If you’re like most parents, your kids come first – always. But if you’re trying to save for your retirement and your child’s college fund, remember this: College is typically four years, but your retirement may last 20 years or longer.
There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in asking yourself what’s more important—your own security at retirement or your child’s education and future – which makes it easy to come to the wrong conclusion. Here’s why prioritizing future college costs for your children over saving for retirement could be a costly mistake.
1. College Savings Aren’t a Necessity
In a recent Parent, Kids and Money survey by, 74% of parents said saving for college was the higher priority for them than saving for retirement. However a good share of kids don’t immediately head off to college.
The National Center for Education Statistics says that about four times as many students are enrolled in public higher education institutions than private schools. The majority of those students attending public institutions go to in-state schools that offer lower tuition expenses.
So while it makes sense that college is top-of-mind for parents as their kids get older, it’s about asking yourself the certainties in life while prioritizing. Your child will have other ways to pay—scholarships, grants, or part-time jobs. They can select a more affordable school. Pay for your child’s college if you can, but remember that it’s not as important as retirement – which is an inevitable part of life rapidly approaching.
2. There’s Available Financial Support
Ever heard of a 529 Savings Plan? 529 college savings plans were designed specifically to give families a break. Your contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis, and the money you withdraw is 100% tax-free as long as you use it for qualifying education expenses.
You may also be eligible for a state tax break depending on the rules in your state. The only catch is that withdrawals made for non-education expenses are subject to income taxes and a 10% penalty. So if parents would like a “free” way to find money to save for college, they could take what they saved on taxes by saving for retirement, and use that amount to make a contribution to a 529 college savings plan.
What’s more, a Roth IRA is another way to save, but it’s typically a better choice for your own retirement rather than college. You can withdraw these contributions with no tax or penalty, but using that money for college means you’ll miss out on years of tax-free growth leading up to retirement.
3. You Could Run Out of Money
If you delay contributing to your retirement savings in order to fund college, you could run out of money in your golden years. Plus many parents are actually relying on their children to help support them in their retirement! A recent survey by NerdWallet found that:
- Almost a quarter of the parents saving for retirement (23 percent) expect their kids to provide them with some financial support after they retire.
- About one in six millennial parents saving for retirement (16 percent) said they expect their children to provide financial support for more than 30 percent of their retirement costs.
It’s time to save now so you can help later. Once parents have assured themselves a comfortable retirement, there are still several ways they can help cover college costs without a significant savings effort. If you do a great job saving and investing for retirement, perhaps there will be enough extra money to pay off the education loans completely, but securing yourselves as parents should be priority.
Saving for retirement is a real challenge. You’re putting money aside for an event that’s into the future, and you may have only a vague idea of how much money you need to save! Prioritizing retirement doesn’t mean ignoring college savings outright. With your timelines in place, now is the moment to strike a balance between your investments.
Find your motivation and consider your options with a fresh perspective from CKS Summit Group. Set up your complimentary strategy session here to help figure out how you’re doing in your retirement plan and how to achieve safe, healthy growth of your savings. We look forward to working with you!