Sunday, November 16, 2014

More on Caitlyn Ricci...

Yesterday, I got involved in an online discussion about this case with someone.  That person, who says she's from New York, thinks it's right and proper that Caitlyn Ricci's parents are being forced to pay for her college education.  She explains that the law in New York forces parents to be financially responsible for their children until age 24.  According to this Web site, she's not correct.  The age is 21, or in some cases, 22.

This person was wholeheartedly in agreement with the law of New York.  She wrote that she felt parents should "invest" in their children's future by saving money for them to attend college.  And apparently, she also thinks that they should be legally forced to.  I, of course, disagree with that wholeheartedly.  While I do think it's the decent thing for parents to help their adult children with college or trade school or certifications, I don't believe they should be MANDATED to by the state.  In fact, I think that could be a harmful thing to do because it undermines parental authority and may even take away a child's motivation to work toward financial independence.

College is not an appropriate track for all young people, nor should it be.  If everyone went to college, the value of higher education would sink lower than it already has.  Besides, not everyone is cut out to be a student.  Some people can barely deal with high school.

Aside from that, most adults have other financial obligations besides their children.  I am 42 years old and I have an elderly mother and a father who just died.  Both have had chronic diseases.  Mom has breast cancer.  My dad had Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia.  My father needed home care and had several hospital stays.  Fortunately, he was an Air Force retiree and much of his healthcare was covered by the Veteran's Administration, plus he had Medicare and Medigap insurance.  So far, my parents have not been a financial burden to me and my sisters.  However, I have friends who are having to take care of and help support sick, elderly relatives.  When I brought this up to the person who was arguing with me, she made the comment that they had "already lived their lives", so an adult child's needs should trump their parents' needs.  I thought that was an incredibly selfish statement, especially when young people are able bodied and intellectually capable.

I also have friends who have kids.  Some have kids who are old enough to be in college.  Some have younger children.  Some have babies.  When you are middle aged, dealing with aging parents, raising your kids, and trying to save for your own retirement, that paycheck can only go so far.  It's an unfair burden to expect parents to foot the bill for their kids to go to college.  It's nice if they can, but they shouldn't be forced to.  Add in the fact that a lot of young people today seem to have problems that weren't as prevalent when I was growing up.  I know many people who have children with autism.  Some of those kids are basically fine and can function.  Some of them have serious medical and educational needs that can put a strain on the family budget.  So if I have a healthy adult child and a younger child who is sick and needs more of my resources in order to succeed, should I really be expected to send my older, healthy child to a college of his or her choice, regardless or whether or not I can afford it?  What if he or she chooses an expensive private school in another state?

Of course, I am pretty fortunate because I don't have any children.  Something like this is unlikely to happen to me, unless Bill's ex daughters somehow start something.  Since one of them will be 21 in a few weeks, I doubt it will be an issue for us.  I always wanted kids, but as I see what's happening to today's youth, I'm kind of glad I don't have them.  If I had kids, of course I'd want to help them as much as possible.  It's scary, though, when the law intervenes and tries to force parents to spend money they may not have on a college education that may be inappropriate.  Moreover, I think this type of mandate could encourage laziness and a sense of entitlement.

There comes a time in every person's life when it's time to leave the nest. That's a decision that should be made by the families involved, not judges.  It's one thing if you have an adult child who has insurmountable problems that would prevent him or her from taking care of themselves.  It's another if your adult child is physically and mentally healthy and intellectually capable of paying their own way.  There's a lot of value in being self-sufficient.  It means you're on your own, beholden to no one, and can take full credit for your successes and full responsibility for your mistakes.

I have to say, I got pretty upset conversing with that woman yesterday.  I think today, it might be prudent to stick to topics that are less infuriating.  Besides, it's our 12th wedding anniversary.  It's time to celebrate!


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