The Case Against Saving for College

What is the best way to invest in your child’s education?

A few housekeeping things right off the bat: The below stance has nothing at all to do with the validity of college savings plans themselves; the investments, management fees, etc. The opinions expressed here are based entirely on the idea that your money could be, and should be, better spent. Got it? Good. Here goes:

While they’re not a guarantee, the Mrs. tends to enjoy a pair of handsome bonuses each year. From them we generally budget for a $1000 contribution to each of the girl’s 529 College Savings Plans. That’s a grand sum of $2000 to 529 college savings plans every 12 months. Not last year though, and none for 2012 either. Instead, we used the two grand for 2011 to beef up the 5-year old wooden swing set that calls our backyard home. As investments go, this wasn’t even close.

How does an enhanced kiddie play structure compare against money for higher education you ask? Easy. With the new giant rock wall, fire station pole, and 14″ swoop slide my two girls will spend the next half decade challenging themselves; their bodies, and their minds. With the 2-story ‘treehouse’ skybox, they’ll enjoy even more years of outdoor play with each other and with friends telling stories, pressing leaves, scaring each other, writing bad poetry, doing their version of improv comedy, writing songs, thinking, and dreaming. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some making out in there in a number of years. Better there then behind the mall dumpster, I say. What they’ll each take away from the countless hours of fun ahead of them will trump the single 3-credit class + books their $1000 would get them if they were going to college RIGHT NOW! Forget about 11 years from now for the Bear or 14 years for the Mouse! That’ll probably cover their parking permits for one semester. And as they say on TV infomercials, “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”

If you commit to this plan early on in your child’s life she will be, by the time she is college-age, cultured and will have seen, heard, touched, and experienced more than most humans will in their entire life.

Let me make the case that you shouldn’t save one penny for your kid’s college tuition. Don’t even open a 529 college savings account. Unless you’ve got $10,000 or some eye-popping figure to toss into that bucket every year (and if you do, you can probably also do what I’m about to say), don’t. even. bother. Instead, take all the money you think you want to stash away for college and do some or all of this every single year from now until your children are college age:

  • Spend a week traveling with your child; in Europe, road trip across America, rail through Canada. Pick a different spot every year and go explore, learn then speak a new language, taste new foods, assimilate into the culture of the region.
  • Buy an old car/boat/house and rehab it together.
  • Enroll in cooking classes together.
  • Subscribe to a local theater season of plays & musicals & acting classes.
  • Try to see every Major League Baseball ballpark, or road trip to a cluster of minor league parks.
  • Build them a book nook in a corner of your home.
  • Get pampered at a spa together.
  • Let your child take piano/guitar/trumpet/singing/dancing/gymnastics lessons. Maybe give that old instrument another try yourself, and learn together.

The key word in all of that: TOGETHER.

If you commit to this plan early on in your child’s life she will be, by the time she is college-age, cultured and will have seen, heard, touched, and experienced more than most humans will in their entire life. Your child will have lived a life that no collection of textbooks could broach. She will be smarter, wiser, more humane, more global, and more interesting than any 22-year old tossing a hat into the air on graduation day, and WAY more so than a random 18-year old still undecided on a major. She will be more self-aware, more observant, more compassionate, and closer to you, her parents. She’ll be thankful, humble, and adventurous. [switching gender pronouns now] He will be ready to take on any challenge in his adult life in a way that a student simply confined to walls, dorms, book learning, and classrooms won’t be / can’t be. And guess what: he can still go to college! He can work for it which will make the experience longer and more challenging, yes, but also more satisfying and ultimately more rewarding. How many fresh-faced 18 year-olds waste that first semester or first year of college trying to figure out what they want to be, how to be, who they are, and how to survive in the real world. Imagine that feeble attempt at instant assimilation and self-discovery and the wasting of 18 years of your saved money.

Maybe this can be read as a case against college itself; I do think it’s terribly overrated for professions outside the highly technical. But there can be a lot of value in education—probably more value when one is educated at 28 as opposed to 18—but value nonetheless. Really, this is a case against the relatively new idea that we must—MUST —stash money away for our children’s higher learning expenses. That we are doing them a disservice if we don’t or cannot. I contend this idea is a bit of a marketing ploy by the financial industry desperately searching for new ways to get inside our wallets. I can make a similar argument against retirement savings, but that’s a topic for another day.

Think about this scenario for a minute:

  • you have two children
  • you save $1000 per child (not a small amount) every year of their lives until each turns 18.
  • you get a 5% return on your investment, on average, every year.
  • after 18 years you have roughly $29,500 per child saved for college. That’s not too shabby. Congratulations!
  • $29,500 is likely to net each child just ONE (1) year of school, books, & room and board at a public university 18 years from now.*

I’ll argue that what the original $18,000 investment could have given your child over 18 years is more valuable, enjoyable and memory-making than one year of college ever could be. Plus, you won’t ever have to sweat the 529 plan balance bobbing along with an increasingly volatile market. But the real kicker is that your children can have that year of college too, anytime they want. But they’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever get the precious time with you again. This much is absolutely certain. And priceless.

A child with 18 years of experience in their front pocket is more likely to know themselves and know what they might like to learn more about in an academic setting and maybe know what profession they’d like to pursue. College will then enhance their accumulated life learning and feel more meaningful. Higher learning is more substantial and powerful in its effects when it is earned. I’ve met too many people who’ve spent 100k of their parents money or who are saddled with hefty student loans themselves to get their history/English/philosophy bachelor’s degree only to spend their next decade in a call center cubicle. What the hell was the point? To think of all the experiences they could have had alongside their parents. An opportunity gone forever.

Not for us. We are using what would be their 2012 contributions to a 529 plan on airfare to Barcelona during the Bear’s Spring Break week; a vacation that will take us to three countries (Spain, France, Andorra) over 10 days. That’s $683 to USAir instead of UPromise, the dividends from which will be paid in Euro instead of greenbacks but the long term gains are expected to be much higher.

The above is just a little something to think about, a not often heard counterpoint to the constant din of “save, save, save” new parents hear regarding their child’s future education. I’ve seen commercials that are nothing more than a cleverly disguised parental pissing contest about which couple is saving the most for their new baby. Like we need another thing to compare against each other.

Dismiss this if you wish. It’s totally your call. I’ll be off doing something interesting with my kids if you need me.

*I have no special insight into the future of college costs but it doesn’t take much research to discover what prices were 18 years ago and to quickly calculate what they may be 18 years from now.

 

This was originally published on Out With The Kids.

Read more on Money on The Good Life: Is a College Education Overrated?

Image credit: Carissa GoodNCrazy/Flickr

About Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is a stay-at-home dad who writes about parenting and All Things Childhood: kindie music, books, toys, gaming, & culture at Out With The Kids. He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies under the age of 10 who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to do, hear, see and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world, although he needs to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Jeff also blogs for The Good Men Project.

Comments

  1. My daughter just finished her first year at a big Boston university (no, not that one). We’ve been saving for college for about 10 years (and she’s worked summers to contribute) and I think, all things being equal she’ll graduate with no debt. To my way of thinking my daughter with have a huge life advantage over those coming out of school with debt. She’ll be able to breathe. She’ll have room to make her choices, and yes, her mistakes. She’ll have the opportunity to take a more meandering path. Because she doesn’t have to service a 6 figure debt. She didn’t have a climbing wall in the backyard, but I’m thinking we made the right choice given the long view, and her 19 year old self agrees whole heartedly.

  2. Nick Jurczak says:

    As a current college student there are things that I can say I agree with here but a lot that I disagree with. Sure that $29,500 is only going to get your child one year of college. Sure you can spend that extra money on something fun for your child. Look at the large picture ramifications though. Most high paying jobs like to see a college degree. Even internships typically want seniors. You may be giving your child the experience of a lifetime but I also believe it should be the child’s decision as well if they want to go to college and it should be something that you should talk to your child with while they are in high school when all their friends are also thinking about it. If they were to tell you that they really want to go to college and you spent all the money, you might just earn their scorn rather than a happy relationship with them later in life.

    • I would hope that a happy relationship with one’s kids wasn’t dependent upon the parents paying for their adult children’s education. While most parents want to help as much as possible with costs of higher education, they don’t owe it to their kids to provide one. And if the kids actually scorn their parents for not providing it, then there’s something more deeply wrong in that relationship than can be fixed with a paid-for college degree.

  3. The only thing a 529 account does is make you unable to qualify for grants when the time comes. Instead you’re eligible for high-interest government debt that compounds by the hour and is dispersed to a dizzying disarray of loan handlers, each with its own convoluted way of handling things. The students whose parents are buried in consumer debt get a free ride, while I have to pay thru the nose for everything out of my single-income salary to the tune of ~$15K/year. I would NEVER suggest saving, saving, saving to ANY parent.

  4. D.R. Bartlette says:

    I can see both the author’s point of view as well as some of his critics in the comment section. First let me say I teach at a community college, after graduating from (and teaching at) a traditional 4-year state university.
    So my first point is this: I agree that a college education isn’t for everyone. Doing well in a formal, academic environment – even one as low-key as a comm coll – requires certain skills that not everyone possesses. That’s not to say that they can’t be taught (and should be, but usually aren’t). But not everyone is cut out for it. Learning a trade is a perfectly valid, and less expensive, way to go.
    My next point is, as a corollary, that a college degree *is* an important part of any modern, healthy economy. We as a society should be encouraging as many young people as want to, to pursue higher education, and not just as a means to a corporate job. Our next generation of great thinkers, artists, and leaders should have the kind of well-rounded education that we (supposedly) offer at 4-year colleges.
    However, for those of you who are on this “let them work their way through college” bandwagon, you are sorely mistaken. People with no college education usually can only get low-paying jobs; just paying for your living expenses eats up the lion’s share of their incomes. Paying several thousand dollars a year for college is often a *significant* hardship for them. Not to mention that all that work takes away from study time; studies show that the more hours a student works, the more likely they are to drop out. Therefore, I think we need to go back to our pre-Reaganomics system whereby higher education is almost entirely funded, so that any student who wants to go doesn’t have to go into massive amounts of debt. And neither would their parents – which would free them up to afford just the things Bogle suggests (which are excellent suggestions, BTW!).

  5. This comes on the heels of a NYT article discussing how even file clerks and receptionists need to have a BA now (are those the “highly technical” fields he describes?). The other interesting and enriching experience I foresee for this author: trying to get his adult kids to move out of the basement…

  6. Anyone who thinks that it is remotely possible for a kid to work his or her way through college is living somewhere back in 1979.

    Look at the average part-time wage for a 18-22 year old. Look at the pitifully low number student loans max out at. Then I want you to look at the average tuition cost, adding in the cost of books and room and board. Now, tell me how on god’s green earth that’s supposed to work out.

    How out of touch can you be?

    • According to a CNN Money article from Oct 2011, community colleges, on average, cost $3000 a year to attend. I am pretty sure an 18-22 year old working part time plus getting a tiny bit of help from parents if needed can manage that. So a child can spend their first two years there before matriculating into a public state university. The article goes on to say that: “Fewer than half of all public university students pay the full sticker price to attend. Federal surveys show at least 52% of all students at public four-year universities receive scholarships or grants. Aid, not counting loans or campus jobs, brought the net tuition paid by the average student at a typical public university to about $2,500, the College Board estimates.”

      So, maybe I am indeed out of touch, or maybe I am willing to bet on a lifetime of experiences for which the benefits are not quantifiable immediately PLUS the availability of and easy access to affordable higher education options will equal a bright, interesting, and worldly young adult. One that has a deep connection and bond to their parents thanks to years of adventures together.

  7. I don’t know…I think you can have fun doing things with your kids and still save for college. I mean, instead of buying a huge swing set/play structure, I’d rather walk to the park and put the money towards the 529 plan!

  8. I totally believe in giving my kids the opportunity to attend college. I don’t want them to be overwhelmed with having a full time job at the same time, because I think they will have to do a minimal job in their classes and won’t get as much out of them. Still, I agree with the main point of this article. Using my financial resources to enrich their earlier years through shared experiences is even more important. I also agree that we do not have to give up one, to do the other. As a single parent, I was unable to contribute much to my daughter’s college education. So I made a deal with her. If she wanted to take out student loans in her own name, I would pay them back for. This would be the case only if she finished college, however. My daughter did finish college. She also chose to work full time while going to school (though this was not one of my requirements). And I am now making the monthly payments on her college loans at a time in my life when I am easily able to do so. I know there are some risks to this approach. If something happened to me, such that I was unable to make the loan payments, my daughter would be saddled with the debt. She was comfortable with that, because she felt that my offer was a huge gift and not an expectation. She was used to earning things from a very young age and has made the best of what I could give to her. I believe that the best thing I ever gave to her was not a college education, but time. I provided daycare when she was small, so that I could spend my days with her and her playmates. This was not a lucrative job, financially, but it was incredibly rewarding, and I would not trade those years I had with her for any amount of money.

  9. I always thought it was funny that we get so pressured to save for college for our kids, but no one urges young people to save money to put their kids in daycare for four years before they go to kindergarten. If you’re a family that has to rely on daycare while you both work it can cost $10,000 or more a year to pay for it – do we save up for that? I agree with the author. At this point who knows what college will cost for today’s young kids or what skills they’ll need. Maybe it’s best to put the money in a plot of land with good soil and teach them farming!

  10. Ita! I dont think its a good idea for parents to save for college. College is seeming less and less like a good bargain anyway.

    I would rather put the money towards learning a skill or starting a business. Id rather my kids have business experience than going to college.

    I would tell my kids to work through college. If they cant afford it they dont need to go. Id be willing to help out though. Too many people are taking out the equivalent of a mortgage in students. Many youngsters dont understand what it takes to pay back $25k+interest. Imo part of the problem is parents encouraging kids to take out all these loans regardless of their majors.

  11. My kids will be attending a private academy for high school. The institution has always been intensely academic in student-future-focus. It was alway a well rounded 4-year curriculum that produced many grads heading for Ivy-League on-down. I’ve had some experience with the school and have always found it to be a very serious and disciplined environment for both faculty and students.

    This wonderful academy is also realistic and nimble in change management. So, in being honest with themselves and the students, they have recognized the employment economy for all of their output. Thus, they have incorporated Career Education options…and “options” they remain.

    In the past three years, the academic-oriented kids who opt-in for career training have been hired at a near 100% rate, and many at excellent income. Every students who graduates with the “Welding” certification walks the grad-aisle with a near six-figure job already in their pocket. Of course, the academics are still premier for all students, but those who want an emergency or alternative route to realistic income have opted-in.

    The same situation applies for HVAC, Electronics, Electric (journeymen), ROTC With commissions and college tuition, AP-teaching credits, and on-and-on.

    The school considers it a 5-year plan. 4-years of what you are going to do for preparing for University, and all the resources you want for a fall-back when Morgan Stanley is not hiring Marketing Grads. The 5th-year being a realistic examination and route to realistic (gotta pay the rent) ends.

    They actually have certified alum who put college off for a while (maybe for ever), and are now certified six-figure welder in North Dakota. Now if No Dak Johnny can’t save $150K to attend Rochester Inst of Tech, then parents ought no have worried about saving for education in the first-place.

    We are in an entirely new employment and education dynamic now. Having worked closely with the majority of A-level, Div I universities, i can say with realistic confidence that few of them are actually preparing students to work.

    I’d rather enjoy life with my kids, or just give them the $100K toward their first homes. Higher Ed will find its way in this world’s new dynamic…or those Universities will perish.

  12. wwuptowngirl says:

    Here here! Totally agree with this article. IF THE KID REALLY WANTS IT – THEY WILL FIND A WAY AND HAVE MUCH MORE RESPECT FOR EARNING THE DEGREE. I have seen countless kids (and yes they are kids!) BLOW through their parents’ hard earned, tucked away money in college by either skipping classes, changing majors or dropping out without their parents knowledge. I have seen friends’ sacrifice their own retirement future, and home equity to pay for these college expenses – CRAZY! Suzy Orman says it best — you can borrow for college but you can’t borrow for retirement. I paid for my college with scholarships, awards, financial aid et al – and was very careful about how/where my money went. [And don’t get on the rant about how much more it is nowadays…kids have lots of options like low cost local Community colleges at a fraction of the price to get many of the pre-reqs out of the way or financial aid etc]. What better true life lesson can you teach than to make them earn something that they really want.

    I myself put a small (emphasis small and was not a sacrifice for me) amount of money away for each of my children as a starter ‘bucket’ for college. That was it. I refused to co-sign on loans, or hock my future for theirs. My kids don’t hate me, don’t hold grudges against me or tell me that “I owe them”. None of that. One of my kids blew through her money the 1st year in reckless spending, and the second year got loans. She ultimately dropped out of college and has taken a different, yet successful, course in life that did not include college degrees. She learned a valuable, yet hard lesson and is much more careful now. My other kid has been careful and thoughtful from the start about her bucket of money and is weighing her options on what to do for more education.

    Paying for kids’ post-secondary education, IMHO, is continuing this idea of entitlement. If you really want to pay for your kids education – I have a suggestion. Tell them to go and get it done themselves…loans, financial aid, scholarships, working etc. And IF/WHEN then complete it and earn their degree, you can then pay back those outstanding debts. Both sides win. The kids have earned the education and you have fulfilled your goal of paying for the school.

  13. wellokaythen says:

    Besides my usual plug for community colleges, I’d also add another consideration related to paying for college:

    Don’t assume that 18 is the best age for your child to start college. It’s better all around for a student to be in college because he/she has decided to go to college or has consciously chosen college among other possibilities in life. I’ve come across many students who were in college largely because they were “college age,” which means they thought that because they were 18/19 they were SUPPOSED to be in college, but that’s a really poor reason to be in school. It may be the worst reason to be in college, actually.

    In some cases, students are better off after high school doing something else besides being a full-time student. Those other things they do besides college may make them better prepared for college, and that includes being more financially ready.

  14. If adults (real adults) have their life properly structured, cash-flowing college for you kids ought never be un-doable. But if you’ve adhered to social bull like the latest and greatest toys with the Jones’, the Lexus SUV and the BMW 525 every two years….if you treated your home like an ATM and put your priorities on YOU, then you ought to be able to come up with whatever you need, when you need it, AS you need it.

    Dual income home dwellers are flat-floor stupid if they require both incomes. THEN you have no options or wiggle room.

  15. Mike Rogers says:

    While I do appreciate the idea of doing things with your children that broaden their horizons and give them more life experiences I don’ t see this as an either/or situation. Rather to me it is better served to strive for both. Besides the more a parent interacts positively with their children in their younger years tue better the child’s self-esteem will be later. High self-esteem has its own rewards which only goes to.build upon previous successes. If a child is more confident then they are more lilely to perform better in school. Better school perfoemance leads to better grades, and better grades can lead to scholarships.
    Also sharing valuable experiences with our children doesn’t always have to be costly. Sure a family trip acrsoss

  16. This is a great article. It’s encouraging to me because I second guess everything I do as a parent. I love being a stay at home mom but that also means one income at this time. Sometimes, I wonder if I should work part time to give our son MORE stuff. I know that stuff is just stuff. But I am guilty of getting caught up in that cycle of thinking he is suppose to have EVERY toy. Quality time is definitely more important. We have a great time together and I look forward to homeschooling with him. All the places we will go!:)

  17. John Smith says:

    You had me interested untill you said “similar argument against retirement savings” makes me think of someone who thinks only of the now. I can see the argument against saveing for college if your kids are losing out because of it. If you have a bit of money to spare without the children suffering, then yes, save, but too many people do miss out on hoidays and toys for the kids and the like on the hope of something for the kids college. However as soon as you argue against retirement savings it jumps to “Spend now, worry later” which for retirement savings is such a bad idea. People don’t realy suffer buy having little money at college. People do suffer by having to chosse between eating and heating as they get older.

  18. Interesting not often heard perspective on NOT saving for college…I think many people blindly start a savings account for college without realizing they are making poor choices on financial trade offs RIGHT NOW. I have often believed saving for college should be #3 or #4 on anyone’s financial list behind 1) paying off your mortgage (if your mortgage will be paid off by the time your kids start college then fine, start saving for college) 2) saving for retirement – establish a plan to build retirement savings, if you’re on track with that plan only then begin saving for college. College can be financed, retirement cannot be financed. If you pay for kids college and then expect them to support you in your old age you are not doing them any favors. 3) if you have a cash stash (completely liquid cash in a savings account) to see you through emergencies or unplanned/unexpected events only then start a college savings account, otherwise focus on building that cushion. I like the suggestion in this article though – using what otherwise could be college savings in the here and now to broaden your children’s experience base throughout their childhood. This assumes of course you behave responsibly with the “investment” in question – i.e. taking your kids on an international trip, not dropping them at Grandma’s house and taking yourself to Jamaica. Also if you accomplished my #1 above then you’d probably be more easily able to help out your kids with college expenses when that time came.

  19. The author clearly said he’d have his kids pay for college by working – didn’t mention anything about loans. I worked through college and my parents helped me. I graduated debt free. Most of what I REALLY needed to know I did get outside of formal education not the least of which was a humble work ethic. But admittedly, the piece if paper HAS helped me get past some pretty stupid rules in the working world as well.

    I thought this was a great post. A gutsy suggestion in a world of sheeple all chasing the same false promise. The same herd that finds themselves the most medicated for depression than any we’ve ever seen.

  20. Don’t go unless you know what you want to do. Waste otherwise. ^Went to college.

  21. I have another amazing idea. Don’t have kids! I always complain about my fiance and I’s ridiculous rent or our high food/dining-out bills in Manhattan. Also, we spent about $15k in plane tickets last year. We don’t make a ton of money, but I always compare myself to my friends with kids and think…..”well, we don’t have kids….or bills…or responsibilities….this is AWESOME!”

  22. The main reason for going to school is.
    to make more money., you wont be any smarter that someone who learns outside of school
    but you’ll make more money just because you have a degree.

    Remember the CEO that yahoo fired just because he didn’t have a degree..
    not because could not not do the job.. just because he didn’t have a some paper.

    It does not matter if your degree is in underwater basket weaving..
    company’s just want to see a degree and they will pay you more for having one.
    Yes, it’s a scam. but so is most of life.

  23. This is a totally fallacious argument. It argues that it’s EITHER A (saving for college) or B (giving your child significant experiences). How about giving your child significant experiences by saving money in other ways? How about B instead of C or D or E? Like the $500 *per person* in your family that you spent on that iPhone last year? Or the $1200/year that you spend on your cable TV bill? Or the $1500/year that you spend on a gardener when you could mow your lawn yourself? Or the thousands you spend on other things? I’m pretty sure you could have A *AND* B if you were wise. Our goal is always to provide all those experiences AND save for college. And I love Tom B’s idea about providing incentives for your kids’ college money so it’s not wasted. Awesome.

  24. Terrible advice…somewhat.

    Why not do those things “together” AND save for college? It’s doable. No matter what someone’s income is — because we don’t know what the author makes.

    If you save almost $30,000 for an 18-year-old, that’s THAT much they won’t have to pay back in loans. I would love to have $30,000 less to pay back in student loan debt! That could be “X” years knocked off me living in the red. The good thing about a 529 too, ANYONE can pay into it. So, while the parents may be saving money for college, friends, family, etc. can also chip in and throw money in the college fund for the kids. Sounds good to me!

  25. While I agree with many points of this article, what is left out is the benefit of saving money for future experiences with older children. My brother and I are 27 and 33, with a PhD and MA between us. We have spent lots of great time with our folks since graduating, thanks in part to their ability to help us financially with college AND otherwise. As a working student at a public university, it would have been hard to see them if they didn’t help with travel costs, for instance. Also, when medical scares came up that couldn’t be paid for, or a job/ relationship fell apart suddenly, my parents helped. So… whether you save the 1,000 for college, or for something else, does it have to be decided now? No- just save it anyway. Now that I have my own two kids, I can’t imagine not saving for them, and I don’t need to borrow trouble by wondering what it will be used for.

  26. Kelly Anne says:

    Jef: pretty-please-please DO make your case against retirement investments. I’m approaching my mid-40s, and am filled with dread at the notion that my husband and I have very little in the way of retirement investments. I would loooooove to hear your thoughts!

  27. Really interesting perspective. And I can’t wait to read what you have to say about retirement.

    One caveat: the assumption in this article and in some of the comments is that the only function of college is to prepare you for a career. I think college is much, much more than that. For me, it exposed me to so many new ideas and people and experiences and I learned so much from a life perspective, not just a career perspective. It was a time of incredible personal development for me. And that part of it was significantly more valuable than what it did for my career.

  28. My Mom would have found a way to pay for college, if had I ever expressed the slightest interest in going. I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I spent my time learning marketable skills: web design, writing, and even now, I am taking weekly photography classes.

    So instead of dedicating my entire life to just one job (which is all right for people who like that, but it’s not for me), I have multiple potential sources of income, and as a freelancer, I get to decide which projects I take on.

    So I agree with your assessment that for many professions, college is very over-rated. Practical experience and self-confidence will get you a lot further.

  29. This isn’t about consumerism, not event a little bit. This is about recognizing that a relatively small investment in your children while they grow up may serve them better than a semester or two of paid-for college could.

  30. I don’t consider this good advice at all and strongly disagree. We saved every year since birth for both of our kids education and gave them each a four year debt free education. To start your adult life tens of thousands in debt from borrowing for school is not a gift, it’s a weight.

  31. IcyMoustache says:

    So you mean to say, let the parents buy a new iphone and other toys each year for the $1000 (instead of saving it) to further their child’s experiences???

    the fundamental flaw in this article is that it equates a healthy growing experience of a child to buying things… (the most fundamental flaw of american consumerism)… It doesnt… A child’s development can happen at the most cheapest of ways (e.g. teaching your son how to solder a computer chip, or learning guitar ALONG with your daughter); not by spending $1000.

    • The author clearly stated that the money was to be spend doing things together, like trips, not on expensive trinkets.

    • IcyMustouche, did you actually read the story or just interpret your view from the title? The whole point was to spend the money on “time” and “experience” WITH your children. Buying an iphone or toys implies getting them out of your hair, keeping them plugged in so you don’t have to deal with them.

    • So then you are admitting you didn’t actually read the article, in which the author basically states to spend the money doing those exact things with your children, TOGETHER, exactly as you have suggested?

  32. Years ago, a friend of ours who had 7 kids that they expected all of them to go to college. These people were by no means wealthy. Nonetheless, they did sock money away into college funds for the kids. Keeping in mind that stats show a high percentage of kids drop out of college in the first two years, the parents were concerned with throwing their money away on tuition where the kids would drop out before completing school.

    So, the arrangement they made with the kids was that the kids would have to pay for the first two years of school. Year three and four were paid by the parents and if they graduated, the parents would reimburse the kids for the first two years. 5 out of the 7 graduated. The other two dropped out within the first two years. BTW, the dad worked for the IRS

  33. This is the most reckless advice I’ve seen in ages. Student loan debt is now over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS for a reason; parents don’t prepare for the staggering cost of college and young people have no shot at a decent career without at least a bachelor’s degree.

    And some idiot parents talk about their kids working their way through school like they did 50 years prior. Good luck with that. If by working you mean turning tricks or selling dope. What other jobs pays $22k (a conservative estimate for college) after taxes for an 18-year old working part time?

    Follow this plan and you’ll end up with the most worldly adult living on your couch and working at the coffee shop.

    • Working college student says:

      I am currently working my way through college (full time) and just finished two years at my local community college. The total cost for tuition for those first two years combined was $10,000 (the national average is $6,000 for two years at a community college). The final two years at a local state school will cost me $16,000 plus books and I will cash flow that as well. If a student can not earn $26,000 over four years working full time then they deserve whatever debt they get themselves into.

    • Funny how only in the USA is this an issue for parents and students alike, eh Darrell? Staggering student loan costs and tuition. Only in the USA, think about that Darrell, perhaps that’s where the problem lies.

      • Quinton P. Young III says:

        Yes it could be that Huge Military Budget every year where the USA’s total spending on our Military adds up to 45% of what the Res of the Entire Earth Countries(China,Russia,India,England,Israel,Etc.Etc.Etc.Etc) Spends on their Military. Thee is a Reason we are constantly fighting Wars, and it is because we have to Justify all that Military Spending. We Americans are Cowards, we have never had to endure the hardships of say England during their terrifying years during WorldWar2. We have 1 Tragedy and we go off and Invade how many countries now ? And we can’t even afford to send our children to college for free. Sure does show where our Priorities lie. War, War, War, Kill, Kill, Kill. I say Awesome Idea from the Article. Life experience is worth way more than any College education and that time spent with your children is Priceless !

    • I think Darrell totally misses the point of the article. I love the fresh, reality based tone Jeff Bogle takes.
      I have 8 and 12 year old boys and my wife and I have lots of conversations about how to best prepare our kids for life past High School. The point that Darrell neglects, is that these kids who know themselves, have real-world experience and a strong connection with their family are going to be way better employees and be a lot more fun to hire. The go-into-debt for college scenario is over-played and shows a lack of imagination. My wife and I are investing in Walforf education and will be taking the kids to Europe soon. If we can create kids who are confident of how they fit in the world then they’ll have a much easier time finding their place once they get out of High School.

  34. Standing Ovation !!!!
    This has been on my mind constantly lately. My kids are my world! Considering I know what “significant experiences” are like in travel, fun, adventure…considering how $250K can vanish in an instant from a recent divorce, economic shifts…considering time is a bitch, I have to act upon my intuition.

    Thank you for bringing an independent, unsolicited opinion on the matter. I don’t want my kids to remember only the paid University bills.

Trackbacks

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  2. […] suburb and start a parenting blog, OWTK, or Out With a Kids. Earlier this year he wrote a provocative against-the-grain post about how he and his wife, who also works in finance, stopped contributing to their daughters’ 529 […]

  3. […] suburb and start a parenting blog, OWTK, or Out With the Kids. Earlier this year he wrote a provocative against-the-grain post about how he and his wife, who also works in finance, stopped contributing to their daughters’ 529 […]

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  5. […] Jeff Bogle, a stay-at-home dad, makes a great cogent argument for not saving that money for college. There are so many better things you could do for kids with that money: […]

  6. […] The Case Against Saving for College (Published Feb 9,  81,785 pageviews) Lisa Hickey says that our most popular titles are “simple […]

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