Avoiding Empty Nest Debt

It's here!

The season of your life you have been dreading. It’s time for your baby to start college. For some, this means an empty nest. For others, it means having an adult living under your roof. But for everyone, it means letting your children make their own decisions and live their own lives. Yes, that’s what I said, live their lives.

As a parent of five (my baby is in her senior year of college), I know how hard it can be to let them be who they really are. We love to plan out our children’s futures exactly how we want them to look. But, I discovered many years ago, this is not how life works. It amazes me every day how my daughter can be so much like me and yet, so very different.

We tend to look at life in much the same way; however, our passions for how we want to help others is very different.

Parents, we must encourage our children to find their passions, not to fulfill our dreams.

In my financial coaching, one of the areas I see the most debt incurred is through student loans. What I’ve found through years of research is that about half of the people who have gone to college never use their degree. They went simply because it was expected. It was the thing to do.

Many times, when it comes to college, we put the cart before the horse. We send our kids without them understanding what their passion is or how to navigate the training needed to figure it out. As a society, we are so hung up on the status of a college degree that we waste millions of dollars keeping up with the status quo only to discover our passion is somewhere else.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
- from Titus 2:7 NIV

Please don’t misunderstand—college and education are great. They are awesome and, in many cases, necessary tools to gain the knowledge you need to fulfill your passion. The key is to make sure your child knows what their passion is. Then, and only then, should they go to college to receive the required training they need. For example, if your child’s passion is to do hair, they only need to attend beauty school. However, if they want to be a teacher, they will need to attend college to receive a degree in education. College is a place of training and further education, and should only be attended if needed. Otherwise, it is a waste of money that can be used on their future in other ways.

With all of that being said, you may be asking, “How do I help my child find their passion?” Many high schools have great programs for this, and you need to ensure your child takes advantage of every opportunity possible. In my daughter’s junior year of high school, she job shadowed three very different careers she was considering in order to find the one she wanted to pursue. Job shadowing is a great tool for discovering a passion, as well as internships and volunteering. I believe every sixteen-year-old should have a job of some kind, and if they can partner that with finding their passion, they will be steps ahead of the game.

Every child will become an adult; we can’t stop this. Therefore, we must be ever mindful of the fact that we are raising adults.

Whether our child is 8 or 18, our job is simply to teach, guide, and support them in finding their authentic self. We are all created by God for a purpose that is unique to us. As a parent, we must help our children discover their purpose, and to live in their uniqueness.

And don't worry - an empty nest really isn't as bad as it sounds.


Debbi King is a personal finance expert, motivational speaker, and author of two award-winning books –The ABC’s of Personal Finance and 26 Weeks to Wealth and Financial Freedom. She is also the Founder and President of Lovell Ministry started in 2012 in honor and memory of her grandmother. LovellMinistries.org | www.DebbiKing.com

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