Well, last week I moved my youngest child into the dorms at college.
Another personal financial goal accomplished! It was bittersweet. My sons' roommates have known each other most of their lives and are a very tight group. All of them fine young men.
For a few of the new college parents it was kind of emotional. I'm on my third moving out so I wasn't that phased. My wife and I are now empty nesters. My wife did tear up a bit this morning, texting the other parents.
I want to share some of my observations about college as a financial goal. When it's all said and done I'll deal with college costs for 11 years! And boy can this stuff sneak up in you if you're not prepared.
First, plan for it. When that child was born you had an 18 year notice. I know kids are expensive, and saving may be a challenge. However, you really have to decide where you think they may want to go to school. if your savings is limited, you may have to plan for a less expensive option like community college for a few years, or a local institution that is cheaper.
Second, don't count on scholarships. My son had fantastic grades and graduated high school with honors. He also had a really good ACT score. However the class was competitive, and he only received some small scholarships. So you may not want to factor in the possibility of scholarships when you start saving. In other words, plan for the worst case possible.
Next, save like crazy. You'll need to save as much as you can as often as you can. College is a is an immense expense. And your kids will be asking for money every time you turn around. So do the best you can save as early as you can and as much as you can.
Finally, watch out for the ancillary expenses. There are some obvious things like tuition, room and board and books. But it's the ancillary expenses like food, school supplies, and course and lab fees and fraternity/sorority that really dig into your budget. Was that a big list? You really can't plan for these expenses, but be ready to fork out the dough for the four years that they attend. My advice - don't commit to any new expenses like car payments during those four years.
Well that's my last child in college and another goal accomplished...kind of. It seems like yesterday I was taking him to baseball practice and trick or treating. Time flies by, and all of a sudden kids are adults. I'll miss him living at home, but I'm excited that he's starting a new (but expensive) chapter in his life.