All parents want what’s best for their children. It’s natural. This parental instinct leads many parents to save for their kids’ college education expenses before saving for their own retirement. This mistake can significantly impact the parent’s ability to retire comfortably and on their terms.
Here are three key issues to examine when it comes to college funding:
1. How much of your children’s education costs do you really want to cover? Many parents default to wanting to pay for all of the education costs without considering the consequences. Your values are important here. Do you expect your children to contribute to their college funding? How much? What are the terms? What lessons can you teach them through this process? You should be considering these questions and discussing with your spouse before making the decision to save as much as possible for education costs.
2. Parents cannot borrow to meet their retirement needs. College kids, and their parents, can use a multitude of loan options to cover college costs. If you run short when it comes to retirement, your options are limited to reducing your lifestyle (i.e. spending) or delaying retirement. Unless you have made a deal with your kids that they help support you in retirement, you should make sure you have a plan to secure your own retirement goals before going all in for college funding.
3. Other fund sources can help you or your kids cover college costs include:
- Student loans
- Parent loans
- Home equity loan
- Gifts from grandparents/family
Saving for retirement and college costs can feel daunting. Meeting both of these objectives is possible. It is important to develop a thoughtful financial plan to achieve these goals and execute the savings plan in a consistent, disciplined way. This approach will help you stay on track when those natural parental instincts start telling you to redirect your extra cash flow for education savings.