18 years is a long time. But when it comes to saving for college, I have a feeling it'll sneak up on us faster than we expect. "Extra" money doesn't come along every day in my house, but somehow it's still easy to spend it on things like vacations or entertainment or dinners out and justify it by saying, "Meh, we've got time."
But the truth is, even if we sock away $500 a month (in a low-return savings account or a coffee can) in 18 years that's only a little over $100,000. Will that even be enough for college then? The average cost right now for a 4-year public institution with room and board is somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000/year. Private colleges can be double. It's a daunting thought.
We could always invest the money. But what if it tanks and we lose it all? That's the risk you take. Or we could just live in a tiny house like that family in Virginia and save almost everything we make. But how realistic is that?
Of course there is always the possibility of scholarships, but you can't bank on that. And with financial aid, you have to pay it back … with interest. I know quite a few people who are absolutely crippled by their student loans. And even if they were to file for bankruptcy, student loans are not always forgiven.
Then there is this scenario: You save up a ton of money for your kid for college, and then they decide not to go. Now what? Do you give them the money anyway? Or what if they do decide to go to college, but they spend four years studying something that provides them with little or no hope for a well-paying career? Do you make them choose a different path or pay for it themselves?
So many questions. But meh … we've got time, right?