I’ve always wanted to help my kids find success in education.
My parents didn’t save a dime for my college education, and not because they didn’t want to.
They couldn’t afford it. They made a series of poor financial decisions, mostly living a larger life than they could afford. We were one of those families that couldn’t pay rent or car payments, but we always had satellite TV. The unfortunate result for me was many years of instability and uncertainty as a kid.
I found out at age 15 that, after asking about options for college, I was on my own.
My resulting feelings of shock and confusion left an impression. Since then, I’ve never wanted to have to tell my kids that they were on their own. In fact, I’ve looked forward to saving up some cash to help them along their way, and also helping them select a school and make decisions which would keep them from starting life on the wrong foot financially.
For one of my daughters, that’s no longer the case.
Why I Stopped Saving for Daughter_02’s College Education
In January, our baby girl was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome. The disorder is described as follows:
Angelman syndrome (AS) is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in one in 15,000 live births. Angelman syndrome is often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism due to lack of awareness. Characteristics of the disorder include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, and walking and balance disorders. Individuals with Angelman syndrome will require life-long care.
Individuals with Angelman syndrome will require life-long care.
I think about this phrase almost every day, and it still hasn’t quite sunk in.
The doctors have told us that she will likely have less than 10 words in her vocabulary, that she may never walk. Her communication, cognitive capabilities, and motor skills will all be severely delayed. We’re still learning more, but currently our expectation is that she will have the mental capacity of a 20 to 30 month old child. I am a realist. The way I handle things like this is to “hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.”
Do We Keep Saving?
In February, I was working through our month-end financials and automatic bank transfers, and suddenly but quietly, the thought occurred to me…
Is Daughter_02 going to college?
With each passing day, we make new realizations about what our new life is going to be like. We understand our daughter’s situation better. We learn to care for her more adeptly, understand how to communicate with her so that she can be less frustrated. But the point is that these revelations don’t all hit you on Day 1. It’s an evolution of thought and acceptance.
Cancelling the automatic transfer for the ESA (education savings account) wasn’t much work, a few clicks and a written letter to our bank to transfer the position into our other daughter’s ESA.
Still, it was one of the weirdest damned experiences I’ve had.
Calling the bank, listening to the automated assistant… What option do I press to “close my 1.5 year old’s ESA?”
Writing a letter for the bank to close your 1 year old’s account? Explaining to customer service why you need the funds to be transferred? I’m just glad it’s done.
What’s the Point? Why Share This?
This information goes into the pile labeled “Things That Are Nobody’s <choose your own expletive> Business.”
But I want to share my story with you, the good, the bad, the challenging, all of it.
I want to let people see that GREAT things have happened to us, yes. But we’ve had our fair share of challenges as well. No matter what your situation is, you are not alone in your struggles. You are not even the first to deal with your struggles, and you certainly won’t be the last. Neither are we.
The personal finance community is all about designing a plan and sticking to it. Every post and message out there is centered around the idea that you can get the whole thing down to a success-breeding science. Well, we had a plan, and we’ve accomplished more than most. Here’s the thing:
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. So work your strategy, hope for the best, and be thankful for the good, the normal, the uneventful. Look around you. Enjoy the reality that your situation could be much worse.
We chose to move forward, no looking back. That’s how we live, damn it. We destroyed our debt, we’re building our wealth, and we’re re-programming our lives so that we can enjoy every moment together on this unbelievable planet.
We’ll still set out on an exciting journey of travel on passive income. Our gorgeous girl will just be there with us the whole way instead of just part of it… and without the college degree.