A newborn baby is cause for much celebration in families aroun the world. Most parents love their children and are willing to sacrifice almost anything for their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Nevertheless, parents rarely consider all that is required to raise a child to responsible adulthood.
Let’s look at child-rearing from an accountant’s point of view. If the child is born in late December, U.S. tax law allows an income tax deduction for the whole previous year. But I don’t always think like an accountant, and U.S. tax law was not the first thing that came to mind when my wife informed me that our daughter was on the way. Still, the news of a coming child did start me thinking about all the things that would be needed as the child grew. Education was one of those things.
RAISING A CHILD
Here is the latest released (2015) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimate of the cost to raise a child to adulthood: https://www.usda.gov/ media/blog /2017/01/13 /cost-raisingchild. The cost ($233,610) includes housing, food, transportation, clothing, childcare, education, health care, and other miscellaneous items. Not included is higher education. For Seventh-day Adventist families there is the added cost of private Christian elementary, middle school, and high school education.
For Christian parents, Christian education is an important part of parenting for their children. If the parents do not plan for the cost early in the child’s life, they will be financially unprepared when the need arises. Children can work and save their money to make at least a small contribution. Research shows that children who work as well as study do better academically than those who do not work. Yet student work alone will not be enough to pay for tuition without incurring significant debt.
SHARING THE BURDEN
One way to start a college fund for a child is to let friends and family know that you are opening a college savings account before the child is born. Gifts given for the child’s education can be deposited into a savings account. As the child grows, parents can let their children know about the college fund. They can encourage the child to save and also contribute money they receive to the fund from an early age.
As children grow older, teaching them to invest in the college fund can be a good way to introduce your child to personal financial planning. Teaching them to pray and ask God to guide their investment decisions will let them know that God cares about all areas of their lives, even their finances. When they get their monthly statements, you can point out to them that God is blessing their investments even while they are sleeping. “It is useless to work so hard for a living, getting up early and going to bed late. For the Lord provides for those he loves, while they are asleep” (Ps. 127:2).*
As noted above, the cost of higher education for your child is not included in the cost of raising a child to adulthood. A child attending college will need ready access to a considerable sum of money to pay tuition. For many families that means student loans.
THE BIG LOAN . . . LOAD!
Do you understand what 1 trillion is? Let me try to make this number relevant. One trillion is a 1 with 12 zeros after it. The 100 dollar bill is the largest printed currency currently available in the United States. A stack of 100 of these bills would be valued at $10,000. One hundred of these stacks equal 1 million dollars. One hundred thousand of these stacks equal 1 billion dollars; 100 million of these stacks are valued at 1 trillion dollars. To illustrate this visually, four 2-meter-high shipping pallets of these stacks equal 1 billion dollars. Five thousand of those pallets would be valued at 1 trillion dollars.
In the United States, the total student loan debt in early 2021 stood at $1.7 trillion. I hope that you can now relate to the horror of what that number represents. It works out to an average of $38,500 per student (45 million students with loans). It is growing at six times the rate of the U.S. economy. The Bible tells us, “Poor people are slaves of the rich. Borrow money and you are the lender’s slave” (Prov. 22:7). No loving parent looking into the trusting eyes of their newborn baby would intentionally make them a slave. (You can see the debt growth in the United States at https:// www.usdebtclock.org/.)
So why do Seventh-day Adventist students in the U.S. go so deeply in debt for higher education? How does that debt affect the mission of the Adventist Church? The cost to the student of private higher education is four times higher than the cost of public higher education. If a student goes to a Seventh-day Adventist university and marries another student also attending, and they both have student loans equaling the aver- age, they could jointly owe more than $77,000. Starting their lives together with such debt dictates that they cannot afford to be available to God for mission. They are slaves to the lender and unavailable to God.
“Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law” (Rom. 13:8).
Parents can teach tithing and the giving of offerings by letting children turn in the envelope for the family at church. In larger families, the offering activity can be shared. As the child starts to receive small amounts of money, they can turn in their own tithe and offering envelope. Parents will need to plan to help their children, but the children are never too young to learn to trust in God. The child can be taught that God owns everything and that they are stewards of God’s possessions.
When the child starts to work for pay, parents and mentors can teach the three pillars of personal financial planning by helping them learn to give, save, and budget their spending. They can give to God, save in the college fund, and plan for purchases. This will acquaint the child with the deas of trusting God, going to college, and providing for themselves through work.
As the child becomes a teenager and starts to earn wages, the concepts learned in childhood can be cemented with continued practice. Planning for your children in all areas of their life by passing on your faith and values is the most important planned gift that you can give to your children. It is vital for their success in life and their faith in God. This gift is more valuable than your possessions given only at the end of life.
Parents starting to plan from the birth of their child for their future education costs can help their children avoid becoming slaves to anyone but God. One of the most important gifts that parents can give their children is to plan for them to graduate debt free. That gift takes planning and sacrifice on the part of the parents, and hard work both academically and financially on the part of the student.
Furthermore, if parents have planned well to educate their children to have faith in God, then they will be trustworthy, faithful, and prudent when they inherit some of the possessions God has entrusted to them during their lifetime. Your children will keep those possessions working for God and supporting God’s mission.
* All Bible texts are from the Good News Bible—Old Testament: Copyright ˝ American Bible Society 1976, 1992; New Testament: Copyright ˝ American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.