Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?Today’s topic will probably be a touchy one and it’s all about whether or not parents should start (or end) saving for children’s college expenses. Ever since I paid off my $38,000 worth of student loans last year, I have received many e-mails from parents who are interested in seeking help for their children.

These e-mails are all related to whether or not parents should risk or sometimes even ruin their retirement by helping their child pay for college.

There is usually one common theme in these e-mails – the parents are usually not on track for retirement, they have debt, or they cannot afford to help their child in college.

Here are some of the stories I have heard in these emails:

  • The parents have over $100,000 in student loans that they took out in THEIR name so their child could go to school. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have a lot of other debt besides student loans.
  • Their child is in medical school and the parents are paying for all of their college expenses plus food, car, rent, etc. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have debt.
  • Their child is in law school and the child said that if his/her parents don’t continue paying for their expenses, that they would hate their parents. This child was even more mad when the parents printed out every single blog post of mine and gave it to them (I did not tell their parents to do that, it was entirely their idea). The child said I was ruining his/her life (yup, that actually happened). These parents are not on track for retirement and they are afraid of losing their child now as well.

I know I’m not a parent.

I’m not a parenting or child expert either.

I know I don’t know what it is like to have a child and the feelings that go along with that. However, I do know that I raised my younger sister after my father passed away and her attending college did make me want to help her so that she wouldn’t have to worry about money as much.

The other day I was talking to my sister and she was bringing up different ways she could possibly side hustle so that she could make extra money. It sort of made me feel bad, and for a moment I thought about helping her financially. Luckily, she snapped me out of it and told “You’ve helped me enough already. Do not worry.”

Her saying that really made me happy. I actually had tears in my eyes!

Instead of just giving her money, I helped her with her budget, I have supported her, I helped her find side hustles so that she could make extra money, I helped her make a plan, and more.

I know all of these other things I am doing have shaped her into an awesome young lady. Yes, she has to learn things the hard way but in the end she will be just fine.

Quick note: If you are looking for information on college funding, I recommend attending the webinar 6 Steps To Quickly Secure Scholarships For College. Jocelyn Paonita Pearson, Founder of The Scholarship System, secured over $125,000 in scholarships and funding by following this system!

Alarming information about student loans.

According to the Federal Education Budget Project, around $100 billion was borrowed by students in fiscal 2014 alone. Also, the default rate on student loan debt averages around 13% to 14%. 90% of student loans in recent years are co-signed by others (mostly parents), and that is a big burden falling on parents.

That’s a lot of debt, and that’s a lot of debt that isn’t being paid for. If you are a parent cosigning on student loan debt, I hope you understand the consequences that can come from it.

Should parents help their children go to college?

Okay, before anyone thinks this is a post bashing all parents who help their children, I should say that I have no problem with parents helping their children pay to go to college. However, that’s AS LONG AS THE PARENTS CAN AFFORD IT.

I have plenty of friends who went to college where a lot of it was paid for by their parents. These parents could afford it, and that is key. If you are on track for retirement, you are not struggling, and so on, and you want to help your children attend college, then by all means go for it.

I also have plenty of friends who went to college where everything was paid for yet their parents clearly could not afford it. Some of these parents took on a second or even a third job so that their child could go to school. They racked up credit card debt and student loan debt as well. Some of these students never paid a cent towards their student loans and their parents were forced to in the end. They risked their retirements, their happiness and more. While I understand that these parents care for their children, they need to realize they are putting their retirements at risk.

Like Shannah said above in the tweet, you can take out loans for student loans, but you can’t for retirement.

When we have children, as long as we are on track for retirement then we will most likely help our children attend and afford college.

I know that my story is not the average story, but I went to college with no help at all. I paid for all three of my degrees on my own, lived on my own, worked full-time, paid for all of my food, and more, all starting just days after I turned 18 and graduated from high school.

It was tough, but I do think it is possible.

For other students, it may take longer to graduate, or it may take less, they may take on more debt, or they may take on less. Everyone’s story is different, but it does not mean it is not possible.

One great story I recently read was How I Graduated College With $100k… in Savings on Budgets Are Sexy. Many say my story is impossible, but just wait until you read this great story. You will be amazed at how awesome Will is! I’m jealous but I know he worked hard for his accomplishments.

How can parents help but not risk their retirement?

Instead of risking your retirement, you can do other things to help your child go to college. Below are some of my tips if you have children who are about to attend college:

You don’t need to help in every way possible. For some reason, there is this myth out there that helping your child go to college means you need to pay for everything for them. Instead of paying for their tuition, textbooks, food, dorm, car, and everything else, set limits. You might help by giving them emotional support, letting them stay in your home while they are in college, helping them find ways to save money for college, helping them cut their college expenses, and more.

Help them get a job. If you don’t have the money to help your child, you may want to help them find a job. This way they can pay for their own expenses. Just a little bit can go a long way.

Help them create a budget. If your child doesn’t have a budget, help them create one now. Read Does your budget suck? – Budget Categories. A budget can go a long way and help someone overcome many financial difficulties.

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There are quite a few questions for you today, because I think this topic is an interesting one. I know that not everyone will have the same opinion so I want everyone to chime in! 🙂

Do you think parents should risk their retirement and pay for college? What if the parents are on track for retirement? How much should they help, if anything at all? Will you help your children go to college?

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‘Napkin Finance’ Review: 4 Things I Learned From This Book

The book Napkin Finance is photographed on a brown table with a pink highlighter and purple coffee mug.

Napkin Finance by Tina Hay uses visual infographics to make topics such as budgeting, debt, retirement, investing, entreprenerhip and cryptocurrency more digestible. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

As a bookworm and a personal finance nerd, I love reading a good book about money. That’s why I was so excited when The Penny Hoarder launched a virtual book club in January to read and discuss personal finance books.

Our first book club pick was “Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less” by Tina Hay.

This book uses visual infographics to break down a wide range of subject matter, including budgeting, debt, retirement, investing, entrepreneurship and cryptocurrency. Hay refers to “Napkin Finance” as a “visual guide to money and finance.”

Here are a few of my major takeaways from reading the book.

4 Things I Learned From ‘Napkin Finance’

“Napkin Finance” stood apart from other personal finance books I’ve read because of the way the material was packaged. In addition to learning more about topics like retirement and taxes, here are four things that resonated with me.

1. Visuals Aid In Comprehension

As I mentioned earlier, “Napkin Finance” is full of colorful infographics, which are drawn up as though they were doodled on the back of a napkin (hence the name).

Hay came up with the concept while attending Harvard Business School. She would sketch out different financial concepts to better understand them.

“Visual learning is a classic concept,” she said. “Mozart, DaVinci [and] Freud all used visual images and graphics to solve their biggest problems.”

Hay worked with a team of designers to create unique Napkin infographics for every chapter. She said the use of visuals helps make financial topics less intimidating and leads to higher comprehension and better retention of the subject matter.

If your eyes glaze over reading dense blocks of text about the stock market or macroeconomics, you might find the pictures and charts in “Napkin Finance” more enjoyable.

2. Repetition Helps Retain Information

One thing I quickly picked up on when reading “Napkin Finance” is the use of repetition.

Each chapter is broken into multiple sections, and each section leads with a Napkin infographic explaining a different financial concept. After the Napkin, there’s additional text expanding on the topic. At the end of each section are key takeaways — the most important things you should know. Then, each chapter concludes with a quiz to test your knowledge.

Reading — or viewing — something once isn’t always enough for it to stick in your head. When that material is presented over and over again, however, there’s a better chance you’ll retain the information.

3. It’s Okay to Be Lighthearted About Money

Too often, financial information is presented in a way that feels stuffy and boring. “Napkin Finance” deviates from that by incorporating humor and lightheartedness into the material.

“We actually have comedians that write for us and help us come up with these one-liners … kind of like fun sayings,” Hay said. “They just add some humor and lightness to a topic.”

The section on debt ends with the one-liner: “Not all debt is bad. Some is just misunderstood.”

The chapter on retirement includes this quote from author Jonathan Clements: “Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it to the fullest but not so fully that you run out of money.”

4. Learning a Little About a Lot Highlights Your Knowledge Gaps

“Napkin Finance” isn’t a book that hones in on one specific topic, like getting out of debt or paying for college. It covers those subjects but also touches on how to start a business, how to file taxes if you’re a gig worker, the difference between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and so much more.

There are 12 chapters, and each is further broken up into four or more sections. You’ll get an introduction to a lot of different core concepts, but those introductions are pretty brief.

The benefit of knowing a little bit about a lot of things is that you’ll discover where you want to take a deeper dive. For example, reading “Napkin Finance” helped me realize I ought to do more research when it comes to cryptocurrency. Had the book stuck to topics I’m already very familiar with — like budgeting and saving money — I may not have come to that understanding.

Why I Recommend Reading ‘Napkin Finance’

If you’re a visual learner or someone looking for a fun approach to learning about money, “Napkin Finance” is a book you should check out.

It doesn’t take financial literacy too seriously but after reading the book, you’re likely to have learned a few new money concepts and come away with some topics you want to explore further.

“Napkin Finance” is an easy read. It’s a good coffee table book that you can pick up and flip to different sections. You don’t have to start from the very beginning and read it in chapter order. The book is an extension of, which includes even more infographics simplifying various financial topics.

If you’ve read “Napkin Finance,” please chime in your thoughts in The Penny Hoarder Community’s book club forum. We’d love to hear from you.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.




“I’m thinking of starting a blog for autistic families. Is this a good idea?”

Help! I'm Thinking of Starting a Blog

I live in the Indianapolis area and have a 10 year old autistic son. For a few years, I have been toying with the idea to start a blog or website that helps other families. I want to share my stories (good and bad) as well as let people know different resources, events, help find babysitter for special needs, give reviews and restaurants and shops and what not for special needs and have blogs from special needs teachers and professionals. I’m just wondering if this really is a good idea and do you think it’s possible? -Danielle

Yes, I think there is definitely a market for this!

As I thought through your question, I wanted to answer it in more of a broad manner — because I think there are many people like you who have a blog idea or topic they see there’s a need for a blog about and are wondering what they should do with the idea.

So here are two questions I encourage you to ask yourself:

1. Do you have a passion for this topic?

Now, it’s clear to me that this is a topic you know well–this is very real part of your every day life. It’s something that you’ve researched and learned a lot about.

However, knowledge is different than passion.

For instance, my 6-year-old has fairly severe asthma and has severe indoor and outdoor allergies. The asthma showed up when he was 18-months old and has been something that has resulted in many sleepless nights, many scary experiences, much fatigue, many prayers, tremendous amounts of research, and countless hours in doctor’s offices.

People often come to me with questions on asthma and pediatric allergies because they know it’s something that’s been a daily part of my life since the time Silas was little. I can share our experiences with different kinds of natural remedies, I can point you in the direction of good doctors, I can discuss medications and steroids and nebulizers and inhalers and the pros and cons and risks involved with each.

I’m happy to help people with the knowledge I’ve gleaned from walking through this journey with a child with severe asthma. I’m so grateful that we’ve found some different treatments that are allowing him to have relief from constant major episodes and relapses. I’m so thankful that the changes we’ve made in his life and our lives to remove as many triggers as possible and to be very proactive when he starts flaring up have resulted in him being healthier and sleeping through the night on a fairly consistent basis (instead of being up multiple times — or much of the night — because of coughing and inability to breathe well).

Help! I Want to Start a Blog!

But I don’t have a passion for the topic of asthma. Talking about it and researching it is not something that gets me excited. I have no desire to write about it or blog about it or speak on it. And if I saw that there was a huge need for a blog or book on the topic, I wouldn’t be the one to write the book or start the blog.

Why? Because I’d burn out very quickly.

I share all of this to encourage you to step back and really consider: Is your blog idea something you are fiercely passionate about? Does talking about it light a fire under your belly? Do your friends see you as the go-to person for the topic?

Could you talk about this topic for hours and hours without getting tired? Could you write 5,000 posts on the topic? Could you get excited about getting up and writing about this topic every single day for years to come?

2. Do you have time to devote to blogging?

Blogging successfully requires a big commitment of time. It will take time and effort to set up the blog, to learn basic HTML, to get the hang of how to upload links and pictures, and how to format your posts. You’ll probably also want to learn how to use social media well, how to set up an email newsletter, how to design graphics, and maybe even how to update your header or sidebar.

It requires commitment to continue to blog and answer emails. To continue to find fresh content and perspective. To deal with site issues that come up. To learn new skills and adapt as the market changes.

Step back and really consider if your schedule would allow for this commitment. Would blogging be a blessing or a burden to your family? Would it drag you down, frustrate you, make you feel stressed and guilty, or take over your life in a negative way?

Help! I want to start a blog!

You don’t have to blog regularly. There is no rule book, after all, and you are the boss. However, if you want to be successful as a blogger, you have to put some priority on blogging.

Posts don’t just write themselves. Pictures don’t just take and crop themselves. And social media doesn’t just post automatically.

You have to make that happen — and it’s a LOT more work than most people realize. It can also be a LOT more frustrating than it might seem like at face value. If you’re like me and you’re not naturally a techie person, you are going to have a steep learning curve ahead of you.

Minor tweaks might end up turning into major headaches. Simple changes might make you want to pull your hair out. And almost everything to do with blogging typically takes longer than you think it will.

The most successful bloggers and those who stick with it for the long-haul are those who go into blogging treating it like a business or real job: something that you have to show up for daily or at least multiple times per week.

Do you have the space in your calendar to make regular blogging happen? Do you have the desire to learn the skills necessary to successfully set up and run a blog? Do you love new challenges and experimentation?

Did You Answer “Yes” To Both Questions?

If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then I think you should definitely strongly consider moving ahead with the blog idea. There is a lot of potential for this idea and a lot of need for encouragement in this area.

I think you could consider expanding beyond your local area — maybe even making your blog a resource for those nationwide or even worldwide, with a special emphasis on your local area?

And if you do start your blog, I will be cheering you on all the way!

For more helpful ideas, read my post on How to Make Money Blogging.

What advice & thoughts do the rest of you have for Danielle? I’d love for you to chime in in the comments!

photo credit; photo credit; photo credit