Buying certainty

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Philippine Star

  The number of zeroes kept increasing as the speaker showed the estimated total cost of a college education in Metro Manila private schools for students entering college in 2014. He was part of a group that publishes materials on Philippine schools and the courses they offered. The group also gives talks to high school students and their parents on prospective careers.  

 It was the sort of information that could give a parent wanting to send her child to those schools sleepless nights, premature gray hair, and wrinkles. You could buy a condominium unit with that amount. Or if you were Jinkee Pacquiao or Sharon Cuneta, a few Hermes Birkins.

 A few days after listening to his talk, I caught a local TV show giving advice on saving for a child’s education. The guest belonged to an insurance company. She talked about how to save and mentioned investment in mutual funds and life insurance as ways to prepare for a child’s school expenses. She also said that some unmarried and childless people even start saving for the college education of their future offspring. To a caller who asked if it was too late to start saving since her child was entering college in two years, the insurance woman was candid enough to say that it was. She mentioned juggling retirement funds to pay for the education of the caller’s child.

 It must have been the combination of wanting to give their children the best education and the fear that, when the time came for the children to go to college, they might not be around or might not be able to afford sending them to school, that led parents to purchase educational plans for their children. My parents bought educational plans for us and my siblings and I were lucky enough to finish college before those pre-need companies went under. Other people I know were not as fortunate. The list of pre-need companies under receivership is long. It is uncertain if the parents who invested in educational plans will get their money back.

 I have not gone out of my way to study the alternatives now being offered by the supposedly better regulated insurance companies. I have a one–year old and a fifteen-year old and if I listened to the advice given in that TV show, it might be too late to save for the high school child but I still have time to save for the toddler’s college fund. There’s a part of me that remains skeptical of advice given by someone who makes her money selling these products. There’s an even bigger part of me that distrusts financial institutions, an easy thing to feel with the collapse of prominent investment banks, the news that LIBOR was manipulated, and my own unpleasant experiences dealing with insurance companies that reneged on their contracts.

 I laughed when I found a note I wrote to myself when I was 24. I was about to start my first law firm job and I worried about my ability to give my two-year old a good education. At that time, some of my friends were buying educational plans for their children. I had wanted to but could not afford it. I guess it was one of those times when not having money was a blessing.

 I continue to learn about financial prudence and have decided that I will not get premature gray hair and wrinkles worrying about how to send my children to college. My maternal grandparents were public school teachers who sent eight kids to college. My paternal grandparents were a policeman and a farmer and they sent their kids to college, too.  I have no excuse.


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