What's your priority?

Joel has a pretty sweet deal while in college, but he still wants to move out and be on his own. Dave helps him evaluate his options and how each interacts with the others.

QUESTION: Joel works weekends while attending college full time. His parents have been generous enough to pay for most of his school expenses and let him live at home while he completes his degree, but Joel is trying to figure out how to move out and keep working while continuing his studies and attending career-related events. He’s in an area where the cost of living is high, and Dave says he may have some hard decisions ahead.

ANSWER: I think out of three things — school, work and where you live — you need to decide which is your number one priority. If it were me, school would come first.

In order to go to school debt-free, you’re going to have to work. Getting out of school on time and attending some of the events that will take you toward your career will preempt work. You’ll have to work enough to pay for things, but if you can finish school and hit your academic and graduation goals while staying at home a little bit longer, that’s a pretty good deal. It’s a nice thing your parents are offering.

I want you to be out on your own as soon as you can. But if you do that right now, you’re going to have extra bills and have to work even more. That’s going to disturb your whole school process. Guess what your number one priority was in that scenario? Moving out! If it’s the tail that’s wagging the dog, it has become the number one priority. If it’s disrupting work, and thereby disrupting your academics, then you’ve put your priorities in the wrong thing.

In my mind, the number one priority should be finishing school on time, and then attending as many connected events as possible. Meanwhile, you’re working so much you’re able to continue doing all of it debt-free. If that means you’re staying at home a little bit longer to pull it off — do it!