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PLAN FOR THE LONG RUN

Immediate gratification is quite the seductress. She doesn't get any easier when you get older either: we want that new toy right now. Not in 3 months or years. It is human nature to grab what we want as soon as it is within our grasp (and isn’t that a Darwinian survival instinct judo move, anyway?) Human beings don’t put their dreams and desires on layaway.

We also tend to think about time with respect to the amount of life we have lived. For example, while a 50-year-old man in the midst of a mid-life crisis may really want that shiny new car this second, he knows he is getting a bonus in four months and will also finally be 100% out of debt at that time. At 50, four months doesn't seem like a long time to wait to do the mature, responsible thing, and even though his crisis is a-callin', he can probably gather together enough self-restraint to wait it out.

On the other hand, take Crissy Crossroads - your average 18-year-old. Whole life ahead of her, a world of possibilities at her feet. She is trying to decide between working in her father's florist shop or going to college. She weighs the pros and cons. Florist shop pro: she gets to be around flowers all day. Florist shop con: she won't be able to afford that yacht any time soon. College pro: sorority parties… woot! College con: 4 years? Blech.

The problem is that Crissy is looking at spending nearly another 25% of her life lived so far … in school. Voluntarily. Ugh. Feels like that's what she's done all her life. She's ready to start something new, to embark on the great life adventure (a florist shop – really?). She doesn't want to do more of the same.

Not to mention the prospect of going after more than just her bachelor's. Now we're talking 8 more years… maybe even 12? That's practically how long she's been on this Earth! No way, Goulet!

The instinct to skip all that extra school and tackle the real world head-on is an understandable one. You are probably never filled with as much energy and youthful enthusiasm as when you are 18. But what you need to do is look at those extra years of school, not in terms of how long you have lived thus far, but in terms of how long you are going to live.

We're making it to 80 or 90 now, thanks to the miracles of modern science. Let's say you have $90 and you take it into the mall with you. You see a really cute blouse for $18. But hold on – here's a much cuter one for $22. Are you even going to hesitate? Of course you go with the better blouse, because it is only costing you another 4.4% of your total available budget, which is practically nothing.

Which is how you need to look at your college education – as practically nothing. Okay, that came out wrong. You know what we mean – what seems like an eternity to you now only feels that way because you haven't been around that long, relatively speaking. In the grand scheme of your entire lifetime, it is a very small investment that can pay phenomenal dividends.

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