Good question! There are many studies that show that the average college graduate will earn over a million dollars during their working lifetime. But what does that really mean? And does that data apply to every college graduate?
Here is an article from Business Insider which captures the skepticism many middle-class families currently have about the value of a college degree, which is in part due to the differences in future income based on career choice, especially when measured against the rising cost of higher education, and the monumental debt that many graduates face.
The author, Mandi Woodruff, a reporter for BusinessInsider.com, cites several examples of this disparity, including the fact that people with degrees in Social Work have a median income of $45,300 per year, while those earning a degree in petroleum engineering report a median income of $163,000 per year.
Does this mean that it’s just not worth it to pursue a career in Social Work? Of course not. The point is that when your child finally attains that piece of paper that qualifies him or her to start practicing in their chosen field, that they are not saddled with so much debt that they can never expect to pay it off, based on the median income for that profession.
As with most things in life, there are choices to be made and planning should begin early. Obviously, starting to save money for college very early on is a great first step, but seeking the advice of an educational consultant is the next best step. A professional in this field can help you identify the best plan for covering the cost of college for your child, while preserving your income and assets. An educational consultant can also guide you through the perplexing process of identifying the best schools for your child and how to get into them.
A word of explanation about using the services of a professional educational consultant: If you seek the advice of a stock broker, I think you would expect the savings plan suggested might be in the stock market. That’s not always a bad choice, but I have found that few stock brokers have been trained or have studied the specifics of saving for college. Just as in the field of medicine, an expert in a particular field is usually much better that a generalist when you have a very specific special need.
Another important point is helping to educate your children financially. I know many musicians who are outstanding at what they do, and they love their chosen career, but they struggle to make ends meet teaching classes, playing for weddings and corporate events, and pursuing gigs at piano bars, restaurants and hotels, or with bands. What is their return on their college costs investment?
Here is the point. If these musicians – and their parents and grandparents — started saving early, the interest earned on that savings works FOR them. If, on the other hand, they wait until the last minute — when the child is filling out college applications — they most likely have to finance their education through loans and financial aid. In that case, any interest earned works against them.
Many parents help pay for their children’s college education by refinancing their homes or taking money out of their retirement. When that happens, those parents lose the ability to have interest earned work for them for those expensive retirement years. A good plan for college is to start saving very early on in the best possible plan for you, structure your family’s finances to qualify for the most financial aid long before that application process is needed, and research, research the best schools of choice and have a plan for how to get into them.
Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of information, doesn’t it? That’s why you need a professional!