Well, nothing really.  Just a line from a song in a musical called “Bye Bye Birdie”.  No, I am not that old, but my dad is and he made me watch stuff like that when I was young .  I have to admit that now I love a good musical.  My favorite is “Paint Your Wagon”.  I would have liked to be in that meeting.  “Hey, let’s get Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin and do a musical!”  I can almost here the crickets chirping now.

Anyway, there is a point to all of that.  Most of us have kids.  Those that don’t, well I pity and envy you at the same time.  Kids cost a lot of money and can really be taxing at times.  On the other hand, they really bring a lot of joy and happiness to your life.  However, kids can also throw a wrench into your retirement plans if you let them.

Now, this post assumes you already have kids or are set on having them.  If you’re young enough and not sure, check out this article entitled “To Retire Early, Don’t have Kids”.  Even so, getting your kids raised and out of the house can result in one of the biggest increases in discretionary income you will ever see.  No more proms, class rings, iPods, trendy shoes and clothes, gas money, etc.  That doesn’t even include the basics of food and shelter.  You can pocket all that money not to mention lose that big house and it’s mortgage.

But what about college?  Well, here’s a radical idea.  Don’t pay for college.  I came to this revelation over the years, though we are prepaying in-state tuition, a decision made when they boys we still babies.  Beyond that, they are on their own.  I know, I know, college costs an arm and a leg, it’s not fair, we have an obligation, blah, blah, blah.  We’ve heard it all.  It comes down to one simple idea.  Why should you pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money so your adult children can live it up at college and then go get a great, high paying job?  And all while you continue slaving away at MegaCorp?

Think about how much earlier you could retire or how much more money you could have in retirement if you let you kids pay for college themselves.  There is no shortage of loans, grants and scholarships to help pay.  The military provides fantastic college tuition assistance.  Junior and community colleges are good alternatives for many career paths and in-state public schools can save a bundle.  Failing all of that, maybe they could get a job and save money (GASP!).  They gotta grow up sometime.  Why not let them do it while you provide a little incentive to work harder.  The possibility of an early retirement!

After college, kids can still derail you retirement dreams.  Times are tough, jobs are scarce, yes, but resist the temptation to to let the kids move back home.  Human nature is such that people tend to lose their drive if things get too easy.  You let little Johnny or Susie move back into the old room, they might just decide life just got really good and the job search may take a back seat to X-Box, Facebook and hanging out on your couch all day.  Not only will this cramp your lifestyle (no more nooners!!), but probably your pocketbook too.

Maybe they need to find roommates or rent a room (that’s what I did).  Studios are cheap.  Maybe they need to really leave the nest and go find greener pastures in another city or state.  At the very least, if you do decide to let them move back home, set a time limit and charge rent.  If they don’t have any income, show them the lawn mower, vacuum cleaner or paint brush.  Set rules.  Do whatever you can to make them want to leave.

Weddings are another way to shrink your nest egg and they have little real value.  A lavish wedding won’t make a marriage more successful and most of the time the bride and groom don’t enjoy the proceedings as much as the guests who get treated to free food and drink.  I mean how many vases does a young couple need, anyway?  And if you weren’t aware, weddings are a scam.  I know, my wife used to plan them and the markups are huge.  If it’s for a wedding, double or triple the price.

If you must pay for your little girl’s wedding (or your son’s honeymoon or whatever), set a budget or do something small and intimate.  Consider doing it yourself at your home or the home of a friend.  Do something nontraditional.  Whatever you do, don’t do what our friends did.  They flew a few dozen people to Hawaii, paid for their rooms, and the lavish wedding.  Once they all got there, their daughter changed her mind.  Tens of thousands of dollars for nothing!  Here’s an alternative, don’t waist your money on a fancy wedding.  Invest it for the newlywed’s retirement!

Another reason kids can ruin a perfectly good retirement is really the parents fault.  Lots of people feel like the kids need a helping hand.  Not a few bucks to help repair the leaky roof, but a new house or car or fancy vacation.  If you have the money (thanks for reading Mr. Gates and/or Buffett), have at it.  Unfortunately, most folks don’t.  They pay for that stuff out of obligation or guilt.  Doing so can delay your retirement or make it a lot tighter than it needs to be.

Helping your kids out doesn’t have to mean buying them their heart’s every desire.  Loan them the last few thousand so they can make the down on that dream house and set up interest free payments.  Give or sell them your old car when you are ready to buy a new one rather than buying them a new one.  If you want to go on vacation with them, let them pay their way.  If they can’t afford the Ritz, stay at the Super 8 with them instead.

Look, we all have the urge to protect, nurture and provide for our kids, but sometimes it can cost us more than we think.  I have read posts on forums and heard stories from friends about parents putting off retirement so their children can go to an expensive college, continue to live at home or buy a brand new car.  Why should you work longer so you kids don’t have to work or pay their own way?  Of course, your values and traditions may dictate you pay for college, take lavish family vacations or pay for the big wedding, but keep your retirement in mind.  Or maybe it’s time to assess your values or traditions.

Nothing less than your peace of mind and happiness is on the line.  Kids can bring joy to your life, but if you let them they can become a burden once they become adults.  It’s tough to let them go and sometimes even tougher to say no.  However, you worked hard to raise them and still save for your golden years.  You earned your retirement and you should begin enjoying it as soon as possible.  Help you kids acquire that same ethic by letting them make it on their own.  In the long run, you and children will be happier and all of you will find the independence you all desire.

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