Parents have many desires. One of the top desires in our family has been helping our children with college funding. My parents, as I said in Millionaire Mind handled their money well. They saved for each of us and helped with a majority of our college funding. Thanks Mom & Dad. Every family is different and approach a college education in different ways.
Some may be able to pay for the whole thing (I don’t recommend that) others can only afford to help and some won’t be in a position to help at all. As parents, we want to help and make their lives easier than we had it. Sometimes that robs them of some of the learning and growing we experienced in our upbringing.
Be acutely aware of the difference between helping and enabling. Helping an adult child by allowing them to live with you for a few months during a transition helps them move on and grow. Helping them to remain in your home indefinitely without a plan for change is enabling them to live comfortably and thus enabling them to sit stagnant, unemployed, and not growing. I’m sure there are better examples. The bottom line is, enabling allows someone stay in a pattern of negative behavior where helping gives an added boost when needed to help some one change. College funding with our kids should be a help. Helping them to achieve their degree and career. Not enabling them to become lifetime students by failing and repeating courses or wandering around courses of interest with no destination.
The Baby Steps
We entered Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 4: Invest 15% for Retirement and Baby Step 5: Saving for College at the same time. Gleaning from the paragraphs above, sometimes saving for college cannot be done. Saving for retirement must come before college funding for our kids. BUT… we want to help them… How much are you really helping them if you end up living in their basement when you retire? What kind of feeling do adult kids have when their parents are living in distress? Or working forever with no vision of retirement in their minds. Work the steps in order.
Some people will find that they can work 4, 5, and Baby Step 6: Pay off your house at the same time. We’re not that family today so paying off the house must wait for now. To do these three steps together you must first put 15% in retirement then figure out what is required or desired for college. Then budget that out over the life of the child/children. Finally take the leftovers and direct it to paying off that mortgage. Oh yeah, and it’d be great to start thinking about college funding before you have kids or when they’re toddlers–we missed that for three of ours.
I took our oldest child to Financial Peace University when he was 16. I would suggest bringing them as young as 13 or 14. We need to demonstrate and teach our children how evil debt is as early as possible because there is a terrible opinion out there that debt is normal. It might be common, but it is definitely not normal it is evil and it turns people into slaves.
The rich rules over the poor,And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
—Proverbs 22:7 NASB