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The time comes before you know it

The time comes before you know it

As you may have noticed, I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about college-related things. More specifically, about things related to paying for college.

You see, I noticed the other day that my son is a teenager! He’s almost halfway done with high school, and he intends to go to college. How did that happen so quickly? The time comes before you know it. Amazing how that sneaks up on a person (just like Christmas).

So how much have I saved up to contribute toward his college over the last 15 and a half years? Uh, about $1000. That averages out to a little over $5 a month, although that wasn’t the way I saved the $1000.

What happened? Am I a total slacker? Am I just following the crowd? (It seems like there are other parents in the same boat.) What’s my excuse?

Well, I don’t have one really. The fact is, I prioritized other things (when my son was an infant, and when I was unemployed and underemployed) over things like saving for college & retirement. Later, I prioritized things like eating out, traveling, granite counters, new furniture, home improvements, and beginning to invest & save for retirement over college. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important for my son to be able to attend college, without taking on loans. I do. I need to put my money where my mouth is, and I’m in the process of doing that.

But I don’t think my situation is that uncommon. I hope that I’m wrong, but I suspect I’m not. So I want to guess a little more about why this might be the case.

The fact is, we’re all human.

Human beings have a tendency to take care of the immediate first, and to put off that which they think can be put off.

A flat tire gets taken care of immediately, but an oil change gets skipped. Yet regular oil changes are much more important to the long-term health of your car than fixing a flat tire is.

We know what we ought to be doing. It’s doing it that’s another matter.

The trick might be to create a believable sense of urgency around the things that really are important so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

For me, reviewing the projected costs associated with things like college & retirement seems to do the trick. I get a sense of “Oh crap! I better do something about this NOW” going and then I take dramatic and decisive action. (I just need to work on getting the sense of urgency going sooner so that it doesn’t require such dramatic efforts.)

For others, developing a sense of urgency might mean things like setting artificial goal dates for steps along the way and then reviewing those regularly. Or maybe it involves hanging up pictures that represent your goals. Seeing those images each day can remind you to take a step toward them each day.

Do you have any tricks for staying focused on the important instead of the immediate?

View Comments (2)
  • There are no tricks to staying focused. I have heard many song writers announce in their song “life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans.”

    As for your situation, you might look into your states 529 plans, and see if qualified family might want to help out too.

    For any more help I’d need a lot more info and a blog isn’t the place.

  • Oh, I don’t think I’ll have a problem saving up the money. (Or at least I hope I won’t.) But my problem is focusing. I have found a few things that help, but was hoping for more ideas :)

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