Think back to your days in kindergarten when you’d be asked by your teacher or family what you wanted to be when you grew up. Remember those conversations? I remember at the age of 6 most boys would’ve loved to have landed that astronaut job or to be a firefighter. And how many girls do you remember saying that they wanted to be a princess or a ballerina? I remember telling everyone I knew that I’d be a chef someday (I was an odd one).

Obviously when we’re that age, our cognitive abilities aren’t as developed and we don’t have the life experience to effectively map out our future. That typically starts to develop when we’re in our early 20s. Which if you think about it, is really counter intuitive to the way most people think of their kids’ education. Don’t we typically expect our kids to know what they want by grade 12? And then they’re off to college or university to pursue it? Most, and when I say most I mean 79% of parents in Canada, believe that their kids will graduate from high school and go to college right after, when in reality, only 25% follow through with that.

Another point I want to preface is to think about how many people we know that changed careers. I know that I and most of my friends did. If this sounds familiar, I’m not surprised. Accoring to Stats Canada, today 87% of all college graduates at some point have found that they’re not in the career that they had intended. So they tried it, and found that they’re getting burnt out, or just not happy. Most don’t even get the job they want straight out of school. Let’s face it: it’s not exactly easy to get a job no matter what industry you’re in these days.

Which brings me to my point.

All this dabbling in careers–and the education involved to get us those careers–does not bode well for the financial sustainability of most Canadians. If you’ve been to college or university yourself, you can attest: it’s not cheap. In BC, tuition fees can cost the average student more then $20,000… for one year. And thanks to rising costs and inflation, our kids can expect to pay more than double that. Is it any wonder that student debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in Canada? The average student graduates with a debt of $25,000 looming over their heads before they’ve even hit the job market. And we all know how tough that it is these days.

Before you think this is a rallying cry to summon everyone to support lower tuition fees, don’t hold your breath. The focus here is not on the education system but more about what we can and should be doing within our own power to save us the heartache and stress that comes from the massive costs of an education.

As a financial advisor, you may expect me to be talking about RESPs or all the other investment tools out there to save up for education so that none of this happens to us. The fact of the matter is that financial planning is secondary to personal planning. By taking the time to understand ourselves and what we want for the future, we can minimize the financial mistakes we make and create sustainability within our financial plans.

Aaron Koo is a passionate networker and entrepreneur who gets people out of that “someday” mentality about understanding their finances.