My first born is graduating college this week. Of course, I’m a proud papa, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. While the degree and the grades are important, she’s graduating with zero debt. And it’s no accident. Student debt is a national crisis and the proverbial boat anchor that keeps on taking.
Before my kids were born, my wife and I made the choice to start saving for their college.
I’m not an expert on finance (my wife got a master’s and I barely got out of high school) but we did consider the possibility that our kids might not be college material. So our savings were set up such that if college wasn’t in the cards, they wouldn’t be penalized. We made sure the money could be used for other things but was also protected from them doing stupid, wasteful, or harmful things with it. It’s not hard, and most financial advisors can walk you through the process.
We also figured, barring a latent gene floating around, Ivy League was not an option. The difference in the cost of a Harvard education versus the average college is about 62 percent. We also realized that a two-year community college might be the best route, depending on how each individual kid matured. We all know the horror stories of sending ill-prepared and unsupervised children off to a new environment in a faraway place.
Another decision was to require the student to work, at least part-time. Not only does this help with costs, it also gives them a sense of what is required from the world of work, as opposed to dropping them into the “real world” with a sheepskin but without a clue.
Our first kid-to-college experience was anything but butter. But with all the twists and turns, my daughter will matriculate with a decent sense of money, hard work, and with the added benefit of a little jingle in her pocket. Proud papa? Damn right.