For Mark Roberts’ Use: It can be difficult for many families to juggle their priorities, so you’re not alone in feeling this way. For parents in particular, putting yourself and your own financial needs first can induce feelings of guilt. You might feel tempted to place college savings above your own retirement planning on the financial priorities list, or even take steps to repay your child’s education loans before you retire. In most cases, your good intentions can actually lead to a financial mistake.

If you’re only in the early stages of planning for your child’s education, don’t make the mistake of assuming he or she will encounter high expenses. There are many different ways to finance a college education, such as scholarships, grants, work study programs, and loans. Eligibility for federal financial aid is not as restrictive as you might think; depending upon income, family size, and many other factors, your child might qualify for more aid than you imagine. That’s the first thing you should remember.

Second, keep in mind that while you do have other options to pay for college, you only have one way to pay for your retirement. Retirement savings should be your first priority, and you should be setting aside the maximum allowable amounts each year in your retirement account. If you are doing that, then saving for college is a reasonable next priority.

If your kids have already entered an institution of higher learning, you might have taken out some loans to help finance the cost. Remember that you can reapply for federal financial aid each year, and your child’s aid package might change if your situation changes. Loans should be a last-resort option. If you do decide to sign on a loan, you will be responsible for these payments in the event that your child cannot repay the debt.

If you do incur significant debt to help finance your child’s education, you might be wondering how this will affect your retirement plans. Call us for an appointment, and we can help you review your budget and expectations for the future. We can help you examine all of your options and adjust your retirement plan, so that you can hopefully enter retirement financially well-prepared and unburdened by debt.