I can’t wait for June 2011. I tell everyone about that date. In fact, I often joke that I will print up T-shirts with the number “6/11” emblazoned across the front. That’s the date Little M is supposed to graduate from college. That’s the date I get my financial freedom. No more having to pay a weekly allowance and no more outrageous out-of-state college tuition fees and overpriced text books – or so I hope.

When I tell this story to friends, they always laugh. And that’s exactly what a friendly, retired couple did as we walked our dogs together this past week. Because of summer travels, we hadn’t seen each other for months. So we caught up with each others lives in the neighborhood greenbelt as our dogs got their exercise. And that’s when I told them about 6/11.

They laughed. And then the wife gave me a reality check.

“Dream on!” she said, smiling.

Excuse me?

They are in their 60s, with eight grown children and lots of grandchildren. And they clearly were about to school me.

“Even now, I have to help them out,” the husband explained.


I see.

When I graduated from high school, my parents were willing to pay for all my college expenses. But in my sophomore year, I got a part-time job at a newspaper, my chosen field. The pay wasn’t much – $7 an hour – but it was enough to pay my tuition and all my living expenses for the rest of my college years. And ever since then, I’ve been self-sufficient.

I expect the same from Little M when she graduates. I hope she gets a job and not have to boomerang. But the U.S. economy is on life-support, and there are no guarantees it will get better in two years. If she ever needs help, my wife and I will, of course, whip out the checkbook.

The couple had popped our bubble. But the husband tried to make us feel better.

“It’s OK to think that way,” he said about our 6/11 mantra. “Because it gives you hope. You have to have hope because it keeps you going.”