State law rules that the parental financial obligation for a child ends at 18.
So, no, ponying up the possible hundreds of thousands for a college education for offspring is not a legal requirement. The exceptions happen when divorce and/or custody agreements mandate that kind of payment and specify the terms and conditions.
However, the non-legal factors which play into the parental decision to finance in full or in part the cost of college are much more complex. That's not the point of this column.
The issue I want to focus on is how much taking on that financial obligation is making the second phase of a career for many professionals a nightmare.
In my coaching those over-50, what I experience is the angst among those contributing to college tuitions. The forms the emotional nightmare might take include:
- Terror about losing that good job (especially because of age discrimination) and letting down their children who expected their tuition, housing, and fees to be taken care by mom and/or dad.
- Fatalistic thinking after a lay off or firing that they will never land another good job and their children will be forced to sign up for huge loans, which will hang around their necks for decades.
- Inability to plow money into their businesses since so much is being siphoned off for college costs. A client who shifted from practicing law to marketing called on a small law firm whose social media, especially the website, was subpar. The founder chased her away, essentially screaming he had two children in college.
- Reluctance to look for another job, even though they hate the current one. They back off taking that kind of professional risk until they finish with the college tuitions. The reality is that their unhappiness probably shows and they are targets for an individual firing or to be part of a Reduction-in-Force.
Values are personal - and usually idiosyncratic. They constitute a third rail in coaching. No coach should offer advice. However, every coach has the responsibility to have clients analyze those values and what they are costing them financially, professionally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Bias: Through scholarships and jobs, I paid all but $500 for the four years of college. That $500 came from my parents after I didn't earn enough from my full-time summer job at the New Jersey Telephone Company before senior year to cover the whole nut. I regret financing the gap in that way.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Over-50: Outsmarting Your Comfort Zone” https://over-50.typepad.com/over-50/2018/05/outsmarting-your-comfort-zone-free-book.html
“Over-50: The Four Monsters in the Mind” https://over-50.typepad.com/over-50/2018/04/ageism-bites-.html