Many Americans, even those with satisfying and lucrative careers, ruminate about the value of furthering their education. Lifelong learning offers a host of benefits, from expanding career prospects to furthering individual understanding of the world we share. Many scientists believe continuing to stretch our horizons over our lifetimes helps stave off age-related cognitive decline.
However, few educational pursuits come with a $0 price tag. Those who dream of going back to school do well to take certain financial planning steps prior to doing so.
If you’re considering advancing your education, take heed of these important steps to ensure your pursuits bolster your career, not leave you struggling under an Everest of debt.
1. Whip Out the Calculator
Before signing enrollment papers, determine whether or not doing so will lead to greater financial rewards. For example, earning a master’s level degree in a liberal arts field sounds fancy, but will it pad your paycheck any?
Recent research indicates those who attend trade school possess higher earning potential than those selecting a traditional academic path on average. Additionally, such learning paths usually take a shorter trajectory, getting you into the workplace earning a paycheck more quickly.
2. Search for Financing Options
Those who claim they lack funds for a degree often overlook all financing options available to fund their dreams. It’s normal for career aspirations to shift as you grow and mature as a person. Going back to school to change careers proves far easier with a scholarship or grant.
Student loan debt can amass quickly, so strive to pay cash whenever possible. Keep in mind you can defer student loans when enrolled in a qualified degree program.
3. Make Sure You Understand the True Costs
Many folks measure the cost of investing in higher education by tuition fees. However, those enrolled in undergrad or graduate programs still encounter financial emergencies and need at least a little something in the bank in case one occurs. Additionally, the cost of books, professional exams such as the Bar exam for law school grads and association fees increase the economic burden.
Before enrolling in any career development educational program, find out how much it will cost to practice in the field. While the world desperately needs more medical specialists, for example, if the required liability insurance will break the bank, reconsider your educational objectives.
4. Don’t Lose the Interest War
Those graduating from degree programs get favorable nods from lenders, making it easy to drown under a sea of credit card debt. If you’re planning on furthering your education, hold off on buying that new Hummer or Porsche. One more monthly payment may not cause moths to appear in your wallet, but life happens to everyone. Living within your means nearly always makes solid financial sense.
5. Select a Winning Major
In a changing economy, certain industries enjoy a higher demand. Those planning on going back to school benefit from selecting a major in a high-demand profession. Those seeking careers in STEM fields, especially computer science, chemistry and physics fields, out-earn the competition often.
6. Keep the Long Game in Mind
When it comes to financial planning steps, no advice tops keeping the long game in mind. Yes, you want a rewarding career. You want to wake up excited about going to work each day. But you also hope to retire someday, right?
While stories abound of those who continue to work well into their golden years, most of us look forward to hanging up our aprons someday. While those with degrees earn more on average, the key word is “average.” Strive to balance positive vibes for the future with sound retirement planning.
Back to School — to Go or not to Go?
The decision of whether or not to return to school creates a ripple effect throughout a person’s entire financial future. Before taking the plunge, test the waters first with these steps. Whether you decide to return to education or remain in your present position, you’ll sleep soundly knowing you made the best possible choice for yourself.
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