We just watched a TV program with a self-styled financial guru. He spent a full 25 minutes trying to convince viewers that it was always best to set aside money for retirement before you set aside money for children's college education. We are in our early 40s and we've done just the opposite. We put aside money in tax-free bonds for tuition and use any leftovers for retirement. Our reasoning is that college tuitions will be due long before we intend to retire. If we are short of our maximum contributions to retirement plans, we hope to be able to make them up after the kids are out of school. This will almost guarantee that our two kids will come out of college debt-free. Are we on the right trail, or should we consider our retirement first and let the kids borrow if necessary for their tuitions?
What Harry says: I am with you 100 percent. Sure, the tuitions will get paid one way or the other, and retirement funds are never fully secure, but those children didn't ask to be born and parents do have certain responsibilities. I think the responsibilities extend to college. However, there are many who agree with your guru. I sense a kind of selfishness in going for retirement funds first. My wife and I, long ago, set our priorities to planning for the education of our children as No. 1. Our retirement plans were No. 2, but became No. 1 upon payment of that last tuition bill. Neither of us has ever regretted that decision once, even with the market's big decline.
Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood - contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.