Grandparents and College Planning – Invaluable Gifts of Time, Money and Wisdom
by Laura Chiesman
Summertime brings more than days at the beach and travels. Many families are completing plans to send a college freshman off to school and others are strategizing those last few all-important years of high school.
Finances are a top concern and this is where grandparents often get involved. Most Americans (83%) ages 65 and older say they have grandchildren, according to a Pew Research Center’s survey of U.S. adults. There are over 70 million grandparents in America today!1 As life expectancies continue to increase so does the number of lucky kids who have multiple grandparents in their lives.1 Grandparent.com studies tell us that 72% of grandparents think this is the single most important role in their life.
This huge and financially powerful segment of the US population is also very generous to their families, especially when it comes to education where they spend a reported $32 billion. 2
There are many ways to contribute to a grandchild’s education including various types of college savings accounts, contributing to the cause through gifts to the child or their parents, and loaning or paying directly for tuition or other expenses. Each approach will have its own pros and cons that should be explored and understood. When, how and how much to contribute are factors that are best considered in context of a family’s individual situation. Will the student qualify for grants and other financial benefits, and how will gifts effect eligibility? When should funds be provided – during college years or afterwards to pay off student loans? The types and timing of assistance are key, so it is wise to investigate options with a financial advisor.
Grandparents are obviously very willing and happy to give financially when they can but they also look for other ways to contribute. The gifts of time and influence have value that can’t always be measured and these gifts flow both ways!
College entrance applications place importance on volunteer activities and involving grandchildren in a meaningful cause is a win-win activity. There is time spent together, the child learns about giving to others and the organization benefits! Helping others is a great way to develop skills, compassion and gratitude and these attributes can lead to even deeper benefits. According to Jeffrey Froh, an associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University and a leading researcher on kids and gratitude, research has shown that kids who practice gratitude are “more satisfied with their lives, have stronger peer and family relationships, have higher GPAs, and are less depressed.”
Help with scholarship searches and applications can result in great financial benefits and also provide opportunities to spend time together on a meaningful project. I love an idea proposed in an article on www.finaid.org which suggested to work with grandchildren to research and find scholarships related to family background and experiences. Creating a resume that summarizes all of your affiliations, including past and present employers, unions, military service, memberships, hobbies and activities is a great place to start. Encouraging other members of the family to do the same could result in more scholarship opportunities and certainly will lead to some great dinner table discussions.
Time together, financial support, family stories and history to pass on through the years – Go Grandparents! If you have any questions on planning for your children or grandchildren’s college education, one of our WealthCoaches™ at our wealth services firm in Satellite Beach, FL would be happy to discuss the variety of options available to you. Give us a call at (321) 773-7773!