Most parents are aware that over the course of an adult's working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1 million less than those with a bachelor's degree and are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed. So it isn't hard to see why parents might be tempted to make paying for their kids' college education a priority over saving for their own retirement.
At the same time, college costs have, according to published reports, increased 1,225 percent since 1978 (that is not a typo)—more than housing, food or health-care expenses. Penn State cost my parents $7,500 a year, but I will be on the hook for almost $40,000 a year if my son goes to the same school. (It hurts me just to write that sentence.)
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As a consequence, parents who are willing to provide a more lucrative future for their children do so at the expense of their own.
It should be no surprise, therefore, that 57 percent of U.S. workers have less than $25,000 in savings. Meanwhile, student debt has reached $1.2 trillion, growing seven times faster than this country's mortgage debt in just the past 10 years.