Good Advice vs. Changing Priorities

When I graduated from college almost 15 years ago, I had accumulated a non-trivial amount of student loans – not a huge amount, but enough to buy a new economy car.  In comparison, my sister left with enough loans to buy herself a BMW 5-series, and she seems to be okay with things.

Right before I got married, the topic was raised of whether we would want to pay for our children’s college. At the time, I thought my view was perfectly clear:  I wanted them to pay for a part of their own education so that they would appreciate the cost and importance of what they were doing.  On top of that, the personal finance obsessive side of me is well aware of the common advice:

Your kids can take out a loan for school, but you can’t take a loan to pay for your retirement.

So it was settled then – those little rugrats were going to be on their own.

And then we flash forward six years and some things have changed:

  • Those hypothetical rugrats now have names.  And personalities.
  • With the economic turmoil of the past few years, I’m starting to see more and more articles questioning whether a college education is even worth the cost.
  • Despite those doubts, education (along with healthcare) remains one of the few expenses that continues to grow faster than the overall inflation rate.
  • You don’t have to look far to read the horror stories about recent graduates saddled with a seemingly insurmountable pile of student loan debt.

And so that good advice noted above is in danger of getting tossed out the window.  Because here’s the problem:  I recognize the need to set financial priorities, but my emotional side wants my children to be able to chase their dreams without beginning their adult lives in a financial hole that it might take decades to escape.


I’ve now spent more than a decade in the financial services space, so I’m not upending my priorities that easily.  We’ve set up college savings funds for both of our children while also saving for retirement, and we’ll provide whatever additional help we’re able to when the time comes.  But we also recognize that discipline will be required so that we can help our children pursue their dreams without sacrificing our own future.

To the parents and soon-to-be-parents: how has having children changed your financial priorities?


To reach Donna:

Phone:  212.584.5479
Twitter: @donnamcsorley