Would you give your kids money for college or life?

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
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Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby scriptbunny » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:28 am

Inspired by dropoutretire's thread: viewtopic.php?f=24&t=8770

I've known parents that pay for their kid's college. Many stop at undergrad, some will pay all the way through very expensive grad school. Heck, even a few will give to their kids well beyond schooling, giving them monthly allowances through unpaid internships, paying for cell phone bills and health insurance, sending them downpayments on first homes, or gifting them fancy downtown lofts post-graduation. In contrast some parents of course won't ever give their kids a dime, refusing even to co-sign on student loans.

So I'm curious: How much financial runway would you give your kids? Would you pay for their college? Help them buy a house? Pay some of their bills for X years? And how would you structure these gifts to them, e.g. 529's, pre-paid tuition, cash, stake in a business, real estate, etc.?

We're planning on giving our kids a big chunk of money-- more than the cost of public university, less than a private-- and letting them do whatever they want with it. Start a business, go to college, pick up a trade, etc. But they'd know this financial gift would be the last.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby saving-10-years » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:26 am

We're currently in there/doing this one. Only one child and he is in first year of uni doing Comp Sci at a very good UK uni and showing aptitude for this subject. It will probably be a three year degree (he says so but we think it may perhaps morph into the four year masters which is an option and we are prepared for this).

We give him an allowance that is equivalent to what Student Finance England reckon would be his maintenance loan allowance level (if he borrowed the money from them). Most of his contemporaries will take that loan and have additional parental handouts on top. Our rationale is that until he leaves Uni he is still in 'child/young adult' mode and we need to take care of his physical needs. Housing, food, clothes and other basic stuff. He is responsible for the University fees already (which are £9k per year, so £27k + interest for a three year course). That seems like plenty of debt to have at 22 when he finishes. He borrows the fee amount from student finance england as it falls due and they charge 3% over base rate from the moment they pay you over the money. Then they only take a proportion of your salary after it reaches a certain threshold, which means that many UK students don't expect to ever pay off the loan (under current terms it gets written off after 30 years). DS hopes to find employment without too much problem on graduation and overpay so that he has no student debt before 30 and ideally none by 25. If the UK government brings in a graduate tax in the future he could be paying for his degree twice, but compared to a debt of around £50k and no strategy to pay early he is ahead of most contemporaries on the finance and attitude side.

When he is at home from Uni (during main holidays) his strategy seems to be to eat and eat and eat and come back from Uni with his jeans falling down through being very strict on no extras while there. He mainly cooks for himself in a student flat (not en-suite - see below). He is teetotal, an introvert and is very careful with money and aware of cost. He definitely understands the cost reduction side of ERE. Based on two terms so far he will have saved around 25% of his not particularly generous allowance, or over 90% when rent and utilities are excluded (he is mainly doing the day-to-day living on his £1k university bursary). Its entirely possible at this rate that, if he can get some paid work while at Uni, that he will exceed his loan pay off hard target. Uni really is a great place to have fun on very little money, or a place where it is easy to lose track and spend money on luxuries. The difference at his Uni between the most basic student rooms on campus and the premium en suite with leather sofas and wide screen TV is £7482 over three years. Just for a nicer room. Its those en suite rooms that are selling out fastest. Sigh.

Money alone won't get you very far, its very easy to spend it when you are 18/19 and then decades to pay it back. Hoping everyone here has had the ERE talk with their college age offspring. Up there with the sex one.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby steelerfan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:47 am

For us, partial. We set aside money for both kids from birth through childhood. In addition, we fund or will fund them for 2 years and they can live at home rent free until they graduate college. Both kids also have a cell phone and my HS son costs me big additional money for his car insurance even though he is ticket/accident free. Knock on wood so far!

This savings was/will be used to provide support for my sons in college. Essentially everything paid for about two years (in state, CU Boulder) ~60K. In year 3, the bulk will fall on him. He will be getting a job and incurring debt as needed. He has a small non-subsidized loan "award" for next year and will have to borrow more to make it. He has applied for many grants and scholarships but no joy yet. We earn too much to qualify for need based support. This was the deal from day one and he was aware of it. He could have gone to a community college and lived at home for 2 years and finish up his last 2 at a four year or choose the "college experience". His choice. I did not care which option. My wife still gives him spending money and will likely continue to do so on a limited basis while at college. For what is is worth, I believe he made the right choice for him.

I am a firm believer that he has to invest in himself and have skin in the game. He is doing well grade wise. I have another son that will graduate HS next year. He is more frugal and grounded than son #1 and has more common sense but has struggled due to dyslexia and is in many ways better for it. He will likely go the community college route and work from day one or attend a cheaper school. He also is like me in that he could get some small athletic money if he went the 4 year route.

My parents paid for my college entirely. However, I was on an athletic scholarship for a partial (1/2+) and always had a summer job from 15 through college which paid a fair share.

This is one area where I feel a disconnect with some people on this board. Many have no kids or want none which is fine. If you have kids or in some cases parents or other disabled loved ones, you do not have the luxury of selfishness. Not that selfishness is bad, but if you see the people in their 50s on this board, they usually are supporting someone else in some way. The trick is to get the kids stood up by graduation. With the parents, that is another story...

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby steelerfan » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:57 am

In response to saving-10-years last comment about the ERE talk, my kids both have gotten
"the talk". You never know about how much is sinking in. My son in college is not very spendy compared to what I was like...Hopefully he was listening as I made lots of mistakes! Luckily we pulled out of it .

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby Jean » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:18 am

I was funded by my parents up to my master degree.
good point: I have a degree
bad point: I spent 5 years on a degree instead of figuring out what I wanted, I just went for what seemed the most prestigious in my own definition of prestigious. I had pressur to success at the degree because they paid, but I was delusional about me enjoying the career it would open.

If I had to pay by myself, I would have tought about it more.

Other bad point is that my brother went for a trade, so my parents only paid for him until he was 18. He is slightly jealous about it and used to feel entitled to buyout from parents when he messed with his money.

But I think we're both fine now.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby James_0011 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:05 pm

You should take what I have to say with a large grain of slat because I don't have kids and don't plan on having any. But I think to expect an eighteen year old to take on the amount of debt required to get a degree in the US is kind of crazy. Of course, this also depends on what kind of options you give them. If you raise your kid in a rural location where their only chance of getting out and making a life for themselves is going to a four year college away from home, you have a completely different situation than raising a kid in a city where they can find decent work out of high school or commute to a university if need be. so, really it depends on where/how you plan on raising your kid.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby Tyler9000 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:13 pm

I don't have kids, so I never felt the biological urge to nurture a child at all costs. So depending on your mood you can take my opinion either with a grain of salt as someone who doesn't get it, or as the view of a neutral outsider. ;)

My parents provided me an old pickup truck my senior year in high school, and even though I had a summer job they still helped with the insurance and gas bills. I still remember the day when my mom cut me off from the gas debit card and told me I'd have to pay for the insurance as well. I was upset, but in retrospect it was one of the smarter parenting moves they ever made because it jumpstarted me to financial intelligence. I immediately found a job and started saving up myself, and that practice helped me get my own apartment a while later. In contrast, I remember one friend in college who was a trust fund kid, and man he was really detached from the reality of ordinary people. I think his parents actually served time for embezzlement, so we're talking well-connected rich. It was like he was from a different world. My freshman year was when I learned that my family was on the low end of middle class. But I didn't feel left out -- I felt grounded.

I paid for school with a combination of scholarships and loans. My parents took out about half the loans in their own names, and I ended up paying them off for them after I graduated. They had fallen on hard times, and the kid who persevered with the engineering degree was in a good place by then. I'm really thankful for the sacrifices they made to help me out, but it's more about the support than the money. They could have lavished me with whatever cash they had, and I'd be no better off today. If anything, I'd just be soft. I'm thankful that they were my backstop, but also that my own financial foundation was self-built.

IMHO, financial independence starts with personal independence. In order to set your children up for the former, don't gift them money. Be there when they need you, but encourage them in the latter.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby Dragline » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:43 pm

We've committed to supporting them through one degree. But it has to be a STEM or some other valued credential, which they are welcome to pitch to us. First two are already locked into engineering schools, so there's only one wild-card left. (I really need one of these kids to go into finance, actually.) And they could certainly come back and live at home for a time if they are working and trying to save money.

This does not mean that we would not give them any more assistance in the future, but it would probably be "after-the fact" help (i.e., something like we'd help pay off medical school debt after the degree is acquired, but not promise in advance). And I would not be opposed to investing in a business one of them might start, but only if its legitimate and they would have done it without our investment anyway. We'd also help with grand-kid expenses if and when there are any.

But I'm mindful that we need to dispose of our wealth before we die, either by some form of transference to them or somebody else. It would be stupid and counterproductive not to give them some of the money while we are alive and then have them end up with some giant chunk of change when we are dead. I'm thinking of some kind of trust structure to deal with that, but haven't figured it out yet. The guideline I keep coming back to is "Give them enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing." I think it might be a Mungerism.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby IlliniDave » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:37 pm

I was willing to go four years at in-state rates for college. Some help w/grad school would have been negotiable. Neither took advantage.

No ongoing allowance for adults. Would possibly help with $ in a true emergency especially if it adversely affected grandkids, but the bar is high.

Someday when it's clear my money will outlive me there may be some upping of gifts.

But, when I die I expect they'll receive a big pile of money. My hope is that by being heartless and ungenerous and forcing them to take responsibility for their financial decisions in the interim, they'll be mature enough in later midlife to deal with an inheritance.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby ducknalddon » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:55 pm

We funded both of ours, both studied computer science. It was a lot of money but I felt strongly it would be wrong to send them off into the world saddled with debt. However they both know it stops there, they will always be welcome back home if they fall on hard times but I wouldn't bail them out of poor financial decisions.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby pukingRainbows » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:19 pm

It's a long way off, but I'm thinking they would work to pay their own way as much as possible and then we would help out with the remainder. I'm not sure if that's unnecessarily mean given that we could probably just pay for everything but I'd like for them to connect to the fact that their education has a cost to it. They are also welcome to live with us if they need as a way to save money. Although I may change my opinion on this after they become teenagers. =)

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby jennypenny » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:20 am

**sorry, I posted this info in the wrong thread yesterday**

Personally, we offered the kids enough money to pay for four years at our state college but they were allowed to choose how to use it (within reason). We told them this when they started high school so they could plan accordingly. The first child is using it to do a five-year program at an out-of-state college including three summers and a full year abroad. The second child (HS senior) has worked out how to get a bachelors and masters out of it at an engineering college, and still have enough left over to buy a vehicle to use to get back and forth since it's 2000 miles away. The third child (8th grade) recently told me he's planning on getting a full scholarship to college so he can keep the money LOL. I mentioned he might have to start doing his homework regularly if that's his plan, but hey ... if he gets a full ride I'll gladly give him the money. Part of the reason our system works is that we've always included the kids in the financial planning part of their lives. I never just wrote checks for them. We've had a budget for each season and the kids have had to hustle and negotiate to make sure that each got what they wanted. That experience makes me confident that they're ready to manage their college funds. If not, I can always step back in (my name doesn't come off the account until graduation).


Beyond the college issue, I'd help my kids if they really needed it. I'm not going to enable them if they prove they can't handle money, but I'll always provide them food, shelter, and health care. That offer is good for our extended family and some close friends as well. We've incorporated that into our financial planning because we've decided that it's an important aspect of our tribe-building efforts. I admit that it's not 'fair' on the surface that we might occasionally provide for people who didn't choose a more robust path in life. OTOH, I feel very lucky that we chose an ERE lifestyle and have a high enough income to make good on the offer.

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby Solvent » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:29 pm

This thread interests me, so thanks for starting it.

I have a kid, but this is all recent so I'm not yet sure on how to approach the whole idea of saving for education.

I can say that for now, I don't feel a particular urge to put away a specific fund. The money all comes out of the same pot. I don't see why, right now, I would think that money put away and 'marked' for a college fund would perform better than the rest of the money I'm socking away for the future.

I guess when she gets older I'll need to think about this more seriously. Perhaps my position on this is colored by the fact that in Aus, I know that there are relatively few tax-friendly ways for putting away money for your kids. It's generally accepted that unless you want the hassle of getting an accountant to set up particular structures, for the common person it's best to just gift them the money when they reach the appropriate age...

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Re: Would you give your kids money for college or life?

Postby halfmoon » Sat Mar 25, 2017 11:45 am

jennypenny wrote:Beyond the college issue, I'd help my kids if they really needed it. I'm not going to enable them if they prove they can't handle money, but I'll always provide them food, shelter, and health care.


I wasn't sure whether to post in this thread, in the "buy your kids a debt-free house" one or not at all. Our story is very different from most here, so it may not be useful. It's also long and possibly not relevant.

DH's son was 15 when we moved in together. He was always going to be different (fetal alcohol syndrome, absentee Native American parent, learning disabilities, socially isolated). Moving him off-grid into the woods at that age only made it worse. By the time he (barely) graduated from high school, he had already dropped out once, struggled with addiction, been involved in a deadly motorcycle accident, attempted suicide, and cycled in and out of treatment and psychiatric care. He joined the military but was kicked out after two years. Then began a series of alcohol-fueled incidents that always ended up in his calling us from jail or some court-mandated treatment center. One call was from the hospital because he had slammed a door on his finger in a drunken rage and permanently chopped part of it off.

DH and I had no idea how to help him. College was never an option. We finally emotionally washed our hands and moved away. He knew how to reach us by mail or 6-hour drive, but we didn't have a phone. Quite honestly, it was a relief.

When we moved back to the Seattle area 10 years later, DS was living in a nearby town. He had spent part of the intervening years in a destructive marriage, one year in jail, and one year living under a bridge in Seattle. During his homeless time, he had been beaten in the head by police and lost some of his mental capacity. He was working steadily at a menial job, still drinking, but staying largely out of trouble. We saw him once a week while trying to keep an emotional distance for our own mental health.

About 3 years ago, DS called us in a panic. He'd been picked up for DUI, and though his blood alcohol was well below the legal limit, he failed the field sobriety test. The local police considered him undesirable anyway, so they arrested him. He was terrified of losing his job and ending up in jail, and he was also being kicked out of the trailer court where he lived. He was almost 50 years old at this point, and our first instinct was to move away again.

Instead, we engaged an attorney who kept him out of jail. We then bought him a debt-free house. I know this sounds like the worst sort of enabling or rewarding bad behavior, but our conditions were:

1. He repaid the attorney fees (he did).
2. He quit drinking and tried to maintain sobriety (he did for a short while).
3. He attended outpatient treatment and AA (he did; both were mandated by the court).
4. He would never ever ever drive again after drinking (I believe that he has stuck to this).
5. He began antidepressant medication to deal with his rage outbursts (still on it, and it's made a huge difference).**
6. He put $800/month into a separate checking account with us as co-signers and paid all house expenses/utilities from it (he did).
7. He contribute to his work 401(k), matched by us into an IRA (he did while he had that job, and we continue to contribute to an IRA).
8. He kept all of his receipts and went over monthly expenditures with me (we did this for a year and then decided the point had been made).

(**He lapsed with the anti-depressants about 2 years ago and blew up in anger at his decent-paying job with benefits. He returned to the medication, but it was too late with that employer. He's had sporadic, low-paying jobs since.)

We opened another credit card and made him a joint account-holder on it so he could build credit -- paying off the balance monthly, of course. I monitor this (and his bank account) online, but he has absolutely no tendency to use credit unwisely and is generally a frugal shopper. We also bought him a computer and taught him how to use it on a basic level. We keep him on our cell family plan and charge him a share.

He's not perfect, but then neither are we. He doesn't have DH's incredible work ethic, so he maintains his yard and house but makes no improvements. He has difficulty finding and keeping employment given his record and lack of education or complex computer skills, and the physical labor jobs that are available have damaged his back. He has difficulty learning new things. He tries, though. He has a little dog he loves, and he's profoundly grateful to have a home that's his and won't be taken away. He stays out of trouble; not even a traffic ticket. He has a little money in the bank, but I'm well aware that we (or probably I, since DH is 21 years older) will need to help him financially when he can no longer work. We're prepared for that.

We've kept the house in our name because we don't want him to lose it somehow. I think he's progressed enough to have it, but DH has an abundance of caution. He'll get the house in our wills, plus income from a charitable trust.

The easy advice here would be to invest in your offspring's viability when they're young so you don't have to when they're old. Life isn't so neat, though, and I truly don't know what we could have done earlier (except not to move into the woods; that's a huge one). My point is that there's no one right answer. You do what you can when the time is right. Having said that: if your kids show the slightest aptitude for college, enable them. If not, try trade school and apprenticeship. The jobs available without one or the other are shrinking, and too many of those are suitable only for the young.

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