If you’re planning to send your children to university, you’ve already asked yourself:

  • Will they find work in their chosen field?
  • Will it meet their expectations?
  • How much will it pay?
  • Will it be full-time or part-time?
  • Where will it be located?
  • How much is their education going to cost in total?
  • How much will they or we owe the day they graduate?
  • How long will it take to retire their debt?
  • How many people will be competing for how many jobs?
  • If they can’t land their dream job, what’s our Plan B?

The post-industrial world was born somewhere between IBM’s introducing the PC in 1981 and an essay entitled The Japan That Can Say No that was published in 1989, and no one knows for sure where it’s headed.

I wanted my children to be able to thrive in that world. I solicited input from them and involved them in decisions about the life they wanted to build and how higher education was going to help them build it. Decisions were due and acted on within a year of 2000. The process we used became Personal Due Diligence in 2012 .

You’ll want to read a report published in The Guardian on April 16, 2014, about the results of a survey commissioned by HSBC and conducted by Ipsos MORI. Forty-five hundred parents in fifteen countries took part. Each had at least one child age 23 or younger in or about to start higher education. The 15 countries in the survey were: Australia, Singapore, the U.S., the U.K., Hong Kong, Canada, France, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Taiwan, Turkey, China, Mexico, and India.

Almost 90% of the parents surveyed wanted their children to graduate with a university degree, because that’s what people do. Close to 40% expected that that piece of parchment would increase their children’s earnings potential and help them “get ahead in the workplace” because that’s the way they want it to be.

Two years earlier, research showed that salaries paid to university graduates had fallen by as much as 15% between 2007 and 2012. Medicine and dentistry declined by 15% and 9% respectively. “Many of today’s students will still be repaying their student debts when they reach their 50s,” the report’s authors projected.

Employers don’t value all university degrees the same way. They’re now treating bearers of some of that parchment like commodities. They can because there are over 129 million in circulation in the world at this moment. There will be 204 million by 2020. Some are already precariously employed. A recent Fortune CEO Daily delivered The Hard Evidence: Business Is Slowing Down to its e-mail subscribers.

Is this just a blip or the new normal? Time will tell. How many families saw it coming and did something about it? Only those families know. But we have to be prepared to consider that in a boardroom somewhere, conversations are taking place that will bear on the future of the investment we made in our children and their education. Other conversations will bear on all of us. What do you see coming? What options do you have for dealing with it?

I founded Personal Due Diligence (PDD) to help families arrive at their own answers to questions like that, 1-on-1. We all lived through 2008. We’re now living through the collapse in the price of oil and the consequences of a 70¢ dollar. Who would have guessed that in 2016, parents and their newly minted university graduates would be living under the same roof and looking for work at the same time and for the same reasons? Or that more of us would be working beyond age 65, many with partially or unfunded retirements. They would have scoffed at the notion that each Canadian household would owe $1.71 for every $1.00 it earned. Or that sending the kids to university for the right reasons would become such serious business.

To find out how serious, set your favourite aggregator for “student debt” (exclude the quotation marks) and daily delivery of results.

In his Toronto Star op-ed piece “Reasons for hope amid the gloom” (Feb. 2, 2016), Richard Gwyn wrote:

Yet Trudeau is on to something by forecasting that Canada might—just—nevertheless emerge as a resourceful economy. The reason for such a claim is that two of the most successful economies in the world have done this even though neither of them possesses any resources at all.

One of these is Japan. The other is New Zealand where, as the local saying goes, no resources of any kind exist but for grass.

If them, why not us? A recent article in the New York Times identified that possibility by declaring: “The notion that our neighbour to our north is a frozen cultural wasteland populated with hopelessly unstylish citizens is becoming so dated as to be offensive.”

Our technologically and socially sophisticated, 24 / 7 / 365 country won’t be able to survive without graduates. Nor will the rest of the world. In the short term, neither we nor our children are going to like some of the compromises we may have to make. Some will be of the “least worst” variety.

PDD will work with you to find as many options as possible and then help you determine for yourself which ones will be viable. We do this because due diligence is how to avoid gambling with the future of our children. And because, one day, it’ll be their collective turn to run the family business.



F. Neil Morris
President & Founder
Personal Due Diligence

+ 1 905 273 9880
Skype: fnmorris
LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/neilmorris