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    The Price of Passion

    Feb 26, 2013
    By Mark Hopkins

    Sunday’s NYT had an article (read it here) about a young veterinarian, Dr Haley Schafer, who, in spite of making minimum payments of $400 per month, will see her student loans expand from $312,000 today to an estimated $650,000 by the time they mature 25 years from now.  Why?  Because the payments she can afford to make don’t even cover the interest she accrues.  Holy cow—there has to be a better way!

    If you read my Jan 30 blog, you understand the connection between curiosity and prosperity.  Following one’s natural curiosity makes it easy to get the kind of in-depth knowledge that leads to marketable expertise, and with a little luck, to the discovery of a life long calling. But what I didn’t point out was the need for a financial analysis before you go too far down the path.  I define prosperity as an existence where you get to pursue your passion by doing work that is personally satisfying while providing the financial resources to experience your envisioned life.  What do you do if pursuing your passion doesn’t yield enough income to pay your student loans, much less your envisioned life?

    If Haley, or her parents, had done a little homework, it would have been pretty easy to predict the financial predicament that she, and a lot of other vet students, find themselves in.  Instead of piling on with the “I told you so’s” let’s construct an alternative path for other young people to contemplate. 

    Recalculating (use your GPS voice here)

    What if you created an alternate career route that gets you to within a block or two of where you want to go?  A happy veterinarian is one who enjoys providing health services to mammals while providing helpful communication to their human owners.  There is almost certainly a way to get a much less expensive degree that qualifies you to be involved in the healthcare industry (for people) while upping your furry mammal involvement at home and by volunteering 10 hours a week with a local vet who would love the enthusiastic assistance.

    Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

    If Haley could exchange this personal vision for her original one, and reduce her student loan by $200,000, she would, in effect, be paying herself $100 per hour for the hours she spends volunteering (assuming a 6% interest rate).  Maybe she wouldn’t agree that this arrangement meets her career vision.  But only she can make the trade off between a less ideal career path and the awful reality of a life long student debt hanging over her head.  But that’s the problem isn’t it?  She never did the analysis.  I think that one of our high school graduation requirements should be a financial analysis of the student’s plans going forward, whether it includes college or not.  Don’t you?

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