Study: Our Children Are Taking Over Our Financial Plans. What Does This Mean For Retirement?

There is a trend among parents of young children (17 and younger) to prioritize saving for their children’s future over their own.

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If you read my previous article, you know my stance on retirement savings: it should be priority number one. But, according to a new study by UNest, there is a trend among parents of young children (17 and younger) to prioritize saving for their children’s future over their own. 

Finding #1: Children are taking priority

Among the parents studied, 44% say if they could only save for one thing in life, saving for their children would be their most important savings goal. Only 18% chose retirement. When looking only at lower income households, saving for children goes up to 49% and retirement drops in half to 9%.

Finding #2: Confidence is dropping (for moms)

The survey also revealed that over a fourth of moms don’t think they’ll be able to afford college for their children without going into debt, while only 13% of dads reported feeling this way. In fact, 30% of dads report feeling extremely confident about affording college without debt, compared to just 13% of moms.

Finding #3: COVID is changing our priorities

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 57% of dads and 46% of moms indicate that COVID-19 has made them feel more inclined to save for their children’s futures. In addition, 93% of the parents studied said they’d be willing to make a self-sacrifice if it meant their child would have a healthier financial future.

Parents are now preferring monetary gifts to toys, clothes, and other presents for their children over the holidays, and nearly half think that contributions to college funds would be valuable holiday gifts.

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Overall finding: Children really are our future

At its core, this study showed that the pandemic has caused an overwhelming change in our financial priorities, with children taking the lead by a landslide.

But is this a good thing?

You can’t borrow for retirement

Of course, our children are our priority in almost all aspects of life. But should that be the case financially?

Across the board, from college to weddings to home improvements, there are ways to borrow money for anything you may need. The one exception: retirement.

Putting focus on your children’s future rather than your own is sidelining your retirement savings and may prevent you from ever reaching financial freedom. You better hope your kid gets a great job when they graduate with no student loans and buy a nice house, because you may have no choice but to move in with them some day.

The airplane safety lecture

I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: listen to the flight attendants. When you get on a plane, they’re going to tell you that in the event of loss of cabin pressure, secure your own mask before helping those around you.

When saving for the future, save for your own before saving for your kids.

Once you reach financial independence, free yourself from debt, pay off your house and are living a successful retirement, then you’ll have the extra money to help pay off your children’s loans or give them a gift towards a mortgage down payment.

The key is you must reach your own financial independence first.

The lesson:

Don’t let fear and uncertainty take over your financial plans.

This study also found that those who work with advisors report substantially greater financial security, confidence and clarity than those who don’t. If you work with a financial advisor and have a plan for your future, stay on course. If you don’t have a plan, look into programs like 529 plans that can help you save for your children’s futures while saving you money in taxes—two birds, one stone. And if you don’t feel confident in your financial future, maybe it’s time to hire a financial advisor or to get a second opinion from one.

This article was written by Eric Brotman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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