First, let’s talk about what a parent is NOT to do. Please do not stop saving for retirement, or worse, take money out of your retirement accounts to pay for your kids’ college expenses. You have only one shot at saving for retirement, but your kids have many ways to pay for college. Some examples:
- Work during college to help pay for tuition/books/living expenses
- Pick an affordable college
- Relentlessly search for and apply for scholarships and grants
A note on point #3. In April I had the opportunity to speak to students at the Community College of Denver for Financial Planning Week. The topic was how to pay for college. Shannon, the lovely woman from CCD’s financial aid office, shared with the students that there is lots of scholarship money available to students, but much of it doesn’t get awarded because people just don’t even apply.
Many of the awards are based on the essay written, not on grades or test scores. So, with just a little effort on the student’s part, there is money out there to be claimed.
Of course, many parents want to help their kids with college costs. Or pay for all of it. However, that may be like transportation choices. You need a way to get around. You’d like that ride to be a Lamborghini, but you can afford a Honda. Well, guess what? Enjoy that Honda, because that will get you there at a reasonable cost.
The most important thing a parent can do is be up front with their children starting early in high school about how much the parent can (or is willing to) pay toward college and how much will be the child’s responsibility. That will lead to realistic decisions when applying for schools and maybe even motivate your student to work for higher grades!
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