Albeit a noble endeavor, setting aside money for your child’s education, while your retirement portfolio lay coughing and wheezing on life support, is another form of living above your means.
I say let the kids fend for themselves. You need to focus on how you’re going to comfortably retire when Social Security benefits are drastically cut. In February 2011, a retired worker’s average Social Security check was a paltry $1,178.
We both know it’s all downhill from here.
“But, Shawanda, what about the children? Tuition is so expensive. I can’t have my kids saddled with burdensome student loan debt. They won’t be able to make a decent…”
Shh. Save it.
I don’t care about your kids. They don’t read my blog.
Now, I can’t speak with any authority as a parent. However, I am the daughter of a mother who saved a grand total of $5,000 for her child’s post-secondary education. I’ve done all right for myself – even with my mother’s college savings plan consisting almost exclusively of the sage advice, “Leave it in the hands of the Lord, and He’ll work it out.”
Really, mama? *tilts head to the right* Really?
Well, you should be a bit more sophisticated than that. If you feel some innate obligation to pay for at least some of your child’s education, then here are a few tips on how you should approach the process.
Save as little as possible
Don’t you waste another nanosecond worrying about how you’re going to pay for private school tuition. You’re not. You’re going to find out how much cash is required for two years of community college plus the cost of two years’ attendance at the average in-state university. Work on saving that and, let junior figure out the rest.
Make your child help pay for their education
They don’t get to lounge around while you scrimp, save, and sacrifice to put their butts thru college. Summer vacation? Never heard of it. Your child should spend the equivalent of a part-time job, i.e., 20 hours a week researching and applying for scholarships. If not, their full-time summer job will help pay college attendance costs once they leave the rent-free, eat free, and otherwise, bill-free comforts of your home.
A 4-year university isn’t for everyone. There’s no doubt education is important, but it can come from anywhere. Vocational and trade schools – which may be more suitable based on your child’s academic experience, skills, and interest - are too often overlooked. If your child was a mediocre student in high school, that’s not likely to change when they get to college. You can send your kid to college if it makes you feel better, but, remember, it ain’t free.
Should your child default on a student loan, you’re on the hook for it. Regardless of whose education it paid for, student loan debt – public AND private – is almost never discharged in bankruptcy. And don’t take out any other debt to pay for college either. You’re old. Your child has far more working years left in him to pay off debt than you do.
If you’re rich, never mind me. Go crazy paying insane amounts of money for your child’s college education. Heck, don’t even bother calculating the return on your investment. If you’re average, I really do think it’s great that you’re even considering financially supporting your son or daughter beyond childhood. Just make sure that particular goal is towards the bottom of your list of things to do.