Saturday, March 26, 2011

College or Retirement

Nowadays many parents struggle with deciding to plan for retirement or save money to pay for their child’s college education. Yearly college tuition costs can range from $5,000 to $50,000 per year.

Parents should not have to make the choice to plan for retirement or save money to pay for their child’s college education. Your child may not be financially secure enough to take care of you when you get older which is a major reason why parents should plan for retirement. You will need to save money for 30-40 years to have enough to cover your living expenses when you retire.

Planning for retirement or saving money to pay for their child’s college education is an emotional choice. The decision to do one or the other should be a rational choice. If you save money to pay for a college tuition that could total between $20,000-$200,000 that is less money that you can contribute to your retirement account.

Think about worse case scenarios, if you child drops out of college you are stuck with a bill, less money in your retirement account and will have to take care of a child who is unemployed. If your child changes their major or transfers to another school, this will extend the time they are in school and increase tuition costs. You can’t control what your child does but you can control yourself. If you take out a home equity loan you will also be stuck with another bill.

Parents should plan for retirement because college tuition can be paid for with financial aid, savings bonds, 529 plans, part-time employment from 9th through 12th grade and summer jobs during their college education put the money in a high interest savings account.

Suggest that your child apply for financial aid which can be either grants, scholarships, or loans. If a child has to participate in paying for college they will be more responsible with their money, understand the value of money and the value of a college education.

Talk to a financial advisor to get advice on how to save for both and the options available to you. A financial advisor can help you determine what age your what to retire, how much you will need during retirement, how much you need to save to pay for your child’s college tuition. You can withdraw money from your retirement account but if your child decides not to attend college, you will have to pay a penalty on the money taken out of your account. If you lose your job or quit your job you may have to pay your loan in full and pay taxes and penalties on the money that was not repaid.

You cannot plan to pay for college tuition when your child is in high school. Planning early is the key. If you save just $5 a month towards your child college tuition when they are born that equals to $260 a year. You may have to tell your child that you cannot afford to pay for their college tuition.

If your child does not get financial aid, encourage your child to go to a state college to cut down on costs. You may have to make sacrifices, live in a modest home, live below your means and buy more needs vs. wants. Ask friends and relatives instead of giving your child a gift to make a donation to their college tuition. Whatever you decide make sure you don’t go into debt and make your current or future financial situation worse.

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