Talking to Kids About Who Pays for College and Weddings

Last year, I wrote a post about how I don’t dream about my daughter’s wedding day. I’m not in Dreamland these days. But assuming my daughter gets married, I’m curious about what kind of bride she will be. Will she be low-key or a high-drama mama? Will she go for something traditional or break the mold?

Wait for a second, does my daughter expect me to pay for her wedding? And while we’re on the topic of mom and dad’s pocketbook, do the kids expect us to foot the bill for college, too?

When you don’t talk to kids about paying for college

When you don’t talk to your kids about who will pay for college, weird things happen. They might get this idea that you’re going to pay for the whole thing. Meanwhile you only planned to pay for a third of tuition or nothing at all.

Your child may even have it in their head that your family cant afford college. This notion can show up in lackluster grades, a little effort on standardized tests, and no interest in the activities that make students attractive to colleges and scholarship committees.

If you dont have the college money talk, you also rob your family of the chance to devise a plan. Thats right. Were talking about an all-hands-on-deck family plan to conquer college costs. Depending on the age of your child, your family might:

  • Estimate your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) with a free EFC Calculator
  • Research Scholarships for Kids Under the Age of 13
  • Team up to pay down debt and improve cashflow
  • Figure out which schools will give your student the most free college money
  • Talk about the importance of college choice, early and often

If your kids dont know where you stand on paying for college, its time to have the talk. Your three-year-old might not understand, but your 13-year-old has probably heard about this thing called college. And I promise the college finance talk wont be the most awkard conversation youll have with your kids.

Are the bride’s folks still on the hook?

Again, I’m not picking out color palettes for my daughters wedding. But the personal finance side of me wondered if the brides parents were still supposed to pay for the wedding. I had to do a little digging.

With the traditional approach, the brides parents pay for the ceremony, reception, transportation and photography. The grooms family biggest costs are the honeymoon and wedding rings.

With couples getting married later in life, there seems to be a shift from parent-financed weddings to couples taking on much of the costs. Music to my ears.

Did you know that banks will finance your child’s wedding? Let’s keep that our little secret.

Will you be giving up your dough?

College, much like weddings, comes down to choice. You can pay for your child’s entire college education, pay nothing at all, or somewhere in between. You can pitch in on weddings or keep your cheddar in the bank. But you have to make a choice.

Once you know your philosophy on who pays for college (and weddings), don’t keep it a secret. Talk about it with the kids, and all will be better off.

Readers: So who is paying for what at your place? What do you think is a good age to talk to kids about college costs? Leave a comment below.

Ultimate Blog Party 2014: Win Prizes, Make Blog Pals

This is my first year participating in the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. For eight years now hundreds of bloggers have gotten together for this week-long blog hop, commenting and tweeting blitz. You can jump in on the Twitter action using hashtag #UBP14.

Did I mention there were prizes? If there is a Big Green Egg Grill up for grabs, pick me, pick me! More than anything, I hope to discover lots of cool blogs and bloggers. Speaking of cool bloggers

I’m Nicole Robinson, freelance writer, mom of two little ones, and wife to one. I started this blog because thinking about how to put my kids through college gave me hives. I don’t think I’m alone here.

I decided I didn’t want to be afraid of college anymore.

I’m on a mission to improve my kid’s college future, whether or not I can cover tuition. I’m no college planner. But I’m great at talking to college pros to dig up the information that college-bound families need.

Whether your child is 5, 10 or 15 years old, I hope you’ll join with me in conquering the college sneak up. Go ahead, sign up. I dare you.

College Sneak Up [col·lege \ˈsnēk\ \ˈəp\] (verb) college admissions and college tuition advances stealthily and unnoticed upon families who think they have all the time in the world.

That’s enough about me. I want to know about you. Are you partying with #UBP14? There is still time to sign up at 5 Minutes for Mom. Remember to follow along on Twitter using hashtag #UBP14. And of course, show lots of love to Ultimate Blog Party hosts Susan and Janice @5minutesformom.

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.