According to Curtis Krietzberg, CFA, MBA, a financial planner in Red Bank, NJ, and principal in Krietzberg Wealth Management, the college funding talk with your child should happen before they get to high school so they have several years to prepare. “If parents never have a discussion about college funding, some kids may assume their parents are paying for everything,” says Krietzberg.
Whether or not you are not paying for all, or some, of your child’s college education, here are five things to ask yourself first, according to Krietzberg.
1. Do You Feel Obligated to Pay Your Kids’ College Costs?
Many parents feel a strong moral obligation to pay for their children’s college expenses. “I talk with many parents who feel a strong desire to pay for their kids to go to college, only to have to work longer or experience a different retirement than they had planned for," says Krietzberg. "Regardless of any moral obligation you might feel, you are not obligated to give up your retirement savings to put your kids through college. You want your children to understand if and how you’ll help with college expenses by being honest with them and telling them exactly what they should expect. This way, there will be no surprises,” says Krietzberg.
2. Should Your Kids Pay for Some of Their College Expenses?
“I think it’s a great idea for kids to pay some college expenses,” says Krietzberg. And Krietzberg says that asking kids to take on some financial responsibility is a good idea even if parents plan to pay 100% of expenses. “Ask your child to pay something, such as one out of the four years, or if you pay for tuition, they pay for room and board,” Krietzberg suggests. “This will require your child to get a job, save money, and stick to a budget. And, of course, if you are not able to pay 100%, your kids will need to chip in and you’ll have to help them understand their responsibility.”
3. Does Your Kid’s Chosen School Have a Good Return on the Investment (ROI)?
“Compare the total cost of college with the potential earning power of your child’s future career,” says Krietzberg. “If your child is pursuing a career with low to moderate salary and growth potential, going to a school with more expensive tuition usually does not mean higher than average future earnings,” Krietzberg says. In certain cases, it may make sense to go to a school that has an expensive tuition rate. However, if it does not offer a good ROI, Krietzberg suggests encouraging your child to consider a lower-cost school to save on tuition expenses.
4. Have You Considered All the Ways to Spend Less on College?
Scholarships help reduce costs, and encouraging your child to do well in school and volunteer in the community can increase their chances of earning scholarships. “Also, many states offer free community college to students who excel in high school,” Krietzberg says. You can also consider colleges close enough so that your child can live at home to cut room and board expenses. Another way to save is to consider finishing college in less time. “High schools generally offer Advanced Placement courses that provide college credit, and some high schools partner with colleges on dual enrollment in college courses while still in high school,” says Krietzberg. “You can deduct 1 or 2 years off college with one of these options, which saves a lot of money.”
5. Is College the Right Path for Your Child?
The last thing you want to do is push your child into going to college if he or she is not yet ready or feels that college is not for them. “If you push your child to go to college, and it does not work out, that’s a large financial loss and can create an emotional burden for your child as well.” Instead, Krietzberg suggests helping to guide your child in other directions if they are not confident about going to college. “Taking a year off, getting a job, building up a savings, and starting college later might improve the odds of success for those kids not ready to start college right out of high school,” says Krietzberg. Trade schools and the military are also good choices for kids who do not think college is for them.
College is not for every child, and paying for their kids’ college education is not for every parent. “No matter how you choose to help your child with college expenses, there are many ways for your child to achieve his or her dream of a college education, while you also achieve your dream of a comfortable retirement,” Krietzberg says.
Curtis S. Krietzberg is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Krietzberg Wealth Management is a marketing name for registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.
Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.