You haven’t saved a ton for your kid’s college — and that’s OK
Oh, the guilt.
It’s a feeling every parent knows well — as we feel guilty about everything from going to work to missing a soccer game to letting the kids watch TV. But one of the bigger guilt issues weighing us down: The stress of feeling like we aren’t saving enough for college.
Indeed, 44% of parents say they feel guilty about not having saved enough for their kid’s college, according to a survey of 1,000 moms and dads from Student Loan Hero.
And, frankly, they haven’t saved enough: Only 57% of parents are saving anything for college — and of those that do, the average amount is just $16,380. With the costs of four years of some colleges projected to hit well into the six figures in the years to come, even if that money is well-invested, many parents likely won’t be able to afford the entire sticker price of school. With those sky high costs, “it’s almost becoming unrealistic for many parents to think they even can pay for the entire cost of college,” says Erin Voisin, the director of financial planning for EP Wealth Advisors, who notes that college costs often rise at about 5% a year.
And that’s OK. “For the vast majority of Americans who don’t have the considerable resources to enable them to do it all, some sort of tradeoff is probably inevitable,” says Kimberly Foss, the founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management. And often the smart trade off is focusing more on saving for more important goals like your own retirement, and on paying for necessities like rent/mortgage, food and other necessities, explains Angela Coleman, an investment advisor at Unified Trust Company.
The reason: “Your kids can finance college, but you can’t finance retirement,” explains Voisin, who points out that not only can your kids get loans for college, they can also get scholarships or earn money while at school with a job or work study — all things that as a retiree are more difficult for you to do. Plus, one of the biggest favors you can do for your kids is to provide for your own retirement lifestyle and care, allowing the next generation to find its own way without the added burden of providing for parents with too few resources,” says Foss.
Another option: Have your children spend a year or two a community college, which is typically significantly cheaper, and then transfer into a higher-rated school; on a resume, you typically just list where your degree is from anyway.
There’s also value in kid’s helping out with college costs, says Coleman. “It is OK to allow our children to invest in their own futures,” she says. But kids who help with the costs may have “a vested interest in what is happening.” Of course, before they take on a student loan burden, kids need to understand what the loans will mean to their lives (what might monthly payments be, how hard will those be to manage, etc.). “Have that talk with your kids,” Voisin.
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