Written by Matt Wegner
Founder and Lead Counselor, Matt Wegner Coaching, www.financialexcellence.net
Many parents feel obligated to save for their children’s education. Some parents even feel so guilty about it that they place college as a higher priority than their own retirement. Whether they pay cash or take out loans, parents who fall into this trap will be living in poverty at retirement age while their kids are busy living life. Let’s be clear here. College is not a right. It is a privilege. I strongly support continued education and I highly encourage everyone to attend college if they can. But sacrificing everything to pay your kid’s way through school and hoping they will take care of you later is not a good plan.
In a previous article, I laid out your options to save and invest for college. But what if it’s too late to invest? How do you get your child through college if you’re broke? Here’s what I usually recommend: Once you take care of your own needs (yes, debt elimination and retirement are needs), invest what you can for college savings. If you can’t pay all the costs of education, maybe your child will have to WORK a little during school. Depending on your financial situation, your student may qualify for federal grants. Or they could apply for scholarships. There are many sources of scholarships and grants available to those who seek them out. These options can greatly reduce the financial load of attending college. There are even professionals who specialize in helping students apply for and receive scholarships. Jill Howell, founder of N2 College Consulting, has honed this skill to an art. Last year alone, her average student was awarded $49,000 in additional scholarships after working with Jill.
So what does this mean to you? If your kids are in high school, you need to start soon. In order to maximize opportunities for scholarships, your student should begin the process no later than January of their junior year. That’s not to say it’s too late after that, but the opportunities are far less. Your child doesn’t have to be Valedictorian to be awarded scholarships or grants. Of course, it’s never too early to start either (Jill has even had parents of preschoolers engage her for advice). If you are investing for your children’s education already, you may want to see what other options are out there. You can contact Jill by calling 1-87-PLANNER-0 or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.