Saturday, July 23, 2011

Marrying Young and Financial Responsibility

On the first day of my college's summer session, I walked into my statistics class a little early and started speaking to the only other student in the room. I asked him what he was majoring in, and he replied that he had a double major--music (cello, I think) and mechanical engineering. An interesting combination, I thought, and certainly more practical than just majoring in music. So I said, "That makes a lot of sense, because it is probably easier to find a job in engineering than in music".

The student suddenly looked offended and horrified. He replied, "No, I don't care about money. I just love engineering."

Okay then. All I can say is that later on he will be thankful that his interests are music and engineering rather than music and classical French literature, because regardless of his motivations now at least he will be employable. I then realized, however, that I had this reaction because I have been in the "real world" for years and suffered the devastating effects of poverty brought on by lack of ability to earn a living.

When I married at eighteen, I was no different from this student. While I knew that I needed to get a job and work, the thought of going to college and/or delaying marriage for the sake of marriage was abhorrent to me. I didn't care about money or want to be rich. I was young and idealistic and felt that if I was willing to work hard then we would be fine. I was definitely wrong about that.

The problem is that both that student and I shared an attitude that is common among older teenagers and young twenty-somethings today. I would venture to say that for most middle or upper-class students, college is viewed as an expected rite-of-passage rather than a means of preparation for the future. Among frum people of the same age, the attitude is that marriage is a rite-of-passage and that finances will work themselves out afterwards.

Both of these attitudes reflect a lack of maturity. The problem within the frum world is that people typically get married while still in that immature state, which often leads to disastrous consequences.


  1. Rencently Christian Lopez caught Derek Jeter's 3000 hit for the Yankees and gave the ball back to Jeter for free. As part of the story it was discovered he had $250,000 in college debt and was working at the Verizon store selling cell phones. Certainly no chance to ever pay off that loan.

    I know a few people who graduated law school within the last 3 years they either have no job or are working as temps doing discovery. Today law school graduates also have like $250,000 in debt.

    Being a college graduate myself I know plenty of other graduates and frankly except for the doctors most people I know get paid $50-$70K while certainly not poverty wages not exactly breaking the bank either.

    I agree that marrying at 18 and expecting to have kids ASAP while the wife works and the husband learns in kollel is a terrible thing and must be stopped, college is not a guranteed road to riches either.

    I was ideaslic when I went to college and assumed I would be breaking the bank when I graduated. That never happend. Luckily I went to a cheap university and have no debt and I am happy I went. It definatly is a source of pride that I have a degree, It probobaly did add slightly to my income, but had I had serious debt it would have been a disaster

  2. A college education is a ticket to the middle class, no more, no less. It is no instant riches either. While the college graduate at the Verizon Store isn't making money now, if he sticks with retail, the college degree will be the difference between getting stuck at Assistant Manager or moving up to Manager/Regional Manager, and getting an MBA along the way will determine if he caps there or moves up to corporate.

    Instant riches, hardly, most careers involving "paying your dues" first.

    The problem is, the difference between an elite college degree and a normal state school doesn't play a huge role early in the career when the student debt matters.

    Spending $200,000-$250,000 on an undergraduate education? Very few people should be willing to finance that at 5% interest. The killer is that the poor get a free ride (mostly grants) and will leave with $30k-$40k in debt, the rich can save up over time to pay for it, and the middle class reaching for that ring get clobbered.

    In fairness, while upper middle class children may chafe as thinking that they are going into engineering "for the money," it's not hard to know what careers keep you in the life style that you've grown accustomed to and which ones put you in the poor house. All depends what values were taught in their family growing up.

  3. Non-Jewish marriages are not usually disastrous?

  4. While most of my rebbeim told me that money is gashmius and wrong, my rosh yeshiva (who actually worked before he went into chinuch) had a different view. He said that being poor wasn't a problem by itself, but it makes every other problem a hundred times worse.

  5. ^Like and so true.

    As to your point that frum people view marriage as a rite of passage and the financials will work themselves out, that is completely dependent on where on the massive Jewish spectrum you're found/place yourself. The more left you go, the more untrue that statement is. It's pretty much only the right-wing (not all of them, but a large percentage) that actually believes that and it's not them being immature, it's how they're raised.

  6. It's quite sad that in many RW schools nowadays, Daf Yomi isn't considered good enough. They brainwash the girls into demanding full time learners. How will a community support itself in generations to come without workers? It just can't be done.