Here's a question:
Suppose you were filthy, stinkin' rich. You have so much money that you don't even have to think about saving for retirement. So much that you can, effectively, pay cash for all of your children to take as long as they want to go to school anywhere they want, and to major in what they want.
The question is... Should you?
Should you write each of them a blank check?
Should you put conditions on the money?
Should you pay for some educations, but not others?
+ + +
Granted, this is a highly rare hypothetical. But maybe we can use it to get at some general principles.
What's the stereotype of the rich kid whose parents paid for everything they wanted? Not so positive, is it?
But at the same time, isn't there a stereotype against "stingy" wealthy parents who don't help their kids out with college? We all understand that not everyone can afford to pay a lot towards college, but when parents can pay for it, is there an assumption that they should?
Well, let's think about it. Is there ever a time when a parent (who can pay)...should NOT pay?
+ + +
Off the top of my head, a parent shouldn't pay for university if he expected the young person would harm himself with the money or the opportunity. Suppose we're talking about a young adult who has a problem with alcohol or drugs, or a history of dangerously impulsive behavior. Unless the parent has the means to keep tight control of the purse strings (so that money intended for college expenses can't be diverted), putting that much money in the hands of someone so irresponsible could be a grave error.
But suppose it isn't so clear-cut...
Since money isn't an object, should the wealthy parent steer adult children to more prestigious universities? To religious ones? Should the parent steer the adult offspring to a college where most of the peer group will also be wealthy, or of the same religion? To a place where the peer group will be more diverse? Should the young person be allowed to choose whatever he or she wants? Is it necessary to have a concrete plan before beginning, since the family is wealthy enough to cover any contingencies?
Should the wealthy young person be made to come up with some of the money on his own, on the grounds that he needs to learn self-sufficiency and a work ethic? Should he learn how to make his own way in the world, at least somewhat? Or is that a pointless exercise for a kid who can afford anything, and ought he instead learn how to be a model rich person, busy with civic engagement and philanthropy, and passing down values to the next generation?
What do you think? What would you do?