Point of No Return – Decisions can sometimes be made for you

Date Published: 
October 21, 2016

It’s been said that the path of an individual’s life is often set by a series of decisions.


When we’re younger, we decide if we’re going to do that homework assignment, take a drink at a party or put in maximum effort at our first jobs. We get a little older and decide if we will chase a college degree, pursue a trade or just kind of “wing it” and see where the world takes us. We also decide in those younger years whether or not we are going to smoke cigarettes, do drugs, become sexually active or chase optimum physical health.

Any of those decisions can help set a path for our future selfs. Connect them together, in any combination, and the beginning of one’s journey begins to come into focus.

As we get older, we run into more decisions, every single day. What job will we take? Which home will we rent or buy? Will we rent or buy? Should I marry this person? Should we have kids? Do I really need a new car? Should I quit smoking? What is my political affiliation? How in the world should I vote? Should I chase that job promotion, or am I happy where I am? Should our kids attend public school or private? Cable or satellite? Mary Ann or Ginger?

For me, that one was always a no-brainer. Mary Ann was, is and will always be the choice...

But I digress.

It’s rather exhausting when you take a step back and consider all the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis. It’s downright terrifying if you look back at your own life and think about how one decision set you on a good path, or left you on an uphill trek to get back to the path you desired.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are obviously extreme instances, even today, when someone’s predetermined path is often set before that individual ever takes a breath. Extremely wealthy families can offer opportunities and resources to their children that the rest of us can only dream of, and children of abject poverty have a much harder challenge to even get to the same starting path as most others.

Neither of those examples guarantee anything in the future, obviously, but the wealthy child probably has a little more wiggle room in their decision-making than the ones born in poverty. One bad choice when the cards are stacked against you can limit your possibilities in the future, while someone with advantages can often get second and third chances.

Regardless, the notion of personal decisions jumped into this muddled mind when I came across an interesting story on money.cnn.com about Charlie Scharf, the CEO of Visa. Scharf and Visa announced earlier this week that he was stepping down, citing a desire to spend more time with his family on the East Coast. Visa is headquartered in San Francisco.

“My decision is entirely personal,” Scharf said on a call with investors, as reported online. He continued that he and his wife have “worked hard to spend time with our daughters.”

Look, we have no idea if Scharf’s family is having issues or if they have just decided they want to embrace that time they have together before the young ones move on, and it’s honestly none of our business. That’s his personal life, and I congratulate him for making that decision. One does not climb to the heights of being CEO of Visa if one didn’t start out with a lot of ambition from the start, and he is willing to leave it all behind to be with his family.

That’s good stuff.

Of course, it makes it a little easier to make that decision when you’ve held a lucrative job like that. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and covered by the Wall Street Journal, raising a child who was born in 2015 will cost an estimated $245,340 for a middle-income couple. That number jumps to $407,820 for high-income families, and drops to $176,550 for lower-income households.

That does not include the cost of college, by the way. According to collegedata.com, the College Board reports that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state, four-year public college for the 2015-2016 academic year averaged $24,061. For a private college, that number jumps to an average of $47,831.

Gulp.

Want some more frightening figures? I know, I know. But here we go, anyway.

The College Board reports that the average cost of room and board ranged from $10,138 at public schools to $11,516 at private schools. We haven’t even added in books, school supplies, laundry and tattoo-removal services.

Now, keep in mind, these numbers are an average, for four-year schools, and are skewed by the higher-priced institutions. The Care Index, as reported by Business Insider, uses two-year schools in their models, and they have issued a statistic that will make families with working parents cringe even a little bit more inside.

In 33 U.S. states, according to their numbers, the average cost of full-time, in-center care for one child under 4 is $9,589 a year, compared to in-state college tuition of $9,410. I’m just going to let those numbers speak for themselves.

More decisions, right? Work? Stay home with the kids? Apply for an opening at Visa so you can save for college?

I firmly applaud Scharf for making the decision he did to step away from work and be with his family. He could, and he did. But circumstances keep many of us from making the same choice.