Guest post by Jacoba Urist
For most of us, the thought of choosing ourselves at the expense of our children is pretty hard to imagine. And yet, financial planners tell us that’s exactly what we should do when it comes to saving for retirement or college. If you can only put money aside for one or the other, today, they vote for the retirement fund every time.
Here’s the logic: There are lots of ways to cover your kid’s tuition financial aid, scholarships, student loans. But similar options just don’t exist for your golden years. Personal finance experts liken it to those flight safety announcements. You’re supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first before you help a child with theirs, no matter how counterintuitive that might feel as a parent.
Then there’s the reality. Most mothers I spoke to say that, if push came to shove, they’re not so sure they could actually put their oxygen mask on first. And the same goes for retirement. You may know it makes good financial sense to fund your 401(k) over a college savings plan, but most parents react from a deeply emotional place when it comes to their child’s education.
I know I heard about my father running to the bank the day I was born, in a blizzard, to open my college fund, long before I ever thought about a having a family of my own. But it really doesn’t have to be so black or white, one account or the other. There are plenty of ways to help your family get closer to both of its long-term financial goals, even if you aren’t able to sock away as much as you’d like for retirement and college right now.
Look at your credit cards.
Everyone agrees it doesn’t make sense to carry big credit card balances. Pay off high-interest cards before you fund a Roth or a 529 account. There’s no use getting single digit interest on your savings, while paying double digit interest on your cards.
And then focus on keepings things off of them in the future. It’s hard with a growing family. But the less high interest you have to pay, the more wiggle
Look in the toy box.
What grandparent doesn’t like to buy gifts? But try asking them to hold off on that new doll or dump truck and make a special
Explain that $25 or $50 on special occasions
FinAid, FAFSA4caster, and the U.S. Department of Education’s website are all great places to start. Understanding the cost of college, the
Jacoba Urist, Esq. is a lawyer, writer and mom in Manhattan. She’s currently working on a book, “The Happiest Parent,” about estate planning and personal finance, specifically for parents. Over the past year, she’s interviewed hundreds of mothers and researched (almost) every aspect of protecting your family’s long-term well-being, and she came to one overwhelming conclusion: The Happiest Parent is the one who plans for the future no matter how hard it may seem today.
Jacoba earned her Juris Doctorate from New York University in 2002 as well as her Masters in Taxation in 2004. She also has a Masters from The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies where she studied economic and regulatory issues. She’s practiced at one of the country’s top law firms and written on a wide range of topics for legal professionals.