Save. Spend. Splurge.

Why I won’t be paying for my children’s college education

… increased parental financial investment actually decreases GPA, though it does increase the odds of graduation within five years.

… these findings suggest that students with parental support work hard enough to stay in school, but otherwise “dial down their academic efforts.”

Interestingly, other sources of financial support (grants, scholarships, etc.) didn’t negatively effect student GPAs..

Read: Financial Rambling’s Should you pay for your kid’s college?

I’m going to come right out and say that I am absolutely 100% not planning on paying for any of my children’s college education upfront.



This is assuming I won’t have enough money when I retire, but I know the likelihood of that is nil.

I will more than likely have enough to retire and to help my kids to a certain extent if I chose to do so.

However, let’s say I had JUST enough to retire.

Would I consider working more, or sacrificing myself to pay for my kids’ education, perhaps digging into my retirement accounts to pay for them?


My retirement comes first.

First, I worked for it, and I (presumably) would have already provided everything for them to grow into healthy, happy, well-adjusted human beings.

Their education at a college is something that is not necessary to their health and well-being, as there are plenty of other choices other than racking up a huge amount of student debt just for the privilege of “figuring yourself out” for 4 years in some bubble environment.

Second, I am not going to put that kind of financial burden or guilt on them to say:

Hey, I PAID for your education and now you OWE ME a retirement that I had to forego because of you!!!

It’s really more of a gift, if you think about it.

They’ll NEVER have to worry about taking care of me, paying for me, or doing anything in regards to my retirement, the way that I’m worrying about my parents. I won’t be any kind of financial burden on them as they’re starting out in life.



This references the above, and I already wrote a post on this: A college degree doesn’t mean you have any skills.

There are plenty of other options out there other than college, especially if you aren’t certain you can get a job in that field easily.

Yes, I went to college. Yes, I paid for it ($60,000 worth), and yes it ended up being very worthwhile for me.

But do you want to always base your whole life on what happened to one person or a few people you know?

Do your research and see if it makes any sense or not before diving in.

If my kids saw it through the way I did, and easily ended up taking on $60,000 of debt, I’d expect them to know how to get out of it just as easily.


If you have to shell out $30,000 for a degree, you’re going to be sure that you aren’t going into something that won’t deliver any kind of return on your debt.

I started in a major that I immediately saw after a year would have no real benefit for my working life, so I switched degrees halfway through, hustled during the summer courses and graduated just like everyone else.

I made a mistake….but I corrected it.

If I had seen that I could not have really done anything else at college, I probably would have left and went into something completely different after exploring all my options.



I was told by my parents about 6 months before I would be shipped off to college that they had nothing saved for me. Keep in mind that they had been telling me since I was a kid that they had $10,000 put aside, and it had been growing for 10 years in an account for me to use when I went to college.

Aside from their (stupid) lies about having money for me, I decided I was going to go anyway.

I started applying for all the scholarships and grants I could find, even though I was late.

My motivation and my drive increased, and I had already worked so hard to get the best grades to be able to choose the degree I wanted.

Luckily, my grades were high enough and I ended up choosing the college that gave me the most money.

If I had known sooner, perhaps I would have been more active in terms of hunting down those unusual scholarships and grants, and making sure I was more than eligible for them.

There’ll be no lying on my end when they’re growing up. None of this “I have money saved for your college fund“, crap, because I won’t have anything saved specifically for them.


What I would encourage them to do, is to get at least a part-time job.

I know many people say: But how can students study if they have to work on top of it all!?

Believe me, you will find the time and become uber organized to the point where you don’t really have time to waste.

I myself worked 2 jobs while I was in school — one was a company I started and I was able to work in between classes or whenever I had free time, and the second was an actual job that I did at night, and on weekends.

Everyone who went to school with me, basically knew I didn’t have a “life”.

…and by “life”, I mean I wasn’t out getting wasted every night.

That sort of partying didn’t interest me in the slightest anyway, but it did make me look rather odd to the rest of the students because I wasn’t “normal”, or interested in squandering my precious time.

It was quite a useful education in the end, because I really learned how to manage my time, and became more organized as a result, which only became even more important as I entered the working world.


This sort-of worked on me.

The problem was mostly that I didn’t know the first thing about personal finance such as how to budget or even something as simple as tracking my expenses.

As a result, I worked a lot during college, but mis-managed my money in hindsight, because I always had more than enough money from my 2 jobs coming in, so I never gave a second thought to saving or the debt that would accumulate at the end.


When you know your parents are there to bail you out if you fall, you don’t tend to work very hard.

My parents were not there for me financially, so I never expected I would have a magical cheque written out to me at the end of my schooling to pay for it all.


If I had the cash to gift, I would consider giving each of them an equal amount of money towards their student debt AFTER everything has been said and done.

However, even if I had a kid who decided not to go to college, and didn’t end up racking up $30,000 in debt, I would still give them the same amount of money as their siblings as a reward for the good choices they made.

I of course, won’t be saying this to my kids (false sense of parental security and all), but I would consider seeing how they turned out after 4 years, what job they managed to land, and if they deserve anything.

If I ended up having one hardworking kid, and one bum, I’d consider giving nothing at all to either child to keep it fair.

I’ve heard too many stories about parents favouring siblings because one was “less able to fend for herself”, or one happened to talk a good game about how rich they’d be in the future so they got the bulk of the money just by essentially scamming their parents.

No favouritism from me in terms of money!

My reasoning is the hardworking ones would turn out all right regardless as they are already self-sufficient, and I can only hamper the life and choices of the bums if they were flush with cash.

I don’t want to turn them into being even worse by supplementing their lifestyle with money they hadn’t really earned.

Sounds harsh, right?

But I think it’s the only way I can be sure that my kids can fish for themselves independently and successfully, rather than waiting for someone to dole out fish to them.

Then if I give them money, it won’t make a difference in the sense that it won’t change their lives or their lifestyles to the point where they do a complete 180 and become bums.

Naturally, I’d already be drilling into them all the rules of personal finance I wish I had been told when I was younger, but it’d be more satisfying to see the result at the end without my babying.

Would you pay for your kids? Why or why not?


  • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

    I think having kids realize they need grants and scholarships also makes them hustle harder.

  • MelD

    thank you.
    I have refused to pay for expensive travel and holidays for my kids, as they would not have appreciated it.
    If we lived in the UK or US/Canada my kids would automatically have been headed to college and whether I would pay anything for them, I don’t know, I may not have learnt the same lessons as I have IRL. I know I would not have appreciated uni when I was 18, life turned out differently for me.
    Living and raising my kids in Switzerland, I was willing to save somerhing for my kids that they got/get when they’re 20. We covered regular costs and even a couple of years of a semi-private school for the youngest, but that is it. Everything else I expect them to pay for themselves. If they want to study later and can’t afford the tuition, I’m willing to contribute if they can pay their other costs, but actually, they have left school and learnt a profession they can build upon, so that shouldn’t be necessary. I did my own degree as a mature student from the ages of 38-43, paid for by a tiny inheritence and a small contribution from my grandmother, for which I was hugely grateful. My husband has an excellent career without a degree, and I really think they are totally overrated for most 20somethings. You can learn anything and everything independently of a college/university these days, why pay for my kids to party?!

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      In Europe especially it is crippling for parents to pay for their kids, as loans are harder to obtain. Banks are stingier (odd, seeing as whole countries borrowed tons from other countries.. which does not reflect how their citizens operate individually).

      In North America, it is very easy to obtain student loans, in fact, almost encouraged especially by those shady private colleges that claim to get you 6-figure jobs from just spending $10K on some certificate.

      I personally want my kids to understand that money is not free. I worked for it, and I will share and pay for things, but only if it is something they really can benefit from. I’m not about to fork over all this hard earned money for them to waste 4 years drinking away and studying for a useless degree. I’d rather they become construction workers with skill in building and repairing buildings and homes than wax poetic on the sidewalks as beggars.

  • Pauline @ Make Money Your Way

    I would pay if my kid chose med school or some other degree where it is really complicated to work part time, AND was one of the best of the class. Not for a “finding myself” degree. I had tons of jobs in college and business school and a normal student has time to keep grades up and work, but if being the very best will make a difference and they are able to achieve it, I’d rather they don’t work and get a higher starting salary. It is tough to know for sure, I don’t think I would have had much better grades without working and it affected my degree decisions. I took a lower ranked business school so I could get a 2 year internship and have a firm pay for it instead of top tier business school that was one more year of studying, not paid by a company but with higher starting salaries. No regrets but I’d like my kids to have the choice.

  • LAL

    I’d like to pay 100%. Will I pay? I do not know. I have no crystal ball. My gift to them will be that I will be 100% self-sufficient and have a fully funded retirement. From there we’ll talk.

    I don’t know that we’ll save enough. I don’t know that we won’t be unemployed. I don’t know our house won’t burn down. I do know I will try my best to be a responsible person and save for retirement, emergencies, and I am currently saving $2k/year for college.

    Now some might say wow a lot, but in the grand scheme of our income it’s not. But I realize right now instead of stashing $40k/year for college we are stashing it for retirement. Like I said we are going to try to help because I want to, not because I have to.

    But first things first, pay off mortgage and save for retirement so I am not eating cat food and asking my kids for money.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      That is my gift to them as well — they do not have to worry about me in retirement. They only have to worry about themselves, which is immensely difficult as-is when you have a family of your own and you have to think about your parents too.

  • Tara

    Great post! Yes, in some of the personal finance books I’ve read, they talk about how the coddled kids that receive all the financial support end up doing worse financially than a kid who is thrown out to fend on her own. I have a friend like this, who’s 28, working full time, but still has a credit card his parents pay for that he can use for attending all the weddings and events that are common to someone in their late 20’s. I’m all for helping out a kid who’s in dire straights, but I’m not for encouraging my kids to never save money on their own because they always know I’d bail them out for a “must-attend” wedding. I’ve had to turn down wedding invitations

  • Tania

    Well, it just depends on the kid right? Which I gather is what you’re saying. You may help when the time comes if you feel it’s appropriate and without jeopardizing your retirement. I don’t think the observations on behavior can conclude it’s strictly because college was paid for by the parent, I also think it has to do with how one was raised. I agree with you college is not for everyone. There is more than one path in life.

    My parents paid for my college tuition, books and housing but I paid for most of my spending money on my own (clothes & recreation) with my part-time job.My jobs were also paid internships that helped toward getting recruited after college. I went to an in state school so it wasn’t as costly as private or out of state. My college gpa was good enough to qualify me for the honors accounting fraternities and other honor societies. I got a job with a big 5 cpa firm out of school and advanced a career that had a good return on my education.I have many friends whose experience is the same as mine was. College paid for and the experience was not squandered. And, oh yes, I partied too on the weekends but I also studied every week night until 11 or 12 in the library.

    My parents were frugal and have a healthy retirement now, their retirement was not jepordized by my education. I moved back to Maui recently in my 40s to be close to them, spend time with them and also be available as they age. I don’t feel obligated because of any monetary reason, it’s a choice I made. They are truly my best friends and when they’re gone, it’ll be too late then to do anything about it but regret the lost time.

    I have seen the behavior you’ve described in some friends. It seemed to be more prevalent in the ones that went to an expensive private school where people where dripping with money and there was pressure to keep up. I didn’t see it at University of Hawaii much. Almost everyone I knew worked hard even though our parents were helping us. Nany of us were 2nd or 3rd generation asians whose parents grew up in plantation camps. So whether or not our parents helped, there is a certain work ethic and respect/appreciation for getting an education instilled in us. I was well aware that my grandma had to drop out of school in the 6th grade but loved school. Even if that wasn’t my experience, it affects you.

    The student loan thing…I see so many personal finance articles about how people got their bachelors/masters, went to expensive schools and got degrees that could not help them be employed at a level to pay back that debt. But I think that is evident in their decision to take on such a big loan and go to an expensive school. The money didn’t create the behavior, the mindset was already there but perhaps because it was a loan, it didn’t feel like “their money” until they graduated and had to pay it back?

    Thoughtful post M…

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Everything you said — I agree with.

      The image thing seems to be a problem for many kids. It’s why I almost want to make my kids feel like we’re comfortable but not rich. Not poor, but not extravagant, you know?

      When you have money on loan, it’s all in your hands and VERY irresistible. You think: WOW. $20K a year! And then you start thinking it’s YOUR money… and then it escalates into “oh 4 years is such a long way off”.. by the time the time rolls around to pay that $80K, you’re hooped.

      It’s also because it’s $20K net, which means normally you’d need to earn $40K gross to get $20K net, but that’s living on peanuts to pay for food, rent, etc. I’d say to save $20K most people would need to earn at least $60K a year, but living fairly frugally. Most people take a long time to save up even $5K, so $20K all at once is a heady rush of excitement and you think it’s going to last for SO LONG.

  • Leslie Beslie

    So many things here!

    First, did you go to a small college? Because “That sort of partying didn’t interest me in the slightest anyway, but it did make me look rather odd to the rest of the students because I wasn’t “normal”, or interested in squandering my precious time.” sounds like a small-college thing. I went to a giant university (40K+ undergrads) and no one noticed or cared enough to call me out on not being “normal” because I didn’t party all the time. In fact, since it was such a large school, there were plenty of organizations and activities for those not interested in drinking, etc. It really wasn’t a big deal.

    With that said, I also worked (30 hrs/week) during school (16 credits/semester) and I can’t say enough good things about it. You learn time management immediately, you’re earning your own living, and most importantly, you will make lots of connections, get great experience, and open yourself up to plenty of opportunities at such a young age! I did get a generic degree (communications) but graduated with 4 years of job experience already under my belt!

    I’m on the fence about paying for my kids college. I want them to work. Hard. But honestly, I don’t want them to HAVE TO work as hard as I did. I figure I worked/am working hard now to make their lives a little easier. A passing thought I’ve had is to pay for their tuition but make them work for all of their own living expenses. That way, they should come out of school debt free but will still have to work to live. I have a long while before I need to think about this as a real issue anyway though…

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Where I went was LIKE a small college but was part of a huge one. We had smaller colleges within a big college… so yes. In a way it was a small college kind of environment.

      I definitely agree with working at least part-time during schooling because it taught me how to balance my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. I learned to live on my PDA and you get to meet lots of different people WHILE studying which can help out your career immensely.

      I think it’s nice that you don’t want them to work as hard. I feel as though I didn’t work hard enough, so I want my kids to work even harder. Gosh.. I’ll be such an evil mother… 😛

  • cj

    Mochimac!!! I am not paying a cent either since we are not having kids, but I love your reasoning on the whole matter. Manage your own affairs before trying to help others. This cannot be so hard to understand.

    You see, as Jane Savers says, “out of guilt”. Never should an act of love be born out of guilt or it is arguably not love at all.

  • Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle

    My sons will both graduate with a useful degree and a mountain of debt.

    The oldest has secured an excellent position in a large corporation that he got when he did a school co-op placement. The company tries potential hires in their co-op program and keep the ones they like. He is working their this summer again but has a signed contract of employment that starts as soon as he graduates next year.

    My youngest has 2 more years to get his degree and wants his degree because people in the career field he has chosen don’t get hired unless they have a degree.

    They have both worked summers and during the school year and will still graduate with 40K in debt each.

    I have helped them on my modest income (50K) because I have guilt. Their father makes 140K but choses not to help very much. I have stopped helping the oldest because he spends too much money and I have no money to help the youngest on his last 2 years.

    They are pursuing sensible degrees and they will get better jobs and make more money in the future because of it.

    You are a writer. It is a talent that needs some training in grammar and sentence structure but an education is not required. Some of us need training in a skill and that is what my student debt and my sons’ student debt represent.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I REALLY like co-ops. I always wished I had done one but I didn’t have that option at my business school. We were fighting for summer jobs…

      I think your sons will turn out fine, and more than fine if they could just listen to you more often on money matters and not wasting money on beer and chicken wing nights! 🙂

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