Another new year, another new year with ugly wallpaper. At least, that’s sometimes how it seems when I am helping Bruce with his homework at our vintage (but not in a good way) dining room table. The intention is to tear all of the wallpaper down, retexture the walls, repaint, etc. but financing other projects has always gotten in the way; a new roof, windows, blinds, washer, dryer, oven, microwave, deck, refrigerator… Those of you who are renters can feel free to laugh at us, and pat yourselves on the back. 🙂
What does this have to do with education and learning? Well, the truth is that there is the exact amount of money required to solve all of my wallpaper nightmares, with enough money left over to replace our television too. It is sitting in Jenna’s 529 college savings account. Bruce’s 529 account could pay for a lot of other fun things too.
My husband and I have been saving for our children’s college educations ab ovo, every single month, almost without fail. When grandparents give any of us money for Christmas, it goes straight into their 529s. If they end up with a duplicate toy at their birthdays, I return the toy on the sly and put the difference in their savings. We are scrupulous about saving, but know that we are still not saving enough.
For every person I knew at Stanford whose parents could afford to pay the full tuition, I knew four more students who were like me, working multiple jobs, counting out change to buy shampoo, and forgoing trips home at Thanksgiving because it was too expensive. That was with my parents’ and grandparent’s considerable financial help. Private college tuition can be comparable to buying a new Mercedes every year.
If you have never faced paying private college tuition before, you might naïvely assume that academic scholarships abound for kids who are exceptionally bright or talented. My experience was that simply was not true, at least not at an undergraduate level. You can ask my sorority big sister, who was a Presidential Scholar and gave the Phi Beta Kappa commencement address, and she will tell you the same thing. In recent years more financial aid has become available at colleges like Stanford and the Ivies, but I’m not “banking on it”.
There was a great article in our local paper recently, where the financial columnist was answering the question “When should I buy my tween a cell phone?” Her answer? She said to not even consider buying your eleven year old a cell phone unless you were already saving for their college education. She said the same thing about not buying yourself a smart phone. When my husband and I read this article, we immediately began adding a dozen more things to the list of “necessities” we were willing to do without.
Well, I don’t have any interest in a smartphone, but I would love to take my living room out of the 1980s. The thing I want the most however, is to send my kids off to the colleges of their choice someday, with enough money in their pockets to buy shampoo.