Dear Dave: I noticed that your Baby Steps list puts saving for retirement before saving for your kid's college fund. Sending your kids to college would come first on the timeline, so why do you suggest this?
I advise this approach because everyone is going to retire someday, unless, of course, they happen to die before reaching retirement age. Retiring and eating are necessities. College is a luxury. Lots of people succeed in life without going to college, and thousands have worked their way through college. I worked 40 to 60 hours a week in college, and I still graduated in four years.
Having a college fund set aside by your parents is really nice, if they can afford that kind of thing. But you can go to school by getting good grades, applying for scholarships, working your tail off and choosing a school you can afford. I believe in education, but there are lots of ways to get a college degree other than having your parents foot the bill.
The last time I checked, there aren't any good ways to retire except for getting yourself ready for retirement. I mean, you can always live off Social Insecurity and buy that great cookbook, "72 Ways to Prepare Alpo and Love It," but I don't consider that a plan.
In short, college funding is not a necessity. That's why it follows saving for retirement in the Baby Steps. Should you try to save up for your kid's college education? Sure, if you can. But there are lots of parents out there who won't be able to pay a dime toward someone's college education. And that doesn't make them bad parents.