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College Savings

The Birthday Party Dilemma

My nephew’s 4th birthday party was a few weekends ago.  A few days before, I checked in with my sister to see what I could do to help her get organized, and we decided I could bring a fruit salad for the kids to share. Then I asked that essential question we all ask before a child’s birthday party.

“What does Theo want for his birthday?”

Her first response was honest but not very helpful.  “Nothing, nothing.  He has so much already, and please, no more toys!”  How many times have you heard this, or even said it yourself?  Well I wasn’t letting her off the hook that easily, so finally she suggested, “How about money for college?”

Ahhh, I was thrilled.  Now, I thought, she is finally getting it and my message is getting to her after all these years.

“Of course,” I said, “what a great idea!” Note how I generously gave her credit for thinking of this on her own.  “I’d be happy to give Theo some money for college, no problem.”

But then I realized my dilemma.  What am I going to do, show up at a kid’s party empty-handed?  Older kids and grown-ups might love to get a card with money inside, but no way would Theo be excited.  So here’s what I did.

My sister told me that he’s into the “universe” so I bought him a fun book about outer space and added a check made out to him with a note in the memo “for going to college.”

Later on at the party, while Theo sat there and opened all his toys from others, I sat holding his little sister and reflected on how proud I am to be that Aunt who is giving him money for something he’s going to appreciate in the future.  Although college is still many years away for Theo, setting up a foundation now means more to me today and will eventually be worth something more to him later.  One day, Theo’s college education will open up a whole universe of possibilities for him.

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