I asked a friend for a blog post idea, and she suggested I write about funding your child’s college education – do I feel that we “owe” our children an education and is it financially responsible to save for your child’s college costs at the expense of your retirement account.
I was blessed to have family members help out with my undergraduate education at a time when there was no such thing as online colleges. I know that’s a rarity, and I know how lucky I am for it. It was part of the reason that I could afford to look into law school. I think I may have taken it for granted at first, but after realizing the debt my friends were incurring, I realized just how lucky I was to be in my situation.
Because of that, I do feel that I owe a college education to my children (or at least education assistance), but it’s not something I owe to my (hypothetical) children. It’s more that I feel that I owe it to those generous family members to pay it forward.
Of course, doing the math, this is easier said than done. I played around with some tuition calculators, and to give one child the same college education I had (undergraduate, not grad school) in 20 years may cost over $120,000 per year. I can’t even comprehend that. And that’s just for one kid. Ouch.
I know that there’s an argument that children learn more from having to pay for their own education. They are more cautious about choosing where to go, and they better learn to manage their money. That may be true, but I would like to be able to give my kids at least a little boost to help them out. I learned to manage money, though going to grad school and figuring out how to pay for that may have played a part. Either way, I think I can try to teach my children about money in other ways.
Of course, I absolutely don’t feel that I should pay for an education for my children at the expense of my retirement accounts. I would be doing a disservice to my kids in that instance. The last thing I want to do is have to rely on them to take care of me in my old age because I can’t afford it.
A friend of mine is currently dealing with this. His parents spent a lot of money while their kids were young in order to give the kids a good life and good grade school and high school education (they all funded their own college educations in various ways). Now his parents are struggling to make ends meet, and while he is in a position to help them out with a few hundred bucks each month, they refuse to take it, because they don’t want to take money from their kids. He hates to see them like this and knows that it’s inevitable that they’re going to end up needing their help in a big way. I don’t ever want to put my children through that.
So that’s where I stand. I’m sure others have a different view – I know that my desire to pay forward the generosity I received is the biggest reason why I want to be able to pay as much as I can for my children’s education. Where do you stand? Do you plan to/want to help your kids out?