Color of Money Book Club

Jun 17, 2010

Personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary will host a live discussion on Thursday, June 17 at 12 p.m. ET to answer your questions about money. She will be joined by Reyna Gobel, author of "Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? The Crash Course: Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job," the Color of Money Book Club selection for the month of May.

Hello everyone, thanks for joining me today.

And of course this is a hot topic today -- student loans.

So let's get started.

First off, I want to say I love reading your columns, Michelle, and I try to follow your advice the best I can. I really don't have a question! I just want to say that I finally paid off my student loan last month! $10,000 in about 2.5 years. I loaned out some of college and got the other in scholarships at a Virginia university. The advice I have is.. throw all of the extra money you have at it! Save your sanity! It will serve you better in the long run.

You know I totally agree. The folks who say stuff like: "Don't worry about student loan debt because it's good debt are kidding themselves."

Don't keep this debt around like it's a pet rock.

So Congrats to you!

Dear Michelle: You saved me $400 last week and I wanted to thank you. I nearly purchased something online that I did not need (at all!) but before I did, I asked myself, "What would Michelle say?" and knew that your wrath would be forthcoming. I backed away from the computer and that $400 is sitting safely in my bank account. Also, I hope you can link to the excellent article in today's Metro section entitled "Universities Ease Path for Transfer Students." It's validation of what you often recommend to your readers. Thanks for all your advice over the years.

I'm glad you listened to the little Michelle sitting on your shoulder, alhtough wrath may be a little strong (smile).

Reyna, As soon as I graduated and started working, I started paying off my student loan debt, often paying 25 or 50% more than the minimum. Sallie Mae, my debt holder, told me I had to request that the extra payment be applied to the principle in writing only, so that's what I did. Instead of applying it like I asked, they merely reduced future payment minimums until the extra money was used up. When I called to complain, they said I could only communicate about it in writing, which they ignored. How do I get through to them? Whenever I call to say they're ignoring my emails, the person (who does not speak English as a first language) launches into this explanation about how interest works. I DID graduate college, I know how interest works, that's why I wanted to pay my loans off faster! Sallie Mae has made this IMPOSSIBLE. Do I have any options here?

Great question but you may actually be in better shape than you think. I just spoke to Sallie Mae and what is likely happening is the extra payment you make is being applied to principle, but it just doesn't look like it. why?

Let's say your payment is $100 and you paid $200. Your payment due date is pushed out a month because if you didn't want to make a payment next month, you wouldn't have to. However, you can go ahead and make another payment.

Bottom line, your principle is reduced. Just keep paying what you can. You can read more on paying off loans early in Chapter 11 of Graduation Debt.

Michelle - first of all thanks for all that you do. I just wanted to tell people to hang in there. I just made my final student loan payment last week (Grad School) and I thought I could NEVER get it paid off - it took me years to pay but by using the "debt snowball" method, it's done! Now I can take that money and use it for other things and I'll be debt free other than my mortgage in less than a year from now.

YIPPEE. Another great I got out of debt bondage story!

I have two cards that I have had for years with no bad history. If I want to request a reduction in my rate or an increase in my limit, who exactly do I ask to speak to? Does anyone in the customer service dept. have this ability or do I need to ask for someone "higher up?"  I often hear that we should ask these things of our credit card companies, but I have never heard how is the best way to go about it. Thank you.

Yes, call the customer service number. After waiting like a million years to various prompts, you will and can get a real person. Make your appeal. If you don't hear what you like, ask to speak to a supervisor.

How do we listen to the discussion? Is there some audio?

Hi- Producer Sarah here. Nope, it's a text only chat, much like instant messaging.  Just keep your browser set to this page and you'll see Michelle and Reyna's answers.

There is no audio for my chats, yet.

But soon we will be launching a video chat where you can hear and see me rant, rave and give the best darn finanical advice around.


Michelle, just got today's e-letter and read your passing mention of the Real Housewives ACTING (emphasis in original) rich. As a male, shows like this just make me afraid to get married. Do "real" women today actually have such an entitlement mentality?

First, don't base your future martial life on reality TV. They say it's real but it's anything but. A lot is hyped up.

And yes many real women -- and men -- have an awful sense of entitlement. Men and women spend wilding, don't budget, mess up their money, etc. Not a gender thing, more an American thing.

But many people are good stewards over their money.  The thing is you need to do some research and watch and listen and go to counseling and listen and talk, etc. before getting hitched.

Finally, rest asure there are still plenty of good men and women out there. I mean, my husband found me, the lucky dog!

It depends on the women. I enjoy Real Housewives, but it's a guilty pleasure - even for the ones starring in it who may not always have a full grip on reality.

Dear Michelle, I would like to request a lower interest rate and an increase in my credit limit. Do I just talk to the first customer service rep that answers the phone or do I ask for some other dept. What should I say or do to make my request more likely to succeed? Buffy

See my previous answer to a similar question. Call and talk to customer rep. It may be hard to get a lower rate in this tough credit market. But try anyway, especially if you've been a good customer with no late payments at least in the last 12 months. So make your case that you are a good customer and would like to stay with the company and would like to lower your rate. It might work since it's costly for the companies to sign up a new customer.

Is there such a thing as a "smart" student loan for those students who simply need to borrow enough to fill the hole between available cash and short-term college expenses?

Federal student loans are always a better choice than private ones. But the smartest student loan is one you can pay back. Base borrowing on what you can realistically pay back in 10 years. The only way to do this is set an appointment with your financial aid office or student money management office to construct a post college budget. Recalculate every semester. Even if you don't plan on borrowing a penny, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You may qualify for grants or need-based scholarships- i.e. free money.

Hi Michelle, My son has a huge college debt which his Dad and I would like to help him day when we can afford it. Is this a wise step for us or would it be better to help him with a down payment on a home for his family?

Help with the student loan debt now. Get rid of that debt now. He shouldn't be buying a home if he has a huge amount of college debt. The burden can be so much and if anything happens -- lost job, illness -- he'll be drowing in debt.

Hi Michelle- I am an example of what can happen when you screw up and turn things around to fix it. I graduated college 10 years ago and for a number of reasons (moving a lot, stupidity, anxiety) fell behind on my student loans. The collectors mailed letters, called, and finally garnished my wages but I was too afraid of the mess I had made to even answer the phone. I finally got up the courage to deal with it and set up a payment plan. I knew I had trashed my credit and didn't have a credit card for years because I was afraid of applying and getting rejected. I paid cash for grad school because I didn't want to get more in debt. I finally got up the courage last week to check my credit score. Seven years later with a perfect payment record (paying extra against the principle when I can), my FICO is 776! Use this as a cautionary tale of what not to do but also that you can turn things around if you stop burying your head in the sand.

Wow, great score and story.

You are so right, answer the phone and face the problem. Always better in the end.

Look, it's great the Post is trying to mix it up with multimedia stuff, but know your audience -- a lot of us follow these chats, etc. at work, where audio/video may be distracting or even banned (as bandwidth-hogging). So *please* don't shift to videos as a substitute for these chats -- and please provide transcripts soon after so we can read what was said if we couldn't watch.

You are so right and we've thought of that. The video chats will NOT replace the text chats. It's an added bonus (although on my bad hair days you might not think so). And we will be posting an archive of the video chat so you can watch later at home or whereever.

Feel better?

Good morning. Our financial adviser recommended that we take the overage of what we are paying on our student loans and invest it instead - stating that we will benefit more on the investments over time due to the compound interest effect than we will by paying down the loans faster and getting rid of that debt. The math does make sense to me. Could you all please comment on this idea? Thanks!

When anyone tells you to invest money that you have to repay think about this: would you rather have a 15 year or 30 year mortgage? Profit on investment varies , look at the money lost in the stock market in the last couple of years, but paying off debt will always put you in a better financial place.

Find a financial adviser that will help you towards a solid financial future, even when he or she doesn't make a penny.

Don't listen to that adviser. Nonsense. Getting out of debt is the best investment you can make. Because remember investing means putting money at risk. And right now you can't do that if you have debt.

I love your chats but I'm deaf and I am always shut out of online audio/video chats or blogs. Don't shut me out of yours too, please!

Oh please don't worry. My text chats will not go way. The video chats will be short and a supplement to what I already do.

P.S. Just love that so many of you love the way the chats go now. Good confirmation.

Ms. Singletary, I got a copy of my credit report and I have a couple of quick questions: 1 - I have some inquiries made by companies that I have not done business with and am not famliar with. How does this happen? 2 - Is there any way that I can reduce (or prevent) this? 3 - Is my score on the report or do I recieve that separate? Thanks!!! Appreciate your chats.

Purchasing official FICO reports is the only way to see your FICO credit score. You can do so at As far as as requests you don't recognize: If you didn't do it, dispute it. Go to the web site of the credit reporting agency you reviewed to dispute this item.

Most likely the companies are affliated with companies you do have business with. Many are probably drolling to see if you are a candidate for credit. Here's advice from Privacy Clearinghouse on this issue:

Opt Out of Pre-approved Unsolicited Credit Card Offers

You can choose to opt out of credit offers for 5 years, through the web site. Or you can opt out permanently by mailing the Permanent Opt-Out form, available on the web site.

Restrict Access to Your Credit Report        

Michelle, I think you always advise paying down debt before investing. But families with a mortgage don't wait until the whole thing is paid off before investing for retirement. There must be some point at which the gains of the stock market are worth not reducing a well-structured debt for.

Actually, I don't always advise paying down ALL debt before investing. I say you priortize it.

If you have a lot of consumer debt -- credit cards, student loans -- it may be best to pay that down and reduce the amount you invest for retirement or your kid's college fund.

For example, early in your career makes more sense to me to get rid of say $100,000 in student loans than save crazy for retirement. Once you got that debt done, then aggressively save for retirement, etc.

My question is regarding the new laws enacted in 2009 regarding working for 10 years in public interest/government; making payments on student loans regularly for those 10 years, and then after the 10 year period, the government will forgive the remaining balance. I am working in public interest law and have law school debt. My plan all along was to work in public interest law, but now I am scared that this law might even be revoked at some point. How realistic is it to expect this law to be in place 10 years from now/and for me to be grandfathered in? I plan to make regular payments for those 10 years, and it will be amazing if the remaining balance was indeed forgiven so I can continue to do what I love. Is this irresponsible?

I'm so happy for you! I've spoken with the Department of Education on this very question. It's very realistic to expect this plan to still be in place for federal student loans for loans already issued. For now, make sure you choose a consolidated or income-based payment plan. No matter which payment plan you choose, the program works. The second suggestion is to make sure your particular job qualifies. Call 8004fedaid to make sure. Finally, it only works if you work for the government or in a public service career for 10 years and make 120 payments (10 years). Any payment breaks or breaks from public service work will not count towards your total.

Please don't! Not that I wouldn't love to hear the rants, but I can quickly scan through responses. Watching the video is not so easy for me to multitask. If it's a combination of video and written responses, I can deal ;)

So you shall deal. It's not an either or situation.

Wow, this is good to know not everyone is thrilled about all the new media stuff. People really do like the old fashioned text stuff. TAKE that Apple!

My husband and I, generally pretty astute about our finances, just got snookered with one of those "0% APR until November!" credit card checks. We used one to write a large down-payment on some home remodeling, thinking it would really be what they said - 0% until November. Wrong!! What they did NOT say was that if you used one of those, then ALL of our other charges would be subject to interest. We pay off all charges in full every month, so were shocked to see an interest charge on this month's statement. We contacted the credit card company (Chevy Chase Visa) to ask about this. Turns out a) our "minimum payment" goes to this so-called 0% loan (even though it is not due until November, according to their come-on pitch), b) the rest of the payment goes to our other charges - obviously leaving an amount equal to the "minimum payment" to carry over to the next month, thus incurring more interest charges. We immediately stopped using this card, paid off in full all current charges (what the statement shows plus all charges made since the statement was printed), plus the extra "minimum payment," so I THINK that clears our balance, leaving only the "not due until November" amount. Fortunately we have another credit card from our Credit Union, which we will now use exclusively. Just a warning to other folks out there who think these checks might be a good use of "free money." They clearly are NOT, and their promotional literature does not explain the facts. Lesson learned once again - no such thing as free money!

Good cautionary tale.

No such thing as free money -- certainly not anymore in this credit card environment.

Hi Michelle, I've written in twice about using my annual bonus to pay off credit cards and student loans and I just wanted to send in a follow-up. I've paid off most of the credit cards and the remaining balances will be paid off in a few months. While I still have a ways to go with my student loans, I'm into the principle on one of them and it's such a great feeling to see the numbers really going down. So while it's hard, my advice is to just keep plugging along and really try to throw a little extra money at your debt each month. My dad chastized me for not putting more into my 401-K at work, but I'm concentrating on paying off my debt right now and it's such a great feeling to see actual progress and an end in sight that might not be 10 years away. Thanks for all your great advice - I am so glad I started reading your columns and chats!

Ah shucks, thanks.

I understand your dad's concerns. It's imporant to save for retirement, but once you get all that debt paid off, take those payments and pile them into retirement savings. I bet you will still be ahead in the end because now you've developed a different mentality about your money.

Michelle. In the way you would refinance your home or car to get a better interest rate and lower payment, can you switch the company your federal school loans are with? Mine are about $105K. I haven't been able to pay for 4 years, but must begin in November.

Federal student loans have the same rate, no matter which lender you have. But if you switch your loans to  Direct Lending you will have the option of public service loan forgiveness after 10 years for government and community service employees.

However, you may want to request a different payment plan. If you are having trouble making payments, talk to your lender about income-based or consolidated payments. If your income in relation to your debt is low enough, you could have a payment well below your current required amount. Play with the income-based and consolidated loan calculators in the articles and resources section of to see which option is best for you. You may get some much needed payment relief.

Hi Michelle, I know I keep asking this, but I need to make a decision and I don't know who else's opinion to trust. I'll try to make it short this week: ING's 5-year fixed rate mortgages, renewable every 5 years under the same terms. Any obvious problems? Thanks!

I'm afraid I don't know all the terms so I can't really answer. Sounds good but read all the fine print. I just can't believe there wouldn't be some sort of out if rates rise in the future.

Some people (notably political conservatives) suggest that too many students go to college. Charles Murray estimates that only 10-15% of high school seniors who start college will graduate with four-year degrees that they actually use in their careers. The rest will either not graduate, earn two-year degrees that they could have obtained cheaply at local community colleges, or not use their four-year degree in their major field. For the latter, it serves only as a certification of a possessions of general skills, like knowing sentence structure and keeping a schedule. Should our country as a whole be working toward reducing the number of colleges, and finding another way to prepare our 18-21 year olds for careers, while still recognizing their not-quite-maturity?

You ask a very good question. I think college is important for more than just helping you get a job, BUT we have oversold it's value since we've made kids think if they don't go to the "right" school or spend a ton of money they will be forever poor.

Many, many people study one thing and work at a different career. Check out my eletter today about an item on more college graduates seeking jobs as plumbers or electrians AFTER spending a lot of money to go to school and having trouble finding work.

Five years ago when I was just starting college, my mom opened a new credit card for herself and added me as a secondary user in case I had any emergencies while away. I never used the card, never even activated it, but she did... a lot, which I found out after graduating and checking my credit report for the first time. The balance was (and still is) over 99% of the limit, though she hasn't missed any payments. I had her call the company and remove me from the account, but it will apparently stay on my report for a few more years. In the mean time, I'm paying off my student loans more than twice as fast, keeping my own credit card balance very low, and building a decent savings. So, my question is what should I do about my mom's credit card? Having an account with a balance that high on my report obviously affects my rating (which I found when applying for my own credit card: "RATIO ON REVOLVING ACCOUNT TOO HIGH"), which kind of sucks because it's not my debt and I didn't have any say in the matter. I'm doing well enough on my own that I could afford to supplement her payments a little bit and slowly bring the balance down, but that would effectively be "bailing out" my mom. I've already made a significant number of personal loans to her that I may never get back... I'm not looking to get a mortgage or car loan any time soon, at least not till after I finish my student loans, but I some day will, and I don't want this account screwing me over. Sorry, I know this is more of an interpersonal question than financial... but you're probably the best person to ask. Thanks Michelle!

First, find out if you were put on the card as a "co-borrower" or essentially as a co-signer or if you were just an authorized user. If you didnt' sign any paperword, then you were just an authorized user they should remove the card from your file.

Since you are not responsible for the debt as an authorizer user your mother should be allowed to remove you from the account and thus all the high balance info.

Read this great article on

Also, check your credit score. It might not be as bad as you think and you may be worrying for nothing. The bureaus always give reason codes that may look bad but you may still have a good score.

Finally, no don't give your mother money. In fact, stop giving her loaning her, etc. money. You may be just enabling her to keep living above her means, hence a card with a high balance compare to her limit.

My son has four years of student unsubsidized loans that he will begin paying off in December. It appears as if there are two (or maybe three) separate lenders involved. How can we get these loans consolidated? When my daughter graduated in 2006, we rolled them together and actually got a lower interest rate and one monthly payment. I think they have changed this since then however and we may be stuck with 6.8 % for at least two of them. Any advice or suggestions? Thanks!

After July 1, you cna only consolidate federal student loans with lending. Here's the Web site for   applying:  If oyu don't want to consolidate with the federal government, call each of his three lenders to ask if they will consolidate the loan before July 1.

No matter who you choose to consolidate with, check the National Student Loan Data System: This Web site shows every single loans, and you don't want to forget. I forgot one loan and years later I completed the program for loan default recovery.

I checked your book out of the library yesterday. I am in a depressing unfulfilling job and need to find something better, but am uncertain when to start, considering the economy. I'm an inwardly oriented personality, so networking is very awkward.

Start by asking why your job is unfulling. Could you ask your boss for extra responsiblities? Are there other jobs within the company you could apply for? If not, volunteer in your spare time. You can get great experience and try different things while volunteering. Whatever you do, only go back to school for another degree, unless you know exactly what you want to do with the new degree. You don't want more loans to find another job you not be happy with.

Don't worry about being shy. Be confident in your goals, and you'll find the courage to pursue your ambitions.

It's "principal", people, when you're talking about the amount borrowed on a loan. Not "-ple". Do we rely so much on spellcheck that basic errors like this slip through now?

I think people (me included) are typing fast and trying to communicate fast that we don't double check. Generally people on blogs and chats knowt this and are rather forgiving.

So I'm sorry if I misspell words or others do.

Thanks for pointing this out.

Hey, whoa, not fair. As the proud owner of a new iPad (don't worry, I could afford it without debt or deprivation), let me just say that Apple users like "old-fashioned" text too! (In fact, books and newspapers look amazing on it -- and you can carry a lot more of them with you.)

Hee, hee.

But a print paper is so MUCH better and saves so many jobs (smile).

Anyway, I hear you. My attempt at humor.

I am working on paying off my own loans from undergrad and grad school and am down to only my consolidated federal loans, fixed rate 2%, 38k outstanding (tackled the nasty adjustable rate private loans first and paid those off in March. Yeah!) My question is, with the little bit of extra money we think we can squeeze out of our budget, should we pay extra to the principal of these loans, open 529 plans for our kids (age 1 and 3) or split the money between them? In 15-18 years, the average return on the 529s will likely exceed the 2% interest I'm paying (though I know nothing is guaranteed). I don't want our kids to be in the debt nightmare I am in, so I'm inclined to throw it all to their savings. I truly value your advice. Thanks!

If it were me, I would continue aggressively and I mean aggressively getting rid of the student loan debt. Your kids are still young yet.

Credit card debt is 25% interest rate, mortgage is 5%--that is why we invest before paying off our house, but after paying off consumer debt.

Definitely pay off high-interest credit first. Everyone has to find their own balance. A safety net is paramount in a savings or money market account. What I worry about is when investments are made without having a cushion. I don't think someone should pay off student loans before buying a home. But investments beyond company-match 401k contributions should be limited while there's debt - especially debt that is generally non-dischargable in bankruptcy.

Obviously, I do think people should pay off as much if not all of their student loans before diving into a home loan. Didn't this recession show people that all this debt can be too much. It seems managable when everything is going right. But everything doesn't always go right.

But I know my voice and advice won't play in this country.

So, the next best thing is to yes, pay off consumer debt as fast as you can.

Hi Michelle, I have been so happy that I avoided student loans. I worked my buns off in school and earned good grades and high SAT scores. I had fantasies that Harvard would welcome me with open arms. I was wrong. Even with outstanding scores, I found that a lot of "top" nationally-recognized schools wouldn't give me much of a scholarship. They simply had too many good students. So I did a second round of applications to regional schools that were interesting and had programs I wanted to study. They were much more interested in students with high scores and students from outside their immediate region. The end result was that I found a full scholarship for tuition. And mom and dad graciously agreed to pay the room and board for me. And I worked campus jobs while I was there, which gave me good experience. Was the school a great fit for me? No. It was not my top choice and I didn't have a wildly fantastic time. But I got a great education and made some good connections. It was very liberating to graduate without debt. I am in nonprofit work and have never earned a big paycheck, so I don't know how I would pay back lots of loans. I know scholarships aren't the road for everyone. But I think the lesson is that I gave up some things that felt important to me (going to certain schools) because being debt-free was much more important. And I'm still glad I did that.

Kudos to you! Being realistic about college choices compared to debt is a great lesson for those who have yet to enter college, and those that can still transfer.

Oh you KNOW I'm so loving you!

I just wish more students and parents did what you did.

Count the cost long-term.


I'm a professor at a good public university and I hate to see students go into deep debt for college. I've notice is that students define their needs differently than they did 20 years ago. They believe they 'need' a car, lots of electronics, etc. It seems like many students aren't willing to live frugally to get themselves through college with little or no debt. One example: students do need a computer, but they don't need a new one every year. Many universities will help students identify a single computer purchase that should meet their needs through 4 years of college. No need for a new one every year. There are many individual exceptions of course, but this is the overall trend. How can colleges help students take a more frugal approach to their education?

Thanks for your comments. Very insightful.

I think we need more professors like you talking to parents before their kids go to college. When parents and kids are talking college tours a big part of that should be a lecture on you don't need everything, etc.



Hi! I love your chats. I appreciate your advice. I have 3 very young children and a full-time job, so I have zero time to do home projects. We have a 40 year-old house with the original (read: crappy, drafty, aluminum) windows. Our floors are covered in terrible wall-to-wall beige carpeting. We need to replace the windows (but don't know who to choose); the carpet removed (will be replaced with tile and wood laminate) along with a new front door and garage door. The house needs these things. The original pieces are old and in disrepair. The carpet is disgusting and I hate for my children to be near it (ages 1, 1, and 4 - yes, twins). Question: Should we attempt to get a home equity loan? Or just skip the hoop jumping and take it out of my retirement account (which I can do) and get the items done? I personally hate the idea of using my home to secure any kind of loan and I detest that question (Why do you want the money?). We have saved up enough for the flooring, but not the windows or doors. I would like to get all of the projects done this Spring/Summer, before Winter arrives. Thanks!

If ever you have to take out a home equity loan, your situation is one, to do "needed" repairs. And I do mean needed as in saves on heat, the house is cold, etc.

So pay cash for the floors and only borrow exactly what you need for the windows.

BUT...if you can wait and save for the other projects that is the best thing, especially with three little ones and lots of expenses connected to them.

What are the benefits of using the "Opt Out" function?  I thought routine trollings by such companies do not "hurt" credit scores. Is there any benefit to not opting out? Thanks!

They don't hurt your credit score. Opting out just reduces the offers you get, which can help reduce the chance of identity theft (less mail for a crook to steal) or prevent someone you know from getting his or her hands on an offer and opening credit in your name.

Now that our daughter is half-way through college, we find that haven't drawn down as much of her college fund as we had anticipated (factoring in 8% tuition hikes that were actually closer to 4.4%, etc) when she began 2 years ago. Back then, we had her take out unsubsidized Stafford loans, which now total $3500 (with interest, closer to $3800). Since we are ahead of where we thought we'd be on her college fund, should we pay off her loans now (saving her lots of interest by her 2012 graduation), or since we're 15 years from retirement, is it unwise to draw down any savings when our daughter will have 20-30 years to pay back her school loans? As the saying goes, "You can't get a scholarship for retirement."

Yep. No scholarships are available for retirement. I'd let her pay it off. If she only borrowed $3,500, she's pretty lucky. Concentrate on your needs for retirement.

Thnaks everyone. Tweet me if you have future questions at

Just another one weighing in. No, no, no to audio/video chats, for same reasons others have mentioned: I don't hear that well, and I prefer to quickly scan the questions and answers in print. The A/V chats would hold zero interest for me.

Again, my dear friends. My regular chats will stay the same. This would just be an addition. If you can't listen for whatever reason, you'll still be stuck with my regular old rants and great advice.

I was glad to read your response about the value of college just for the sake of college. Different people take different routes in life and careers and some use the college system with employment as the goal, but college and the ability to learn and try different things in an environment like college is priceless. Even someone who attends a four-year school and does not complete a degree still has the potential to have gained from the experience and they may be that much more likely to enter college again later in life and finish that degree or start a new one. Not finishing a degree just means you took a different path, not that you failed. B

I agree, but I would hope people don't get this experience with a ton of debt.

Go if you can, learn, experience but don't overspend or take on more than you can afford. That's my point.

Well, our time is up. Great discussion today. Thanks again for all who joined and to my guest.

I'm be gone the rest of the month -- taking a well needed vac. But I'll be back in July.

Take care.

In This Chat
Michelle Singletary
Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, "The Color of Money," which appears in The Post on Thursday and Sunday. Her award-winning column is also carried in more than 120 newspapers. In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges.
Reyna Gobel
Reyna Gobel is the author of "Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life."
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