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Should Parents Put Retirement Planning Before a Child’s College Education?

In the coming months, many high school seniors will be heading off to college, but have their parents funded these students’ futures at the cost of their own?

While admitting that it is a “tough stance to take,” a writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggests that “most parents shouldn’t save for college” because they need to concentrate on their overall financial health and focus on retirement planning.

The writer of the article spoke with financial experts who were sympathetic to the dilemma of parents who want the best for their children. Parents are supposed to sacrifice for their children and to many people it would seem very wrong for parents to put themselves first. Plus, in a tough economy many parents want to do all they can to see that their children are well prepared to enter the workforce. 

However, as these experts noted, some parents who struggle to both make ends meet and save for college would qualify for financial aid. Others may not qualify for a lot of financial aid, but putting a lot of money aside for college still may not be their best option.

When illustrating the importance of self-care, people often turn to the example of the instructions given before an airplane takes off: put your own mask on first and then help others. It’s difficult to help others if you are struggling to make it yourself.

This applies to finances as well. If you use the bulk of your savings to fund your children’s college educations, you may struggle once you reach retirement age and “If you think your student having to take out college loans is a burden, imagine the burden of relying on their financial support for two decades in retirement.”

This is where a financial planner can be of great assistance. You may not know just how to reach all of your financial goals on your own, but with expert help you can make sound choices.