Back to school and a new start!

Ryan McKean of Skylight reflects on his daughter’s first day in first grade and the importance of planning ahead for his children’s’ education.

Today was a big moment in my six year old’s life.  Today she started first grade.  As we approached the door of her new classroom I could feel her hand in mind, just tighten ever so slightly as she absorbed every detail of her new surroundings, her teacher and her classmates. She’s been really looking forward to starting first grade. It’s come up in conversations over the summer and particularly over the last few weeks as we have been busy getting organized – buying her new uniform, stationery and all the paraphernalia that comes with going back to school.  Yet while she’s excited that she’s becoming more grown up, that she’s going to learn new things and take on more responsibility and extra homework, she’s understandably a little nervous about her new start.

For me, and my wife, today was also a big day – perhaps in ways bigger for us than for our daughter as we are reminded of just how fast she is growing up.  As she posed for her photograph in her smart new uniform and we captured her slightly anxious smile, I couldn’t help thinking it really does feel like yesterday when she was born, clichéd as it sounds.  I couldn’t help but think how it’s a poignant and defining moment for us, as parents, as we see our little girl start on her journey to becoming more independent – needing us that little less.  Yet at the same time, we are very excited about all the things she’s going to learn in school that we hope will fill her with wonder and help her develop as a person.

After all, throughout my own life, a high value has been placed on education.  As I grew up, I saw my parents constantly make sacrifices to support me (and my sibling) to ensure we got the best opportunities and education in life.  Their support didn’t falter as they supported us emotionally, practically and financially right from kindergarten through to college.  And I naturally want to be able to do the same for my kids. So I’m glad that, as our little six year old starts her new journey, that my wife and I have already sat down, discussed and started planning for both our six and four year old’s education and future.  One important part of this is our kids’ college savings plan.  As a financial planner, I often meet parents who, like me, see the importance of planning and saving for their kids’ future but somehow never seem to get around to doing it.   Others start off well and set up a plan for their first child but as more children come along, other priorities take over and they haven’t enough time to think it through properly or just aren’t sure how much they can afford.  But the reality is that as college costs are continuing to soar (increasing by 6-7% a year which is double inflation) it makes sense to starting planning early if it’s possible.

For my wife and I, as we look ahead, we feel confident that by starting early, we can give our college savings plans enough time to grow and be tax efficient so we can provide as best as we can for our kids.  That’s not to say that our kids will be handed everything. We’ve already agreed that when the time comes for college, we will help where we can but we would expect them to also contribute financially and so share the responsibility and keep focused on their goals.   Understanding the value of money is something we have instilled in our kids from a young age – talking to them about money, encouraging them to save and getting them to earn money by doing chores.

So as the buzz of the new school year fizzles away and our mobile app fills up with school events until Christmas, I’m looking forward to the year and years ahead.  As I flick through the many photos I’ve taken today, the well-known quote by Benjamin Franklin “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” resonates in my mind.

Ryan McKean is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC Member SIPC. 2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680.