Carla Seely Column: Educational Planning

September 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

Carla Seely Bermuda October 2018[Written by Carla Seely]

Children are like a good mystery novel – lots of twists and turns, a few unexpected surprises and sometimes not always the ending you were hoping for. There are many books written about the underachieving child who needs to be motivated, or the gifted child who requires constant intellectual stimulation. Rarely do you ever read anything about the “I think I can” child who is similar to the main character in the book The Little Engine That Could, but different because, in reality, they simply can’t.

Most parents have high expectations for their children, and many parents hope their children will be more successful than they are, but the fact is, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. No matter how much support you put in place around them, your children’s DNA and inherent traits can place them on another path entirely.

Growing up in my family, there were four children: my brother [the eldest], then myself, followed by two more sisters. There are 2–3 years between each of us and we all have very different personalities and passions, which my parents always encouraged. The mantra in our family was “100% is not good enough; excel at being exceptional.” Another my father often said was “Failure is a part of life; without failure determination is not born.” During my childhood I remember thinking, “What a bunch of mumbo-jumbo,” but, reflecting back now, perhaps he was onto something.

As children grow, their traits, interests and natural skillset begin to blossom. Our role as adults is not to decide what our children’s working life should look like, but to help identify and encourage their natural skills and abilities, which will develop at different times—some children know early on what they want to be when they grow up and for others it’s not until adolescence that they really develop an interest in a particular area.

My younger sister is a classic example; she knew want she wanted to be from day one. At four years old she had to get glasses, and I remember her saying that she wanted to help people see when she grew up. Now, thirty years later, my sister is an Ophthalmologist [eye doctor]. She is extremely smart – not gifted, but smart – she worked extremely hard to excel at being exceptional, and she dealt with her [very few] failures with sheer determination.

In regard to my sister, my parents realized very early on that she was going to get into medicine, which also meant there would be up to eight years of medical school tuition to plan for. However, there was the additional realization and added pressure that the other three children could potentially be attending university as well.

As such, my parents had to adapt their finances, make major sacrifices, and plan for the worst-case scenario – that all four children would be attending university at the same time. My parents encouraged my sister to apply for scholarships and bursaries and, in the end, she was very fortunate to be the recipient of a full scholarship for medical school.

When I look back on this scenario, three words come to mind:

1. Expectation—my sister expected to get into medicine to help people with their sight.

2. Realization—my parents realized that she was smart enough, skilled enough, and determined enough to succeed and they had to plan financially for it.

3. Adaptation—my parents figured out that they were going to have to adapt and save a lot more for tertiary education than originally planned; sacrificing to save more was going to be key.

On the completely other side of the coin there was me—the class clown who was more interested in making friends than actually applying myself and, worst of all, I really struggled in school. Plus, my interests were all over the place: I loved animals, I loved talking, and I loved numbers.

Well, a career as a veterinarian was a non-starter for me—The Little Engine That Could I was not; no amount of “I think I can” was going to see me through to become a vet! However, recognizing my love of a good argument and my uncanny knack of engaging people’s attention and interest when I spoke, my parents encouraged me to get involved with debating at school. Now, thirty years later, I’m the Vice President of Pensions, Life and Investments at Freisenbruch-Meyer and my days are spent helping people plan for retirement, explaining their options, and providing the statistical numerical analysis on ways to achieve it.

For my parents, the plan for my education was far simpler than my sister’s because I did not have a good scholastic record. They just hoped – and probably prayed – that I would be accepted into university. They planned their finances around paying for an undergraduate degree only, knowing they would not need to earmark additional money for a PhD for me.

At the end of the day, when it comes to planning for education, parents need to be realistic of their children’s abilities—our DNA can build the 5-star Michelin chef, the heavy equipment mechanic, and the actuary in us. As parents, it’s imperative that you save for your child’s education, but it’s more imperative to know what you might be saving for so that you can achieve the education savings results you need and also save enough to enjoy your retirement years.

- Carla Seely is the Vice President of Pensions, Life and Investments at Freisenbruch-Meyer. If you would like any further information, please contact her at cseely@fmgroup.bm or call 441 297 8686.

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