A somewhat unique perspective of my career is the vantage point I have into how clients (from all walks of life) handle financial endeavors. I see (and have helped advise on) it all – from new jobs, new family members, college planning, retirement, even (unfortunately) deaths of loved ones. Usually, I simply give some form of advice on maximizing any situation. Other times, I customize a strategy with an individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

Today, however, I want to share a thought that emerged from a meeting a few years ago. In truth, I can’t take credit for this advice. It was a client’s sage wisdom that stuck with me. I’ve shared it with many parents over the past few years and it’s always been well received.

Now, I’d like to share it with all of you.

First a little background:

This client (let’s call him Bob) planned to pay for each of his kid’s college tuition. But having three, it quickly became a costly endeavor. All his kids had good heads on their shoulders and each wanted to go to an expensive university. Fortunately, Bob saved enough through the years in preparation. When he and I met one child had already graduated, one was still in college, and the last was about to start.

The advice:

What Bob told each of them was the same. He said he wouldn’t tell them where to attend or what to have as their major. However, Bob had one stipulation (if he was going to pay). They had to get at least one major in a real world, marketable skill. You see, he didn’t really care if his kids majored in Latin or some other “specialized” major. But, he did want them to have marketable skills, as well. He advised them to take Business, Computer Science, Information Technology, or something else to go along with that Latin major.

Bob wanted to position his kids for success. He wanted them to chase their dreams, but he also wanted to give them the best chance to succeed. No matter what, it gave them something to fall back on in case they couldn’t turn a dead language such as “Latin” into a career.

Why I love this advice:

Unfortunately, it’s common for a client to confess their dismay at their children’s lack of a solid career. Equally as common, I also hear clients say how their child isn’t sure of their collegiate field of study. Trust me, I get it. It’s hard to plan your future at eighteen. But, it’s even harder to have a strong future if you don’t have direction or a solid foundation. Encouraging children to lock in a major with a marketable skill is a good idea. Having a major (in which employers find value) is a fair and honest request from four years of college tuition. It’s much more valuable to tell a potential employer you studied finance, instead of art history, when applying for that marketing job. Applying for jobs can be a daunting (and frightening) task.  So, why not position your children for success?

Years Later:

Recently, I was having dinner with Bob. While catching up, I asked how his kids were doing. Funny enough, they all ended up with jobs that required both majors. Ironically, they are working in their desired fields, but utilize their marketable major as well. Good thing they took mom and dad’s advice!