Tips for How to Afford College | The Motley Fool

Tips for How to Afford College | The Motley Fool

In this podcast, Motley Fool senior analyst Bill Barker discusses:

  • Shares of PayPal falling close to a five-year low after guidance for the current quarter was low.
  • How PayPal’s CEO search is affecting shareholders.
  • Under Armour‘s continued struggles and less-than-impressive record of share buybacks.

If college tuition payments are in your future, are you ready? Motley Fool host Alison Southwick and personal finance expert Robert Brokamp talk with Megan Brinsfield of Motley Fool Wealth Management about different scenarios for paying for college.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool’s free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on May 9, 2023.

Chris Hill: We’ve got the latest examples of guidance outweighing results. Motley Fool Money starts now. I’m Chris Hill. Joining me in studio today, Motley Fool Senior Analyst, Bill Barker. Thanks for being here.

Bill Barker: Thanks for having me.

Chris Hill: We’re going to talk about two stocks that I own and my heavy side should indicate how those stocks are doing today. We’re going to start with PayPal. First-quarter profits came in higher-than-expected and absolutely nobody cares because guidance for the current quarter was apparently not what Wall Street wanted to hear. Shares of PayPal are not only down around 12%, they are within pennies of a five-year low.

Bill Barker: Yeah. Well, it’s a growth stock, it’s one that’s visited a lot of interesting places on the chart and I guess as a shareholder, the level of interestingness of today’s visited places, not the one you wanted to visit. Sorry about that.

Chris Hill: That’s OK. I am wondering, however, if you think this move is warranted, if you think this sell-off is warranted, I will just point to one part of the business, which is, the question of who the CEO is because Dan Schulman, CEO announced in early February that he was going to step down. They were going to have a new CEO in place by the end of the year and he said on the call, the board has formed a subcommittee and we’re working with a leading search firm, which I don’t know since they announced this in early February, I would assume that by late February they were already doing both of those things. This is one part of the bid. Put aside the numbers, put aside what’s happening with the gross margins and everything else. Maybe speed up the CEO search.

Bill Barker: Well, it takes a while to find top men to put on that search, doesn’t it?

Chris Hill: Yeah. Obviously, as we all learned in Indiana Jones, you always want top men involved but seriously, you don’t want to rush the CEO search, but give me something other than a boilerplate statement of a process that really should have started three months ago.

Bill Barker: Sure but they’ve got until the end of the year, there’s 78 more months. That’s a deadline that’s far enough out in the future that you would like to think that if it’s an attractive business which you’ve found it to be over the years, that they’ll find attractive candidates and it is also one which faces some challenges, not insurmountable challenges. But the growth equation here, as we’ve touched upon the disappointing reaction from the market today as a function of this quarter’s revenue is expected to grow, basically 77 and a half percent, which is a little bit higher than inflation and therefore, it is hard to just have growth stock capital GS as the title for this. I think that It’s traveled in that realm since the beginning of its time and is used to a 30, 40 PE that you would associate with a growth stock and now it seems to be growing about as much as the economy.

Chris Hill: Keeping in mind the shifting of expectations for investors because it sounds like what you’re saying is, hey, this isn’t the gross stock it used to be. It’s not to say that there isn’t a business here, it’s that you can’t buy the stock at close to a five-year low with the expectation that it’s going to be a growth stock. You need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

Bill Barker: Maybe, there are stocks that are neither growth nor value, and then who’s buying them? Because a lot of investors associate themselves with one or the other. It’s certainly not trading at a value investors multiple yet. It is sub-20, I guess, for the guidance for the full year. If you take the non-GAAP adjusted earnings, it’s trading a little lower than that, but it’s not going to look interesting yet to a true value investor. It’s not going to look interesting, right this second to a growth investor and it’s got more competition all the time. It ends up today being stuck in the middle, it’s trading at about market multiple. A little bit higher than a market multiple, it is growing a little bit faster than a standard company at the moment.

Chris Hill: Yeah, it really seems you take all that into account, you layer in the lack of a CEO or the lack of a long-term CEO and it seems like one that if this is a stock on your watch list, probably just leave it there for the time being, at least until they roll-out whoever the new CEO is going to be presumably in the second half of this year.

Bill Barker: Yeah but that’s, I think, how you might approach it if you’re just looking at me on the sidelines. It is buying back some of his stock. That’s one of the things that promotes in this quarterly report expected to reach four billion in share repurchases this year. What is this? $75 billion market cap something like that. That’s more than 4%, five, 6% of the total shares that is buying back. It’s expressing confidence in the long-term health of the business. I think that there is reason to continue to be enthusiastic about this business moving beyond cash, although cash make it a little bit of a comeback.

Chris Hill: Yeah. In the war on cash.

Bill Barker: Cash.

Chris Hill: Cash is hanging in.

Bill Barker: It seemed like cash was out of it.

Chris Hill: Cash on the ropes.

Bill Barker: Yeah. You find yourself using cash anymore these days than previously.

Chris Hill: I keep cash on me.

Bill Barker: I didn’t, but now, with the option of paying for cash and not facing the terrifying moment when the iPad is turned around and you’ve got the suggested 28% tip. [laughs] Would you like 28% or perhaps would you feel generous today and go beyond that, or you can pay cash for something like would you hand me that thing and you can them cash and then you take some of that equation away?

Chris Hill: The Journal had a story earlier this week about the the rise of digital tipping, or at least the rise of digital tipping opportunities being presented to consumers, including in places where previously tipping wasn’t really factored in.

Bill Barker: Well, I had not realized that there was occasionally the opportunity to tip for self-service.

Chris Hill: Yes.

Bill Barker: Can you do that and then get the tip? That’s the killer app.

Chris Hill: That really would be, a self rewards provider.

Bill Barker: Right. I got this thing, I brought it here, I’ve scanned it. Now I would like 20% from somebody other than myself.

Chris Hill: Let’s start with 5%. We’ll work our way up. We’re going to move on to Under Armour. Similar story, fourth-quarter profits and revenue were higher than expected, but as is the case with PayPal guidance, has shares of Under Armour down around 5%. In the case of this business, it is full year guidance. CEO Stephanie Linnartz says that Under Armour is planning to grow their women’s apparel business. That’s an opportunity if they can pull it off but recent history and by recent history, I would basically say the past eight years or so would indicate that it’s an open question as to whether or not Under Armour can pull this off.

Bill Barker: Did she introduce that with stop me if you’ve heard this one before?

Chris Hill: No, but she could have.

Bill Barker: She could have. I don’t know. Under Armour doesn’t have a successful record in trying to be all things to all people, does it? It had a successful record as being some performance gear thing really aimed at men much more than women. That was a big hole. The fashion part was a big hole. They’ve attempted in the last few years to fill those holes and the attempts have been poor so far. This is a company which I would say specializes in poor capital allocation decisions. It’s raised another one in its press release today, saying that it has completed its share repurchase. I think it’s bought 35 million shares in the last year for $425 million, due a little quick calculation on that, that’s 12 bucks per share that they’ve bought back. That’s a lot of capital, stocks, whatever it is, 788 today. It’s bought back a lot of shares at 50% more than the market values them today. So that’s yet another poor capital allocation decision by the company.

Chris Hill: You could have made the case for what I’m about to say at any point over the last few years but it really seems like as a business now. Under Armour is probably a more attractive target for activist investors than it has been in the past. This is a three-and-a-half billion-dollar company. They do have some level of brand equity. They do, as I’ve said many times before, they have nailed one of, if not the toughest parts of this business, which is they make good stuff. Their products are good. There’s an opportunity there but what the stock as you said around $7, $8 a share, I’m not going to be surprised if, at some point in 2023, the story of the day is such and such activist investor has taken a 6% stake in this business.

Bill Barker: I wonder if they’d be better off under a larger umbrella where they could just concentrate on being one thing rather than trying to be for all ages and all performance levels and whether you’re really wearing the brand to have a look or to perform. I can remember back in the day, decade ago or something when I was on here and some of us where this was the uniform for boys in school. You were like of a certain age 10, 11, 12, whatever it was, that’s what your kid was wearing to school and all of his friends if you saw them at your house, they were all wearing Under Armour. They’ve grown up. I don’t see. 

Chris Hill: They’ve grown up. They’re no longer in school. They’re buying the stuff for themselves and apparently, they’re buying less of it.

Bill Barker: Really, they’re buying it for themselves. I got to find different kids. [laughs] That’s the thing that can happen. It’s not the uniform for all ages. Maybe the 11 and 12-year-olds are still going in to school every day in Under Armour every day. I don’t know but they’re not growing sales at a rate that would indicate that they’ve held on to all their past segments of the market.

Chris Hill: It seems like this is a particularly critical year for this business because to Linnartz’s comments, if they’re not able to get any meaningful traction in terms of female customers, if they’re not able to do a better job with capital allocation then I think it makes it all the more likely that the board starts thinking in terms of either we’re going to allow an activist to come in here and try and shake things up, or we’re going to explore strategic alternatives.

Bill Barker: You’d like to see that as a shareholder. I don’t know where the power on the board lies these days. Kevin Plank doesn’t have the traction that he used to have but he’s still there, still Executive Chairman. You just hope they stay out of legal trouble for a couple of years.

Chris Hill: Wouldn’t that be nice?

Bill Barker: That would be nice. I’m sure the shareholders and the Board would all like that, but that’s been part of the story here. Is a lot of lawsuits. SCC actions on the accounting, which was part of the story a couple of years ago. The UCLA business where they had to pay 50-60 million to UCLA. Just make some stuff, find whoever is going to buy it and give it on a story about your accounting. As you said, they make good stuff and they’ve got a brand and there’s value here. They’ve just got to run what they do have better. Not keep chasing things like my fitness app or whatever it is, share buybacks, overly expensive deals with colleges that they don’t follow through on. The deals with some of the athletes that they then restructure the payments with because they’re running out of cash but spending the cash on their shares. What is this thing really?

Chris Hill: We’re going to leave it with that question. Bill Barker, always good talking to you. Thanks for being here.

Bill Barker: Thank you.

Chris Hill: Paying for college is anywhere in your future, you might have some questions about how to actually pay for it. Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp caught up with Megan Brinsfield from Motley Fool Wealth Management to talk about some tips on paying for tuition.

Alison Southwick: One of the biggest purchases a family may ever make is a college education. According to the college board the average annual total costs, including tuition, room, and board of attending college full-time during the 2022/23 academic year ranged from $28,000 to $58,000, depending on whether the school is public, private, in-state or out. Throw in some inflation and multiply those figures by four years, and you’re looking at a total cost of $100,000 to $200,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree. Here to help us discuss how families can plan for such a big expense is Megan Brinsfield, Director of Financial Planning at Motley Fool Wealth Management. Welcome back, Megan.

Megan Brinsfield: Why, thank you. As always, I have brought along with me my disclaimers and I will proceed with their procession now. I just want to remind everyone that everything stated here today represents my own thoughts, not necessarily those of Motley Fool Wealth Management or its affiliates. All information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Any examples are for illustrative purposes only and not investment advice. Each individual has unique investment needs and should do their own research or consult with a wealth advisor prior to making any financial decisions. Investing involves risks including loss of initial investment. Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool, operates independently from the Motley Fool.

Alison Southwick: If our listeners are still with us, first up, we have Midge Smithson. She’s 57 years old and a DIY investor looking to retire in the next few years after 35 years of a career. She has three kids, including a set of twins. Ideally, when the twins are through with college, she can take a lower-paying job and still maintain her lifestyle. Megan, what’s your guidance for Midge Smithson?

Megan Brinsfield: Well, I think Midge has really gotten through the hardest part of putting three kids through college, which is a pretty heavy budget burden. In looking at tailing off those expenses, Midge can really refocus on her own retirement needs and maybe supercharge that retirement because often kids graduating from college is occurring at peak earning years for most individuals, so it’s really an opportunity to shift focus.

Robert Brokamp: I’ll highlight a couple of things that some folks may not be aware of. First of all, you used to get a break on your financial aid when you had multiple people going to college at the same time, but that is going to change starting next year, which will be a tough thing for people like Midge. But I can also tell you that by experience when your kids leave home, your household expenses drop significantly. That does not necessarily offset the cost of going to college, but it somewhat does. Even though your kids are going in college and you have to pay the tuition, room, and board, and everything, you’ll see things like your grocery budget drop or if you are paying a lot for some sports events or things like that, those expenses will go away, which will be helpful.

Alison Southwick: Our next scenario is brought to us from Mr. Shaquille Oatmeal. I don’t know why that cracks me up still. I saw it on the Internet. I can’t take credit for Mr. Shaquille Oatmeal. Mr. Shaquille Oatmeal is counting on his children to get many scholarships for college. He’s 56 years old with a kid ready to go to college in the fall and he saved up 70,000 and fully vested 529 accounts. However, Mr. Oatmeal’s advisor told him to keep two years of college cost in safer investments, but then his son was awarded a $4,000 a year scholarship, and maybe even more scholarships are on the way. How should Mr. Shaquille Oatmeal consider these new windfalls?

Megan Brinsfield: Well, I think that certainly impacts the underlying investment allocation of these college savings. We always want to focus on keeping near-term needs safe, so anywhere from one up to three years of those anticipated college costs being kept in safer investments like money market or short-term bond type vehicles. I think the advisor in this case was really pointing them in the right direction, but the target amount of that adjustment would probably need to change to account for those scholarships because that’s going to have a direct offset to the near-term need and allow some of that money to grow more long-term. One of the great things about the 529 plans is that if your student does get a scholarship, whatever that scholarship amount, becomes eligible to distribute without any penalty. Normally those 529 funds have to be used for qualified education expenses in order to get that tax break but the scholarship does give you wiggle room in that.

Robert Brokamp: It bypasses the penalty. You still have to pay taxes but the other great thing about the 529 is any money that you don’t need or the student doesn’t need can be transferred to qualifying relatives. So other siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, even to yourself if you plan to go back to school, and there’s no limit on when the money can be withdrawn. If you have money in a 529 that your kids don’t need, you could transfer it to yourself, let it grow through the years, and then use it eventually for your grandchildren, assuming you are blessed to have those folks. By the time you have grandkids, that account could be pretty big.

Megan Brinsfield: I think the other final thing we might want to note is just in recent years, the permitted uses of 529 funds have really expanded, most recently with some rules about actually transitioning those funds, any unused funds in a 529 to Roth IRA savings. That is hot off-the-presses kind of stuff but prior to that, but still pretty recent, is the ability to use 529 plans for student loans, to pay down your student loans, or even pay for a private tuition costs of primary school. The use of 529 funds is getting more and more flexible and potentially more advantageous to actually build up an excess in those counts.

Alison Southwick: Our final scenario is about one, Adele Dazim. She’s 64 years old looking to retire in two or three years. However, her son has other plans because he wants to do summer school and stay for a fifth year of college to graduate with a master’s. How does that change things for our dear Adele Dazim who was just about to retire?

Megan Brinsfield: Well, I think one thing that Adele needs to consider is doing he or she actually want to support the entire cost of that extended school experience for their son. Sometimes parents are very committed in supporting education goals and so they’re willing to make adjustments. I know in this hypothetical case, the client was considering, well, maybe I stay in my house a little longer, maybe I work an extra year or two help support this endeavor and really see their son through that master’s program. But master’s degrees do tend to be more expensive than undergraduate degrees on a per-year basis and so that can be a very significant expense and could potentially delay someone’s retirement if they were committed to that financial outflow.

Robert Brokamp: I agree. It’s a classic financial planning principle, and that is, you have to take care of your own retirement before you worry about your kids’ college because your kids can always get financial aid, but there’s no financial aid for retirement. I think springing for an undergraduate degree is awfully helpful already. Springing for the graduate degree if it will imperil your retirement plans might be something that you would reconsider.

Alison Southwick: Bro gives you permission to say no.

Robert Brokamp: That’s right. Exactly.

Alison Southwick: Bro, do you have any final parting advice, perhaps where people can go to learn more if they’re trying to save up for college?

Robert Brokamp: Yeah, I’ll just give some parting advice. First of all, the best place on the Internet to get information about saving for college is Lots of good information about 529s, both the savings plan and the prepaid plan, as well as the Coverdell Education Savings Account, which I think is an underappreciated college savings account. They also rate 529 plans. Each state has their own plan, but you don’t have to stick with your state’s plan. There might be a better plan for you. If you’re looking for a good book, I recommend Ron Lieber’s book. Ron Lieber is a columnist for The New York Times and he wrote a good book called The Price You Pay for College.

Alison Southwick: Megan, thanks for joining us.

Megan Brinsfield: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Chris Hill: As always, people on the program may have interest in the stocks they talk about and the Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don’t buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. I’m Chris Hill. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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