The Onion Helps Us Keep a Sense of Humor about Saving for College
I love The Onion—the award-winning satirical publication—and last week I was thrilled to see an article on their Twitter feed about college savings. It both satisfied my need to laugh and my need to read the latest college savings news at the same time. Perfect! If you missed it, the article was entitled, "New Parents Wisely Start College Fund That Will Pay For 12 Weeks of Education." The headline and accompanying picture of a young couple at a table say it all. The Onion was obviously poking fun at the challenges of saving for college, and they do a good job. But the joke hits a little closer to home when you realize just how true this scenario is for families in Massachusetts and across the country.
A recent study we conducted found that while parents in MA expect to save 60% of their children's tuition, in actuality they're only on track to save 22%. Parents who know they are behind on their college savings may laugh while reading The Onion's story as they see their own feelings so comically illustrated. But that laughter is likely that of the nervous variety for parents who struggle to see a solution within sight. I know it can be so easy for a family to feel that not enough is being done in this area and to start feeling defeated. None of us want to let our kids down.
As the Director of Early College Planning at MEFA, I believe the picture is hopeful. I know that saving even a small amount for a kid's college education can have a huge payoff. There's a payoff for your stress level knowing you have a plan, and there will be another real payoff down the road. The Onion may have joked about the idea of "just" 12 weeks' worth of savings, but we say that's 12 weeks' worth that you won't need to pay out of income or borrow. And that's a really good thing. So go ahead and save enough for 12 weeks. If you accomplish that, save for 12 more, and then 12 more after that. Whether it's 12 weeks at a time, or 8, or 4—it will add up.
And the final important lesson to take from this article: keep your sense of humor about it!