By Nicholas W. Stuller
Every family goes through its own pressure and process to determine how to pay for college. This unique story sheds light into how both financial and societal pressure can affect this important decision.
Amrinder Babbra is the co-founder of the nonprofit, nonpartisan International Behavioral Research Institute based in Chicago, Illinois. He received his master’s degree in behavior analysis and therapy, and is currently pursuing a PhD in the same course of study at the Rehabilitation Institute at Southern Illinois University.
In 1990, he was born in a small village near Hoshiarpur, India. Amrinder’s family came to the U.S when he was two. His mother was the primary breadwinner, as his father had a chronic condition that prevented him from working. Despite her difficulty with English, Amrinder’s mother quickly exhibited her intellect in many ways, one of which was finances. In this regard, she was an excellent role model for Amrinder and his sister. When he was twelve, she taught them about managing a checkbook, internet banking, and credit cards.
She purchased life insurance for her son and daughter when they were fifteen and sixteen, a highly unusual but very savvy move. She purchased a home and navigated the financial crisis of 2008 successfully and—unlike many others—came out unscathed presumably because, among other things, she understood the potential consequences of her mortgage agreement. One of the drivers for Amrinder to learn serious financial responsibility was the unusual and, one would assume, emotionally stressful situation of his father being unable to work. He had to learn finances out of necessity; it was not by choice.
By the time he got to college, he was much more adept at managing his personal finances than most of his peers. He knew the dangers of credit card debt and knew how to make the most of better offers and balance transfer tactics. In school, his interest in finance was fueled by interactions with his professors, and also by his interest in the application of behavior analysis to personal finance. Despite all the excellent financial training he received from his mother and from his own personal interest, he had a financial blind spot when it came to college tuition. He was aware of advisors that catered to the need of college funding. However, due to a combination of mistrust and the lack of availability at the time, he did not hire one.
He believes the calculus of college costs versus anticipated earnings was not considered, partly due to cultural pressure and stigmas in the Indian culture. Going to a four-year university is something that was assumed and expected in his community. In hindsight, he still questions the debt and school decisions that stem from these pervasive social stigmas. Due to these experiences, he now believes others should weigh more seriously the alternatives of free local schools, or an associate degree to start with the possibility transferring to a four-year school.
Thankfully, Amrinder has been able to refinance his school debt through the Common Bond organization for a lower monthly expense. In retrospect, had he been able to better anticipate these setbacks, he would have stepped out of his comfort zone and sought out a financial advisor that catered to college funding to give a different perspective and weigh the options. Amrinder has a deep, passionate interest in human behavior, because at the crux of poor financial decisions is individual behavior, which is why he is sharing his personal experience. During our conversation, he was surprised to learn that there were non-profit organizations that gave financial advice for free to those in need. This was fascinating due to his incredibly thorough research into personal finance. He shared his personal story in the hopes of helping others cope with, weigh the costs and benefits of, and ultimately, make an educated and informed decision on education. Amrinder hopes that by sharing his personal experience he can help an entirely different set of people.
This story first appeared in my book THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOUR WALLET FREE: Secrets to Finding the Perfect Financial Advisor, published in 2018 by Post Hill Press.
Nicholas W. Stuller is the Founder and CEO of MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors using personalized data, proprietary algorithms, and deep industry experience.