When it comes to her kids’ education, this writer is deciding not to save for their university fund. Here’s why.
Editor's note: opinions expressed in this article reflect the view of the writer.
I recently had a conversation with my Aunt about what K and J (my son and daughter, aged 10 and 7 respectively) might become in the future.
It was last December and we were about to watch them perform a musical on stage. It was clear both K and J both love the performing arts and may pursue it as a profession.
“Well,” I shared, “they can be whatever they want as long as they apply themselves and work hard. I would be supportive of any pursuit really: archeology, ballet, sanitary work, whatever.”
But the one thing I would not do, I told her, is to pay for their university fees.
“How can!” hooted my Aunt. “Every parent dreams of sending their child to university!”
The thing is this: times have changed.
Tiger Mum, And Proud Of It
Let it not be said that I don’t care about my kids’ education. In fact, I’m well known in my circle of friends to be quite the Tiger Mum, insisting on excellence not just in school but non-academic stuff (and they both have plenty). I even wrote an article about this and got a lot of hate from readers.
So why am I against paying for University but am now spending a bomb (mid to high four figures) every month on Chinese and Math tuition, dance classes, swim lessons, and gymnastics training – not to mention petrol bills and parking fees from chauffeuring them around to these activities?
Here is a bit of background for context. I’m a local university grad with a post-grad diploma in teaching. I thoroughly enjoyed my uni days; got a scholarship, had a lot of fun, made a ton of friends, learned a little, and graduated with Honours.
My husband is a Millennial, eleven years younger than me. When we met, he was a Polytechnic student. When we eventually got married and had my son, he was in the army serving NS. He was not accepted into a local university and, for obvious reasons, immediately joined the workforce to earn money and support his family.
Fast-forward 10 years later and he is managing the local office of an international headhunting firm, with several markets under his supervision. His earning power and portfolio of skills are superior to mine and is “Boss” to about 40 people, all without a degree to his name.
Basically, this goes to show that after a certain point in your learning journey, what determines success is no longer book knowledge, but your vision, resourcefulness, discipline, drive, and ability to hustle and negotiate your way to getting what you want.
More Career Options For The Next Generation
The career landscape has changed so much since I joined the workforce. As a Gen X-er, the only vocations “acceptable” to my parents were either doctor, lawyer, or at least teacher. These days there are jobs that didn’t even exist when I was growing up: Social Media Manager, Cloud Architect, Social Influencer, just to name a few. Who knows how many more jobs will exist in their time?
To me, what trumps tertiary education is an entrepreneurial spirit powered by the dedication to mastering one’s craft. You don’t need to attend Uni to have this attitude towards life-long learning. As for having business sense, it’s just something that cannot be taught in a classroom.
But my position on this matter does not in any way suggest that I’m not investing in my children’s future; I just do it a little differently, that’s all. Instead of having a University fund, we travel to expose the kids to different cultures and world views.
For this to be affordable, I leverage on a good miles-earning credit card and plan our trips carefully to take advantage of good deals. Also, with having to save Uni fees out of the way, my husband and I can prioritise on a modest retirement plan. This ensures that we can support ourselves in old age and not be a burden to our children, who can then focus on how their talents can make a difference to the world around them.
Alternatives To A University Fund
Do we have any funds secured for K and J at all? Yes, we do. They both have investment-linked plans with a term life cover that terminate when they come of age (after which, they can take over as policyholder and pay the necessary premiums). I also took out a savings plan for each of them that will mature at around the same time.
From these, they will receive a significant amount of cash to do what they choose: begin a start-up, backpack the world, or yes, even go to Uni if that’s what they really want. But it’s deliberately not enough to pay for four years at College. Because when it comes to having their plans fully funded, my kids will have to figure out how to get what they want.
Just having the realisation early that there is no “Mummy and Daddy” fund as a safety net is one of the lessons I hope will keep my children grounded and resilient.
After all, it’s their own lives that they’re designing. And having a personal responsibility to make their dreams a reality is perhaps the best insurance plan of all.
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By Ana Ow
Ana has been a travel writer for various news outlets since 2007 and has a passion for crossing things off her bucket list (tiger safari in India, checked; meeting with the Dalai Lama in Ladakh, checked; Northern Lights sighting in Norway, checked thrice). She loves collecting visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites (preferably with her husband and two children) and is obsessed with Disney parks and cruises.