Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Money for Beer and Textbooks

When I headed off to university, I was pretty naive about money. It’s safe to say that this is true of most kids starting post-secondary education. There are lots of ways to get yourself into financial trouble at school. This is where Kyle Prevost and Justin Bouchard come in with their book More Money for Beer and Textbooks. These authors offer Canadian students and their parents solid information that I wish I had back when I was in school.

This book isn’t purely about finances. Just because one choice is more expensive than another doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice. The authors discuss cost differences and weigh them against other advantages and disadvantages.

They start with how much school will cost and the relative costs of being on and off campus. They also offer a number of tips on finding one or more of the scholarships and bursaries available, many of which never even have one student apply. You’re not likely to find many other books that even devote a section to partying on a budget.

Other sections include RESPs, student loans, summer jobs and part-time work, cars, credit cards, saving on textbooks, and choosing in-demand careers. Throughout, the writing style is clear and (mostly) fun. No matter how hard you try, the details of RESPs may be important, but they’re not fun.

There’s not much negative to say about this book. They made a joke about unclaimed scholarships that made a reference to taxes on lottery winnings, but Canada doesn’t tax lottery winnings. A few details about tax credits have changed since this book was printed in 2013.

The authors don’t pull any punches in their discussion of banks: “many parents are extremely confused about how any sort of registered plan is used, because bank employees and investment advisers make a lot of money on this confusion.”

Few people truly understand how expensive cars are, but these authors get it. They go over the various costs and conclude “The truth is that owning a car is an absolute money pit.” That said, though, they go on to give practical advice for those who want a car despite the costs.

Despite the fact that both authors have liberal-arts degrees, they are quite blunt about the poor job prospects for new graduates with liberal-arts degrees. “Many scholars and post-secondary institutions believe that the goal of a liberal-arts education is simply to give people a well rounded education after high school. Many students believe that the goal of a liberal-arts education should be to provide them with the skills and credentials to succeed in the job market. There is a fundamental contradiction here.”

A problem with our education system is that “More and more [teachers] swam the liberal-arts streams to get there (go ahead and walk in to an elementary school and see how many teachers there have any math background at all).” Among other problems, this leads to “an overall deficit of enthusiasm and knowledge surrounding skilled labour in our academic system.”

I recommend this book to post-secondary students and their parents. It’s a wealth of knowledge about how schools work. It will answer important questions many students never would have thought to ask.

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