Next to your house, probably the biggest expense you will have in your life is paying for a college education for your kids. Therefore, it would only make sense to give it a LOT of thought. However, for most people, the only thought they give to college is HOW they are going to pay for it, not IF they should be paying for it.
Admittedly, this is an unorthodox and probably controversial view, but I honestly believe that college is something of a rip-off. I really do. Why do I say that? Well, for one thing, I think most colleges are way overpriced, they offer a lot of irrelevant material that isn’t useful in the real world, and I don’t think they do a good job of focusing these kids in the right direction. I have known so many kids who waste a lot of time changing majors, dropping out, or going into a totally unrelated field because they start out not knowing what the heck they want.
The other problem is that parents are pressured to put their kids though college whether they can afford it or not. So they end up mortgaging their homes, using their retirement savings, or going into huge amounts of debt to pay for it. And the problem with that is that it is centering around an 18 year old kid who doesn’t have a clue in the world what direction he or she wants to go in.
This is a situation where I have some personal experience. My own in-laws went through all sorts of sacrifices for nearly a decade to help my sister-in-law get her Master’s degree. Then she ended up turning her back on her education and chose to work entry-level jobs in retail instead of using her degree. Same thing with our oldest son, Ryan. He went through one of those pricey computer trade school programs, loved it, got great marks in it, but then he got frustrated with the lack of placement services at the end. So he decided to go off and get a job as an exterminator with his best friend. He’s finding his way back on the path through his job with the State of California, but after nearly 10 years, a lot of his education, particularly in the fast-paced computer world, is outdated.
And on the other hand, I see people all around me who have done quite well in the world without having that all-important college degree. I don’t have one and I’ve had a great career and never really suffered for the lack of it. Same thing for my mother, sister, my nieces & nephews, and both of my older sons. Yet they all have great jobs, nice houses, and plenty of money. And none of those huge debts for a college education.
To my way of thinking college IS the golden key. It definitely does open a lot of doors. But some of those doors are going to open for a silver key (trade school), a brass key (college for the 20-25 year old, hopefully on the on-your-own-dime plan), or even the aluminum key (just skip college and work your butt off for your success).
Like I’ve said in the past, there are tuition loans and all sorts of other loans, but there is no such thing as a retirement loan. We all want to give everything we can to our kids, but you have to put that retirement first, or you and your brilliantly educated kids, could all end up broke and miserable. Just think about it….