Gain the insights you need to make informed decisions about financing your college education with our comprehensive guide to college planning and financing.

Matt Meline is a CFP helping empty-nesters plan for a financially sound future starting with playing for their kids' education.

You will learn how to make informed decisions about financing your college education with our comprehensive guide to college planning and financing.

“If you’re going to spend a hundred grand or more for an education, what’s going to happen on the back end of that? And so we work through a preapproval process as you do for a mortgage, to say, this is what your family can afford, and here are the schools that fit based on that. And here’s how we can get you through without any debt.” – Matt Meline

Matt Meline is a CPA, CFP, author, and speaker who specializes in helping empty nesters prepare for retirement while also enjoying those empty nest years. He recently published his book Empty Nest Full Pockets, which explains the confusing process of financing college for kids.

Matt Meline of Des Moines, Iowa found himself facing the daunting prospect of having four children to send off to college at once. He began saving and pre-planning to make the dream possible, but the true challenge of the cost of college still eluded him. 

As a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Matt learned how to use his income and assets to afford college for his children, as well as how to make the most of smaller schools and their generous aid offers. 

Through his experience, Matt was able to learn how to provide his children with a college education without taking on a tremendous amount of debt. He now shares this knowledge to help other families navigate their own college planning and financing journey.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. What strategies can families use to afford college without accruing significant debt?

2. What are the differences between attending a state university and a smaller, private college?

3. How can parents use the empty nest period to find new focus and satisfaction in their lives?

Matt Meline – Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Author

Matt Meline Sr., CFP, is the founder and CEO of PrairieFire Wealth Planning. With his 30 years of experience, he founded PrairieFire during his own empty-nester journey in 2019. Inspired by the idea of a prairie fire sparking new growth by clearing remnants of the past, Matt’s approach helps families strip away old financial beliefs and preconceptions so they can focus on the goals that matter most with a clear, renewed sense of purpose. Learn more at

Empty Nest Full Pockets

Matt Meline is the author of Empty Nest Full Pockets.

An empty nest starts on solid ground. Prepare your college-age kid, heart, and wallet for your family’s next chapter.

You’ve devoted so much effort, time, and energy to raising your children and planning for their future education. They’re ready for the next stage of their life, but are you?

Your nest may begin to feel empty, but you’re not stuck navigating this new phase of freedom alone. With a helping hand from a dad who’s done it, you can prepare for your transition from full-time parent to empty nester and set your family up for a successful future.

In Empty Nest, Full Pockets: How to Emotionally and Financially Prepare for Your Family’s Future, get expert advice from financial coach Matt Meline Sr., CFP, to navigate the financial uncertainties as parents of university-bound children and the growing pains of life as empty nesters.

In this helpful guide, you’ll find:

  • The balance between staying engaged in your growing children’s lives and encouraging their independence, confidence, and goals.
  • How to reevaluate your new financial priorities and living arrangements, like what to do with a home that is too big.
  • Creative strategies for paying tuition without student loans while still saving for your retirement.
  • Your deep-seated values about money management—and how they affect your financial decision-making skills.
  • Simple tips to positively influence your child’s financial future.

Your children are leaving the nest, and it’s time for you to focus on your new life. With Empty Nest, Full Pockets, learn the secrets to financial security and plan for your future today.

Chapter Summaries:

What do you want your return on investment for this to be? If you’re going to spend a hundred grand or more for an education, what’s going to happen on the back end of that? We work through a preapproval process like you do for a mortgage. Here’s how we can get you through without any debt.


Jerry Dugan is joined by financial planner, author, and speaker Matt Meline. Matt specializes in helping empty-nesters prepare for retirement while also enjoying those empty nest years. If you want to eliminate the number one subject around marriage fights that’s money, then this is a great conversation to have.


Matt Meline: You can’t watch the TV news without 14,000 political ads right now. It’s always a good reminder of taking a step back and separating emotion from fact. And I think money has a lot with that as well.


Jerry: You’re a CPA by trade, and you just published a book called Empty Nest full Pockets. In real life, you and your wife pulled together four kids and you successfully financed all four of them to go through college. How long did the two of you plan that financially, either individually or together?


There’s a whole tier of schools outside of those that are outstanding liberal arts, state schools, and small private colleges that will work hard to get you there. You’ll be surprised at how much aid they’ll actually provide. And that aid offer can be appealed.


We talk in the book about building your student’s financial foundation. Help them understand how money works before they have to start handling on their own. A mistake that I made is that by framing the state universities only, I overlooked how much financially you can get from the smaller schools to the private colleges.


Parents should prepare for sending their kids off to college. As kids get older and they’re getting ready to leave, it can be an emotionally challenging time. He would say save as you can, but don’t lose the balance.


What do you and your wife do now that all the kids are gone so that you don’t fall apart? The name of our firm is PrairieFire Wealth Planning. It’s taking a look at what beliefs have I been living by that maybe don’t work for me anymore. Now can I start taking some chances in my life?


Jerry: How to emotionally and financially prepare for your and your children’s future? Matt: The website is definitely the best spot has links to a lot of resources. Jerry: Matt, any final words of wisdom for those listening in right now? Just have hope.


Subscribe on your favorite podcast player.

Follow Matt Meline on Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube

Other episodes and articles you’ll enjoy:

Hiring a Financial Planner So You Can Live Intentionally – BtR 278

Scott Alan Turner From Money Moron to Financial Rockstar – BtR 103

A CentsAble Chat with Personal Finance Coach Bobbi Olsen – BtR 221

Connect with me:





Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating on Apple Podcasts


Matt Meline  00:00

You know, what do you want your return on investment for this to be if you’re going to spend 100 grand or more for an education, what’s going to happen on the back end of that? And so, we work through a pre-approval process like you do for a mortgage to say this is what your family can afford. And here’s the schools that fit based on that. And here’s how we can get you through without any debt. Hey, rudder nation,

Jerry Dugan  00:19

welcome to another episode of beyond the rut, the podcast that shares, encouraging stories and practical tools to help pull you out of your rut into a life worth living in the areas of your faith, your family and your career or business. I’m your host, Jerry Dugan, and on this episode, I’m going to be joined by financial planner, author and speaker Matt Moline. Matt specializes on helping empty nesters prepare for retirement while also enjoying those empty nester years. That’s a lot, right. Besides, it’s not about how safely we got to our grave. It’s how much life we are able to live with the time that we had. And these conversations are very important because money doesn’t buy happiness, but money will buy you the ticket that will or something like that. Anyway, if you want to eliminate the number one subject around marriage fights, that’s money, then this is a great conversation to have. It’s why it’s rounding out my healthy marriage series. And so sit back, relax, bust out that notebook. Get that pin ready. Here we go. All right. Hey, Matt. Thanks for calling in from I believe Iowa. Right.

Matt Meline  01:28

Des Moines, Iowa. Center of the Universe. Yes.

Jerry Dugan  01:32

I guess the the world’s got its eyes on you guys. Right now. You in Ohio over the next few days?

Matt Meline  01:37

Yes, yes. The beloved midterms, you can’t watch the TV news without 14,000 political ads right now.

Jerry Dugan  01:44

Right? Everybody’s evil? That’s right.

Matt Meline  01:47

Yes. They’re all destroying the universe, not just the country, the universe,

Jerry Dugan  01:52

in the little town of wherever. That’s right. It does blow my mind. I know, we’re not here to talk about politics, because that is not what the show is about. But it does just it’s always a good reminder of like taking a step back and separating the emotion from fact and the rhetoric from fact and the propaganda from fact. And I think money has a lot with that as well. Like, when we’re thinking about money for the future money for the presents. There’s like our feelings that wrap around it. And then there is our like, the actual data itself. So a weird segue there, right? Because the reason why we do have you on here is that you’re a CPA by trade. And you just published a book earlier this year in 2022, called Empty Nest full pockets, flashing it there for those who watch this on YouTube. And you not only have the expertise as a CPA, you have NSEP or anything like glasses

Matt Meline  02:52

FCI, CFP, Certified Financial Planner,

Jerry Dugan  02:54

yes. Good thing, we caught that now, as opposed to,

Matt Meline  02:58

I don’t want anybody sending me their tax returns. We partner with the CPA,

Jerry Dugan  03:03

CFP, Jerry, and CFP, everybody else you knew you got the book. So very different. Absolutely. The points still the same, you have the expertise. But on top of that you in real life, for kids through school, as a blended family, so you and your wife pulled together for kids, and you successfully financed all for them to go through college. How long did the two of you plan that financially, either individually or together.

Matt Meline  03:35

So because the kids were so close in age, when we got together, which was about 15 years ago, the kids were little, they were 678, somewhere in that range. And so I had been planning for my two biological kids were like 50 bucks a month, just putting a little bit into a, you know, one of these tax advantaged accounts that are set up for college. Because I’d gone to school, my wife had their step parents, we expected that that they probably would end up going to college. So we thought we’d better get active pretty early. So that’s really how it started. Then I figured out when we got married, that I was going to have basically all four of them in school in one given calendar year, they all be there. So we’re gonna be paying an exorbitant amount. And it was going to be this kind of just blunt force trauma, where they all went with have expenses. And so I did get to work on just what we what I thought we could afford how much I needed to save to get him there. I also knew that I could use my income to help pay for some of it along the way. So I didn’t want to over save or basically get it out of balance. And so we, you know, spent a fair amount of time on it. But what I learned through the whole process, Jerry is how confusing it is and how hard it is to know what it’s actually going to really cost and how one kid pays a completely different price than another kid. And so, reading the book Look at going through that journey is what I really tried to help parents explain because I’m in the business and I found it very confusing. I can only imagine, you know, if you’re not used to the word FASFA and financial aid and all these things, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Yeah, quite honestly.

Jerry Dugan  05:12

Oh, yeah. You know, I shared with you before we hit the record button. That’s at one point, I had one son in college and a daughter getting ready to join them. And I think we got blessed like the son had dropped out as the daughter was going in, we’re like, Oh, good. Net Zero. We love that.

Matt Meline  05:30

Kid, you’re grown man now.

Jerry Dugan  05:34

But I remember like I was I was commuting between towns at the time that our son had left. And so I’m asking questions about like, the, the, the money side of the college, or the university he had chosen. And a lot of the responses from my wife and my son were, I don’t know, it’s like so many numbers. And I thought, Well, can you send it to me? I think the thing that really matters to us is, what’s our out of pocket? Like? How much are we expected to bring to the table? And, you know, by the time we figured it all out, we had gotten the finances worked out. And, of course, by the time my son had stepped away from college and our daughter, when we really lucked out, like all the pieces fell into place for what we have in Texas called the Hazelwood act. So that covered a lot of things. We’re like, who, because we’re probably like most Americans, we did not plan as well, as you know, for our kids future. It was just sort of this, like, they’re in high school, and my wife’s like, oh, they’ll be fine. Like, I don’t know, I don’t think that’s gonna be right. And if it weren’t for the Hazelwood act, if it weren’t for some other things like our income, it increased. There, there was a cost savings with our son moving out, or like, oh, foods a lot less expensive now.

Matt Meline  06:43

Yeah, it’s amazing what teenage boys how they can clear your fridge and matter of minutes,

Jerry Dugan  06:47

right? Yeah. Moreso, when they bring their friends over to like, oh, exactly. What I loved about your book is that it doesn’t just solely focus on 529 education accounts, because that’s typically all you hear about when it comes to saving for the future of your kids for their education, is 529 minutes by 29 that you talk about in your book. But before that, there’s some preliminary things that you lead a discussion through, like, what is the real cost for you? And how does it How does that university compared to other universities? And you touched on that a little bit? So what are some of the ways that you know, just in one given University, no two students are really paying the same amount.

Matt Meline  07:31

So they all have their formulas and ways that they calculate financial aid offers. And so it all starts with the parents filling out the financial aid, the FAFSA form, and they’ll see what’s called their expected family contribution. This is what the government in its genuine benevolent thinking thinks that you can afford based on your income and assets. And so the schools take that number and put it through a grinder to say we’ll give you money or we won’t give you money, we’ll, we’ll give you grants, overall give you loans or whatever they decide in their format. And so these schools decide which kids they want the which families, they want to be there based on the FASFA, the grades, the AC T SCT, all that the essays, all of that stuff. And then if they want you bad enough, they’ll put together a financial aid package that will try to inspire you to select that school. On the other hand, this, the universities that rank very high don’t have to do that. It’s just a supply and demand issue. They get 1000s of applications, very freshman class. And they could give a rip if you go there or not, because they’re going to be making their numbers. And so there’s a whole tear of schools outside of those that are outstanding liberal arts, state schools, small private colleges, that will work hard to get you there. And you’ll be surprised at how much aid they’ll actually provide. And that aid offer can be appealed. And this is something that a lot of parents don’t know. And so we’ve helped, we’ve helped a fair number of families say, well, listen, you got this offer from x University, we got this offer from y University, let’s show them because she really wants to go to x, what the offer was, and see if they’ll match it. And sure enough, like you’re buying a car, they’ll come through and, and change and amend the offer based on if they’re getting all the kids in that they want if they really want your family to be part of the university, all of those kinds of things. And so it was something I didn’t even know existed when I was getting my kids through the process and something that I learned along the way. And

Jerry Dugan  09:28

Malcolm Gladwell had a book out a few years back that we often think that like the big name schools are the way to get your foot in the door in a job. But then I think he was looking at some stats. I mean, it’s Malcolm Gladwell, he looked at the law stats. And what he found was that, you know, going to a big name school isn’t necessarily the best way to prepare yourself for the field you want to get into sometimes, if not a lot of times, the best way to prepare yourself is not to be the little fish in the big pond, but to be the big fish in the little pond. On and he showcases some examples of folks who went to a smaller university and now run nationwide programs or worldwide programs. And it was their experience at the smaller universities that allowed them to build confidence, get that deeper dive with their professors, and the content. And they really truly became experts in their field, even though they weren’t at like a Johns Hopkins or, you know, Harvard or UT. Sorry, guys, I’m in Texas. I just said UT. will throw a&m in there just be fair.

Matt Meline  10:35

Yeah, there’s a lot of confusion about that. And certainly, if your kid goes to Harvard, they’re going to you know, that’s a great thing. But that’s the, you know, 1% answer. There’s so many great schools below, those that don’t get made up with the rankings. And those rankings come from the other schools. I mean, it’s a, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of system as far as how those rankings go. And so I talk in the book about mindsets. We frame it as money mindsets, but we talk a lot about, you know, what do you want your return on investment for this to be if you’re going to spend 100 grand or more for an education, what’s going to happen on the back end of that. And so, we worked through a pre approval process like you do for a mortgage to say, This is what your family can afford. And here’s the schools that fit based on that. And here’s how we can get you through without any debt, Mr. Mrs. Students, so that you’re not coming out and having a $501,000 loan payment, in conjunction with rent school that’s going through the roof, and all these other expenses. So framing it in a way that Alright, we’re going to go, this is an investment, who’s going to pay for it, it’s because many families, this is something that they don’t really address is that some families really feel like the child needs to drive the process and pay for the process. Others want to do, I want to give my kid this gift of education. And it’s important to me, and so we’re going to pay the whole thing, and many families are down the middle of the road on that. But you have to have that conversation as a family to figure out who how that’s going to work. So everybody’s going in with a fair understanding. Because if a kid gets into a really prestigious university, but the family can’t afford it, that can create a lot of heartburn heartache for the family.

Jerry Dugan  12:13

Now about How soon should a family start having this kind of conversation.

Matt Meline  12:17

You know, it really depends on the family. You know, when those high school years kick in, obviously, you’re you’re beginning to think about the next step, and there’s going to be time coming up when they’re gonna go to school. So we began to frame it early for the kids that if they went to a state university in Iowa, we pay for it, if they wanted to go out of state, if anything that they wanted to do at a different school that was going to cost significantly more, they would have to cover that difference. And so laying those expectations early really, really helped our family and I’ve seen others that they once again, get surprised by the cost of a school, it’s more elite, and then they’ve already committed to doing it. And then it can have a negative impact on the rest of the kids that are going to school if you have kids behind them, things like that. And so the earlier the better, but definitely in the high school years, it’s something to start kicking around and exploring. Alright, what does it really cost? And what does the government actually think I’m gonna pay? And what does the school thing I’m gonna pay? And are we on track to make that work and, and it’s just so important to really take a look at is taking on all this debt really going to be worth it. And that’s what we’ve had such a challenge with in this country is so much student debt, that it’s just choking a lot of kids as they get out of school, because they don’t have, you know, the commensurate salaries and stuff that for what they paid for.

Jerry Dugan  13:34

Yeah, that was like a thing you heard a lot about during like the Occupy Wall Street movement was I have this history, master’s degree, but I also have like $45,000 in student loan debt, and I have no job to pay it off. And that one example would be either touted as this is why we’re trying to reach for the system or the other side of the issue would be like, well, this is why he should make better choices with his life. And it’s like it, it’s a fact it’s reality. There are people out there who have these degrees and a lot of debt. And I love that you point out two things already one, as a family, it’s really important to get pre qualified and we’ll get pre qualified for a car, we get pre qualified for a house, we should also pre qualify for what can we truly afford and what’s expected for us to spend on our child’s or children’s education. And the second one, you talked about it, we didn’t really preface it and but it’s very important is what are the boundaries for what we can spend with your kids. You talked about if you go to a state school in Iowa, we got you we got you covered. You have no idea how we got you covered, we got to cover now if you’ve got a state that changes the game a bit you know that we can cover this much but not this and so very important to fine tune what is covered what is not because that’s become you know, that becomes a sticking point. I’ve got friends who had kids and have kids in college, and that was the thing they were always mad about. We’ve been blessed because As you know, we had an agreement with our kids, like, while you’re in school, we will cover all the tuition and books and fees we can plus your housing. But anything you want beyond that, you want to take a girl out, yeah, you want you want a car fuel, that that’s gonna have to be on you, if you want to go on road trips, you’re gonna have to come up with the money yourself. And they want my son I mentioned earlier, when he dropped out, he thought there was still going to be some allowance and we’re like, No, we love you. But you’re, you’re 19 going on 20. And you’ve decided not going to go in school and the condition was for school. And more specifically, we knew we could only afford bachelor’s degrees. The deal’s off, like, if you want a graduate degree, that’s awesome. Go get a job, save up your own money, and then go get that. So what are some guidelines around, you know, having those boundary discussions with with your kids?

Matt Meline  15:54

Yeah, we talked in the book about building your students financial foundation, because it just doesn’t usually happen in the schools. There are definitely exceptions in high school where kids are taught a little bit about economics, some personal finance, but it can be pretty sparse, and not really helpful. So helping them understand how money works before they have to start handling on their own. So allowances, a great example, part time jobs, how a budget works, we went through the kids all worked at a local grocery store, and we go through their paycheck with them. Yeah, like who the heck is FICA? Are they taking all my money? So learning how taxes work and, you know, get through getting them through some basic understanding, and then how much they can expect to maybe live on when they’re in school. So it’s not really an allowance, but it’s more of a budget mentality of, you know, if you’re gonna have 50 bucks a week, how are you going to make that last, and, you know, those, those different conversations. So we just think that was, that’s really important. The other thing I wanted to say a mistake that I made, is that by framing the state universities, only, I overlooked how much financial aid you can get from the smaller schools, the private colleges. And for some kids, the private liberal arts will be much more undergraduate focused, the education will be much more focused on the undergraduate versus a big research university like ut or like Iowa, University of Iowa. So you know, their focus is more on research. And once again, these are things I did not know about when we were making these decisions and selections. So, you know, helping your kid get framed for this is how money works is a huge first step. And then let’s look outside the box a little bit when we’re thinking about college and school, and what’s actually going to fit for you. Because I had four, they were all completely different. Yeah, they all had a very similar university experience. And maybe that shouldn’t have been the way that it went. It all turned out fine. But once again, just there’s so much not knowing out there. And, and that’s what we’re really trying to help with.

Jerry Dugan  17:57

Yeah, I think you mentioned there’s one website that helps you like, take 3700 University choices and whittle it down to like 37, at least and but 3700 universities out there at least right? Oh, yeah, there’s,

Matt Meline  18:10

there’s a ton and there’s all these little small schools, you don’t even know exist, and some of them are super generous, they really put eight out to where you can pay less than you would at a state school and get a much more hands on experience. Yeah. And for some kids, that that smaller environments, getting to know your professors. I mean, I remember when I went to the University of Northern Iowa, and we had an on site guy that was a state senator and an attorney, and he taught my business law class. And I learned so much from him, and we’re still in contact, I still, I was at a charity thing. And we we ran back into each other and stuff. But, you know, I remember when we joke a lot about music, and just it was a, you know, a really memorable experience. And when you’re in a big auditorium, you’re just not going to have that with with your professors and stuff. And so, again, tailor it to your your kid and your family a little bit, this might really be theirs. Let’s think about something else. Let’s go visit a school that maybe we wouldn’t have normally thought about visiting. Yeah,

Jerry Dugan  19:08

it’s, it’s not going to hurt you. I mean, the worst that could happen and you’d say, Okay, well, not that school, or you learn some parameters, like okay, not this type of school, but definitely this I love the the professor to student ratio, I like this looks like a quiet enough campus, I can get a lot of work done. And so that’s really cool. It’s so we’ve now talked about, you know, getting pre qualified, having those finance conversations, but also exploring what kind of colleges are out there. What are your options, not just from a money spinning perspective, but also getting that overall package? What’s the best training and development I’m going to get as a student that I can afford? It’s really important. So let’s see here. And now if if my kids are younger, you know, like when you blended your family, they were what six, seven and eight. You had twins at the six year old level. So You know, for kids all together, if somebody’s doing the math, what could they start doing at that age to prepare for sending their kids off to college that isn’t going to have them meat and beans and rice for the next 1015 years?

Matt Meline  20:14

Yeah, just remember that your income can help support your college spending. And in many cases, all you’re thinking about is your assets and how much you’re saving. And that’s important to build that foundation. But that when they leave the house, like we talked about Jerry, they’re not killing your fridge, like they were, yeah, you’re not spending all this money on gas for them to get to football practice, there’s a lot of expenses that go away when they go to school, and it gets transferred to their room and board and those things there. So when you’re the pre approval process that we put folks through is not just taking the 529 balances and savings, it’s also looking at how much in monthly income that might be discretionary to help pay for, for some portion of of the school bill. And then, you know, combining that with what their that specific school scholarships are, and things like that. So I think it’s important to kind of just be noticing what your kid likes, when they’re young, you know, are they into sports are they ended to super social, what kind of classes they really excel in, so that you’re getting a feel for, you know, what they might want to be doing down the road. Now, when they’re little and growing, it’s their, you know, that changes so frequently, and but I would say, you know, safe as you can, but don’t lose the balance that you also need to be thinking about your future. And this is a big part of what we talked about in the book is that this is a dual path, your child is getting ready to launch and become a independent young adult, and you’re about to become an empty nester and your life is going to be very, very different. Because for the last 20 years, you have parented, we have driven him to soccer practice and blood, sweat and tears and helping these kids get ready for what’s coming next. And, you know, for me, that was a really emotionally painful time, when the kids started driving. And they weren’t around as much anymore. They were never around, I felt like they were never around. And then when they were they’re on their phone and talking to their friends. And I talk in the book about the social media blackouts that I used to try to institute and anyway. So getting ready for the emotions that are coming for you, as a parent are important to know when they’re young, like you asked, that’s not as big a deal you can really dig in and and make your impact. But as they get older, and they’re getting ready to leave, it can be an emotionally challenging time. And so I just remember, as I was going through it, I had to seek out some counsel, I was just having a, I was depressed and felt like here, I’ve done all this work to get these kids raised. And now they don’t even give a rip around anymore. And I had a friend that that gave me some counsel said, you know, the only reason they’re able to do this, the only reason that they’re able to be independent and be so strong and confident is because you raised him right. And so after I grabbed a handkerchief and stopped bawling, that really made me feel better. And so I’d encourage the parents out there that are maybe going through this transition Jerry, I know you’re kind of right in the middle of it. Yeah, we are. Just no, this is good. You’ve done good work. And that’s they’re able to do this stuff because of the work that you’ve you’ve poured into their lives. Yeah.

Jerry Dugan  23:10

And I think I think we were blessed in the sense that like, when our kids were in their final years of high school, I could see that my wife was really pouring into them and trying to hold on to as much time as she possibly possibly could get. And I did too, but with the understanding that they’re teenagers, they’re going to, I did the same thing to my parents. They’re doing it to us now it’s paying it forward, I understand. And so while my wife was holding on desperately to our children, as they’re about to fly away from the nest, I was looking ahead of what is life going to be like for my wife and I after they’re gone, because when they’re gone, it’s going to be seven days a week, most times, and it’s, you know, we’re gonna get phone calls throughout the day. But most of the day, it’s gonna be my wife and I looking at each other at the end of the workday, like who are you? I don’t know, who are you? And I didn’t want us to be one of those couples that wound up divorced once the kids were gone because we realized we’re total strangers. So I started thinking ahead in terms of what is our typical night going to be like, well, I’m going to cook a meal for my wife every night. That’s not the case anymore. But we go out and say, airfare

Matt Meline  24:16

counts, you probably still do it right. Yeah.

Jerry Dugan  24:17

There’s always leftovers. You know, it’s but I do cook for her. We go out a lot. And she at first was just really sad about it. You know, because our kids are gone and, and I felt the same way when we sent our first child off to college. I thought we were committing a crime like are we allowed to leave him like he’s gonna be 300 miles away? Are we allowed to do that? We responsibly it’s like

Matt Meline  24:41

when you bring them home when they’re babies like you’re just gonna let me take him right Yeah, put him in the car seat the baby like what the heck man? Let me take him home sick. Yeah, we’re

Jerry Dugan  24:49

gonna check on me at least something you know, 18 years of that though, and it’s like, we just we let him go. Like we don’t have to go pick them up after school. We don’t have to get them to pray. like this or you know me like that he’s, he takes care of his own meals now. His own laundry, all this other things. And

Matt Meline  25:09

it’s amazing how a human can survive on Chipotle alone, right that age, right? Yeah.

Jerry Dugan  25:12

In his case, I think it was subway it because it was like, right down the street like, it was closer than the actual dining hall for him was subway. So by the time our daughter came around, she was the baby girl, but still felt like, does she think I don’t love her if I send her off to college, and she was like, Bye, dad. Thank you so much hug now go. And I’m like, oh, no, she’s ready. That that? Yeah,

Matt Meline  25:35

I stole it. When my daughter went took my daughter. I said, Let’s go to Target get your cable cords and let’s go do this. And then we went and had some food. And I was I was just stalling. Yes. Finally, I did tear up a little bit. I gave her a hug. And off she went. And I felt the same way. He just like, wow, yeah, some. I just felt like something big really just happened?

Jerry Dugan  25:57

Yeah, I think my daughter picked up I was doing the same thing. She’s like, Okay, well, if you want, you can wash that dish over there on the scene. If you want, you could take that trash out. And then I came back. She’s like, Okay, if you want and she like made a bag of trash for me to take out. I’m like, well, thank you. So yeah, it’s, it is important, though, like, what do you and your wife do now that all the kids are gone, so that you don’t fall apart? Like your sole purpose was not just to raise two children, or in your case for children? So what are some of the things that you know, free up once the kids are gone? I mean, we talked about the food budget gets a lot bigger?

Matt Meline  26:32

Yeah, that’s a great question. Because it really is a time in life that can be incredibly satisfying. There’s been so much responsibility as the first half of your life, around getting yourself into a position of success, whatever that means to you, whether it’s your career, or geography or whatever, you know, you you go through the challenges of becoming a husband or wife in many cases, and, and learning how all that works, and then you’re raising kids, well, then all of a sudden, it’s your, the focus can actually get back to you a little bit, a little bit of what you might want to do. And so, you know, the name of our firm is Prairie Fire wealth planning. And I went through a program for a two year partnership with a number of different folks and a prairie fire is designed to burn away old weeds, old chaff and make room for new growth. And so their purposeful burns that they do out here in the prairie and Iowa and other places. And that metaphor is speaks a lot about how you should approach the empty nest is taking a look at what of what beliefs have I’ve been living by that maybe don’t work for me anymore. And where can I start taking some chances in my life now that the kids are gone, I’ve paid for I’ve got college or all that figured out. Now I got to thinking about what I want to accomplish. And like for us it was then I really want to launch my own firm. And I don’t want to live on another one, your podcast, somebody talked about, you know, living with regret, or living with, you know, you framed it really well. So it’s recognizing that this is a time in life, when you can do some of that you can take some of those chances. And then, as far as we call it, the emptiness dream journal, but some things that say either some big goals, big trips, things that you’ve always wanted to do that now you’re healthy enough, and maybe financially fit enough that you can start doing some of that stuff. And so, for us, it was starting from the business. For me it was writing the book, it’s just grabbing life, man. And it’s really a chance to do some things that maybe you would have felt were selfish before that you can now live into and be proud of. And I think it’s good for the kids to see you do that, that you can, you know, you’re living your life as well. And so that will inspire them.

Jerry Dugan  28:45

Yeah. And that’s what we’ve seen ourselves. You know, I’ve mentioned earlier, my wife struggled a little bit at the beginning when our youngest had left. But like two months later, we were at Disney World and just ourselves again, oh, actually wasn’t the first one. No, because we took a trip just ourselves. She felt guilty about that. But the second time, so this is when we’re fully empty nesters. We did a second just us on our own to celebrate our 20th anniversary. And there was like no guilt whatsoever. Like, you can get used to this, huh. And she was already like thinking about the next time we come and do this like, next Christmas. I’m like, Oh yeah, or your birthday or and you know, it’s just really neat to be able to start planning those trips. And even like, at night, a typical week night. If we don’t feel like cooking that night, we can just get in our car, go downtown, have dinner at a nice place. And we don’t have to worry about picking anybody up. We don’t have to worry about getting anybody ready for school the next day. Because those kids are on their own now they’re adults and that has given us so much free time to get to know each other again and I’m sure you and your wife have gone through something similar where you got a lot more time not just you know, for you you got more time for each other and It’s like you get the honeymoon back all over again. Especially if you plan the this getting your kids into college and helping them fund that and having those boundaries. You’re You’re not stuck in a place where you’re perpetually paying for your kids expenses into their adulthood, which I hear a lot of people complain about. Because you’re having that kind of conversation.

Matt Meline  30:20

Yeah, cuz you can really end up getting out of balance, and that so much has gone. Not just emotionally, but financially to the kids that all of a sudden now your future is in jeopardy. Yeah. And you have to work a lot longer than maybe you wanted to, or some of these chances that I talked about you want you can take when you’re an empty nester, you’re not able to do because you’re helping with student loans or, you know, still paying for a very expensive school or something like that. So finding balance there to say, I got to be thinking about my future, too, because your kids don’t want to support you any more than you want to support you. Yeah. And so striking that balance, not sacrifice your retirement, your future, your plans, is a huge, important part of this journey. For sure. Yeah. And I

Jerry Dugan  31:03

think one of the things that helped us frame our mind around that is I forget where I picked it up. But the idea was that your measure as a parent isn’t based on what your children do, but how your grandchildren are taken care of. And so it’s like, okay, well, if we raise our kids well, and we raise them into adults, they’re gonna take great care of the grandkids. And so all we got to do is show up, spoil them and hand them back to their parents. Right on. And so it’s like, yeah, they’re young adults, there are a lot of times where we dive in and save them, then we recognize if we let them figure that out for themselves, and kind of give them some guidance around some boundaries, like, don’t just sign up for the first credit card you get, and get yourself maxed out on that credit card, you know, it really think through, do you need this? Do you want it? What’s the impact if you get into debt, and think through that, and they do it on their own, and you’ve talked about that, you know, as early as you can help them with thinking through a budget think you through how to manage their money, you’re not going to have to support them. And you get that freedom. And that’s right, you know, it’s a win win. It’s like, they got their freedom, you got your freedom, and you get that happy wife happy life thing going so

Matt Meline  32:16

well, that and the community of friends that we’ve developed that are in the same, you know, family situation, we met lots of them through the high school years, and now all the kids are gone. And we have this tribe of friends around us now that they’re just those relationships mean so much to me. And we all you know, there’s, we have a fungerar as a group, and we’ll pull something out and then go to Kansas City for the weekend or go bowling or, you know, just we all live on the in the same vicinity of a golf course, we spent a lot of time out there, together. And so it’s, I tell you all this, so that everybody out there will have some hope. If you feel like wow, I don’t, it’s gonna be so sad when the kids are gone. It is that’s it’s a change. But there’s also a lot of rainbow, a lot of gold at the end of this rainbow, I promise.

Jerry Dugan  33:00

Nice. So the book, everybody there is called Empty Nest full pockets. And the subtitle I took my glasses off, it says how to emotionally and financially prepare for you and your children’s future. And so that’s we’re talking about that outlook, a future possibility. When you’re taking a look at your family circle, your finance circle, even your health, your fitness circle, all these things are coming together, they have that life beyond the rut. Now, folks, you can get this book on Amazon. That’s actually I got a copy from Sarah. But I also saw it on Amazon so you can buy it. And the link will be in the shownotes here. Now if folks want to reach out more and get more from Matt, where do they go to connect with you either for your services for speaking engagements, training, all that good stuff?

Matt Meline  33:47

Yeah, so the websites definitely the best spot P FW So that has links to a lot of the resources that I mentioned in the book around the dream journal and some other handouts as far as finding generous schools and things like that. So a lot of resources there. There’s also a link that you can schedule a call with us. We do that complimentary just to say if you might need our help, we can walk you through the first steps of getting ready to send your kid to college and or to plan for your future. We do both of those things in tandem, just like we do recommend in the book.

Jerry Dugan  34:19

Awesome. And Matt, any final words of wisdom for those listening right now,

Matt Meline  34:23

just have hope. I know even if your kids are young, and you’re like we’re never going to be able to save enough or if they’re getting close to leaving and you’re feeling kind of sad and lonely. You know, just just know that these things in many cases will work out and they’ll work out generously to your to your benefit. And the work that you’re doing is apparent is is great work and it will bring you a lot of satisfaction later in life and will allow you to say I can I could proudly go on to the second half of my life and really focus on wisdom and relationships and caring because of the work that I that I did as a parent, so just just have hope. And yeah. And Jerry, thank you so much for having me.

Jerry Dugan  35:07

Oh, yeah, it was a pleasure, Matt, thanks for being on here. All right, thanks. Now, I hope you got a lot out of that conversation like I did, and took copious notes. If you did, great, if not, play it all over again and take some notes. What are you going to apply from this conversation? Where Matt gave us lots of tips and pointers on how we can succeed financially as empty nesters. And if you’re not an empty nester yet, that’s okay too, because you can get started today. How cool is that? The best thing you could do to pay the show back is to pay it forward. So hit that share button. However, you’re listening to this episode right now, whatever app whatever computer system, hit the share button, and send us to somebody you know, and say this is what I loved about this conversation between Jerry and Matt. It’s similar to what we talked about maybe another thing you could do is download a copy of my book when it comes out March 13 2023. And it’s going to be called Beyond the rut, create a life worth living in your faith, family and career. And one of the areas I talk about is money, how it can hold you back, but it can also propelling you forward if you’re the one in control. So I’m glad you joined me in this episode. I look forward to joining you again in another one and it’ll most likely be a Jerry short. But until next time, go live life beyond the rut. Take care

College Planning & Financing: How to Afford Your Kids’ Education with Matt Meline – BtR 347