Why You Should Fund Your Golden Years First

Make saving for retirement a top priority.

As an empty nester, your top financial priority should be funding your retirement. It's also an important time to explain to your children why contributing to your retirement savings takes precedence over paying for their college.

That's not necessarily happening in many households. Of 2,000 parents surveyed, 59 percent said paying for their child's college is more important than starting a retirement fund. About the same percentage would draw from their retirement savings to help offset college expenses so that their children wouldn't amass student debt.

Help your children understand your decision to prioritize retirement planning with these three conversation starters.

"We can borrow money for college; I can't borrow money for my retirement."

While the decision to prioritize children's immediate needs may align with your sense of parental responsibility, it's important to look at the long-range picture. Although it may seem risky for you or your children to take out loans to pay for college, shortchanging your retirement fund may pose a greater risk down the road. After all, you can borrow money for college; you can't borrow money for retirement.

"This will save you money in the long run."

Saving for retirement can protect you and your children for the long run — ensuring that you're able to support yourself in retirement and your children won't have to. It can be much more costly to take care of a parent who doesn't have adequate retirement savings than it is to pay for a college education. The cost for an adult child who leaves the workforce to take care of an elderly parent can total up to $300,000. Compare that to the cost of attending a public university as an in-state student: about $19,500 a year and almost $78,000 over four years, according to The College Board.

"It's getting more and more expensive to retire."

Your college-age and adult children should understand a number of factors are contributing to higher retirement income needs, and you need to plan accordingly. Those factors include increased life expectancy, declining Social Security benefits, a shift from defined benefit employer retirement plans to 401(k)s, and rising health care costs, according to research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Make Time for the Conversation

Before your children go off to college or move out on their own, set aside time to educate them about why it's necessary to prioritize your retirement over their needs. This conversation can be a timely opportunity to teach your children about the importance of saving and managing money.

Remember that the key is to make your retirement funding a top priority, and to choose a savings plan that will ensure long-term financial security for you and your family.