and at a much more affordable cost, and then transfer in to a four year college or do trade school or a tech degree where I'm wanting to just practice a skill that I know will be incredibly valuable' and in these certifications that kids get for whatever they might be for plumbing or for automotive repair, anything along assembly lines, whatever they might be often can pay significantly more when you're done with that certificate than you would with your college degree because you're specialized in a particular field or particular skill that's needed. So I just think that the rules are changing, I mean, colleges will still be there and churning their businesses over and over again, and there will still be some list of 100 elite schools that families think is the magic list. But there are 4000 colleges out there, I want to say, and recently, I heard the numbers that most of them accept over 60% of their applicant pool, it's just this highly competitive list that shaves the numbers down a lot. And that's just due to kids over applying, and it's due to the test optional situation right now. And the frenzy that still is around a system that we're saying is pretty broken, and holistic and not completely easy to understand. So, anyway.
Brad Baldridge 33:35
Right? Right. So now, I mean, I think there's a challenge there for many families, it was a lot easier to say, 'Well, this is what we're gonna do, we're gonna go to this high school, and then we're gonna go to college, and then you're gonna get a good job. And then we're done.' There's no planning, there's no investigation, there's no, there wasn't a lot of work around. And that worked? Well, 20 years ago, where at one point college was the golden ticket. And that's changed, where now it is, again, now, sometimes it's just table stakes, it'll get you in the door, but it won't necessarily automatically, give you the great life or the great job. So, and now we're looking at get you mentioned gap years. Okay, well, how do we know if the gap year is the right thing to do? And who is it a good fit for? And how does it work? And various tech colleges and we can go here and then go there and higher education is unnoticed some of the talking to some of the movers and shakers that are kind of looking ahead to saying, 'Well, what does education look like in the next generation or two?' And they're talking about things like just in time learning where it's like, well, you go to school for two or three or four years, then you go to work for a little while. Realize what it is you're missing and go back for a semester. To fill the gap, and that maybe you get a promotion or you go to a different job or something. And now we've got a different skills that you need to hone and where college isn't gonna be an event for four years right after high school, it's going to be spread out through your life perhaps, or not at all, it might be some other way to go. Coming up on a podcast, there are a couple of universities that are piloting a three year degree. And it's, it's not where they're taking four years of material and compressing it into three years. They're literally starting from the ground up and saying, if we've got three years, what would we put into the curriculum? What will be taken out? And kind of reimagining what higher education might look like in a three year program.
Cindy Muchnick 35:47
Brad Baldridge 35:49
And there were, and they're trying to do it right through working with the accrediting bodies and all that kind of stuff. And so that's gonna be interesting how that unfolds.
Cindy Muchnick 35:58
As long as the three years doesn't cost the same as the four years, right? I think it'll be a third less. Do you think it'll be a quarter less?
Brad Baldridge 36:05
I think it's, it's likely to begin there, but that's one of the things that they're working on, right is to say, well, how, higher education was those big challenges, right. I mean, the standard manufacturers, as we had 500 workers, and we built 1000 widgets five years ago. Now we have 400 workers, and we've built 10,000 widgets, we're getting much more efficient, the prices are coming down, and everybody's happy. But nobody wants to go to that college that says, 'Well, 20 years ago, we had 100 professors, and 1000 students, now we've got 10 professors and 10,000 students.' People would be like, 'Oh, yeah, that's efficient.' But that's, I don't think that's what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for efficient, I'm looking for a good education, which is a challenge in things like education and health care where you do want that one on one attention. And from somebody that is good at it. Well, guess what, somebody that good at it would like to be paid well. And it just again, it doesn't scale very well. So that's a big challenge that they're working on, of course, and yeah, so I think there's lots of change. Coming. The real challenge, I think, is the people that are here. Now you can say, 'Oh, great, that's gonna be better in 10 years. But I've got a junior in high school is going to college in two years.' So you got to kind of work on what we have to work on now.
Cindy Muchnick 37:36
Yeah. Interesting. Well, we can refer back whenever parents want you in the back of The Parent Compass, we have a resource guide. And the resource guide does go into things you can do, alternative routes, and even continues by talking about what to do during gap years, suggestions, and then whole list of other books that we recommend for parents who want to go the reading route to do like, roll up their sleeves and do a little bit of research. But I think that the resources that you're providing for families in terms of their financial planning are invaluable, hoping that books like the parent compass will help parents put things into a better perspective, because honestly, our goal is that when your kids leave the home, you want to still have a relationship with them that's positive, and that's meaningful. And, quite frankly, a psychologist that we interviewed with told us like, that's the only thing that you really have left when they when they go out the door is your relationship. So if you don't spend the time building that and creating that, and having them feel connected and supported and seen and appreciated for who they are, then they're gonna go back and look at, 'Oh, my parent was just pushy and bossy and just think on and on the house. And I never had a moment to breathe because they had all these dreams and wishes for me and I could never reach their potential.' And that's just got to be a pretty junky awful feeling. You know, when you when you when you actually leave home. So I've got four kids, I have two that are launched in two that are in high school, and I like to spend time with them. I hope they like hanging out with us, I hope they want to still hang out with us a bit when, when they're gone. And there is nothing better than then that time that you do get to spend once they're young adults, and you see them as functioning people out there in the world that they still want to spend a little bit of time with you. So that hopefully is many of our goals.
Brad Baldridge 39:25
Absolutely. Right, you get to the highest level is everything. We're talking about his tricks and tips and tactics. But in the end, our ultimate goal, right is happy functioning kids that add to society and hopefully come home for Christmas having that
Cindy Muchnick 39:40
And hopefully they're doing something they enjoy doing.
Brad Baldridge 39:43
Cindy Muchnick 39:45
Or continuing to find things that they enjoy doing. I mean, I don't I also don't believe that you and I spoke up offline a little bit earlier about what do you want to be when you grow up and the question of career and I think as we all know, it's not a straight line, we can create lots of different You can have multiple careers in a lifetime in lots of different directions. So whatever you think you're studying in college may not even apply to what you're doing in the real world. And what you start doing in the real world can lead to multiple other directions that you go. And generation ago, it was like business school, law school, accounting, really directed and really specific and really focused. And now, there's just so much more flexibility and creativity. And I don't know, with what what amount of our population is working from home. Now, Brad, I don't know what the numbers are these days. But even that is going to impact or has impacted the workforce and the future workforce for our kids. I think it's some, that's a different podcast. But it's an interesting, some interesting and tricky ways. Because obviously, being around people in real life in an environment where you're building, in real life relationships is different than doing them through screens. So I do hope that we don't, that we still get chances to go back to some kind of a working world, at least for our kids stakes, because that human connection is so important.
Brad Baldridge 41:00
Right? I would agree so well, great. Well, I really appreciate all this great information if people want to, well, first of all, can you say the name of the book again?
Cindy Muchnick 41:08
Yes. The book is called The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen's Wellness and Academic Journey in Today's Competitive World, but for social media people, and we would love for you to follow us on @parentcompass on Instagram, or The Parent Compass on Facebook, or our website, which is parentcompassbook.com, or even on Twitter @parentcompass1. And obviously, when this podcast airs, we're going to put it on our website, which people can visit and listen to. And yeah, we just hope that you enjoy the book. And we have a book club guide that can be downloaded also off of our website for families. And we found that there are groups of parents are wanting to get together for little self improvement sessions. And choosing the book as a monthly book club read and then talking about it and how it impacts their own parenting and mistakes and, and good choices that they've made to sort of help build your own parent village. And I think that's also really important, Brad that you surround yourself with a couple like minded parents, that can kind of help you through these tricky years to people you can bounce things off of who genuinely care about your kids to or not competing with your kids and your family, but are just there as good people to kind of know that we're all in this together.
Brad Baldridge 41:08
Yeah, I agree that works well in lots of areas around parenting and college and everything. Another quick question, since this is obviously audio is your book available as a
Cindy Muchnick 42:34
Oh, yeah, it is an audio book. So if you want to listen to the parent conference, you can go to Audible, or even on Amazon, I think that links maybe to the Audible as well. So if you prefer to listen or listen in high speed, get through it even quicker, I think it's a six hour or a six and a half hour read. But my daughter likes to listen to books faster. So. So if you want to do that you can you can listen on walks or hikes, or whatnot, as well. And if anyone wants signed copies, we're happy to send bookplates out. So just message us. And if you do do a book club, we also can do pop in visits for those on Zoom. So if you ever want to talk to one of us, Jenn, Jenn Curtis, my co-author or myself will, will do that, too. So please reach out, please follow. And if you really liked the book, please review it. That's the best gift you can give an author actually, is a book review.
Brad Baldridge 43:21
Absolutely. Well, great. It was great talking to you, and we'll stay in touch.
Cindy Muchnick 43:25
Brad Baldridge 43:27
All right, that was a great interview. As always show notes are available at tamingthehighcostofcollege.com. We'll have links to the book and all the other great resources that Cindy has provided. As always, we appreciate it if you can leave us a review in iTunes or wherever it is that you're getting your podcast. That's all we have for today. And we will see you next week.
Thank you for listening to the Taming the High Cost of College Podcast. Now it's time for you to take action head to tamingthehighcostofcollege.com for show notes, bonus content, and to leave feedback for Brad. The next step on your college journey starts now. Brad Baldrige is a registered representative of Cambridge Investment Research and an investment advisor representative of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Securities are offered through Cambridge Investment Research Incorporated, a broker dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC, Brad owns two companies: Baldrige Wealth Management and Baldrige college solutions. The Baldridge companies are not affiliated with Cambridge Investment Research.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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