Trading Retirement for Kids’ College Ed

Why do so many Americans think it’s their responsibility to pay for their child’s college education?  When are people going to stop thinking in a herd mentality, and start thinking for themselves about this issue?  The idea of paying for a child’s higher education is a notion that has been perpetuated by the super wealthy echelons of society, THOSE WHO HAVE THE EXTRA MONEY TO DO SO!!!  Since when does that trend have to trickle down to those who may or may not have the money, even well educated, higher income parents.  Just because you “think” you’re supposed to do this, doesn’t mean you are.

Just a few questions I’d like to ask out about that notion:

1.  When are people going to stop thinking it is their responsibility to make sure their children do better financially than they did?  Sure, we want to help our children as much as possible, but after they become adults, you sort of hope the help you gave them was teaching them to stand on their own, how to be self-reliant and responsibly functioning adults, instead of always relying on you for everything.  I would think this would be a greater investment in your child than a check made out for their entire four-year college tuition.

Of course the argument could be made that our kids live in a much more difficult world financially than we did and it’s harder to get an education, get a job, and so forth.  Well, I guess that would be a good argument except how do you make it to the people who managed to live through the Great Depression AND get an education?  Yes, education cost less then, but everyone also made a whole lot less, too.  Times are definitely more complex financially than they were 60 years ago, and there are many financial pitfalls children can fall into, but teaching them how to manage their money would probably do more than just paying for their education outright.

2.  Many people are spending their retirement to pay for children’s college education, but why? It just makes no sense whatsoever.  Why are people dipping into precious retirement funds and getting further into debt, especially at an older age, to help their ADULT children?  Don’t your children have more time ahead to earn a living and plan for retirement, with or without an education, than you do?  When you give retirement money to them for college, does that mean that they will help support you, with college-earned jobs, later when perhaps you can’t retire because you’re out of time and money?  If you had to use retirement funds for their college education, then yeah, they should.  Will they?  Not likely because they’ll be too busy trying to support their own families and cannot worry about supporting aging parents.  OLDER AMERICANS WHO DO NOT HAVE MONEY TO PUT ABLE-BODIED ADULT CHILDREN THROUGH COLLEGE PLEASE WAKE UP! If you cannot live comfortably, stay out of debt, and not be forced to work in your older years, then STOP giving money to grown children!

3.  When will people learn that at some point children must learn to sink or swim?  If a child wants a college education bad enough, and you can’t afford it (“afford” meaning you have retirement funds and extra college funds) they will find a way to get a college education.  Ask yourself, is a college education for my child my dream or theirs?  If you send them to college how much will it mean to them?  Help children in their younger years learn to love education and learning.  Help them want to get good grades so they can get scholarships.  Help them want to excel by expecting them to pay for some, or all of their education.  If you can afford to pay for college educations, then do your kids a favor and help them “earn” some of the money you will be giving them later for that education.  Try setting up matching programs where for every dollar your child earns for college, you match it with another dollar.

One of our Money Mastery team members told me that when she went off to college, her dad, with some chagrin, handed her $20 and said, “sorry dolly, this is all I have to give you for your education.  Good luck and hope it works out for you.”  She notes that she did not resent him for that.  “I had known from a young age that I would probably be paying for most of my education,” she says. “I had worked hard in high school for scholarships, my parents had given me a love for learning and a deep desire to go to college, I worked many hard hours in the summer to earn my tuition money, and I worked part-time to pay for room and board. In the end, my education was worth every penny of the $42,000 and five years it took me to earn it.  My dad did co-sign on a couple of student loans, and when I graduated, my mother, with tears in her eyes and a deep apology gave me her old used car and said she was ashamed that they hadn’t done more for me.  But I was not ashamed of them.  I was thankful that they taught me how to be a functioning, self-reliant adult.  To me, they had more than done their job.”  The old Subaru her mom gave her (which already had 150,000 miles on it) got 40 miles to the gallon, helped her through the first four years of her career.

So, bottom line.  If you really feel compelled to pay for your children’s college education, then make sure you have the funds to do so without jeopardizing your own life.  The only way to be sure of this is to build a spending plan, debt plan, tax plan, and savings plan as part of a holistic, big picture Master Plan.  Start building plans today at

trading retirement for kids' college education

Category: Financials

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About the Author: Alan Williams
  1. […] I don't know what the "right" answer is, just know what worked for me.Powered by Yahoo! AnswersJames asks…What is the average parents save for their kids college education?Many people have 529 …ds college education?Many people have 529 plans and have other savings for their kids college. Any […]

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