74. Debbie Peterson | Self Employed Parents and Student Loans
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Shamil Rodriguez

 

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About This Episode

D

ebbie Peterson joins the Student Loan Podcast to share her story of being a parent trying to navigate FAFSA and taking out student loans for her son while being self employed.

Being self employed and helping pay for your kids to go to school isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. Luckily, Debbie shares her experience of how she was able to get it done and she also provides recommendations for how the system can improve for self employed parents looking to help their children with paying for school.

 

THIS EPISODE COVERS:

  • how self-employment can hurt your chances of obtaining financial aid;
  • the perspective of a parent looking to help their children pay for school;
  • the need for parents to speak up and share their experiences to help shape change in the financial aid process; and
  • much, much, more…

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Debbie Peterson (00:00): Because I had investment properties in real estate, um, which I couldn't sell because those are my retirement. That's what I've got. Mm-hmm I don't have big retirement funds. You're not asked to dig into those to send your kid to college mm-hmm . But I was being asked to dig into my retirement and sell real estate or not get financing for my son.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:22): Welcome to the student loan podcast.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:24): Here. You'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses

Daphné Vanessa (00:31): And inspiring stories about paying off student loans, where your host, Daphne, Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez (00:37): And Shamil Rodriguez,

Daphné Vanessa (00:40): Please rate, review and subscribe to the student loan podcast by visiting the student loan podcast on apple podcast or wherever you find your podcasts.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:51): This is not professional advice. And we speak from our own personal views and opinions.

Daphné Vanessa (00:57): The student loan podcast is brought to you by StartNoo, where you can serve your community and get rewarded with tuition and student loan payments to check out if StartNoo is on your campus, visit StartNoo.com.

Shamil Rodriguez (01:11): Welcome everyone to another episode of the student loan podcast. Today, we have a very interesting guest. Debbie Peterson is joining us today and she's gonna be bringing a twist into the normal or the not so normal topics that we've covered so far, but one that is very important for every student that has a parent that goes to school. Debbie, we're gonna turn it over to you and, and take it from there.

Debbie Peterson (01:34): Well, thank you Shail I really appreciate you too. Being open enough to let, um, let an oldie moldy in. And, um, I, I feel honored to be here. Thanks so much. And, um, absolutely. And also, I, I, I have to say, first of all, I am so thrilled to see so many, um, graduates and young people getting really involved because it that's what is gonna make the difference for the future. It's gonna be you all it's you, it's you. And so thank you for that. And I am, um, my most recent gig actually is as an author and you can see my, the book behind me here, but yep. Um, I was the mayor of a small town in California, and while I was the mayor there, um, my son went off to university. So I'll talk a little bit more about being a single parent in that situation.

Debbie Peterson (02:25): I was also, and am still a real estate broker. And as a broker, you learn how to invest in real estate and many, many times that becomes your retirement. In fact, for most people who own a home, that's where their main funding is for their retirement, or at least they can buy it outright and have somewhere to stay. So, and I know, you know, a lot of young people are starting to think about those things these days, even with the student loan, you have to start thinking about the future. So, uh, before that I was, um, I lived in great Britain for 20 years and I had started a company that, yeah, that was extremely successful. And, um, I ended up being the young business woman of Scotland and I was made an honorary Scottish master baker and, um, had a blast employed about a hundred people and had offices in London and, and in Scotland. And, um, and then before that we get, we get to college and I, I went one year to California state university in Fresno, California. And then I moved up to the university of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, and did a degree in communications and main subject was public relations.

Shamil Rodriguez (03:42): Mm oh, wow. That's interesting. No, I, so you said you went from Cal state in Fresno to I Idaho. How did that happen by the way? That just seems like a, a pretty big difference in terms of location

Debbie Peterson (03:55): It is, it is. And my parents always had stories about going to college in a small town in Kansas and how cool it was to be in a small town environment and to be at college there. And I really wanted that experience. It's not actually available in California even now. I still can't think of anywhere. So I had looked at a couple of places that I thought might be similar. It wasn't there. And then I had a friend who was up at the university of Idaho and I went up to visit and I, I just, it was perfect. It was perfect. It really was truly a small town. And, um, and, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I went up there and I was there for three years. It was just a marvelous experience.

Shamil Rodriguez (04:38): Well, that's wonderful. And so when you went from there to communications, or before we get to that point, uh, did you take out student loans while you were in school? Were you working while you were there? What was your, uh, how did you approach, uh, financing school at that point?

Debbie Peterson (04:52): Well, it's interesting now that I'm a real estate broker, I realize even more how important this was. And, um, I realize also how important it is in terms of generational income and generational, um, ability to, to get folks to college. I I'm gonna start way back because my grandparents who were born in about 1900, all went to college, they were from small farm towns in Kansas, and they bragged, they would brag about it, but what they, there were several in the family and, uh, you know, they ended up, they had the world war I, world war II, the Spanish flu. They had some bigger challenges then even than we do now, mm-hmm . And they, um, what would happen is one would get through college and then they would help finance the next group or the next kid, their, their sibling to get through college.

Debbie Peterson (05:40): And, and that's how they did it. Um, they basically helped each other wow. Once they got through. Yeah. And, um, and so there was already in my family, a tradition that everybody in our family goes to college, even if we're from a farm town in Kansas. And, um, so, so I, yeah, I, it never occurred to me that I would do anything other than go to college. And, um, my parents, uh, divorced when I was about 16 and they sold our house and they had at that time, uh, $20,000 profit. And so my brother and I, who were just about two years apart, each got $10,000, $2,500 a year to go to college. And that was it. You've got your 2,500, if you can do it with 2,500. Great. If you can't, you're gonna have to figure it out for yourselves. And, um, we both managed to, in fact, we both also managed to take a year off and travel in Europe and, and then work full time for the next year in college. So, uh, we didn't travel for a whole year in Europe during that time, but we did manage to do that too. So mm-hmm, really, uh, but we did work. We always worked. And, um, that was just also a given we would work while we were in college. Oh,

Shamil Rodriguez (06:51): Okay. That, that's interesting that, that perspective, and I love to hear that your family has a tradition of supporting each other through school, uh, so that you guys can continue to push forward. Um, what was it like to make that decision to say, Hey, we're gonna study abroad and then come back to school. I feel like that's, you know, um, something you hear often, but at the same time, I, so as somebody going through that experience, what was that like?

Debbie Peterson (07:16): Well, I'm, I'm gonna say when I did it, uh, and we didn't study abroad, but I'll tell you, I learned more from going abroad. And every time I did, I came back with so much more enthusiasm for my studies. All of a sudden French made sense. It wasn't boring. All of a sudden a history made sense. I knew what they meant when they talked about witness and Churchill and Britain and all, you know, all of those things you hear about the towns that had been bombed in Europe and D-Day and all those things you see in the movies. All of a sudden they were real. And I, I developed a, a new sense of interest in art and music, um, because I had traveled in Europe. And so I would say that I would say over my lifetime, that education is as important to me as my college education.

Debbie Peterson (08:03): At the time my parents, my parents were okay with it. Uh, they taught my brother and I to be quite independent, make our own decisions and then live with the consequences and, um, make our decisions aware of the consequences. And so we did, and, um, my grandparents were worried because they were afraid if we left. If I left after my junior year in college, I would never go back. They, they were, that was a huge fear for them. And absolutely that was definitely more of fear. Yeah. In those days it was more of a fear. And, uh, now these days, what's interesting is that because we had such a hard time, uh, in the real estate business in around 2008, 2007, well, 2007 to about 2010, um, finance was just really difficult for my son and his dad and me. And, um, so my son came at it with, I think, uh, more of a depression, you know, 1930s depression type outlook that you hear from people from that era in that he wanted to work really hard, get a scholarship, get through college, pay off his loans and had that fear of poverty that mm-hmm , I didn't have as a kid.

Debbie Peterson (09:14): I didn't grow up with that, but he did because of, of circumstances. And, um, so I Al we, his dad and I always wanted him to travel. We always wanted him to go to Europe and he wanted more to pay off his student loans. So he went straight to work and now we feel kind of, we feel kind of bad cuz he didn't have that experience. And it meant so much to us, but he was born in Scotland and his father's in new Zealander. So he's actually had that experience in a certain sense that different cultural experience. Um, and I, I think that that different cultural experience, whether you're going to a different culture in the United States, you know, from Fresno to Idaho or Fresno to Mississippi or wherever it

Shamil Rodriguez (10:01): Is sure. Different culture,

Debbie Peterson (10:02): It really is sometimes very culturally different. That's a really healthy experience to have. And, and he had a lot of those growing up because his parents had lived abroad. And um, so it, it was, it's interesting how different it is generationally

Shamil Rodriguez (10:21): Mm-hmm no, and I think that's, I'm glad that you, you drew that comparison between how you went through school and then depending on how, or when your son graduated really dictated his perspective on what he thought the priority was coming at the school, uh, because you said, oh eight, right? Oh 8 0 9. That was the go.

Debbie Peterson (10:43): Well actually, uh, interesting. He went to, he graduated from high school in 2014 and then graduated from college in 2018. And so, um, but it was that experience that 2007 to 2008 experience of, of, you know, sometimes, sometimes not knowing if we would have food. Um, mm-hmm, what it wasn't at regular occurrence, but there were times in the month when I did not have any money left and, and none coming from anywhere for, for a while. And so, um, he had that experience as he was a child and that influenced how he operated as a college student.

Shamil Rodriguez (11:26): Mm-hmm absolutely. So when, when you were going through that perspective of getting him prepared for college and having your background of, you know, I'm gonna, my family has done it for generations of, of helping each other go through the school. What was your game plan for your son?

Debbie Peterson (11:44): When I started, uh, when I returned to the United States from great Britain, I was recruited, uh, to work for a real estate company. And I had done a lot of management consulting for small businesses because I'd had a successful small business. And I asked the brokers who interviewed me, um, how do you make the most money, the fastest in the least amount of time? and that's always my question. I'm a business and, um, and, and I, and I don't sacrifice, uh, quality for that, but that's still my, you know, production line orientation mm-hmm . And uh, they said to me, you invest in real estate, you buy one property every year. And then when it's time for your kids to go off to college, you sell one every year and you pay for them to go to college. And, um, that's actually what my parents did.

Debbie Peterson (12:37): And so that made sense to me. And I did do that. Mm-hmm and that's where the problems came in, interestingly enough, um, really because my son had no trouble, uh, qualifying, we definitely qualified for most of the assistance that was available, except that I was self-employed and I had invested in real estate and because, but it was of course, a very difficult time in real estate because I had investment properties in real estate, um, which I couldn't sell because those are my retirement. That's what I've got. I don't have big retirement funds like other parents do that are exempt from, you know, that, that you can't, you're not asked to dig into those to send your kid to college. Um, mm-hmm but I was being asked to dig into my retirement and sell real estate or not get financing for my son. And, and that was a huge issue.

Debbie Peterson (13:31): And there are a lot of real estate brokers out there, or just everyday people who own multiple properties and that's what they've invested in. And that's in fact, even at the time, for me, it was my income, the rent I was collecting is how I put food on the table. It's how I paid for my own mortgage. And, um, it's how I paid for my son to rent a property, to get through college. So, um, and that's why I really wanted to come on and talk as a parent mm-hmm because it's, it's a huge gap in there. And the reason it troubled me so much, my son's school was a wonderful, wonderful high school. And, um, it, but I would, there's a large, a large percentage of the kids in that school had English as a second language. And even with that, it, it was in the top 2% of schools in the United States.

Debbie Peterson (14:21): Um, but it's also a school that a lot of kids got scholarships to fabulous colleges like Cal Berkeley. Um, and that's where my son ended up being able to go. And so, uh, what, what troubled me most of all is here was I a college graduate? Who'd had a lot of experience of filling out all kinds of forms and contracts in my life as a real estate broker, especially taxes and all, all sorts of things. And, and I looked at the expenses of all the tests you have to take to get into any college and, um, the cost of the AP classes and the, the transportation to get to those classes on weekends for, for exams. And, and then the whole process of applying the cost of applying to colleges. And, but more than that, the fact that if you're self-employed, um, you fall through the gaps a lot of times, and it, it really bothered me because I realized that if it was that hard for me, how possibly could someone whose parents didn't speak English, how could they do that?

Debbie Peterson (15:23): And they answer to that is they couldn't do it. They couldn't do it, not where we are. And so I think there are a lot of kids in my area anyway, who should have been able to get into really good colleges and couldn't um, and if we're gonna talk about systemic racism or, um, discrimination against people of, of different nationalities, boy, did we have it there? We've really got it there. And it, and I, that's why I wanted to come talk because I wanted to shed a light on that and, um, make it known so that maybe it could be addressed, cuz I had no idea where do I go? Even as the mayor of my town, no idea. What do you do? Who do you talk to about this kind of thing? Cuz it's just simply not right.

Shamil Rodriguez (16:08): Yeah. And I think, uh, there's a lot to unpack there cause I think you're, you're spot on to something that if you don't have that experience or that knowhow how the system works today, you can get lost in the sauce. Right. Mm-hmm you can really just be lost. And, but before we get to that point, cuz I wanna make sure that we're getting there. What about the idea of being self-employed versus not being self-employed that's something that we've never covered here on the suit loan podcast, I think, would you mind just sharing a bit more light on what that experience is like so that, uh, other, you know, parents or that are listening can have a better understanding of, of some of those options that might be there that they're not aware of?

Debbie Peterson (16:47): Sure. And let me ask a question. Are you, are you self-employed?

Shamil Rodriguez (16:53): Uh, yes and no.

Debbie Peterson (16:55): okay. And that, that often works really well. The yes and no works really well. Um, because, uh, anybody before they start a business's very, it's a very good idea to put your toe in the water and make sure that what you're working on actually is something that people wanna spend money on. Number one, and number two, that, um, that you're making enough out of it that you could walk away from your business. And, um, absolutely. So I love being self-employed um, but I'm really a very independent person and it, it does depend in sometimes depends on what you're doing. Um, different personality styles can be obviously successfully self-employed um, mm-hmm but in order to be self-employed you have to be able to juggle, you have to be able to do a whole lot of things at once, which kids do nowadays probably better than ever because you're on a phone and you're talking to your friends and you're, you know, texting and talking, I can't text and talk at the same time, but I was younger.

Debbie Peterson (17:52): I might have been able to. But, um, but you do have to be able to juggle, you have to be able to juggle your finances. You have to be able to juggle the setup, the marketing, the employees, the distribution, all of those things that are involved in a, in a business. And um, so in fact, you know, these kids of parents who owned their own businesses, whether it was a gardening business or, you know, a janitorial business, whatever it was, these kids have already had role models of people who can solve problems. And one of the things about owning your own business. And I think probably this is just my own personal guesstimate, probably only 10% of the people, uh, in the world have this gift and or this skill set, the skillset is being able to see a problem, being able to solve the problem and uh, and well being able to see it and then being able to communicate it and then being able to solve it.

Debbie Peterson (18:44): Um, they're really different skills that perception and then the communication and then the actual act action that it takes to solve it. Um, and, and if you're self-employed, you need to have those abilities, unless you have partners who have mm-hmm , uh, skill sets that are complimentary. Um, one other thing I would always encourage people to do, and this is a different kind of, it's a different kind of diversity, but it's the reality of where, of who we are and where we live. I always encourage people whenever they have a board. If they're going to start a company, especially if they're young, they should have a board, they should have advisors who've been there and done it. Um, and when you have that board choose a diverse board and it goes without saying, of course, you're gonna have ethnic diversity, you're gonna have gender diversity.

Debbie Peterson (19:34): Um, you may have nationality diversity. Yes, no, no question you want to do that. You'll have age diversity, but the most important diversity of all, regardless of any of those other things is the diversity of a different opinion. You need differing opinions. And that's how now I'm getting onto my, uh, soapbox as far as a local ologist concerned. But, but that's how the United States was set up. That's how any democracy is set up. It's set up so that we can have civil discourse, but spirited discourse mm-hmm and that we can disagree. And then that we can come to solutions. And then that we can implement in the best interest of the majority of the people while taking into account the concerns of the minority, which we will know because we've had spirited discourse about it. And so you want a board like that and it doesn't have to be a democracy.

Debbie Peterson (20:31): It's, you know, business is different. You own it. You're the boss, you say what goes? And the buck stops with you and it's your money and your reputation on the line. So it doesn't have to be a democracy, but it does, but you do need diversity of opinion, more than anything else and diversity of experience. Um, so those are kind of, that's my input for folks who would be interested in starting their own businesses. As far as the differences. If you have your own business, you call the shots. You know, you say, when you're doing what you're doing now, your customers will determine a lot of that and they have to be number one to a degree, of course you need to have a life, um sure. But you can, you get to create that. And the other side of it, when I was in college, I thought computers and business were the most boring thing in the whole world. And I wouldn't have gone to for a computer class or an accounting class, nothing would've ever made me do that. And then once I started my own businesses, I thought they were the most fascinating things in the world.

Shamil Rodriguez (21:29): yeah,

Debbie Peterson (21:30): Because they were the tools that I needed to run my business. And, um, so I would really encourage people to understand how profit and loss statements work, how balance sheets work, and you take a, take a small business, course learn all those things. And it'll put you light years ahead of where you would be otherwise,

Shamil Rodriguez (21:49): Uh, the idea of, of your perspective as you were considering helping your son with his schooling. Right? And so when you were now juggling, like you said, if I sell this home, that's the income for my retirement and how we're gonna make things work. Uh, so what did you end up deciding to do

Debbie Peterson (22:08): One of the things that really helped us because as we all know, when you're in college, especially if you're in a really expensive area, like the bay area of California, um, it's not just about your tuition. All the rest of it costs so much money. So even the least expensive apartment that we could get shared with another student was still a thousand dollars a month and food, you know, you have to eat and

Debbie Peterson (22:33): So food was expensive. And, um, and so one of the things that happened just before my son went off to college, my mom died. And one of the very last things she said when she knew that she was gonna be going soon was now I know Johnny has enough money for college and she was right and he would've made it anyway. We would've made it. But, um, mm-hmm , it was that priority for her and the family that she was gonna be able to leave enough that she could be sure that this kid was gonna get through college. And that that's a trait that had carried through from her parents. And, um, and so we, we always knew that Johnny would get scholarships. We weren't really worried about that. And he did mm-hmm um, good. But he, he really couldn't get too many of the Fs, uh, income support.

Debbie Peterson (23:23): Um, he worked and, uh, while he was all through college and all through high school, he was a musician. So he hearing money playing sometimes as a high school student from the time he was in junior high, uh, he hearing money playing gigs with, uh, he was a Dixie, he was a brass brass player. So he did a lot of Dixie band jazz type of stuff. Mm-hmm , uh, Dixie land, jazz things, and always got money for it. So that was nice. Um, and then when he was in college, he, he did other, he did jobs that the college had for him, but, um, the big issue wasn't so much the tuition we could, we could get that, but it was the fact of how do we pay for the other things. And, uh, really student loans was the only way. So we ended up with, I believe he had $27,000 worth.

Debbie Peterson (24:09): And I had about, uh, $7,000 worth that I was required to take out as a parent mm-hmm . And I didn't, I don't believe I ended up selling any of my real estate. I was determined to hang onto it. Mm-hmm , that's the advice I usually get give to people, hang onto it, hang onto it. It's like the advice you get when you invest in the stock market, you usually hang onto it because over time it will really increase in value. And so for me, it was no matter what I have to hang onto this real estate. And I was glad I did because I had a car accident in 2017. I couldn't work for a year. So I had to have some way to pay to survive during that year being self-employed. So there's, there's a downside of self-employment no one gives you maternity pay. No one gives you retirement and no one gives you sick pay and you have to be sure that you can cover. And, and that's what my, my, uh, real estate properties were. So I sold a couple of those and survived.

Shamil Rodriguez (25:10): You, you demonstrate one family, right? And the support system of you guys working together to, to make it happen, where I allow her a lot of we, in terms of you trying to figure out how you were gonna help your son, uh, get through school, but then the resiliency and the forward planning needed to be like, Hey, look, I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I'm gonna hold onto these properties. And then you had an accident, right? That like, that's actually the scenario that people sometimes don't plan for. Right. They just an, Hey, this is where I'm at today. I'm healthy. Everything's going well. So project that out for the next 30 years hit retirement and I'm good to go. And it's like, oh, actually life doesn't work out that way. Um, never. So yeah, no. So thank you for sharing that.

Shamil Rodriguez (25:50): I think it's important for, for anyone listening to, to hear that, because especially when you're trying to figure out how to pay back your student loans or whether or not you should take them out. A lot of times there is the negative stigma of, oh, student loans are bad, but in that instance, it would allow for you to have some wiggle room financially so that your son could still go to school and you could still have the flexibility to have capital if needed in an emergency, the emergency occurred and you were able to, to keep yourself afloat. So, uh, seriously, good job. Yes,

Debbie Peterson (26:21): Mm-hmm yeah. Thank you. And I think, um, my, my story about H how, how student loans, um, or even any kind of student financing is more difficult when you're self-employed. And I think that gap should be addressed because I, I appealed it a couple of times with no success at all. In fact, my appeals really, in fact, the appeals were ignored, no response whatsoever. Um, and so, um, but I'm not really doing that by way of, of, of moaning about it. I'm not saying, oh, poor, poor pitiful me. It's not a poor, poor pitiful me story. It's just, um, but it's something that should be addressed and could be fixed and could help people who, who do really need that.

Shamil Rodriguez (27:03): So, so let's, let's identify that, uh, Debbie, what, what is the issue that needs to be fixed just so that everyone is on the same page?

Debbie Peterson (27:10): So the specific problem for me being self-employed and owning investment real estate was that if you had even, I think a second home, you couldn't get most of the FAFs of financing because I think they, they, it wasn't viewed as in, in my case, in many people's case, it wasn't viewed as a source of income, which it was, it wasn't viewed as your retirement savings, which it was. And so if you had it, it was viewed as, um, as an, the asset. They didn't like you'd have assets. If you have those kinds of assets, you're not eligible. So it was the eligibility, um, and the asset issue, that was the problem. And that I think it, it wasn't, they weren't comparing, um, apples with apples. So really the home should have been considered an income source. They should have been considered, um, a retirement fund and they shouldn't have been mm-hmm, included in the, uh, de determination of, of how much money I was making or what my resources were, the that now that's my opinion.

Debbie Peterson (28:18): I know there's only so much money out there , but, but I, but I know there are a lot of self-employed parents and, and, and I worry more, I worry more about the parents who don't have the resources that I have, or the more the education or the experience, or the cultural background that I have. That's what really troubled me. And, and I know for a fact, it's, it's, it it's a problem because, um, they aren't, they're not in college, they're not at the college. My son went to. And so that tells me something right there. Um, mm-hmm so that, that, that bothers me.

Daphné Vanessa (28:54): It almost seems as if the law is making an assumption that people who are self-employed automatically meet a certain level of wealth when there are people in the middle who may still require financial assistance, but they happen to be self-employed mm-hmm so almost looking at w two employees as the only families in need when there are a lot of mom and pop pizza shops and owned by a family, but those people may not necessarily be bringing in generational passing wealth. So I think it's a really important topic, because this is a forgotten group of people, um, families of small business owners who may still require financial assistance. Where is the solution for those people?

Debbie Peterson (29:46): Thank you. You said it beautifully. Yeah. That's absolutely it. You think about, um, the huge, um, population we have, that's come in from Mexico or other places in south America, too. And, and not just there, but, you know, you get a lot of folks who come in and they'll buy into a seven 11, or they'll buy into a motel, but the whole family's working there. And, um, or a shop, a small shop, a small food grocery store. Um, the whole family's working there, even a restaurant, the whole family is working there, um, or a gardening business or a, um, uh, a cleaning business. And, um, those are people who are getting rich. Those are, those are people who found a way to survive and make their lives better. And they deserve to go to college in my opinion, right. They should, their kids, their kids should have an equal chance. And, um, and they don't with the way the system is set up.

Daphné Vanessa (30:41): Interesting. I'd be interested to hear, just from your experience in politics, where you think we've gone wrong with the arbitrary thresholds, I'm thinking income limits on certain programs, um, these arbitrary thresholds for FAFSA, what logic reasoning, what data is being used by the government to create these thresholds, and why is it not updated on a more current standard?

Debbie Peterson (31:11): Well, I, I don't have, um, you know, hard statistical or, um, studies that I can quote, but I can give you just some thoughts on it. And I think part of it, as you identified, is the people creating the programs are w two employees who have no clue, no clue about being self-employed, who have retirement, who can go back to work after they've retired and earn more money on top of their retirement, but we are paying for it, through our taxes. And, um, so they don't really have any understanding of what it is to be self-employed. And it, um, the, the advantages and disadvantages, because it cuts both ways. And, um, I think that's part of it. And I think the other part of it is, and this is just a hard reality. And one of the reasons that I say I'm not complaining is I don't really have, I don't feel I have a right to complain.

Debbie Peterson (32:10): Um, but I do feel I have a right to say, we could do this system better. Um, I think that, um, it is that they've gotta, they've gotta draw the line somewhere. They, you know, they can't fund everybody. There's only so much money available in a program. And so they've gotta cut, they've gotta draw the line somewhere. Mm-hmm . Um, I really, you know, it, it takes, it takes a greater interest probably in social services, um, to be able to find a, find a way to pull in, um, the children of, of kids, the children of farm workers, basically, or maybe the second, the children of a second generation of farm workers. It it's, it takes a different, you know, a different kind of approach. And again, that's gotta be gotta be financed unless it's done, um, by a charity or, um, a nonprofit, which is probably the best way to do it because nonprofits have a genuine interest and in figuring it out for the people that they're serving. Um, so those are just kind of my, off the, off the top of my head thoughts about it.

Debbie Peterson (33:28): But I, I, I don't have hard, hard numbers. Yeah. Part of the reason is in a small town. Um, the mayor is the chairman of the board, basically the chairman of the, um, city council as it were. But, um, we don't get involved in the day to day decisions. And it's like the chairman of any board you don't oversee the day to day, you oversee the executive chief executive who oversees that. And, um, and also small cities don't, don't get involved in social services because we can't, it's, it's left up to our county, um, or our state, or even sometimes in a national level, federal level. So that's part of the reason that I can't give you, uh, better feedback on that one.

Daphné Vanessa (34:14): Yeah, no, no worries. Just curious, because I know that it, it impacts people at all levels, like whether you're filing taxes or you're trying to qualify for a scholarship, or you're looking to qualify for certain FAFSA or even state, um, grants, you know, those thresholds really do stop certain people from benefiting. So it's just an interesting thought that I hope that our government starts to consider more so that we can create solutions for everybody regardless of employment status or source of employment.

Debbie Peterson (34:53): Yeah. Yes, that's right. And part of it is, you know, part of it actually is, is based on how people file their taxes. Mm-hmm have I filed my taxes differently? Had I, um, had I put my investment properties down, I put them down on a schedule. What was it on schedule? A, I think is my personal

Daphné Vanessa (35:13): Property, um, instead of

Debbie Peterson (35:14): Five birth of down as businesses. Yep. It might, it, it, it, it could have, I probably would've had different financing. Um, but I couldn't cha once I'd already done it one way on my income taxes, I couldn't change that. Mm-hmm . Yeah. And so I, I was stuck

Daphné Vanessa (35:28): Or with, without adequate documentation in case of an audit. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Debbie Peterson (35:34): Yeah. So I, I, but as far as the documentation, I, you know, I still, uh, I still had to have all the paperwork and things, all the receipts and all that kind of stuff to, in order to file the taxes, but they were just considered differently. And of course usually they'll took, well, they always look at tax returns to determine things. And so that, that, I think they appeared more as personal wealth rather than appearing as businesses, which is what they really were. Um, right. And even though I'm able as a real estate broker to, um, write off more, because that's what I do a hundred percent of the time, even with that showing on my taxes, that clearly it was a part of my business and it was a business. It still was considered, um, in differently than it would've been had. I had them all under the umbrella of my business, on the schedule C.

Daphné Vanessa (36:24): Right,

Debbie Peterson (36:25): Right. Yeah. So, so an LLC that might be a word of wisdom for people. And yet I can't give people advice on that because, and it may even have changed now. Um, but I suspect it probably hasn't

Daphné Vanessa (36:37): , um, changes happen, but I agree that they're slow moving with the IRS. Very slow moving . Yeah. Um, very interesting. I, so we've definitely driven into the problem. What about some of the solutions that you think you were able to gain as little kernels of wisdom from your experience?

Debbie Peterson (37:02): Mm oh, you mean I have to be positive now. yes.

Shamil Rodriguez (37:07): we can't just be left in the darkness. ,

Debbie Peterson (37:13): You know, the, I I'd have to see, it's almost more generalized. Um, I, I would say that one of the things that I absolutely loved about my son's high school and then even more so up at Cal Berkeley was the huge number of different kinds of classes you could take on things. And, um, I, I just felt like if it had been me, I would've hung out at his high school forever and, and taken all those classes cause he sounded so interesting. And then, and cuz when I was in high school, it was really boring. There are no fun classes and um, and then same at college, but even more so it was just so interesting. And I think, I, I guess what was the Colonel list? I, I would say that the whole experience reinforced for me that, that, that $35,000, oh, it was worth every penny and it was hard.

Debbie Peterson (38:12): It was a, it was a hardship, those were difficult years. And um, I'm really glad they're over. very relieved that they're over. I sure every parent can say, and I bet my son, my son can say too, he's now making really good money and enjoying it. And um, so the investment was worth every penny I would and, and I, uh, I would do it all again. So I, I will say I'm really thankful for that. And I'm also really thankful of late with the, with the pandemic that there's been much, much more flexibility in terms of helping people. Uh, I I've been able to get things as a self-employed real estate broker that I never would've been able to have help with in the past. And that's, and that's been really, it's made a huge difference to my business and um, and my, my own income and my ability to keep going through these times. And um, so I think we've maybe learned some things. What we haven't learned yet is how to hold things more accountable because there's been a huge amount of fraud. And so there's that balance of, uh, flexibility and accountability that we probably still need to find at a government level.

Shamil Rodriguez (39:35): And then what, what advice do you have Debbie for, for parents? Right? What, what, what, what pep talk can you give to parents that are facing the hill that you've already climbed and they're thinking, alright, how am I gonna do this?

Debbie Peterson (39:52): You know, I being, um, self-employed and just never quite trusting intangible investments for me, stocks and shares and all that. That's intangible money in the bank's tangible and owning real estate property is tangible. Um, I know a lot of people say, and it's, I, I know it's much easier to do this if you are employed. Um, because the, the system works it better, uh, in, you know, buying bonds and things for your kids. So they can go to college. It's not any different really from what I did, it's just a different way of doing the same thing. And, and if you can do that, I'm sure that's a great thing to do. Um, but I can't speak to it because I didn't do it. And I don't really know anybody who did it that I've ever discussed it with. Um, but you know, I think the biggest single investment you can make in your child is to help them be their brightest best self.

Debbie Peterson (40:53): Um, and this whole thing about read to them, read to them, read to them from the time they're teeny tiny and talk to them from the day they're born talk to them as if they're intelligent because they are, they're just differently intelligent. And, um, so I would say the single most important thing you can do for your child is to treat your child as if your child is intelligent from the day they're born. And, um, they will believe you, if you believe that about them, they will believe you. And they will have that lifelong fascination with learning. And if they have that, that confidence and, and they have developed themselves to the very best of their ability intellectually that comes through where they're in school from day one, their teachers appreciate it. They have better relationships and, um, that will carry through for the rest of their lives in their jobs or whether they're self-employed, whatever they do.

Debbie Peterson (41:47): So even more than money, I think it's, it's, it's how you help your child educationally. And it doesn't mean in my case, my son was an only child of older parents. And so I didn't teach him to read, I put him in with other kids in a, in daycare for three days a week, cuz he didn't need to learn to read he was gonna do that fine. I knew that, but what he did need was he needed to learn how to get along with other kids, uh, cuz he was an only child mm-hmm and so each child is different and I think that's the other thing, teach your children independence and allow them independence, um, and realize every child is very different. Um, every situation's very different. So that's an interesting take on it, but I don't think it's all about the money. Um, if your child has been educationally prepared and has the right attitude, they're gonna, that money will come and um, they will get the scholarships. They will find the way you will find the way. So yes, I, I love the idea of investing in real estate that, um, that works really well. And if, if you've got the wherewithal to do that, it's an excellent idea. But um, that's not, it's not the only way to do it. It's just one way that works and it worked, it did work for me.

Shamil Rodriguez (43:13): Yeah. So it sounds like really picking the game that works well for you and game, meaning the sort of income that you decide to really, uh, utilize or the vehicle that you decide to, to utilize to finance your life and your children's education. Right. Whenever that may be. So, um, Debbie, that was fantastic. Is there a way that folks can get a hold of you? Uh, if they wanted to talk to you some more, uh, website or, you know, you have your book in the background, what, you know, tell, tell us a little bit about how, how, uh, parents or students that wanna reach out to you can do so,

Debbie Peterson (43:48): Um, Debbie peterson.com is my website. And so that's D B B I E and then Peterson, P E T E R S O n.com, just my name.com. And I've got all kinds of ways to contact me there, phone numbers and emails and contact forms. Um, and then there's also information about, uh, the book I've just completed, which is the happiest corruption please lies and suicide in a California beach town. And it's this story of the corruption I found when I became mayor and the really, um, disparate group of people who have been working to bring it down. And uh, it's, it's quite a story and it's not over yet. So, um, I'm happy to share that with people too and, and also share with them how to become involved in your own local government so that you can help make a difference in, in a lot of these things.

Shamil Rodriguez (44:41): Absolutely. And I think just to touch on that, uh, Debbie, I think when you had mentioned civic engagement and getting involved in your community, uh, a lot of, a lot of things that can impact scholarships or financial aid or the ability to bring in funding on the national level for supporting any of those types of educational initiatives, start with you at, you know, voicing your, your perspective, right? Like you said, it's not just about complaining, but just saying that things can be done better. And I think you just, you did such a great job of communicating that. Debbie,

Debbie Peterson (45:12): Thank you. I agree. And I wanted to go back and touch a little bit on what you said about you used the term game. I love that term and the reason I like it is if you're thinking about raising money for repaying, a student loan, if you think of it as a game and you say, you know what, that's a game and I can play that game. It takes a lot of the sting out of it. It takes the anxiety out of it and it actually makes it fun. And then you can step aside from the anxiety, you can use your executive brain and, and do better and get it done. So I like it that you use that term.

Shamil Rodriguez (45:48): Cool. All right. So I'll take that. Uh, thank you, Debbie. Uh, D is there anything you wanted to wrap up with before we go?

Daphné Vanessa (45:58): No, I think we handled.

Shamil Rodriguez (46:00): All right. Great. Sounds fantastic. All right, everyone. From more information on today's episode, visit the suit loan podcast.com/episode 74 that's suit loan podcast.com/episode 74. See you next time.

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