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Advice for a college freshman

My oldest nephew was always a very serious student, so when he, the oldest child in our extended family, was the first to go off to college, I was concerned that he would focus too much on studying, and not enough on the social side of college life.

Thus, I gave him this advice:  

There are 168 hours in each week. Classes generally take up about 15 hours, and the rule of thumb is 1.5 hours of study for every hour of class. So classes and studying should take up about 45 hours a week, leaving another 123 hours in the week. If he slept 8 hours a night (56 hours a week), then he would have 67 hours to have fun and enjoy himself, which in my view is almost as important an element of college as studying; it’s just a different kind of learning. I never asked him if he followed my advice, but he is a great guy, with a great wife and career, and has turned out quite well (due primarily, I am sure, to my wise advice).

When, some years later, my son when off to college, my concern was a bit the opposite. Although he was a good student, he was even better at playing, so I gave him the same advice, to encourage him to spend the needed class/study time. I also sent him off with other words of parental wisdom:  Don’t ask, don’t tell. I won’t ask what you’re doing, and you don’t tell me. There was also a corollary: Don’t call for bail.

Near the end of his first semester, I asked him if he was ready for his finals. He said he was. To my surprise, he said that he had taken my advice, and he and his roommate had designated quiet time every night in their dorm room, had been able to keep up on their studies, and were both ready for finals; some of their friends who had screwed off all semester, not so much. He ended up doing very well that year and throughout college.

Also, I never asked, and he never told (although after college some of his friends tried to tell me stories, I always told them I don’t need to know). And, he never called me for bail – that doesn’t mean he never needed it – I don’t know one way or another; remember – don’t ask, don’t tell!    

Bill Poole

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That’s what brothers are for!


I have two sons. The older one, one of the smartest, most clever problem-solvers I know, has always been very quiet, while the younger one has always been a talker. They are about three years apart.

Of course, as brothers, they (especially the older one) felt it was their right to beat up on each other (and to the distraction of their wives, still do), though the older one usually got the best of the younger. That was not necessarily because the older one was any stronger (he would tell you he is), but because in his youth he was very stubborn, and to me he always seemed to have an attitude of, you may beat me up, but I’ll never give up; that look in the eye can be very disconcerting.

When he and his brother would go at it, the younger was always ready to stop before the older.

My younger son in his earlier years was always very trusting and naive, and always saw and assumed the best in people. One day at the dinner table he mentioned that an older kid was picking on him, and he couldn’t figure out why, as he was always nice to this fellow.

The older brother casually asked the other kid’s name. About a week later, the younger son came home all excited – the bully had stopped picking on him, and they were now really good friends! I looked at the older one and he looked back and gave me a small smile. Enough said – I got the message loud and clear.

That’s what brothers are for!

Bill Poole

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