I read a post from MSN Money about paying for a child’s advanced education HERE. FREE MONEY FINANCE gives their take on this story as well. I’ve contributed my two cents on both blogs, but this is an interesting question with no “right” answer. I encourage you to read both and comment with your input.
What does this have to do with getting your own house in order? Not much, but this question got me thinking about prioritizing helping others vs. helping yourself.
I know this guy that is in kind of a bad spot. He grew up without strong parents who would raise him in a way that prepared him for life on his own. Until very recently, he was living with his father, who still was unequipped to help his son. Due to events outside the son’s control,
he’s now staying with other family members. Many family members are now trying to help him out.
Now this guy has no education, no job, and really no way to survive on his own. So I was a little taken aback when we were having a conversation and he said that he felt he should give his family some money to repay them for taking care of him.
I was taken aback because I knew that this kid had nothing. He couldn’t survive on his own, but he was thinking about trying to help take care of those who were taking care of him. It showed that he was really trying to grow up. I suggested that he help his family by trying to earn his keep in the form of doing chores for his elderly grandmother and aunt. I suggested that he help another aunt who was helping by walking her dogs. He quickly said he would, but he felt that it wasn’t enough. He felt he needed to do more. He was insistent that he needed to give what little money he had to his family to help them out. It was sweet, and I got a little emotional: I could even feel myself tearing up a little bit.
I got over my emotions quickly, and asked him what his plans were for the future. What was he planning in the event that his elderly relatives weren’t around anymore? He didn’t have a lot of places to go, and fewer prospects in getting a better situation. Before he could answer, we put the conversation on hold so he could have some time to think about it.
So now you might see the tie in. Some of the comments on the earlier blog post mentioned funding retirement accounts before or instead of college funds. One commenter talked about how parents became a burden because they paid for college before retirement.
Look, I think we’re all guilty occasionally of doing this. We feel that it is important to help others. It is important.
I don’t swim. I’m not sure I could even survive if needed. If I were on a boat, and that boat started sinking, I’m not the one you want to have with you.
So, another teacher (and my brother), talks to this guy and they work out that the best way to help the family was for him to invest in his own education. Sound selfish? Not to me. I look at it like this. With no education, he’s stuck depending on his family forever. With education, who knows? Maybe he takes care of himself.
When you are looking at your own situation, I understand that the instinct is to offer to help your family. In fact, it might even be expected of you by your family. If it isn’t, don’t feel bad about not making the offer. Your family has already gone through what you are going through now, so they will understand. Later on, in the event that they need you, you will be in a much better position to provide substantial help then your ability to provide token help today.