A Father Of 12 Made Sure His Kids Could Pay For College Themselves — So We Should Be Good, Right?

How A Father Of 12 Made Sure His Kids Could Pay For College“How I made sure all 12 of my kids could pay for college themselves” is the powerful title of a piece by Francis L Thompson that ran on Quartz and on The Atlantic (with a different title) this week.

I clicked immediately wanting to know how a father of 12 manages to afford simply housing and feeding his family, let alone finding a few extra hundred thousand dollars to pay for college. Our budget hits limits with just two kids, how could they do it with a dozen!?

Click on the story, however, and you’ll not get much insight into how Thompson’s kids could pay for college, but you’ll get a strong fundamentalist view of parenting.

From family breakfast at 5:15 am every morning followed by chores before school, (which included cooking for the family as soon as a child was able to read a recipe), to mandatory placement in advanced classes regardless of the child’s ability, Thompson’s recipe sounds like it was pulled from Captain Von Trapp‘s pre-Maria handbook.

If you want to learn how to run your family with military precision, Thompson’s piece will help you greatly, if you want some ideas on how to get your kids to pay for their own education, the only thing he offers is that “we have provided extensive information on how to do it or how to buy rental units and use equity to grow wealth. We do not “give” things to our children but we give them information and teach them “how” to do things. We have helped them with contacts in corporations, but they have to do the interviews and “earn” the jobs.”

The article has received much criticism for the bait and switch headline. The Thompson family is very well off, his children were born to privilege, and while he did his best to not raise spoiled brats, his kids were afforded many advantages other families don’t have.

So let’s get back to the headline:

How do we get our kids to pay for college? How do we save for college? How do we make sure that when high school is done, our kids have the chance to continue their education if that’s what they need to succeed?

The answer is simple: plan.

A few months after my wife found out she was pregnant with our first son, we started regularly putting some money away for college. In the past 7 years that’s amounted to nearly $12,000 in an account that will grow for another 11 years before they can touch it.

For us, having an RESP (a Registered Education Savings Plan), was an easy way to sock $50 a month into an account for the future. Our extended family had access to deposit to the account as well and whenever those early birthdays or Christmases would roll around, a little bump in the fund from the grandparents would happen, plus the government has programs where they match 20% of your deposits. Add in the growth of the mutual funds we’ve purchased in the RESP, and we’ve got a good head start.

By the time my boys need to go to college, we should have enough to get them at least started. Then the rules will be the same for my kids as they were for my wife and I: no rent if you stay at home and go to school, but you’ve got to work to pay for your tuition.

The second rule will have gray areas. If school requires too much study, we may waive the pay back. If school is too expensive, we may waive the pay back. The point is we are planning now for the needs of the future. Just as we put money away in a retirement account, we’ll put money in a school account.

If you want to have money for your kids when they go to college, or if you want them to pay for college themselves, it doesn’t matter you still need a plan. And you should start now. It doesn’t take a lot each month to make a difference – even a lake is filled drop by drop.

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