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Alan Prahl column: Lemonade stand economics can help pay for college

6:24 PM, Oct. 19, 2013  |  Comments
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As college costs continue to rise, many concerned parents and students are searching for a combination of savings, grants, scholarships, loans and jobs that will pay for college. Student loans can be a good investment in the future, but the average student graduates with $27,000 of student loan debt.

Geof White, author of the book "Lemonade Stand Economics: A Refreshing Way to Pay for College," suggests that there may be another way to pay for college. Students can start and run their own business.

The author worked a variety of jobs as a teenager including babysitting, mowing lawns, shoveling snow and washing windows. While washing windows at a business, he was asked, "Do you clean house windows on the side?"

White said, "Sure," but he really had no clue about how to do this. As an employee he earned $3.35 per hour. As he was driving away from that first side job holding $60 for three hours of work, the entrepreneurial switch flipped and he knew he wanted to try working for himself.

White describes some of the skills he learned working for himself including time management, customer service, marketing, advertising, pricing, selling and managing expenses. He includes many personal examples describing mistakes made, lessons learned and tips for budding entrepreneurs.

White paid for his own college education through a combination of working and student loans. He encourages paying attention to details like a teenager's hygiene, clothes and handshake. It's clear he has worked with many teenagers and remembers what it was like to build his own business.

It's easy to relate to White's lemonade stand example, and he uses it to explain concepts like start-up costs. "This time though, your mother isn't buying the lemonade mix. You will need to spend on things like tools, supplies and other items to start working for yourself." White includes some simple worksheets to help students identify their college savings goals, identify jobs they might like to do and identify start-up costs.

Chapter eight is for parents. White explains that this is not about encouraging students to build a financial empire. It's about encouraging them to grow and build skills that can help them pay for college. He describes how parents can support and encourage their teen in what can be a life-changing endeavor.

This isn't a comprehensive text on researching and starting a business. It is an understandable book with engaging stories that just might spark the entrepreneurial bug in your son, daughter or grandchild. Working for yourself is not for everyone, but it is another possible tool that students can use to help pay for college.

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