BOSTON (CBS) – Your baby just had her 17th birthday and will be a senior in high school this fall. What happened to all of the planning you were going to do?

You and your spouse are both working and try to be around for the kids as much as possible. Life has kept you so busy you’ve had no time to think about the lofty goals you made 17 years ago when your first child was born. You have been keeping your head above water and are paddling as fast as you can.

Most common goals:

  • Pay for college
  • Emergency fund
  • No credit card debt
  • A comfortable retirement

College should not come as a surprise for the parents of teenagers but it often does. They have been so busy raising the kids and getting through the day-to-day stuff that the future seemed so far away. With the oldest only months away from college applications it is time to have a college chat with all of the kids.

Figure out what you can afford to pay for. How much do you borrow? If you have nothing saved, college will be paid for with loans and current income. And you want to treat all of the kids equally so be sure you don’t shoot the wad on the older kid and have nothing left for the last child.

It’s not too late to start saving for the last child. Consider using the Massachusetts’ 529 college saving plan managed by Fidelity.

Your retirement savings does not become an asset that colleges expect you to tap into to help pay for college. Although many retirement plans do allow you to borrow for college and if you have IRAs you can actually use them to help pay for college.

I would not recommend using the IRAs because unlike borrowing from the 401(k) you can never repay the money to the IRA. You will owe taxes on your IRA withdrawals but no penalty if used for college before age 59½.


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