College expenses vs. retirement savings

The safety talk before an airplane takes off goes something like this: “If the oxygen masks come down, put yours on first, then assist your child or the person beside you if they need it.” That’s because you’re not going to be much help to anyone if you’re unconscious.

The same principle applies with money. If you drain your finances to pay your kids’ college expenses, you may lose consciousness from a money standpoint. You’ll be struggling in retirement, and you’ll be unable to help anyone in the future.

Here are some ideas you can talk over with your kids about how to pay for their education:

  • Look into special grants and scholarships. Check with counselors at high schools and at colleges of interest.
  • Consider a community college for the first couple of years.
  • Think about a few years of working and taking college classes rather than becoming a full-time student.
  • Investigate programs that prepare a student for a specific occupation or trade, such as computer specialist, auto mechanic, utility worker, nurse, paralegal, or physical therapist.
  • If military service is a fit, there are attractive education benefits included in most branches.

Work as a team with your kids. Use creativity and do the homework. Most qualified financial planners advise not to sacrifice retirement investing for college expenses.

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