It’s Never to Early to Start Thinking About my Kids College and How they are going to fund it. But I’ve already decided, I’m not paying for it.
Let me explain.
Before I had kids, I’ve often felt that my children will not bear the burden of paying for their own education. I was going to give them the benefit that I did not have. To graduate college with no debt, no worry about having to work a job to make payments, I was going to help my kids. Then I went to college and had kids. And my mind changed. For me, it financially doesn’t make sense for parents to pay for their child's' education. The most obvious reason (at least for me) being I have my own student loan debt. I owe six figures in student loan debt. SIX FIGURES. Now, granted it was because of some financial mistakes I made in regards to my (education), but nevertheless, the debt is still there. I also have a mortgage, credit card debt (sigh), a car payment, two children, and various other bills that are associated with breathing. Now I hope that I am teaching my kids to be responsible and accountable human beings, but I’ve never been known as an eternal optimist. I’m a realist. I like to deal in facts and real-life scenarios. What if one of my children makes it halfway through college and decides this isn’t for them? Or decides to change their major 15 different times? Or doesn’t declare a major? Or puts forth the smallest amount of effort, taking the minimal amount of courses each semester, because we’re paying for their education?
Which leads me to my first point. More often than not, if you’re paying for something, you tend to care more. I’m sure you’ll be more than likely to skip that party if you know it’s your money your wasting, and not mine. It should encourage more focus and commitment to their education. And another thing, my children will also learn more responsibility and REAL-LIFE skills and experience. Up until now the most responsibility either one of them has probably had was cleaning their room, going to school, and possibly showing up on time to whatever part-time job they have. Whatever money they have earned until this point, while I will encourage them to save the majority of it, there’s been no REAL responsibility attached to it. No bill that has to be paid, budgeted and saved for. No consequences they will have to face or deal with if that bill isn’t paid. Along with real-world experience, they will learn the value of money. And will be more prepared for the real-world. These are benefits that were not afforded to me.
For reasons, that I understand now as an adult, my parents weren’t able to give me the benefit of “real-life” lessons. I was essentially thrust into the world and had to figure it out. And I SUCKED at it. I filed (bankruptcy) at 22, ran up six figures in student loan debt, and have yet to figure out how to curb my spending habit. My mind knows that money doesn’t grow on trees, my amazon cart and AMEX bill haven’t figured that out yet. Now I’m not saying that these experiences didn’t help shape me to be the person I am today. They did. And I am a strong believer in experiences being one of life’s best teachers. But I’m also one to believe what’s the benefit of me making mistakes if I can’t help you avoid the same ones? Everything I went through will be for naught if I don’t share my experiences to help the next person grow.
Student debt is a burden, TRUST me when I say I know. However, at least students can get loans. I can’t get a loan for retirement. So if I spend all of my savings, or income trying to make sure my kids make it through college, I’m screwed when I retire. And there is no WAY I’m taking out a Parent Plus Loan. The biggest reasons being I’m on the hook for my children’s life decisions, and Parent PLUS loans do NOT offer any type of income-based repayment plan or any type of student loan forgiveness program. Oh, and there are no grace periods or repayment plans. You may be able to apply for a deferment, but your loans aren’t automatically deferred while in school like some other financial aid options.
With all that being said I have started what’s called an “education fund” for both of my children. It will not be enough to pay for four years of college, but I will help them pay for something, and fund some expenses. I love my children, and I want what’s best for them. Lately, I’ve had some thoughts that maybe college isn’t the end all be all I’ve always thought it to be, but that’s for another time. And while I love them more than life itself, they are not and cannot be my life. Whatever they decide to do with their lives and education, I will be there for them and support them however else I can. It just won’t be with my wallet.