Raise your hand if you haven’t saved a dime toward your child’s education. Feeling some guilt about that? The experts say don’t!
The idea of being able start saving for college may seem like a pipe dream. Yes, if you have some extra cash you can put away for your kid’s future, do it. But if you’re struggling with debt or just paying the bills every month, it is ok to lose the guilt over this one.
Don’t just take our word for it, Rachel Cruze, money expert and co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Smart Money Smart Kids, agrees.
You’ve heard about the when you’re on an airplane, and if the oxygen masks pop out you should put your own mask on before helping someone else? Basically, if you don’t have oxygen to breath, how can you help someone else?
Cruze says the same idea applies to your finances. She says, “Be debt free besides your mortgage, and then save 15% of your income for retirement. Retirement happens if you want it or not,” she says you must “take care of yourself.” You never know what your children’s lives have in store for them. Maybe they will be a superstar football player and won’t need money for college, or they won’t even go to college because they choose an alternate career path. Their future is still a big question mark. One thing is certain, you will at some point not be able to or not want to work anymore and will need retirement savings to support yourself.
The good news is, even if you don’t have anything left over to save towards your child’s college, there are a lot of ways you can help support your child in their college journey without contributing dime. Money isn’t everything. Cruze says, ”You need to help your 18 year old in this decision. What school can they afford? They may not thank you then but they will hug you when they walk across the graduation stage (without debt)!”
Cruze believes student loans have become a major roadblock for this generation and if you can help your child avoid them, they will be so much further ahead in the long run. So maybe they want to go to an exclusive private school, but its just not in the budget. Encourage them to spend a couple years at a community college first to save on tuition for a few years before applying to transfer. Consider also, just staying in the cheaper school for the full four years. The name recognition of which school they attend is not the deciding factor on whether they will be successful in life.
Many jobs care more about their real world experience. If your student can maintain jobs and internships while in school, they may end up ahead of their peers who attend a more well known school. Not to mention, holding a job while also having to keep up with studies will mean more cash in their pocket to spend on their expenses and will only add to their level of responsibility. Not all lessons are learned in class.
Above all, keep these words from Cruze in mind, “There’s so much guilt and shame surrounding money. If you are able to pay for children’s college that is a blessing, but you are not a bad parent if you can’t provide funds for your child’s college.”