Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think a lot of people are doing too much for their kids, these days…
I’m specifically referring to the amount of money people are spending to provide their kids the lifestyle they “deserve.”
I hear stories of parents refinancing their homes, taking out home equity lines of credit (HELOC), or even stop making contributions to their retirement accounts in order to spend on their children.
It’s one thing to do all you can for your kids. It’s another to put yourself in a poor financial situation because you feel a sense of obligation to keep giving your kids more and more.
THOSE DAMN JONESES
One of the reasons parents are feeling more and more pressure to overextend themselves for their children is one you’ve probably heard of: “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
People often associate this saying with lifestyle creep – the desire to spend more as you earn more, and keep up with the lifestyles of those around you.
It typically manifests itself by individuals buying bigger homes, newer cars, and going on more expensive vacations.
But how we spend on our children is no different.
If you’re a parent of a kid in their teens, it’s likely you’ve heard your kid ask something like, “Johnny’s dad just bought him a new car. Why can’t I get one?”
You might even feel a twinge of embarrassment if you truly can’t afford it.
I don’t have kids of my own, but I’ve thought a good deal about how I would raise them if/when I do.
As a parent, you have the fundamental obligation to provide sustenance for your children, and prepare them to survive when you are no longer supporting them.
Of course, you want to do an amazing job of preparing them to not just survive, but to flourish and THRIVE! (12 Ways To Raise Financially Fit Kids)
You aren’t obligated to buy them a brand-new car when they get their driver’s license. You aren’t obligated to send them to a high-priced summer camp. And you certainly aren’t obligated to house your ungrateful adult child who is now in their 30’s and refuses to take any responsibility for their life. (Check out this story and see if it doesn’t make you laugh and cringe at the same time)
THE COST OF BEING A SUPER PARENT
So, what is the cost of trying to give your children everything?
I’ve already given you some examples above of how parents are making poor financial decisions to fund their children’s lifestyles. But what is it really costing you?
Let’s go through a handful of key examples.
This certainly can’t be a surprise for most parents.
College costs have skyrocketed in recent years, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. (6 Ways To Minimize The Cost Of College)
It’s so easy for parents to get caught up in the craze of sending their child to the best college possible, regardless of the cost.
High school students, and their parents, usually search for colleges based on a wide number of parameters, but cost is one of the things that the kids certainly aren’t thinking about.
The average cost of sending your child to an in-state public college is around $10,000 per year. The cost to send them to a private college is close to $35,000. That’s a $25,000/year difference in spending – and that’s just for one kid!
Another area that tends to be a big expense is having additional vehicles for your children.
It can be difficult to keep up with everything that is going on, and having additional vehicles can really help once your kids become old enough to drive.
But is your goal to help make life easier for the family, or have your kid looking flashy in a new and expensive car?
Trying to figure out the exact savings on cars is a bit more difficult when you factor in all of the variables. But it’s safe to say that buying used versus new can result in savings in the tens-of-thousands of dollars. This also doesn’t include variances in gas mileage, etc.
A right-of-passage for many affluent children.
It seems like sleepaway camp is one of those things passed down over the generations.
My siblings and I never experienced it, but I have many friends that did, and they have fond memories of their formative years away at camp.
But at what cost?
The average sleepaway camp is running about $768/week, and many last for around 7 weeks. That means parents have to shell out over $5,000 for each child to attend the average camp – some are much more expensive.
This also doesn’t include a lot of add-on costs, like food and lodging, and travel costs to and from the camp. Make sure you understand the full costs associated with the camp.
If we assume a family has two children, and the average number of years they spend at sleepaway camp is 5; over that timeframe the family will have spent over $50,000 on sleepaway camp alone.
Nowadays, it seems like kids don’t have a single free minute in their day.
Between soccer practices, dance recitals, music lessons, SAT prep, and on and on, kids barely have a moment to breathe.
Not to mention, there are plenty of costs associated with all these things.
In recent years, the average costs of these additional activities have risen to over $700/year for each child.
These numbers are based on a survey, and on averages. From all of the people I’ve spoken to, I feel confident in saying that these numbers are on the low side.
Once your kids begin playing travel sports, the amount of money you’ll spend in travel alone will dwarf these figures.
It’s safe to say that you will be spending in the thousands for each kid, per year.
A FUTURE BURDEN
Parents do these things because they love their kids, and they want the best for them.
But you have to ask yourself – at what cost?
One of the things parents aren’t thinking about is the future burden they could become to their children if they aren’t financially stable.
If you’ve put yourself in a horrible position because you’ve spent all your money on your kids, who is going to support you later in life?
If you were trying to make life easier for your children, needing them to support you financially wouldn’t meet that goal.
DON’T FEEL GUILTY
The key point in all of this is that you shouldn’t feel bad about not mortgaging your future in order to provide your kid an extravagant childhood.
If you have been able to build up wealth and reach financial freedom, then it’s a completely different discussion.
But if you find yourself making decisions that will negatively impact your financial future, take a moment and ask yourself how necessary it is.
I’d be willing to bet that your kids will do just fine without a lot of those perks.