Working Moms

Pay off house or move to better school district?

Help me decide this one, Working Moms:

DH and I live in a relatively LCOL area. We made some dumb financial decisions early in our 20's, and took on too much credit card debt and car payments that were really larger than we could afford. We've worked our tails off to pay down the debt in a responsible way, and when we bought a house a few years ago, we bought a small, 1200 square foot home in an okay school district. We've since added on and made some major upgrades, and the house really suits up well now. We recently refinanced our mortgage to a 10 year loan. If we stay here longterm, we could have ALL debt paid off, including our mortgage, in 7 to 8 years. Financially, we would then be set. We already contribute to retirement and to 529s, but at that point, we could max out all retirement accounts, pay for college for our kids in full and probably even retire early. The only downside to this house is the school district. It's not bad, but it's not great either. Private schools in our area are 20 to 30k a year, so it's unlikely we could pay tuition for private school and fully fund college for them. Unfortunately, homes in good school districts in our area run about 3x what we paid for this house, which means we would not be debtfree, and while we could continue to save, we would probably not be able to retire early or pay for college in full.

On the other hand, in a better school district, my kids could probably get into better colleges, which could set them up for better lifetime earning potential.

So, if faced with the choice between living in a good school district with debt, having the kids take student loans and retiring at 67 or later OR staying in an okay district and having the kids go to less prestigious colleges but having complete financial security, what would you choose?

I'm honestly very torn. Now that we'be made progress on our debt and turned a corner, I want to get out of debt entirely. I also want to set my kids up for their best possible future. I feel like I can't do both. WWYD?
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Re: Pay off house or move to better school district?

  • Going to a better school district does not guarantee your kids will get into a better college. I'm not sure if I'd move. If your current district was bad, I'd move. But I wouldn't move if it was still good, just not as good as another.
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  • I'm from an okay school district and some of my classmates went to Dartmouth and Yale.  I went to a state college.  I work in a wealthy public school district that has outstanding schools but IMHO, if you're not smart or need special education services, you fall through the cracks since the majority of the students in our district are gifted.  I'd stay where you are. 


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  • Is the school district dangerous? If it is safe, just not spectacular, then I would pay off the house in a heartbeat. This is totally anecdotal, but the people I know who graduated with little or no college debt (myself included) are more successful financially than those who graduated under the burden of loans so being able to pay for kids college (and take care of yourselves in your own age!) is a great gift far exceeding the benefits of a better school district. 
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  • MKDeeMKDee
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    image LibraryChica:
    Is the school district dangerous? If it is safe, just not spectacular, then I would pay off the house in a heartbeat. This is totally anecdotal, but the people I know who graduated with little or no college debt myself included are more successful financially than those who graduated under the burden of loans so being able to pay for kids college and take care of yourselves in your own age! is a great gift far exceeding the benefits of a better school district.nbsp;


    Not dangerous as far as I can tell, although the high school gym teacher was recently arrested for selling drugs to students, which doesn't make me feel too great. We have time to make the decision, as I've heard good things about our local elementary school, so we have time to see of the drug thing at the high school is pervasive or just a onetime fluke. And yes, I do know that all schools, even the best ones, can have drug problems, so there are no guarantees.
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  • image MKDee:
    image LibraryChica:
    Is the school district dangerous? If it is safe, just not spectacular, then I would pay off the house in a heartbeat. This is totally anecdotal, but the people I know who graduated with little or no college debt myself included are more successful financially than those who graduated under the burden of loans so being able to pay for kids college and take care of yourselves in your own age! is a great gift far exceeding the benefits of a better school district.nbsp;
    Not dangerous as far as I can tell, although the high school gym teacher was recently arrested for selling drugs to students, which doesn't make me feel too great. We have time to make the decision, as I've heard good things about our local elementary school, so we have time to see of the drug thing at the high school is pervasive or just a onetime fluke. And yes, I do know that all schools, even the best ones, can have drug problems, so there are no guarantees.

    Only you can decide and is so hard to know, but I will quote a friend who went to the local fancy prep school in my home town when I asked him what it was like. "Probably a lot like your school, but with a higher class of drug user." [;-)]  

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  • image MKDee:
    image LibraryChica:
    Is the school district dangerous? If it is safe, just not spectacular, then I would pay off the house in a heartbeat. This is totally anecdotal, but the people I know who graduated with little or no college debt myself included are more successful financially than those who graduated under the burden of loans so being able to pay for kids college and take care of yourselves in your own age! is a great gift far exceeding the benefits of a better school district.nbsp;
    Not dangerous as far as I can tell, although the high school gym teacher was recently arrested for selling drugs to students, which doesn't make me feel too great. We have time to make the decision, as I've heard good things about our local elementary school, so we have time to see of the drug thing at the high school is pervasive or just a onetime fluke. And yes, I do know that all schools, even the best ones, can have drug problems, so there are no guarantees.

    I work in one of the top schools in my state and we have drugs, teen pregnancy, fights, and have had a teacher let go due to misconduct with another student.  Maybe the frequency is different but it will still be there.



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  • mcbennymcbenny
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    For me, it would depend on how well the schools are in your district.

    Ours are bad, our DD goes to private school and DS will too. 


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  • image LibraryChica:
    Is the school district dangerous? If it is safe, just not spectacular, then I would pay off the house in a heartbeat. This is totally anecdotal, but the people I know who graduated with little or no college debt myself included are more successful financially than those who graduated under the burden of loans so being able to pay for kids college and take care of yourselves in your own age! is a great gift far exceeding the benefits of a better school district.nbsp;


    I completely agree with this.
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  • Would stay put. I teach; my opinion is that you get what you put into your education (am talking in terms of time rather than money). A lot of parent participation in the school and being there for your child will have far more influence on your child than the school attended. Otherwise, you'll be trying to find a way to work 3x more, and will constantly be in catch up mode both at home and work.

    Regarding the one teacher at the high school... unfortunatly those sorts of things occur from time to time. If others were involved, would expect additional arrests. Also, staff changes and student populations are constantly in flux. When your kids are ready to be students there, it may be very different.
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  • FemShepFemShep
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    I'd stay put, especially if you feel your house is perfect.

    And as others have said, the quality of the school district really has absolutely nothing to do with where your kids will go to college. I went to an OK but not great public HS, and went to a Top 15 university and an Ivy League school for grad school.   

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  • jefkjefk
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    image LittleFish1:
    Would stay put. I teach; my opinion is that you get what you put into your education (am talking in terms of time rather than money). A lot of parent participation in the school and being there for your child will have far more influence on your child than the school attended. Otherwise, you'll be trying to find a way to work 3x more, and will constantly be in catch up mode both at home and work.  

    I second this.  I'm a teacher too, and unless your current school district is truly horrendous, stay put and invest your time in your kids education (volunteering, homework help, etc).  Plus, you never know where you or the district will be in five years - maybe by then it'll turn around somewhat, or you'll have the means to move elsewhere.

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