I met one checkout operator with his eyes on higher things.
There’s been a flurry of chatter around the aspirations of checkout operators.
It started when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demanded to know when Bill English had lost his ambition for New Zealanders, gushing that a checkout operator could go on to study at university and be prime minister.
I don’t think my Countdown checkout operator was aiming quite that high, but he did have a plan that will take him to good places, and keep the costs down.
He was a University of Auckland engineering student, and we had a couple of minutes to chat while we waited for a supervisor to come and authorise my booze purchase.
Student loans are a mixed blessing to humanity, but a fact of life. This young man planned to keep his as low as he humanly could, which will give him a head start once he joins the workforce.
Here’s what I liked about his education money plan.
1. His education was in a good subject.
Pursuing a career for love is all In everything, have a plan Aim to keep borrowing down Education is king
very well, and indeed it can be extremely rewarding. Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, for example, did classics at Exeter University. I mean, classics? Not exactly an education geared towards a modern career, was it? And yet, she’s now richer than the Queen. But a surer route to the good things in life (stability, home ownership, savings, overseas holidays, welleducated children, etc) is to get qualified in a ‘‘core’’ profession that pays over the average. That’s not to say tertiary education is the only route to get there. An apprenticeship provides a good career path too. Careers NZ ranks civil engineering as one of the higherpaid professions.
2. He was living at ‘‘home’’. Being from Hamilton, he faced big costs studying in Auckland. Halls are $400 a week, he told me. I checked. Not quite, but they still add up to roughly $10,000-$15,000 a year. He was lodging with extended family. He paid board, but it was a generously low rate. Good for his extended family. I know living at home while studying can feel like missing out, but the financial rewards are huge. Living costs, not university fees are the biggest cost flatting students face.
3. He was working.
Earning makes a lot of sense when studying as every dollar earned is a dollar that doesn’t need to be borrowed, or chipped in by your parents. But it does crimp your style. When I was at university (studying a ‘‘love’’ not a profession, I might add), I did work. Barman, scaffolder, labourer, bike warehouse man, factory caretaker. I rather enjoyed all of them, barring one life-threatening run-in with psychos in one rather rough pub. The main reason I worked, in those pre-fees days, was to fund lifestyle, and keep my Ford Fiesta’s tank from running dry. 4. Being ‘‘open’’ to chatting.
The fabulous thing about chatting to all kinds of folk is that you get to learn a lot about how other people live their lives. That gives you an advantage. It jogs you out of your normal thought patterns, and gives you tips you can use to get ahead. In this case, however, the sharing went the other way, providing money tips all families with children looking to higher education can learn from.