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When your goal changes

November 16th, 2021 at 06:57 pm

So I have always said we'll save enough to pay for 4 years of college at a public in state university.  That has always been our goal.  It was a SMART specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable within timeframe goal.  I hypothesized $30k/year or around $120k per kid.  Potentially $40k/year so $160k.  We have 7 and 9 years left.  My DK1 has $104k and my DK 2 has $90k right now set aside for their college costs.  I think we are definitely on track with saving another $2k/year for the next 7 and 9 years.  5% returns gets us to $163k for my DK1 and $162k for my DK2 when they start college which is right on the high end of target.

But the equation recently has changed.  I realized (ephiphany) that I can't be so inflexible.  I do not want to forced my DK1 into a situation where she would be unhappy or set up to fail. Instead now I am looking at the situation retrospectively and thinking okay whatever she chooses we can manage.  We have a foundation to afford any college and I believe she'll go because she's smart and curious. I also think that perhaps a big public university is not a place she will thrive but she might need a smaller, more private setting.  I realize that we will not qualify for financial aid.  She might get a merit scholarship but I won't bank on that because who knows how she'll navigate high school.

But my DH has never wanted to quit earlier than the kids finishing college. To him he's seen that as the accomplishment of launching our kids.  For me? I thought he should be ready to quit by 50 if not sooner.  But as we've grown he's become more adament and I'm resigned that he won't be mentally able to retire or downshift until the kids are done.  I think moreso now understanding my older child and worrying about her future, he'll resist any sort of retirement until he feels she's secure.  

That being said I realize looking at things we might need to pay for a small private college.  Cost?  $60k/year?  Astronomically more than we ever planned.  I had hoped on gifting a wedding or house down payment and car.  Again in the cards but it means either we save and live more prudently or we work longer.  Also she might take longer than 4 years if she switches schools because it's the wrong fit.  I believe she's going to pick something that plays to her strengths and I believe that she will be able to accomplish any major she picks.  She's quite smart.  But I want her happy and I don't want her to also overload on courses so that could also determine if she needs longer to stay  than 4 years.

But what do to? I don't know. I need to look at a few more simulations of our portfolio, DH working, and decide.  Right now we are on cruise FIRE not saving much more than the minimum and on track to retire in about 13 years when the kids are done 2034.  But this new variable of doubling to tripling our college costs is quite difficult to prep this late in the game.

5 Responses to “When your goal changes”

  1. KellyB Says:

    Perhaps she can do 2 years at Community college? They are usually smaller classes and close to home so costs are much less. Then transfer to a small college and the overall cost will work out. In the meantime save, save, save! You’re in a great position though.

  2. disneysteve Says:

    Virtually nobody pays sticker price for college. You can essentially ignore those numbers. My daughter's private college was over 50K/year. We paid about 30K/yr. Don't rule out the possibility of financial aid. Many private schools are quite generous with it, probably even more so now as they've seen their endowments grow with the bull market of the past decade or so.

    We had our daughter take out a couple of small loans along the way, 15K total. It got her a little more engaged in the process, putting some skin in the game as they say. Graduating with 15K in debt was far from overwhelming. Even though her first job out of college didn't pay a ton, she was still able to repay those loans within 2 years of graduation.

    My wife and I borrowed 15K as well. At the time, I was still at my old job and my income was less than half of what it is now. Money was tighter so for cash flow reasons, a loan made sense for us. We paid that off within a year as I recall.

    Our daughter got a merit scholarship from day one based on her HS grades. She then earned a departmental scholarship during college for years 2-4.

    As for changing schools, do all you can to prevent that. Make sure you do a thorough and exhaustive search during high school so she can see what she likes and dislikes, what appeals to her, what turns her off, and really get a feel for where she will be most content. We visited 9 schools in 4 states and purposely picked a variety - small, medium, large, state, private, etc. Make sure she selects a school that has good programs in a wide range of interests, not just the one that is good for what she thinks she wants to major in. That way if she changes her mind, she doesn't have to switch schools. She can just switch departments.

    It's a daunting task but you'll be fine.

  3. CB in the City Says:

    I would encourage your kids to apply for any and all scholarships. There are so many that are not awarded for lack of applicants. It's always worth a try.

  4. rob62521 Says:

    The fact you have as much saved as you do is wonderful. Like was said before, apply for any and all scholarships and I do believe many private schools are good about working with you.

  5. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    I hope that's true that they give out merit scholarships.

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