Your kids can get help paying for school, but nobody will help you pay for your own future. Going into debt to pay for a child’s education could be the biggest financial mistake you will ever make. It is not some kind of gift.
The best gift you will ever give your kids is assurance that you will not become a financial burden to them in your old age. If you are not aggressively saving to fund your retirement, that is exactly what will happen. Not a pretty picture, is it?
Your college years will definitely be among the best of your life. Make the most of your very expensive education. Don’t select a major because it sounds fun, or so you can be in classes with your best friend. If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, get some counseling. You may need to sit out for a few semesters until you do know.
Beware of credit cards for students. They are going to come after you with a vengeance. They will make you feel mature and responsible; they will offer you huge incentives like, well, a T-shirt. They’ll make it sound like you will be better off with their credit card.
Learn these two important words: hard work. You are younger, stronger, and freer from obligation right now than you will ever be again in your life. You need to have skin in this game, which means paying your own way. Step up! I am talking jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
Work every holiday break, every summer, and during every school year, too-as if your life depends on it. Take any and all jobs you can get. Stop spending your brains out on everything that looks cool.
Take responsibility for this amazing opportunity you have to get an education. Getting your degree will be the biggest thing you will have accomplished in your lifetime to date. This is serious.
You may never again be presented with the privilege you are facing now of being accepted into a college or university. This is a big deal. Don’t blow it.
Determine to take the scorched earth approach where no measure to cut costs is too frugal. Live at home if they’ll let you. Be grateful. Demonstrate your appreciation. Cook your own meals. Ride a bike, rent your textbooks.
If you must take on a minimum amount of student debt, there are many future options if the student loan is in your name, including student loan forgiveness and various repayment plans that can lower payments. Do not ask anyone to co-sign a loan with you. That’s the easy way out. Don’t opt for easy. Opt for smart.
In closing …
Let me close with the story of Debra Crow. As a single parent, she felt overwhelmed and guilty when her daughter headed off to college. There was no education account to draw from-no savings. Nothing.
In desperation fueled by guilt and shame, Debra took on $41,000 in Parent PLUS debt to help pay for her daughter’s education. Now that the debt has come due, she struggles to make any payments-even the minimum payments are putting her behind every month. She’s looking at many years of struggle, pain, and debt repayment misery.
Debra’s daughter is working for a non-profit organization that would qualify for student loan forgiveness if only the debt were in her de. Loan forgiveness does not apply to PLUS loans or private parent loans unless the parents who took these loans-not the student-have worked for a non-profit organization or government agency for at least 10 years. And even then, actually qualifying for forgiveness is next to impossible.