Occasionally I rant and rave about student loans and college costs and the fact that no one bats an eye anymore at borrowing $100,000 for school. (Until it comes time to pay those loans back, and then everyone says, “Oh, 18-year-old you, you should’ve known better.”)
But here’s the thing: While I believe we should be doing everything in our power to keep kids out of crazy student loan debt, that doesn’t include giving up on our own retirement. And according to some new numbers from MassMutual’s State of the American Family series, the majority of parents are now prioritizing paying for their children’s education over saving for their post-working years.
And then, it follows, comes this stat: Only three in 10 American parents are confident they’re going to be adequately financially prepared for retirement.
Well, sure. I could’ve told you that. If you choose to front your kid’s $50,000-per-year college bill over your own retirement nest egg, that’s going to leave you in the lurch down the road.
So let’s revisit our priorities, readers. Sure, it’s important to make sure that your children get a quality education without ending up neck-deep in student loan bills. But there are other ways to make that happen. (And why aren’t we talking about them?) Your kids could attend a community college for a couple of years before transferring to the big-name school. They could attend an in-state public university instead of a pricier out-of-state or private one. You could become serious scholarship hunters and cover a few thousand of your annual expenses that way. You could say the words, “No, son, you can’t attend that school because it costs too much money.” (Trust me, he’ll be okay.)
Because if your answer to this college-cost conundrum is to ignore your 401(k) and pretend you’ll be perfectly happy working until age 90, then you’re in for some unhappiness later. (As are your children, who will have to support you when you run out of cash.)
What’s your priority?
(Cartoon from Glennz Tees on Flickr.)