As we work with clients to create holistic financial plans, we often discuss the best ways to fund higher education. I offered tips for helping families be financially prepared for college through a guest column in the May 2018 edition of MetroFamily Magazine.
With my oldest son approaching 16, however, it got me thinking about the successes and challenges I’ve watched clients navigate over the years as their kids pursued a degree. What I’ve learned from their experiences can be boiled down to four commitments I plan to ask of my boys when they attend college.
- Learn how to do tough things. There is value in being educated about the process of borrowing money and living on a budget. It can be complicated or require compromises. However, I don’t want to give my children money to make life easy. I want them to research how to do something new, live modestly, hold a job and be responsible with what resources they have. Many of our clients require their children to obtain financial aid but later repay student loans on their behalf so they benefit from learning that process.
- Prove you can finish what you start. One of our clients agreed to pay for 100 percent of college for his three children and four nieces and nephews if they graduated in four years with at least a 3.0 GPA. It didn’t matter what they studied or where they went to school. They simply had to work hard and obtain their degree in a reasonable amount of time. In each case, he wrote a single check upon graduation to cover all four years of school. I’d say seven out of seven is a pretty great success rate.
- Stay connected to your family. As a parent, you typically know how your children are doing by laying eyes on them. You can tell if they’re healthy, being true to themselves and upholding the values you instilled. When they go off to school, however, a lack of face-to-face connection can make you worry. I’ve seen clients require their children to physically bring their pay stubs home before they’d match it for living expenses – simply for the reassurance of seeing with their own eyes that they were doing well. Once this structure was in place, all of their children excelled in college.
- Be accountable for your own excellence. I’m grateful my own parents taught me financial responsibility and a strong work ethic. Though I attended Oklahoma State University on a scholarship, my dad required me each summer to prepare and present a budget for my living expenses. As soon as my job covered those expenses, his checks stopped coming in the mail, and I’ve been financially independent ever since. My parents instilled successful habits, but it became clear that whether I excelled was my own responsibility.
I don’t worry about raising entitled children; good parenting can address that. However, in many ways, we’re all raising children of privilege in this country. As they go off to college, however, it’s a great opportunity to put a structure in place that will help them succeed and ensure they EARN – not simply obtain – their degree.
Blog by Kyle Brownlee, CEO.