Dave Ramsey: What should college student do with summer income?
Dear Dave: I'm 19 years old, and I'm putting myself through college debt-free. I usually work part time during the semesters, but right now, I'm working full time. I have about $2,000 in mutual funds, and I was wondering if I should add my full-time work income to that or save it all to help pay for school. — Chandler
Dear Chandler: Wow! Great job, man! I appreciate that you're looking toward the future with your investment, but right now, I want you to invest in you. I want you to make sure, first and foremost, that you graduate college debt-free. So, if I'm in your shoes, I'm piling up the cash to pay for school.
You're in a season of your life where things are more hectic than you probably ever dreamed they could be. My advice is to keep that money liquid. Keep it available and on hand, and don't tie it up in mutual funds at the moment. You'll have plenty of time to continue investing once you graduate.
It's best for you to concentrate on finishing school, then landing a job and finding a place to live after college. Even if you end up living in the same place for a while, starting life in the real world takes money, so let's make sure you can make that happen. In other words, Chandler, as long as you do something with your education and that education is in an area that's useable, you are a better investment than mutual funds right now.
Dear Dave: My son is going off to college soon, but he's never had a job. His uncle has offered him a really nice, low mileage used car for $3,000. My husband doesn't want us to give him money for the car, but I think this deal is just too good to pass up. What do you think? — Tonya
Dear Tonya: Unless there's some sort of disability that's prevented your son from working part time during the last few years, I've got to agree with your husband on this. Your son needs a car, but he also needs to get off his butt and work for it. If you get this car for him, you're just teaching him that mommy and uncle will take care of everything. That's not a good lesson for any child to learn, and it's an especially bad thing for a teenager.
When you and your husband first started out in life, I'm guessing you didn't start out rich. Am I right? It's not really the car deal that's the problem here; it's the lesson that will be learned. At his age, it's silly for him not to want to work for a car, and you and your husband need to be up in his face about that. Then, if he chooses not to work for a car, he can walk. He shouldn't be rewarded for showing no desire to go earn things and make stuff happen.
When my son was around that age and wanting a car, he was working his tail off around my office packing boxes and painting stairwells. That's how you learn about the benefits of hard work. If you don't teach your son how to work now, he'll be living with you when he's 30 years old and doing exactly what he's doing now – which is nothing.
This automobile deal is a bad deal because it doesn't teach your son to work for it.