At nearly the same time millions of Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age, they may also have grandchildren in elementary or high school who hope to go to college someday. While they may want to do everything they can to make the college dreams of their grandchildren a reality, the truth is that the vast majority of Baby Boomers will be lucky to finance their own retirement, let alone help pay for the college education of their grandchildren. Despite the risk to their own financial future, according to AARP, approximately 53 percent of grandparents help their grandchildren with their educational expenses.
The generosity of the grandparents is probably because most of us hate to see our grandchildren assume $50,000 to $100,000 or more in college debt which could take them decades to pay off. This staggering amount of college debt could also make it difficult for our grandchildren to ever become financially independent and able to buy a home or save for their own retirement.
Because of this dilemma, I have invited the author of "Free College" to give a preview of her book, which has the goal of helping young people pay for college through the use of grants and scholarships. By sharing this information with your children and grandchildren, you could help your grandchildren afford a college education without the need for you to dip into your retirement funds. Her guest post is below.
How to Help Your Grandkids Pay for College without Touching Your Retirement Funds
There are no scholarships or grants in the United States to subsidize retirement. That’s zero, none, nada, zilch. There are, however, billions of dollars in both categories to pay for college for your grandchildren. In 2017, there was more than $46 billion in grants and scholarships available. Sadly, more than $2.9 billion in free college federal grant money went unclaimed. At the same time, grandparents were pilfering their retirement accounts to help their children and grandchildren pay college tuition. This is tragic.
I was a high school German and French teacher for most of my teaching career. When you teach an academic elective, as I did, you need to do something extra to encourage students to sign up for classes they perceive as more difficult. What I did, while helping them become proficient in their chosen language, was teach students what to do in order to be accepted by the college of their choice. I showed them how to stand out from the crowd of applicants. We also discussed scholarships and grants.
One day while I was chatting with some of my high school students about the importance of applying for several college scholarships, a boy spoke up, "I don’t need to do that. My parents will pay.” When I asked if they spent their retirement money on him, would it be okay if they moved into his house when they were old, he paled. Most of the other students who were listening groaned. One girl said she would like her parents to live with her. I asked if she would prefer them to do so broke or with money in their pockets. They all came to understand the importance of applying for lots of scholarships and grants.
We all want our children and grandchildren to do well. We realize 90% of the jobs in the future will require a college education. We don’t want our loved ones to join the more than 40 million Americans who presently owe student loans. I wrote my new book, "Free College," to help families learn from successful graduates who earn the most scholarship and grant money. If their children can earn full-ride scholarships, why can’t your grandchildren?
I am against taking out student loans, whether federal or private. The student loan monster devours the futures of many. Families with such debt aren’t able to take vacations, buy new cars or homes. There has been a decline of over 35% in home ownership because of student loan debt. Many families are even putting off having children. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, so they follow people into their senior years. If loans and diverting money from retirement are so bad, and they are, what can you do to help your grandkids?
Grandparents do not need to dip into their retirement accounts to pass on the tips contained in my new book. If you have one child, who has three kids, you only need to buy one copy of "Free College." I designed it to be used by one family for all of their preschool through high school children. If you, the grandparent, have three adult children, and they all have kids in this age range, then you’ll need to buy three copies, one for each family of your adult children. I set the price low enough so it is affordable.
Students who earn massive amounts of scholarship money do not do so simply because they are smart. While that certainly helps, it’s impossible to outsmart lazy. Those who develop good work habits early are more likely to do the right things. Families who encourage college readiness are also encouraging scholarship readiness. Colleges know what they’re looking for when they read applications. So do those who are awarding scholarships. Students need to do more of what colleges want to see, and become more of what colleges want them to become in order to be given a full-ride.
I divided "Free College" into chapters, each devoted to one habit I saw in the most successful scholarship winners. Those who earned the most money were the ones who had acquired all of these behaviors. Those who didn’t quite adopt them all, earned far less when it came time for scholarships. The largest scholarship given to any of my own students was the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship. It covered tuition, books, fees, room, board, and a mentor for the life of the recipient. Several of my students won this scholarship. But they were not the brightest students I ever had. They had, however, practiced all of the strategies that are now in my book.
"Free College" should not be the only book grandparents give their grandchildren. I send mine books on their birthdays and for Christmas. I find series they enjoy, or subjects they’re interested in and buy those books. In the minds of my grandsons, I’m the “book” grandparent. They love my book gifts and after reading them, display them in a place of honor. I autograph each book and write something sweet inside. My daughter told me once when I forgot to include a message, the boys were upset. I haven’t forgotten since.
My book will help your children raise your grandkids in a way that should result in more college scholarships. It does not, however, include the detailed steps high school students should take to apply for scholarships and grants. Those change too often to include in my book. I do, however, tell the reader where they can find this important information. The best place is in the office of a high school’s resident college expert. Most high schools have one. I’ve included other places to find this information if your grandchildren are unlucky and do not go to a high school with a resident expert.
Finally, while reading my book, and following the step-by-step guide it contains, you will find my Twitter handle and blog address. I regularly share information about education as well as college and scholarship readiness in both places. Remember, spend time with your grandchildren, but don’t spend your retirement money on their education. Help them earn enough scholarships and grants to pay their own their way. They’ll be proud, and you’ll be glad they did.
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Photo credit: Photo courtesy of the author of "Free College"