Note: An ex-student of mine reached out to ask a question many face… Is it best to use savings and investments for graduate school, or to take out loans?
Thanks for your question and for thinking of me. I’d like to think a few of the things we talked about in class were helpful.
I hope post-College life is treating you well. Congrats on having real savings and investments at this point…this is really commendable. Plus, no undergrad debt is also a blessing. A good place to be! About your future decision to use savings vs. take out debt for a nursing degree:
I don’t think there’s a single obvious solution. You could approach this various ways and still be making the ‘right’ choice. Also, I’d probably need more info on your situation to give more confident advice. But, here’s the principles I would keep in mind:
1. Student loans – especially for a professional upgrade in skills – are not “bad debt.” Mostly they have low interest rates, with generous payback terms. If they help you achieve a good salary and life-satisfaction, they are “good debt.” $50K of nursing school debt is a lot, but manageable in the long run. The fact that you’ve got some savings and investments already also suggests that you are able to live below your means, which bodes well for your ability to pay back debt over time after you get training and when you are earning money again.
2. If any of your Betterment, Capital One, or Mairs & Power accounts investments are in retirement accounts – tax advantaged accounts like an IRA – don’t take any money out of there to spend now. You might pay taxes and penalties to extract the money, so its better to leave those for the next 40 years to accumulate compound returns.
3. For invested money not in retirement accounts, its ok to take the money out and spend some on a worthy project like a professional upgrade. BUT…if you’re able to resist taking money out, it’s better for you in the long run. It’s so very difficult to actually accumulate savings and investments – especially when you’re in your twenties – that I think you should try extremely hard to preserve it, invested in the markets. This will mean more debt (and therefore more risk) but it seems justifiable, at least to me.
4. Leaving money invested in stocks/ mutual funds is tax efficient (meaning, every time you sell you’ll owe taxes on the gains.).
5. It’s also slightly riskier (stocks/mutual funds can lose value). But the longer you can leave them alone untouched, the better your prospects for building wealth with that money.
6. I think, psychologically, its easier to save and invest if you already have something saved, rather than zero. So I wouldn’t want you to go to zero on your investments.
Those are my thoughts. Feel free to write back or call if you want to discuss/clarify/argue about any of this.
By the way, how do you like Betterment? I haven’t really explored it but it seems like the targeted solution for your demographic. I’ve been enjoying an app called Acorns which I quite like. I wrote about it here: http://www.bankers-anonymous.com/blog/check-out-this-acorns-thing/
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