Turning 25: Am I Ready?

I just turned 25. I raft guide at the US National Whitewater Center and I freelance write, but with another year down, I’m asking myself: where am I?

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Guiding pays, it’s fun and fulfilling, but it certainly isn’t enough to truly prepare for the future. On the other side, as anyone that freelances will tell you, when the money’s good it’s great, but when it’s slow, things dry up pretty quick.

Which is what brought me to where I am today. Twenty-Five and considering what the hell I’m doing to prepare for retirement.

That may sound like a tremendous jump, you know, something that is meant to be far off, in the distance, and virtually forgotten until it’s right around the corner, but seriously; what am I doing.

Considering seasonal employment, I love it, but there’s no financial security in the form of insurance, retirement plans or paid sick days. On the freelance side, even less. So as i stare down what my wife calls the “quarter-life crisis” I’ve decided that 25 is all about the prep.

Not a five year plan, not even ten; where will we be when it’s time to retire? Will we be ready? Sure we tried to save, but did we do everything we could?

That last one is a question that seems to plague me; like in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Andy is confronted with the smack of truth that she isn’t really trying all that hard to be the best at her job as Miranda’s assistant. I feel that I do everything I can, but there are still days off, slow days and in a 12-month span I’m still not making close to an entry-level income. So am I really trying, or like Andy am I traipsing around with the facade of a hard-working 20-something that’s actually reluctant to move totally beyond his comfort zone to realize the fullest potential literally right in front of him?

For now, we’ll say the jury is out, but what I can do is begin preparing, with whatever I have at my disposal.

I’ve looked up IRAs, Solo 401(k)s and suggestions on investing as a freelancer. I’ve come back to writing. I had been on hiatus from working on my book, but I’ve picked up the research again.

There are no guarantees in life, that I’m confident in, but there are steps that each of us can take to at least guide our lives in the right direction. Much like whitewater rafting occasionally you’re going to hit some rocks, maybe even flip your boat, but don’t be afraid to call a couple backstrokes and point your boat in a new direction. We all end up making it downstream, how we do it is up to us.

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Pell Grant Reform?

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I’ll probably make some people mad with my opinion about Pell Grants, but as the program is looking at a well that is quickly running dry, I believe that there is some level of accuracy in my concern.

First, let’s start with the problem I’ve stated before. The government is a business, they make money, they spend money, they do it from behind a veil of concern for you. As education is concerned the government does not deviate, hence the $41.3 billion profit posted for the 2013 fiscal year. According to the Detroit Free Press, that’s the third highest profit level in the world, behind Exxon Mobil and Apple.

Second, Pell Grants, though useful to good students that deserve the opportunity to pursue a higher education, do not need to be given to anyone over 30.

That probably sounds harsh, but when there are 18 year olds that want to pursue an education but can’t because of affordability, then no, I don’t think that a person who chose to work instead should be receiving grant money. Again, I empathize with those people that have personal or family issues that prohibit them from going to school, but having three family members that are well over the age of 30, just now pursuing their education, it upsets me to hear how much grant money they receive for an online education.

When I graduated from Western, I had never been eligible for a grant. Even in the year that my father was out of a job, a year with zero income, which FAFSA is supposed to take into account, my student loan amounts were reduced so that I was forced into taking out parent loans too if I wanted to continue my education.

Yes that was right, parent loans was the government’s answer to my family having zero income.

So if you want Pell Grant Reform, the government needs to do the same thing they should do with Social Security. Allocate money to the people that deserve it, stop handing out pity money, and at some point hold people accountable for the life choices that they make.

The older you are, the more opportunity you’ve had to pursue a career, which could be paying for the education that you suddenly realized you needed. A high school grad shouldn’t be penalized for your decision to work.

As far as money for education is concerned, this isn’t about reform, it’s about common sense.