You’ve probably heard the old adage of “cheaters never prosper” a thousand times by now. We all have. So, why, then, is it still so difficult for some of us to understand? Yes, Lori Loughlin, we’re looking at you, along with your husband Mossimo Giannulli.
Depending on the outcome of the trial, which has now been postponed until 2021, the pair may well become the poster children for cheating ≠ prosperity, after the celebrity college cheating scandal that rocked the country and left many of our mouths hanging open in sticker shock at the sheer amount that some parents are willing to spend for their children to cheat… er, prosper.
As if the $500,000 Loughlin is accused of spending weren’t eye-opening enough, she and her husband may end up spending millions of dollars in legal fees for their defense. But, in their defense, who doesn’t want a successful child? Who wouldn’t love to give their son or daughter every advantage they possibly could?
Yes, the methods the pair is accused of using were ill-advised, but I get it. The privilege of a good education can be an incredible source of pride not only for the parent, but also for the child.
Graduating from a great school may secure your child a job interview, or even help them secure the job itself, but keeping that job (and succeeding in their role) has everything to do with one’s character and competence. And I say this as someone who has hired employees who only have high school degrees, and others with Harvard PhDs — character and competence trumps everything.
As I combed through the headlines over the last few months, I couldn’t help but wonder what else a well-to-do couple could have spent $500,000 on that could have resulted in a better impact for their children, and family overall. A few off the top of my head include:
- They could have paid for between 12 and 44 years’ worth of college tuition at current rates, which for the 2019–2020 school year ranged from $41,426 at private colleges to $11,260 for in-state residents at public colleges, according to U.S. News. But even if they wanted to send their daughters to the most expensive school in the country, Columbia University in New York City, at $61,850 per year, they still could have afforded all eight years. The same is true (with money to spare) at USC, which, at current rates, would have set them back $58,195 annually.
- They could have donated somewhere between $850,000 to $1,000,000 to USC (or any other school of their choice) and received a healthy charitable deduction that would have cost them about $500,000 once all was said and done. This money could have gone towards building a building that could have had a positive impact on thousands of students for generations to come. They would have received some nice recognition for their donation, which probably also would have helped elevate their girls’ prospects for admission.
- They could have paid for nearly 14 years of study abroad at current rates, which averages $36,000 per full academic year, according to GoAbroad.com.
- They could have helped their daughters ace the SAT or ACT to ensure they got into their college of choice. At current rates of $150 to $70 per hour for one-on-one test prep tutoring, they could have purchased 3,333 to 7,142 hours of intensive study time for their daughters.
- They could have paid for between 10,000 to 5,000 college applications, which range in price from $50 each to nearly $100, according to Edmit.
- They could have gone on 142 visits to college campuses, which average $3,500 each, according to research from IvyWise and ApplyWise.com.
And of course I could go on forever on the myriad other, more altruistic things someone could do with that money — they could have sponsored scholarships for underprivileged kids whose families can’t afford college, kids who would have appreciated it and used their degrees to elevate themselves from poverty and become the next Steve Jobs. They also could have provided shelter to homeless people and helped them transition back into society, or helped wounded warriors get back on their feet.
And if they simply wanted to offer their girls some comfort and security, they could have opened a trust or retirement account for them that could have set them up for life. Doing this would have involved speaking with a financial planner who could’ve guided them on education funding strategies like 529 plans, something I help my clients with every day.
If the couple had gotten started early enough funding their daughters’ 529 plans, there’s no telling what their initial investment might be worth today, which is just one of the many reasons I recommend to everyone — regardless of your status as an actor or fashion designer — to consult a financial planner so that you can create a roadmap for the years ahead. (And if my advice is resonating with you, I’m taking on new clients in 2020.)
Most others who were party to this college cheating scandal (including actor Felicity Huffman) have openly admitted that they cheated the system and have accepted the consequences. I hope that, no matter the outcome of the Loughlin-Giannulli trial, that their daughters will come to realize that money can’t buy you everything you want in life… along with that tried and true basic rule that you’re never too old to learn — cheaters never prosper.