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Parents choose kids over retirement

Parents are shortchanging retirement saving to help pay for their children's college. Yet most say they don't want to be a burden when they're old.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 17, 2011 10:33AM

This post comes from Brian O'Connell at partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyA new MassMutual study shows that about half of all parents who make funding their kids' college education a priority have little left for their own retirement. It seems that with money being tight, the kids are a priority as Mom and Dad take a back seat.


The idea that parents are falling behind on their retirement savings isn't anything new. Studies show that American adults -- of all age groups -- are worried sick about their financial futures.


But what is new is that American parents, knowing full well their own financial futures are at risk, are doing what they can to ensure their kids get a decent college education -- even if it means they raid their own retirement savings to pay for college costs.


The MassMutual study notes that only three in 10 parents believe they are adequately funding their own retirement. And half the study participants told MassMutual that after they pay for their kids' college education, there won't be enough money left for their own retirement savings. Some other points from the study:

  • 39% of Americans have developed a plan for retirement saving.
  • 31% of women have a plan for retirement, "despite the fact that women can expect to spend more than 50% more time in retirement than men," the report points out.
  • 63% of study participants say they will work part time during their retirement.

American parents don't have just their children's college education to worry about, either. About 25% or survey respondents say they are caring for their elderly parents as well, but that's still not stopping them from plowing money toward their children. The study says that 71% of U.S. parents say "it's important that their children aren't burdened by taking care of them when they're older." Post continues after video.

But that could be spreading the financial assets way too thin, MassMutual says. (Are you saving enough for retirement? Try MSN Money's calculator.)


"When I talk to families about their financial planning needs, we cover plans to pay for children's college by asking how much of their child's education they want to cover, what percentage of their income they want to save for it, and whether or not they think their children will receive any financial aid," Kevin Paasch, a MassMutual sales manager at Commonwealth Financial Partners in Virginia Beach, Va., said in a statement. "Planning for your children's education is a critical need, but prioritizing this above your own financial future may be risky."


The good news, if there is any in the report, is that Americans seem to be finally getting a good grip on debt. MassMutual says that 60% of Americans are not racking up too much debt, up from 50% in 2010.


Watching out for your kids' future is a noble gesture, but it could also be a dangerous one for American families. But right now, there don't seem to be many options for concerned -- and cash-strapped -- parents.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Oct 18, 2011 4:07PM
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