Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

Today’s topic will probably be a touchy one and it’s all about whether or not parents should start (or end) saving for children’s college expenses. Ever since I paid off my $38,000 worth of student loans last year, I have received many e-mails from parents who are interested in seeking help for their children. These e-mails are…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?Today’s topic will probably be a touchy one and it’s all about whether or not parents should start (or end) saving for children’s college expenses. Ever since I paid off my $38,000 worth of student loans last year, I have received many e-mails from parents who are interested in seeking help for their children.

These e-mails are all related to whether or not parents should risk or sometimes even ruin their retirement by helping their child pay for college.

There is usually one common theme in these e-mails – the parents are usually not on track for retirement, they have debt, or they cannot afford to help their child in college.

Here are some of the stories I have heard in these emails:

  • The parents have over $100,000 in student loans that they took out in THEIR name so their child could go to school. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have a lot of other debt besides student loans.
  • Their child is in medical school and the parents are paying for all of their college expenses plus food, car, rent, etc. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have debt.
  • Their child is in law school and the child said that if his/her parents don’t continue paying for their expenses, that they would hate their parents. This child was even more mad when the parents printed out every single blog post of mine and gave it to them (I did not tell their parents to do that, it was entirely their idea). The child said I was ruining his/her life (yup, that actually happened). These parents are not on track for retirement and they are afraid of losing their child now as well.

I know I’m not a parent.

I’m not a parenting or child expert either.

I know I don’t know what it is like to have a child and the feelings that go along with that. However, I do know that I raised my younger sister after my father passed away and her attending college did make me want to help her so that she wouldn’t have to worry about money as much.

The other day I was talking to my sister and she was bringing up different ways she could possibly side hustle so that she could make extra money. It sort of made me feel bad, and for a moment I thought about helping her financially. Luckily, she snapped me out of it and told “You’ve helped me enough already. Do not worry.”

Her saying that really made me happy. I actually had tears in my eyes!

Instead of just giving her money, I helped her with her budget, I have supported her, I helped her find side hustles so that she could make extra money, I helped her make a plan, and more.

I know all of these other things I am doing have shaped her into an awesome young lady. Yes, she has to learn things the hard way but in the end she will be just fine.

 

 

 

Alarming information about student loans.

According to the Federal Education Budget Project, around $100 billion was borrowed by students in fiscal 2014 alone. Also, the default rate on student loan debt averages around 13% to 14%. 90% of student loans in recent years are co-signed by others (mostly parents), and that is a big burden falling on parents.

That’s a lot of debt, and that’s a lot of debt that isn’t being paid for. If you are a parent cosigning on student loan debt, I hope you understand the consequences that can come from it.

 

Should parents help their children go to college?

Okay, before anyone thinks this is a post bashing all parents who help their children, I should say that I have no problem with parents helping their children pay to go to college. However, that’s AS LONG AS THE PARENTS CAN AFFORD IT.

I have plenty of friends who went to college where a lot of it was paid for by their parents. These parents could afford it, and that is key. If you are on track for retirement, you are not struggling, and so on, and you want to help your children attend college, then by all means go for it.

I also have plenty of friends who went to college where everything was paid for yet their parents clearly could not afford it. Some of these parents took on a second or even a third job so that their child could go to school. They racked up credit card debt and student loan debt as well. Some of these students never paid a cent towards their student loans and their parents were forced to in the end. They risked their retirements, their happiness and more. While I understand that these parents care for their children, they need to realize they are putting their retirements at risk.

Like Shannah said above in the tweet, you can take out loans for student loans, but you can’t for retirement.

When we have children, as long as we are on track for retirement then we will most likely help our children attend and afford college.

I know that my story is not the average story, but I went to college with no help at all. I paid for all three of my degrees on my own, lived on my own, worked full-time, paid for all of my food, and more, all starting just days after I turned 18 and graduated from high school.

It was tough, but I do think it is possible.

For other students, it may take longer to graduate, or it may take less, they may take on more debt, or they may take on less. Everyone’s story is different, but it does not mean it is not possible.

One great story I recently read was How I Graduated College With $100k… in Savings on Budgets Are Sexy. Many say my story is impossible, but just wait until you read this great story. You will be amazed at how awesome Will is! I’m jealous but I know he worked hard for his accomplishments.

 

How can parents help but not risk their retirement?

Instead of risking your retirement, you can do other things to help your child go to college. Below are some of my tips if you have children who are about to attend college:

You don’t need to help in every way possible. For some reason, there is this myth out there that helping your child go to college means you need to pay for everything for them. Instead of paying for their tuition, textbooks, food, dorm, car, and everything else, set limits. You might help by giving them emotional support, letting them stay in your home while they are in college, helping them find ways to save money for college, helping them cut their college expenses, and more.

Help them get a job. If you don’t have the money to help your child, you may want to help them find a job. This way they can pay for their own expenses. Just a little bit can go a long way.

Help them create a budget. If your child doesn’t have a budget, help them create one now. Read Does your budget suck? – Budget Categories. A budget can go a long way and help someone overcome many financial difficulties.

There are quite a few questions for you today, because I think this topic is an interesting one. I know that not everyone will have the same opinion so I want everyone to chime in! 🙂

Do you think parents should risk their retirement and pay for college? What if the parents are on track for retirement? How much should they help, if anything at all? Will you help your children go to college?


Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. kelsey

    oh my word! I couldn’t fathom my parents taking out loans for ME. That is crazy.

    1. Yeah I thought that was definitely crazy too!

  2. Nina @ RichLife.io

    My parents paid for me and I am glad that they did, but I sure wish that they’d taught me more about finance at that age because I was woefully ignorant about everything. It’s not a skill they teach you in college either so I really think parents should involve their children in finances around that age. If not wishing to disclose everything then at least teach basic money skills like budgeting and what to do with savings.

    1. Yes, I think teaching kids about finance is definitely important.

  3. Kasia

    I don’t think parents should risk their retirement or taking out loans for their kids to pay for college. I do believe that parents make a decision to have children and that they should help them financially as much as possible. Not every parent is in a position to give their kids handouts to avoid college loans but by planning ahead they can offer some assistance. I’m a new parent, my son is five months old, and he already has a bank account which I will contribute around $10 a week plus anything he gets for birthdays, Christmas or at any other occasion. By the time he’s 18 there will be a nice sum in there that he’ll be able to use for college if he decides to go. I hope that I will be in a financial position to help out but life isn’t certain so a little bit now will go along way later.

    1. I think that’s a wonderful idea. Good job!

    2. minimalist

      That is a great idea, and I know this comment is from about 6 months ago, but you would be doing your son a much bigger favor if you opened an investment account in his name and invested the money for 18 years instead of just putting cash into a bank account.

      $40 a month in a bank account will be $8,640. But value is about $5,075 in in today’s dollars (18 years of 3% inflation)

      $40 a month growing at (a very small rate) of 5% is $13,505 ($7,932 after inflation).

      $40 a month at a more normal rate of about 8% is $17,976. ($10,559 after inflation).

      At that point your son may decide to simply keep that money growing until he retires at age 65 (or blow it all haha). That $17,976 will grow to about $669,282 which has a value in today’s dollars of about $97,991 (after 65 years of 3% inflation.)

      Good luck!

  4. As a parent myself, I can understand why the parents in this story would do this. But from an outsider’s perspective its just not a smart move. Part of the whole college experience is getting a big dose of reality, and part of that comes financially when you realize that mom and dad aren’t there to be your walking ATM machine anymore. The parents have already sacrificed enough to help their child, not its up to the student to figure out the rest of the way to make it to the finish line.

    1. I agree! In many of the emails I receive, these “children” are almost 30 years old and still getting everything paid for by their parents. It’s just a disaster.

  5. This was timely Michelle, because I just finished debating whether or not I wanted to even encourage our children to GO to college. By to answer your question, no way. My wife and I both decided if they really want to go……and we can afford it…..we’ll help some, but paying for our kids college IS NOT a priority.

    Thanks for starting the discussion
    -Bryan

    1. Yes, I don’t think it needs to be a priority as well.

  6. Cherie

    Look I’m not judging, but if a child is saying they’ll hate their parents if they don’t get financed, well, the problems are not merely financial ones.

    I have made it clear to my kids that I can NOT pay for their college. I will not go into debt for them to go. My junior has a clear idea of that but also wants to live away from home. I’m not sure that will work out for her. But I’ve made it clear that she is welcome to live here while she goes to one of the many, many excellent schools within commuting distance. She doesn’t want that ideally, however we’re early in the process and we’ll see how it goes ๐Ÿ™‚

    I will gladly help her as much as I can. I will gladly pay off anything I can later on. But my oxygen mask goes on first, and she has two siblings who deserve equal opportunities – so we’ll all do the best that we can – together, but honestly and with foreknowledge of the situation.

    1. I agree. Some of the children in the emails I receive are just plain spoiled.

  7. That student loan is so much. I am happy that you paid it off. On the other hand, I think it’s fine to have debt when the money goes to student’s education. Later on, when kids are doctors and lawyers, it becomes easy to pay that off.

    1. But couldn’t they pay that off themselves?

  8. Parents should absolutely not risk their retirement! Their child will have greater earning potential once they graduate, but the parents will have aged even more, and their ability to earn will enough for retirement will be jeopardized. I say this because I know quite a few parents who lost jobs during the recession and have been struggling ever since. Plus, health is always a risk, so there’s no guarantee that a parent will be able to continue working if health issues arise.

  9. If parents are struggling financially and/or not on track for retirement, it seems unwise to help their kids extensively with college costs. I would suggest going to the root of the issue–how expensive is the college? Is there a cheaper, in-state option? Could the student take courses at community college and transfer to a 4-year program? Have they applied for all possible scholarships?

    1. Yes I agree! There are cheaper options and parents could help their children find more affordable ways to get a degree.

    2. You hit on the key point. The way the parent could help is to provide good solid financial advice and practical life advice.

      2 year community college then going to college would save a TON of money. And I would contend make a WAY better learning experience and expose their child to the real world. The reason it doesn’t happen is 95% pride and negative stereotypes that middle-class families have about sending kids to “community college”. I don’t want to make that comment sound snarky, there are pre-conceived notions that most people have, and while I contend they are wrong, their is no doubt that SOME will judge that “oh your kid is in community college?”

      Who cares. The answer is most people do. If we can get people over that hump, then the rest is easy from there.

      1. Yes, I think too many people decide not to go to community college because of pride. It is sad.

  10. No they shouldn’t take out the loan for their kids. There are tons of cheaper ways to send kids to college. Parents do not “owe” college tuition to their children. Instead, teach them about how not to take our more loans than they need, make sure they go to an inexpensive state school or a community college to start, etc. It’s not “glamorous” or the perfect idea of a 4 year college “experience” but it’s still an education!

    1. I agree Cat! One situation that I did not mention was in an email I received. The child told their parents that all colleges have a $100K and up price tag. The parents asked me if that is true!

  11. I agree with you- parents should help if and only if they can afford it. I also think parents should set realistic financial expectations with their kids when choosing a school. Where I grew up, it was all about “name brand” colleges, instead of which schools provided the best value and return on investment.

    1. I think too many people care about the name. It should be about what they teach you and if that applies to what you want to do in life.

  12. We plan on helping our kids with college because we can afford to. In fact, we’re already saving for them. Since we save plenty of money, I can’t think of a single reason not to save for their future education.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If you can afford to, why not?

  13. Robin

    While I wouldn’t risk my retirement for it, I do want to help my daughter go to college. My parents helped me, but I also worked all through college, went to a cheaper state school, and got scholarships. So I feel like we all worked for it. If my child does the same kind of things, I will absolutely help her out if we are financially able.

    1. Yes, I think that’s a great system. This way the child has some sweat in the game!

  14. I’ve seen those stats of parents taking out loans to help fund their childrens’ educations and its terrifying. It just shows that you’re combating financial irresponsibility (the failure to save) with more financial irresponsibility.

    Your suggests of ways to help without giving cold hard cash are good — it is legit terrifying that parents with adult children are gambling their retirement this late in the game. They don’t have time to recovery from this idiocy.

    1. I agree. It’s also sad that some of these kids are making their parents feel bad. Just grow up!

  15. No way jose! ๐Ÿ™‚ You have to take care of yourself first, then your kids. I know this is a tough one for parents to swallow, but it’s the right financial decision. I’m saying that as I’m digging my way out of $206,000 of student loan debt ($50k down by the way!). My opinion is that you pay for your kid’s college after you’ve taken care of yourself.

    1. I agree. Thanks Natalie!

  16. Parents should over-extend themselves just to help their kids out with college. If they can financially swing it, great. If not, let it be. If parents help their kids but really can’t afford to, the kids will just end up helping them later.

    It kinda falls along the same lines as ‘pay yourself first.’

    1. What if the kids don’t help out later though? When I was doing some research on this, many parents said that their children did a complete personality change and abandoned them later on.

      1. Drats, I meant “Parents shouldn’t”. But yeah.

        That’s terrible about kids turning their backs on their elderly parents who’ve helped them get where they are. I didn’t even consider this happening. Since that can be the case I guess, I still think parents should only help their kids with college if they can financially swing it without it being a huge personal sacrifice. If the kids abandon them, it will just hurt their hearts not their wallets as well.

        1. Haha that makes much more sense now. I was very surprised by your answer so it all makes sense now ๐Ÿ™‚

          1. I should try sleeping more! ๐Ÿ™‚

            1. Haha probably ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Kathy

    No, you should not risk retirement for your kid’s college. When we saved for our son’s college, I started almost from the moment he was conceived and never missed a month of putting something in the account. Sometimes it was only $25 but the contribution was made. As our income increased, I increased the contribution. But throughout the years until he went to college, we never stopped or lowered our retirement contributions. There are many options for assisting with college expenses; some don’t even have to be loans. Our son went to our state’s flagship public university. No private college. No out of state tuition. In high school he took advance placement exams and received credit for 3 courses. Since tuition is charged by the credit hour, that saved tuition of 12 hours of course work. He also took a couple of the basic, required courses during the summers at a community college where that course work would transfer to his 4 year institution. The summer session at the community college is cheaper that a regular semester at the university. And he worked part time jobs. So there are many ways to make college more affordable. But one of them should never be at the expense of your retirement fund.

    1. Sounds like your son did something very similar to what I did. It saves a ton of money. Good job!

  18. We will help our three daughters with college expenses. To a certain point. If they end up with a small amount of student loan debt, that is ok. It will teach them that loans/debt are no fun. The key is to start early. Saving for college is very similar to saving for retirement. You should always prioritize paying off debt and saving for retirement ahead of college savings, but ignoring it won’t work.

    There are countless stories about how not to do things. I know well to do people who won’t save a penny and people scraping by to pay for their kids education.

    1. Yes I agree. Saving for retirement should come first.

  19. Adrienne

    I know I was one of the lucky ones when it came to student loans. I was able to get a majority of my tuition paid for in scholarships but the remaining part was covered by loans. My dad made it clear that these loans were in my name and I was ultimately responsible for paying them back, but he would help out if he was in a good position to do so when those bills started coming in. Fortunately for me, he made a lot of sacrifices over the years to both put himself in a good position to retire and be able to help his kids go to college and when it came time to pay back the loans he was able to help me.

    Having said that, I would have never wanted him to risk his retirement savings to help me pay off that debt if he wasn’t in a good position to do so. For many kids at the age of 18, college is an exciting time for new experiences, new friends, etc. – thoughts of interest rates and debt are not what they’re thinking about. As someone said above, I think better education in high school and from parents before college is key in helping them make the best decision for their future.

    Having had solid financial support from my dad has made me want to look ahead and start saving so I can do the same for my (future, currently non-existent) kids, but I would not put my retirement at risk if that was the only option.

    Awesome and interesting post! Sorry for the long-winded comment!

    1. Thanks Adrienne! I think your situation is a perfect example of parents who can afford to help. There is nothing wrong with that!

  20. kammi

    Ten or twenty years ago, I may have said “Yes”. Today..no WAY. There are TOO many scholarships and opportunities for someone who REALLY REALLY wants to go. I worked three jobs through college and am debt free. If they can convince other people that they should get funding via their work ethic and the market, etc (private investors, etc), then I guess you can chip in (spending money for books during the semester, a plane ticket home kind of thing every once in a while). But otherwise; NO!!!

    1. Yes, there are definitely a lot of ways for children to find other funding!

  21. I think that’s a great idea. I have a friend where her parents did the same thing. this way they still know what they are getting themselves into.

  22. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    My parents weren’t able to help me much but they did contribute a small amount. It made them feel good to be able to contribute, even in a small way, to my college education. They couldn’t afford to but I know they would have liked to help me more if they could have. I feel the same way- if I am able to afford it, I would help my kid out with their education. I would not, though, take out a loan in my name. That’s up to them.

    1. Yes, I think taking out a loan in the parent’s name is a little excessive.

  23. I agree that it’s fine as long as parents have already put themselves first and know they can afford it. My parents helped me out with my first semester, and then my dad lost his job, so it was on me to take out loans for the rest of it. I’m not resentful at all, because I’d rather my parents be happy in retirement! I don’t want them worrying about me. I love that you pointed out there’s other ways to help, too. It’s great that you’ve been able to support your sister in other ways.

  24. Thanks for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. My wife and I are at odds on this one, but we’ve still got years and years to develop that, so I’m not worried about it. I think if it’s important to you and it doesn’t ruin your retirement plans, do it. But you’ve got to do your due diligence and crunch the numbers. I think too many people just do it because they think it’s the right thing to do, and only later realized the problems it caused them down the road.

    1. Yes, I agree! There needs to be a long thought process and some research put into it.

  26. My parents took loans out for my sisters and I to go to college (which was mostly covered by scholarships). I come from a very family oriented culture though so my parents know they have nothing to worry about financially as all 3 of us (and respective spouses) are doing very well as a result of their selflessness and will help them out.

    A lot of it is culture driven.

    1. Great input. Definitely depends on culture as well.

  27. I think retirement definitely comes first. If you can do both, then that’s awesome. Prepare as early as possible for it and you probably can. However, I don’t think parents should pay 100% of the costs even if they can afford it. The kids need to contribute something – whether it be through scholarships, jobs, finding a cheaper alternative…something. They need to appreciate it and having skin in the game is the best way to make that happen.

    1. I think having some skin in the game is very important. I actually read a statistic that students who pay for their own college degrees (or at least a part of it) usually receive better grades.

  28. Alison

    Great post Michelle!
    I don’t think a parent should risk retirement to pay for a kids college. There are loans, grants, and scholarships. Also, there is work. I had a full ride to play soccer in school, so I paid for undergrad. For grad school, I worked more than 40 hours a week at 3 different part time jobs, and I paid for school myself.
    Kids can pick cheaper schools, start saving when they are younger, or work while in college.
    There are ways for someone to pay for school, if they want to.

    1. I definitely agree with everything that you said!

      P.S. That is awesome that you had a full ride. Good job!

  29. Katie

    So glad I found your blog! I need to save a few of these posts for later ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Katie! ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Amy

    I was lucky enough to have parents who could afford to pay for college and part of my graduate school, so that does create more of a sense of obligation for me. However, I DO NOT think parents should ever risk their retirement to pay for a child’s college education. In addition to the sentiments expressed in the tweets above, I think it’s important for parents to remember that they’ll probably end up leaning on their children later, if they don’t have enough funds to pay for retirement.So helping them pay for college, could mean making their finances more difficult later on.

    We will help our daughter pay for college if we can, but I’ll expect her to contribute as well. For example, she’ll have to have summer jobs to pay so she can pay for non-essentials.

    My instinct is that all parents who are in a position to do so should pay for college for their kids if they can, but relationships can be complex, and I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

    1. Yes, there’s definitely not a one-size fits all answer. It can be tough!

  31. Jen @ Save to Splurge

    Very interesting topic! In general I do not think parents should risk their retirement. That being said, my husband and I both grew up in very traditional Asian households. My parents paid for my college education, but I took out loans for grad school. My husband’s parents helped him through college and med school. In return it is pretty much expected that we will help them through retirement. Our parents do the same for our grandparents. I guess you can say it’s tradition!

    1. That’s awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. kay ~ frugalvoices.com

    I like your ideas on this. You can see how if you make it too easy on a kid, they get that entitlement mentality. I’d want to help some, but I wouldn’t put hubby and me into debt to send him to college. He could live at home rent and board free. The one thing I’ll never understand is when parents go into debt to pay for their kid’s wedding. To me, that is just bizarre. I’d hand him a ladder for the elopement and a toaster for their first at-home breakfast. If the girl’s parents want to break their piggy banks, all power to ’em!

    1. I’ll never understand going into debt for a wedding either!

  33. Thanks Marty! I definitely think parents should have a plan.

  34. Definitely sounds like your parents did it the correct way. Good job to all of you!

  35. Oh my gosh. The mad kid that said you were ruining his life? That’s awful!!!! (That the kid is that entitled and stupid; the fact he thinks you’re ruining his life is hilarious.)
    You can’t pay for the education of your kids if you don’t have money for yourself. Sure, they may plan to provide for you in your old age, but a car accident can change all of that in an instant.

    1. Haha yeah I had to laugh to. This was a GROWN adult who said this as well.

  36. I actually fear not being able to help my children with college. I’ve seen what it’s like for parents to not give a dime to their children’s college education and it’s not pretty. I plan on funding 50% of their college education, but only if I’m on track for retirement. Like pretty much every finance expert out there, you should save for retirement first before helping your kid through school.

    1. Yes, I would like to help my children out with college as well. I do think it’s possible, but it can be difficult. I’m the only one out of anyone I know personally who didn’t receive any help, and at times I do get jealous of my friends who received help.

  37. This is a touchy subject. For me, I would rather have retirement money than help my kids through college. My rationale is this: if I go into debt for helping my kids through college, chances are that I am going to need to rely on them for financial support. This will put more stress on them and their family than if they had taken out student loans and paid them off.

    1. I agree! Thanks Jon.

  38. They’re be fine! It’s definitely possible to go to school on your own or with it being partially covered. It also helps children learn more about the real world and have a say in their finances.

  39. We will not risk our retirement for our kids’ college education but we sure do hope to pay as much as we can! Unfortunately, it is coming up in just a few short years and we have not saved for it. Ugh!

    1. Good luck! There are many ways to go to college for cheap, so I am sure they will be fine ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thank you for the encouragement! I’ll be watching your blog to learn some tips:)

        1. Thanks! I’ll be reading your blog as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. I agree. Students can go to school for much cheaper than what it seems like most are choosing these days.

  41. Oh my god that sounds horrible!

  42. Stephanie

    I’m a parent (albeit to a 1 1/2 year old so college is a long way off) and I can definitively say that we will not be risking our retirement to fund her college education! Retirement contributions come first, although we are also putting some money into savings for her as well. Honestly, I think I valued my education more because I earned it. I got a full scholarship that covered tuition and house for undergrad, and I took out a small amount of loans to cover grad school. My parents paid for my meal plans and some of my textbooks for undergrad, but the rest of it I earned through scholarships or paid for myself.

    I think a big reason I was so motivated was because my parents were very up front with me. I had about $20k in savings bonds that I had received as gifts throughout my childhood, but beyond that I would be on my own. Since I knew this, I worked extra hard to do well in high school so I could earn that scholarship, and I knew I had to do well in college to keep it. Having some skin in the game was a great motivator. I wound up not needing that $20k for my education, and instead used it as a downpayment for a house.

    I hope to be able to help my daughter out a bit with college expenses, but I feel no obligation to pay for it all. I feel that the best gift I can give her is her parents’ financial independence in our old age.

    1. Yes, I think those who pay their own way or work their own way towards scholarships definitely are very motivated to succeed and find the best value in the college they choose. Good job!

  43. I get very nervous when parents put themselves in a bad position to help their children. Is it really help when they endanger their retirement and then the children have to help them beyond what they may be capable of doing or prepared to do. Also, the child needs to rethink their school if it’s going to cost that much.

    1. I agree. There are plenty of affordable ways to attend college!

  44. I love this post. I totally agree with you and I also think it’s ridiculous how much pressure parents put on themselves to pay for their kids’ tuition. I hear coworkers talking all the time about how they can’t afford to do this or that right now because they are paying for their kids to go to college. I think that’s craziness! I think student loans teach kids responsibility – otherwise if your parents pay for your college, what reason do you have to go out and get a job immediately after college? Paying off a loan also teaches people a bit about budgeting, and about dealing with loan companies, etc.I remember my mom helped me get loans but had me call Sallie Mae to sort out any account issues, etc – it is good to learn all those terms and definitions and get experience with dealing with grown up responsibilities.

    If you have the money to pay for your kid’s tuition without ruining your retirement, going into debt, or cutting out all fun from your life, then by all means do so, but never at the cost of your own retirement fund or lifestyle!

    1. I agree. Thanks for stopping by! ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Lisa

    If I had known how much financial trouble my parents were in at the time, I would have asked them not to help me out with my tuition. Yes, they wanted to give. But it sucks more now for me to see my mom struggling.

    1. I’m sorry Lisa. At least you know how it is affecting them. Some of the emails I receive, I feel horribly for the parents because their children just do not care.

  46. Great post and I am so glad to see the intelligence and wisdom of your readers. So many lives have been ruined by people ruining their retirement by borrowing for their children’s education. It is sad and as some have shared it is not always appreciated.

    I worked almost all the way through college, borrowed some and did fine. Here is an important statistic. Those who have to pay their own way, on average, are more successful than those whose parents pay their way. I still helped my children what I could, but no one should feel guilty for not doing so. It probably does allow them to enjoy it more.

  47. Daisy

    This is why i like Canada, You open up a savings account for your children and you start putting money every month. Every year government automatically doubles up the money that you have saved for your children . By the time your children is out of high school, you will have money to cover his-her educational expenses.

  48. Veronica Lee

    I think parents should help only if they can afford it. I certainly will not risk my retirement for my kids’ college but will help and support in other ways. For a start, we are letting them stay in our home while they are in college

  49. Rebecca

    My mom paid for my books and my dad paid a couple thousand dollars that my student loans didn’t cover. my parents made it very clear to me in high school that I needed to get scholarships to go to college because they would not be paying all of it. I got a lot of scholarships, and I graduated college with $20,000 in student loan debt. I’ve noticed that when parents pay completely for their kids college, those are the students that end up dropping out of college. I think those kids have less ownership in their education, and it doesn’t matter as much to them.

  50. I don’t plan to pay my kids’ way through college. I didn’t get help with my college funds, and I take responsibility for the loans I took out. I want my kids to understand that same responsibility. If they know they’re paying for it, I feel like they’ll take it more seriously. At least, that was my viewpoint when I was a student.

  51. Lori

    ok here’s my two cents… Or adjusted for inflation $200?
    Start early… And i dont mean a savings account for your child’s education. For us, and most people I know, we spent our childs early years trying to get out of debt and learn to live that way… All the while teaching them not to do as we did…AVOID DEBT!! We told our sons that they ate their college fund every night for supper and their means for going to college was academic scholarships and a well honed work ethic coupled by good ole common sense. You don’t go to a college you can’t afford, you focus on getting the act/sat scores that will get full ride scholarships, keep the grades up to maintain the scholarship and seek out any grants or outside scholarships they can. We currently have 3 sons in college, no debt and they have an ownership of their education that comes from having worked hard for it. They all live at home– we pay for food (from home, not eating out) charge no rent, cell phones, insurance, occasional gas money or textbook.over 90% college students take out loans and 40-60% never graduate—-sobering numbers. Think of how their life would be drastically different if they didnt start off with crippling debt and then have to help you after graduation because you spent all your money on the education they never finished. As Dave Ramsey says “live like no one else now so you can live and give like no one else later”

  52. My parents went into a lot of debt to put my sister and I on expensive sports teams and contributed what they could to our private colleges. They now rationalize all of that spending saying that it made us successful and all the debt they’re in now was necessary for us. I feel bad but they didn’t see any other way. I have the luxury of the internet to educate me about finances but they didn’t have that. I hope to help them out with their debt soon but as you said – you can’t take on the world. Sometimes just helping people in little ways can make a big difference.

  53. I have four kids, I helped under a few conditions. They went to Community College 1st, they finished in 2 years their CC ~ and they found a major at CC that they could work a viable job after. They paid for the last 2 years. My youngest two were homeschooled for High School and got their degrees within 2.5 yrs by doing CLEP, DSST, Straighterline, Study.com, overloaded courses with Universities that accepted their transfer credits from these sources and their degrees only cost me between $15K and $20K with them not taking out any loans. I believe people feel obligated to have the ‘dream college experience’ without realizing that isn’t a reality for most people. Many students start, get into a ton of debt without even finishing or working in the chosen field. My kids had to research their majors, validate that they could get a job after the investment, and if they wanted a major that wasn’t paying out, they had to minor in that subject and pay for it on their own.