It's not just for students anymore....

Follow me while I follow my husband to the Midwest and try to navigate the "Partner" world at one of US News and World Report's Top 5 MBA Programs in the country.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“Live like a CEO when you’re a student…..” Part II

When you were little, did you ever ask your parents, “How much money do you make?” only to have them tell you that isn’t a polite question? And thus began our awkward relationship with money. We try to make it, save it, spend it, and donate it, but we rarely are allowed to talk about it in any specific terms. This is especially odd in the business school environment. They are all taking lots of finance classes and most of the students are here to learn how to make more money than they made before (or at least get the fancy degree to aid in this “get more money” scheme). How much did they make before? Who the heck knows! We’re not allowed to talk about it!

This is the main reason why not having loans is awkward for me and Cam. For some reason, while it is definitely a faux pas to discuss money, it is completely okay to talk about borrowed money. People might not discuss their loan amounts, but they freely discuss what a struggle it’s going to be to pay back their loans or ask questions of a large group about the ins and outs of the loan process. It’s assumed that everyone has loans; I think it’s actually a way that most of the new students and partners bond when they first arrive here: “Man, the economy better pick up so that we can pay these crazy loans back!” or “We’re just poor students living on loans!”

But, what about the few of us who aren’t part of that group? If someone asks me if the loans just come into our bank account every month, what should I say? I don’t know? Honestly, I don’t know, so that wouldn’t be a lie…or do I just come out and say that we don’t have loans, so I’m not the best person to ask? The problem is, once word is out that we have no loans, we become the dreaded “other.” We aren’t like everyone else; we don’t have to worry about money. The “Oooh, you don’t have loans? You’re so lucky….” comments start, and the guessing begins. Our families are probably loaded! I secretly won the lottery 2 years ago! We’re actually 45 years old and have been saving for 20 years!

The boring truth? Cam saved a LOT while he worked, we didn’t have a car in Boston, and we lived below our means for 5 years. Cam also received a bit of inheritance when his grandmother died, and that went straight to the business school fund. Booooring. And what this really means is that we have to watch our money and spending at least as much as everyone else does. Besides what I make at my job, we don’t have money coming in every quarter; when our savings runs out, it’s gone.

Am I whining? Poor us!! We’re the misfits who don’t have to pay back thousands of dollars after school is over! Boo-hoo!!! No, seriously, we are very grateful that we won’t be in debt after this, and I know how fortunate we are. None of it would bother me if I felt like we were allowed to say it and not sound like we’re bragging. We get it – most people were not able to save as much as we were, and without loans, they wouldn’t be here. We were lucky and were able to save, but I’m still not sure if I am ready to admit that to the general Booth population. Maybe next time someone asks me about loans, I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear. “Phones? Yeah, we still have lame phones – no IPhones for us!!”:)


  1. I am a second year student at Booth with no loans. Happy and so lucky to be in this situation and when asked a question about loans, I always say, "Oh, I don't know," or, "I'm sorry, I really would rather not talk about that!" Personal finance is personal. :)

    I am also not enjoying lavish nights out every week and extensive travels like many of my classmates because I am looking forward to buying a house and supporting my family when I graduate. The glamorous MBA lifestyle that my classmates feel entitled to came as a complete shock when I entered the program! I think a lot of the students here are very naive, but maybe they just had really amazing and high-paying jobs pre-B-school?

  2. As any great Booth student would know, consumption in each period of life is constrained by lifetime wealth, not current period income - Friedman. Apparently some Boothies practice this behavior more than others.

    On a second note, I know several people who haven't taken out loans and I have never ostracized them (perhaps I did solicit another drink from them based on grounds that mine would cost me 8% more!).

  3. I personally did not have loans for graduate school, and it was always an awkward topic for me. I always told the truth, but I never liked how I felt when people seemed to express their annoyance at that fact I didn't have any.

    Also, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts. We're leaving our friends, family, and home on the West Coast so my husband can attend business school at Kellogg. It's nice to know that there are others who are going through something similar. :)

  4. It's so funny how different it is out here. We're at Wharton and recently at a party I mentioned student loans and the women around me were like "Your husband brought you out here without having enough fellowship money to pay for his education? (Implied: That was irresponsible)" Oh and my family was the WORST! We got fellowship offers from Yale, Cornell and Booth but opted instead to come here and pay for everything in loans. Needless to say they were not fans of this plan given that I'm a public school teacher.