The bigger your retirement nest egg when a child graduates from high school, the more latitude you will have when it comes to finding ways to cover the education bills. If by your late 40s or early 50s you're off to a good start preparing for retirement, then you might be able to lay off the retirement contributions a bit and dedicate that money to tuition.
Aware of the debt burden many college graduates carry, parents often will say they want their children to graduate debt free. They should keep in mind, however, that if they have a healthy retirement portfolio, then they can help their children with monthly payments after graduation.
But a delay in retirement savings eliminates that option.
Finally, parents might be willing to take on a little bit of debt themselves if they know they have a sizeable 401(k) account that can help pay off that loan after they've reached 59½.
So don't put yourself in a position that requires you to work into your 70s because you wanted Junior to graduate free.
Instead, worry about yourself first. To do so does not make you a bad parent. In fact, decades from now, your children may thank you for making this decision if it means you support yourself in retirement rather than rely on them.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
David McPherson is founder and principal of Four Ponds Financial Planning in Falmouth, Mass. He previously worked as a financial writer and editor for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island. He is a member of the Garrett Planning Network, whose members provide financial advice to clients on an hourly, as-needed basis. Contact McPherson at email@example.com.