Savings priorities: Your retirement or your kids' college?
Smart savings priorities can help you support your children and your own future.
Holmes and Jennifer Osborne of Kansas City, Mo., are eager to save for college for their baby daughter, Adelaide. Holmes, 35, filled out the paperwork for Adelaide's college savings account while she was still in the maternity ward. "A hundred dollars here, three hundred there, and we'll build this puppy up," says the proud dad.
The couple is less enthusiastic about their retirement savings. They're still paying off debt from Jennifer's graduate school, and while Jennifer contributes the maximum allowable amount to her 401(k) retirement plan, Holmes doesn't contribute as much to his plan.
Put retirement first
Like many couples, Holmes and Jennifer could benefit from revisiting their savings priorities. There are good reasons to make retirement your number one financial objective.
- Time can be a key to building retirement savings. You may be tempted to focus on retirement after your kids finish school. But to accumulate the savings you may need, contribute early and consistently to your tax-advantaged retirement plan.
- You can pay for college many ways, but only your savings can fund retirement. Government-subsidized loans, work-study programs, scholarships and your children's own savings can make a significant dent in tuition bills. What's more, kids who help foot their own college bills learn important financial lessons — and may be more likely to get the most out of their education.
- Your children may qualify for more financial aid if you save for retirement first. Retirement plan assets don't factor into federal financial aid calculations, but college savings accounts do. Even families with relatively high incomes may qualify for grants, loans and other assistance if they have several children at expensive colleges.
Bear in mind that your long-term financial security is a gift to your children. Save aggressively for retirement now, and you may not need your kids to support you financially later on.
Get engaged with your plan for retirement
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