Posted by: Cathy | July 23, 2014

Coach Nibble: Back to School

Coach Blog 010114 This month’s coach nibble comes from Jackie:

“I’m in my mid-50s. The company I work for has opportunities for promotions if you have a degree. My employer will not pay the costs of my tuition, books, or fees to go back to school. Should I go back to school and rack up student loan debt at this point? I can make a decent living doing what I’m doing now, and the promotion isn’t necessarily a job that I would love. Since I’m older, I don’t know if it’s better to put my money towards my retirement or to spend it on student loan debt?”

I think you’ve already answered your question by saying it “isn’t necessarily a job that I would love.” Going back to school is a big commitment of time and energy, as well as money. If you wouldn’t enjoy going back to school and it would create debt, I think those are reasons not to do it. The changes to your quality of life might not be worth it.

You could also work out some financial scenarios to help you make your decision. Estimate your salary with the promotion and compare that against the cost of a degree. It might not make financial sense unless the promotion is a considerable boost up to offset the cost of school and give you something extra on top of that. Compare that extra on top to what you could have put into your retirement fund rather than tuition (with compound interest, a smaller amount deposited regularly over time might earn you more interest than a larger amount deposited over a shorter period).

You said that you’re making a decent living now, but you didn’t say whether you love your current job. If you like what you’re doing, why do you feel a need to change? If you don’t like what you’re doing, maybe you could take some classes you would enjoy and turn that into some part-time income, which you could continue into retirement; for instance, art classes, massage therapy certification, or yoga teacher training. You could start planning now for a second career to make your retirement years more fulfilling as well as profitable!

Overall, I encourage you to do whatever will improve your quality of life. Take a moment to daydream each potential scenario. Imagine each step and notice how you feel about it. Journal a few pages about each scenario, then compare your impressions. Notice which appeals to you most and give yourself permission to follow your instincts.

Only you know which is the right path for you. Sometimes the challenge of going back to school is worth it and sometimes it isn’t. If getting a degree is an item on your “bucket list”, for example, it might still be worth it even if it doesn’t make sense for other reasons. Be true to yourself and make your decision from a place of self-awareness and self-acceptance.


I would love to hear if this coach nibble helped you! Please leave a comment, or send me an email if you’d prefer to keep it private (exploringyourdepths

If you liked working through this coach nibble and would be interested in one-on-one coaching with me, check out my coaching information page and F.A.Q. and email me if you have any questions!


I’m accepting submissions for next month’s coach nibble. If you would like to give me a topic you’re dealing with, please email it to me! (exploringyourdepths I’d love my examples to directly help people. You can give me a code-name or I can just say the topic is from Anonymous for your privacy.

Everyone who suggests a coach nibble topic each month will be put in a drawing for a free 15-minute coaching session! (One entry per person per month.) You would be amazed at what we can uncover in 15 minutes, so don’t poo-poo it. When I select which topic to post that month, I’ll see if there are any common themes; or if there aren’t, I’ll select one at random, and the free session drawing will come from those who were not answered in the blog that month. (So you either get your topic posted in the blog or you get entered to win a free 15-minute session.)

If I get lots of coach nibble topics each month, I will consider doing them more often.


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