How to Talk to Your Spouse About College Planning

So you’ve decided that you’re not going to pay for college for the kids. They can take a part-time job and earn college scholarships, just like you did. That’s cool.

Or maybe you’d like to open a 529 Plan and squirrel away a few dollars for college. That’s fine by me, too.

Clearly, it doesn’t matter what I think about your college plan. But if you’re married there is at least one person you need to talk to before you put your college plan into action.

The funny thing about spouses is that we think we know them so well. Of course, he thinks the kids should go to college. She’ll be so happy when she finds out that I’m routing our retirement money into the college fund after all, the kids come first.

Youll have to dig deep if you really want to get on the same page with your partner. Heres how to talk to your spouse about college:

Set a date night to talk to your spouse about college

Who says you have to be chained to the kitchen table in order to talk college with your sweetie? Go out to dinner. Visit the park together.

Just make sure that everyone understands that this date night has a purpose. Never take an unsuspecting spouse to a great steak restaurant and pelt them with how are we going to put the kids through school? There isn’t enough sauce in the world to make that steak taste good.

Everyone knows what is on the agenda. You’ve picked a relaxing, perhaps even romantic environment. How do you get the conversation going? You might start with:

  • I’m wondering if the kids need a college education
  • What do you think [your child’s name here] would major in?
  • Can you believe my co-worker’s daughter pays $1000 a month in student loans?
  • I hear they give college scholarships for ham radio enthusiasts

The point is to start the conversation with harmless questions and statements that cant be answered with a yes or no.

Approach the conversation with an ear towards learning how your partner feels. Try not to hog the college conversation, even if you’ve examined every angle, done the research, and have real-life examples to support your views.

You should walk away from date night knowing three things: stuff we agree on, stuff we disagree on, and stuff that requires more research.

Attend a free college planning seminar together

State school or private college? Are 529 plans the best way to save for college? Are athletic scholarships worth the trouble? A qualified college planner can be a lifesaver. Fortunately, many college planners offer free seminars for students and their parents.

The beauty of attending a college planning seminar as a couple is that it keeps the conversation going. Youll be able to meet other families who are in the same boat. If you and your spouse cant agree on something, the college planner may cover it in the presentation or you can get in a quick question at the end.

To find a seminar, do an online search of your city plus the phrase college planning seminar. Once you have a few names you should do additional online searches to see what people are saying. Thanks to social media you can probably figure out if the seminar is helpful or a waste of time.

Don’t think that you have to wait until your child is in high school to attend a college planning seminar. If you find an event that you like, call the host. Ask if you can attend even if your kids are on the younger side.

If you cant find a local college planning seminar, look for a podcast. The College Success for Less Podcast by Andy Lockwood is a good one. Jose “JR” Vazquez of the College Money Man Podcast recently posted his Top 8 Podcasts For Parents of College-Bound Teens.

You may also want to check out my post, 15 No-Cost, Low-Cost College Planning Resources.

Put your college plan in writing

Life is busy. Life is loud. Its easy for day-to-day life to get in the way of planning for your childs college education. Dont waste the effort you put into getting on the same page with your spouse.

Sit down together and put your college philosophy in writing. Think of it as your familys collegiate mission statement. It doesnt have to be elaborate. Just open up a Word file and sketch out your thoughts. It might go something like this:

If [your child’s name here] decides to go to college, I will encourage [him/her] to avoid student loan debt. Ill commit to saving $50 per month for college. I will support [his/her] scholarship efforts by researching scholarships, helping [him/her] participate in extracurricular activities, studying for the PSAT, and attending family volunteer activities.

Print the mission statement and put it in a highly visible spot (i.e., refrigerator, desk top, dashboard). Now you and your spouse will be ready when your student wants to study underwater basket weaving at $50,000 a year.