Tag Archives: MBA

Financial Situation

I have a family (including 2 kids), so 2 years with no income is a daunting idea.  Fortunately, business school is going to be a bit cheaper for me than most.  A couple years ago, congress upgraded the GI Bill education benefits which have put my MBA dream on clearance.  My benefits will cover the undergrad rate of the most expensive public university in each state.  Additionally, the Yellow Ribbon Program is a voluntary program where private schools can offer additional benefits so that veterans can afford the higher cost of tuition of private schools.  Lastly, the new GI Bill pays the qualifying vet a housing allowance which is a substantial load off of the financial requirement of 2 years sans income.  This benefit ranges from about $1000 to $3000/month based on the cost of living of the city.

This brings the cost of tuition and fees down significantly – down to, and including, free.  The preliminary list of schools I could attend tuition free includes Wharton, Tuck, Ross, Fuqua, Johnson, and GA Tech, among others, and this doesn’t even take the housing stipend into account.

So that means the world is my oyster right?  Well… kinda.  My parents are finishing their 1500sf basement in Atlanta and they’ve offered to let us live there rent-free for 2 years.  So now we’re in the realm of being able to survive the entire 2 years without my wife having to work and without taking 1 cent in student loans.  This is a very enticing possibility, but the huge question that I need to answer for myself is this: is that financial freedom worth giving up on the “better” business schools elsewhere?

Savings realized by living in Atlanta include:

Rent: 1000-2500/mo (remember: wife, 2 kids, 80 lb dog)

Cable/internet: 100/mo

Efficiencies from combining meals w family: 200/mo

Free babysitting: priceless

I estimate that the total savings from living in Atlanta over the 2 years will be between $35K (in a low rent area like Duke or UVA) and $75K (in a high-rent area like Boston, Philadelphia, NYC, etc).  This doesn’t even include the additional cost of tuition if I chose a school not on the “free list”.  Harvard would be $25K/year extra bringing the total to $125K.

In pure financial terms, Harvard would almost definitely be worth $125K more than Emory or GA Tech, and Wharton would undoubtedly be worth $75K more.  The lifetime earning potential for a top3 grad could easily be $1 million more than Emory/GA Tech.  But there is also added non-financial benefits such as company for my wife when I’m working on projects late and on weekends, plentiful childcare making life easier, easier Christmas scheduling/decreased travel requirements, no need to find an apartment that will accept 80-lb dogs, the happiness associated with being close to extended family (all of our families live in the Southeast) and a myriad of other small problems.  In addition, I question the value of a top3 business program if you A) don’t want to live in the northeast and B) don’t want to be a banker or consultant.  More on this in a later post.

There are also issues with getting a job in the south from a school in the northeast, but this too I’ll talk about in a later post.  I’ve rambled enough for tonight.

MBA People

The self-aggrandizing (aka self-important) vs the self-discovering (aka self-actualized)…

It ultimately goes back to the question of “why?”.  Like in any major undertaking, some people get MBAs for the right reasons, and some get them for the wrong reasons.  Those who are searching for meaning and passion in their career endeavors are the ones who’d gladly get their MBA at Billy Bob’s Trucking School despite their admit to HBS if they felt the fit and connection was better at BBTS.

Most of the reason that HBS has so many billionaire alums is not because of the education itself – any number of schools can prepare you as rigorously as the crowned jewel of Boston.  The reason HBS alums are so dominant is the type of people who apply there.  Armed with an HBS admit (i.e. assuming a top tier candidate), I believe that person could attend any of the top 20 schools and become just as successful over the long haul (perhaps more so).  My point is: going to the school doesn’t make you a profit-creating monster.  If you’re capable of securing a top3 admit, you’re capable of nearly anything.  Use your talents wisely.

But MBA people (from what little  I’ve seen) are more wrapped up in going to the most prestigious school they can get into so they’ll have the name on their resume.  Boo.  You disappoint me… you who are supposed to be the great ethical business leaders of the information age.  Go where you fit.  This includes school, company, geography, church, circle of friends, etc.  If you are not comfortable, you will not be operating at full capacity.  Why is business school any different?

Maybe I’m wrong… there’s a first time for everything 😉



I guess it’s a fair question – and one that should really underpin the remainder of my MBA experience and my career.

So what’s the purpose of an MBA?  More importantly, what’s MY purpose for an MBA?

Clearly we all have different reasons for doing things.  Reasons for an MBA fall into 2 main categories – self-aggrandizing and self-discovery.  I’ll explore these in some detail in later posts.

From my introspection, I believe my intentions are pure… as pure as I’m capable of anyway.  I’m not interested in an MBA for financial reasons – I currently make over $85K and have solid prospects for continued raises.  I plan to use my MBA as a portal – a new start into a career that moves me.  I deserve to have a job that gets me moving in the morning – that I truly enjoy and that enjoys me – an industry where my talents and passions intersect.

In his excellent book More than Money, Mark Albion makes the (brilliant) point that we should not get too good at something that we don’t enjoy just because we’re talented at it.  He’s got me pegged.  I wish I’d read the book 10 years ago.  If I “stick around” in the AF until 20 yrs for the retirement benefits, then I’ll be pigeon-holed into government work.  My experience will be too specific, and I’ll end up as a career government-man.  The time to make a clean break is now (well… the summer of 2012).

Who am I?

Thanks for joining the quest.

I’m an Air Force officer with aspirations of a Tier 1 MBA.  So what does that mean?  I was hoping you could tell me.

I have far more questions than answers, but 2 years to figure them out.  Due to a service commitment for a free masters degree, I’m not going to be applying for another 18 months.

Will you be my friend along the way?

Feel free to contact me at airforcetomba [at] gmail [dot] com