What do we owe our kids?

I’ve taken quite a beating from readers over the past few weeks regarding my answer to parents who couldn’t afford to offer their youngest child the same level of financial support for college as they gave their two older children. I thought their son was being selfish in expecting his parents to pay for his college education.

“…not every piece of advice wins a medal” was one of the kinder responses to my column.  “Ridiculous,” “disappointing” and “hurtful” were most often used to characterize my advice, which elicited the most negative mail I’ve received in over 10 years of writing this column.

I made some mistakes in editing this letter. I failed to include the fact that the parents had saved for their son’s college education, but suffered devastating losses in the 2008 recession. The letter also made reference to the parents’ health problems, which may help explain why they were looking forward to retirement.

Several readers made an excellent suggestion about eliciting support from the older siblings who benefited from their parents’ financial help. That was a great suggestion. Finally, I didn’t make it clear that the parents were offering their child some support, but not as much as was given to the older siblings.

Having acknowledged those mistakes, I stand behind my original criticism of their son’s shameful sense of entitlement.

The average cost of raising a child is somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000 depending upon your income. In addition to that financial commitment, we sacrifice daily for our kids. We give up our free time, compromise on job advancement, defer hobbies, and place our children in the forefront of our daily lives. This is not a chore to be tolerated, but is the cost of engaging in the many joys of parenting.

After doing that for 18 years, do you really think that parents owe their kids yet another $100,000 to pay for college?  Are the recent recession and job uncertainties the fault of the parents?  I was dismayed by the response of so many readers that the parents should delay their retirement for the sake of their son!  Several readers suggested that the parents were “selfish” and should use their retirement savings so that this child is treated the same way as his siblings!  Are you serious?

This young adult has lots of options, more than his parents as they confront an uncertain future into their old age.  He can excel in school and earn a scholarship, go to a less expensive college, take out a loan, or even work for a few years.

These parents should not delay their retirement or deplete their savings to support the education of their spoiled son. This young man should thank his parents for 18 years of love and sacrifices and stop whining about not being treated exactly the same as his siblings.

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