Baby, won’t you drive my car?

When was the last time you bought a used car? Just this morning, my wife told me our Honda minivan is making a mysterious gurgling sound, and our mechanic is scratching her head about it.

We’re a family that lives the mantra of “buy it used and wear it out,” so believe me when I tell you this van is on its last leg. The cost of repairs is pretty close to the value of the car.

So we’re off to shop for another used car. Or I should say SHE is shopping since she’s the driver and cars are her department.

And let me tell you, my wife is excellent with cars. Her dad was a pilot and he taught her everything she knows.

She started shopping back in 2010, knowing that she would want a “new” used car at just about this time of the decade. So to say that she’s done her homework on our next ride is a total understatement.

And that leads me to the first of two (poorly-crafted) segues into today’s topic. Here goes…

I am going to tell you a bizarre little story about buying a car.

Now this is no ordinary car. It’s a life-changing vehicle.

First off, it’s REALLY expensive. In fact, this one costs more than $100,000.

Almost every kid in America wants one, and your kid does too.

And it takes a looooooong time to buy one: about 1,500 hours.

But you can’t just “buy” one. You must apply for one and the application goes on for pages and pages, and the salesmen are super snooty. They don’t return calls.

And if that all sounds good to you, here’s the zinger: people who buy this vehicle intend to own it for the rest of their lives AND most of them will never even bother to test drive it.

So what “vehicle” am I talking about here?

A college education.

Here’s what I mean… (and here’s the second segue)

I met a young lady at the neighborhood 4th of July party. Her dad was boasting about her 4.0 GPA and how she was headed off to the University of Oregon to enter the honors program.

Now, I deal with some really smart people, and from what I could tell, she was a member of that club.

When I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” she said, “A psychiatrist.”

OK. That’s cool. America definitely needs more mental health, and it takes brains to be a shrink with a license to prescribe.

But then I asked her, “How many psychiatrists have you met?” and I got a really dumb answer: zero.

It occurs to me that our kids will spend four years and six figures on their first degree, and this vehicle is expected to carry them through life. However, precious few kids will even go so far as to interview or “shadow” the people they hope to become by attaining that degree.

It’s no wonder close to 70% of graduates take jobs outside their majors.

To me, it’s akin to buying a very expensive car without even test driving it.

So this summer, ask your kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and then spend some time helping them to learn more about what they want to be, and find some ways for them to experience a little slice of what that career might be like. A simple test drive could save you—and them—a whole lot of time and money.