Money, Money, Money!
If you thought diapers and baby equipment were expensive don't wait until they get to college age before you start a college fund. These days kids don't grow up and move out when they're 18 like they used to, they go to college and come home over and over again.
The food bill at home goes down, then it suddenly goes up when they come home for breaks. Expenses seem a bit lower when they're away, but then they call for money because they've run out or there's some new fee that's due. No one gets a free ride to college even with scholarships and grants, there are always loans, work study, and extra funds being sent from home for those emergencies that are just outside the budget.
I love my kids more than anything and I wanted them to go to college because I never got to finish college and that severely hindered my earning power. I just wanted them to have job opportunities that would keep them out of poverty and allow them to create a lifestyle that they could enjoy. What I didn't know was that putting 3 kids through college would bankrupt me (but I would still not be debt free because government loans are not forgivable).
Although my oldest has graduated, moved out, has a good job, and is paying off his own school loans ($40,000), our names are still attached to those loans if he defaults. Now he's putting himself through graduate school with more loans and I see a lifetime of debt ahead of him, but at least he'll have more earning power. I hope he doesn't regret this.
My daughter will graduate this year with about $35,000 in loans to pay off, and yes our names are attached to that by default as well. She's already stressed out about this because she's the frugal one, the careful one and the planner. Oh, did I mention that she's engaged and wants to get married within the next year? Just looking at wedding dresses has been the cause of emotional meltdowns. This is not the way it's meant to be.
My youngest is starting his second semester and there's a $4,000 bill that's due that will have to go on a Parent Plus Loan - that's the loan the government will give you if you're flat broke, in debt or bankruptcy but still breathing. I'm barely still breathing.
What would they be doing if they weren't going to college? My kids all have career goals, they've been good students, they're responsible, they're aiming high. Working for minimum wage in a no prospect job was never an option in their minds. They all want to do something valuable with their lives and live comfortably. Who doesn't want that? But why does it have to cost a fortune or more to get there?
Your kids will always be your kids even when they grow up, even when they are legally adults, and you'll always want what's best for them. That's the heart of a parent. They will pay off their own loans when they get out of school because they knew that was part of the bargain from the beginning. But this is a really stressful way to start off into adulthood, and from my perspective I don't see the possibility of retirement ever happening in my life.
That's today's rant. Love is not all you need, you need money too. So plan ahead.