Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 7 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.
This round, he says colleges will come to their senses and lower tuition at some point, meaning they won't have to save as much. She says, let's prepare for the worst.
Mr. Fuchs: It’s not even September and I already know what I’m going to go as this Halloween.
Mrs. Fuchs: Not Alan Greenspan again?
Mr. Fuchs: Nah, he’s been out of office, so the kids wouldn’t take to him like they used to. I’m going to dress up as something even scarier this year: a future college bill.
Mrs. Fuchs: How will you pull that one off?
Mr. Fuchs: Well, that’s the hard part. With the school year starting, lots of people are suffering from college costs on the brain. Either you are paying them, or you are dreading the day. But while we’ve quibbled over whether we should be saving for college or retirement, we’ve never dealt with this bottomless question: just how much is college going to cost when, a dozen years out, our kindergartner is ready to pack his steamer trunk and beer bong?
Mrs. Fuchs: Come on, don’t say that.
Mr. Fuchs: Whatever. The point is, you can try any sort of college cost calculator to see what a school might run you today. But how much will college run by the time we are footing the bills? Estimates vary widely, but how are they made? Do they assume that colleges will continue the sort of bigger, better gym and dormitory arms race that mimicked the housing bubble? At the tail end of the economic expansion, we got scary headlines, like this one from The New York Times: “College Costs Rising at Double the Inflation Rate." Now that the gild has come off the economic lily, might good sense prevail in the halls of higher learning? If so, how much should we expect to pay? What’s the answer? And when am I going to stop asking questions and answer them?