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COUNTRY Financial Security Index

Half of Parents Haven’t Saved for College

Nov. 12, 2014

While college hopefuls just submitted their early admission applications, many parents are finding themselves with far less than they hoped to have saved.

The latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index® survey revealed over half of parents (56 percent) have not started saving for their child’s college education. It appears those saving habits don’t improve dramatically with age, either. A large number of parents between the ages of 40 to 49 (52 percent) and 50 to 64 (47 percent) have not begun to save for the education of their children at all.

Despite this reality, many parents are optimistic about the amount of their children’s education they can pay.

  • Fifty percent of parents would like to pay for more than half of their child’s education, and a quarter of parents hope to pay for all of it.
  • Younger parents are among the most ambitious, with over half (54 percent) of 18- to 34-year-olds aspiring to pay for at least half of their child’s education.

The apparent gap between parents’ financial aspirations and their actual saving habits might be causing a majority of them to consider postponing retirement to make up the difference. Sixty-nine percent of parents say they would be willing to retire five years later if it meant their child would graduate from college debt-free.

“A child’s college education can be one of the biggest expenses for parents, so it is easy to feel overwhelmed,” says Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security support at COUNTRY Financial. “However, planning can help relieve a lot of the pressure. Knowing how much loan debt your child is willing to take on and how saving for college fits within your overall financial plan are key issues to consider, especially since borrowing money for retirement isn’t an option.”


Making Family Finances a Priority

Saving for a child’s education might not be the only expense parents are underestimating. According to the latest version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual "Expenditures on Children by Families" report, the approximate cost to raise a child to age 18 is $245,000. When asked about the cost of raising a child, only 22 percent of Americans agreed and answered between $200,000 and $300,000.

Nevertheless, finances were, or will be, a significant factor for a majority of Americans in their decision to become parents.

  • Fifty-nine percent said their level of financial security was, or will be, an important factor in their decision to become a parent, with a quarter of those citing it as a very important factor.
  • Younger Americans are more likely to stress the importance of financial planning, with 70 percent of those age 18 to 29 saying it was, or will be, an important factor.


Financial Security Fatigue

The financial responsibilities of family life are causing parents to feel overwhelmed, while Americans overall are doubting the next generation’s potential for success. A majority of parents (66 percent) say the current costs associated with having a child make it difficult to work full-time to provide financial stability while being a consistent presence in their child’s life.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of Americans overall are generally pessimistic about the potential for the next generation to be better off financially than their parents, with nearly half (47 percent) saying it is not possible.

“Parents have the best intentions when it comes to their family’s financial security,” says Buhrmann. “As any parent will tell you, real life can disrupt even the best laid plans. If you feel you can’t get on firm footing with your finances, consider working with a financial planner or someone you trust to see what changes you can make to improve your family’s financial security.”


The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®

Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans’ sentiments of their personal financial security. The COUNTRY Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. Survey data, videos and analysis are available at and on Twitter at @FinanceSecure.

The COUNTRY Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by GfK, an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using GfK’s KnowledgePanel TM, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,000 U.S. adults for national surveys. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.



The COUNTRY Financial group ( serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States. It offers a full range of financial products and services from auto, home, business and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.