Are you a woman in your 40s thinking about your financial future? Do you have young kids? Are you stressing out about saving money for their college education? 

Here’s a hot take: I don’t think it’s a good idea to be saving money for their college education before you’ve saved enough for your retirement. There are lots of scholarships, federal financial aid, and grants that could potentially support your kids — but your retirement is only on you. (There is a reason why our main retirement tool is called an individual retirement account.) 

Retirement savings are getting stretched right along with our life expectancies. If we want to continue to have the same lifestyle until the end of our lives, we need to put our children’s education on the back burner until we feel like we have enough for our own retirement.

I have a lot of friends that are always so worried about saving for their kids’ college education, and they make that a priority before they make themselves a priority. A gentleman I knew had Lou Gehrig’s disease, and he didn’t have enough money put away for his kids’ college tuition. He was so worried that he wasn’t going to have enough money that he turned to holding fundraisers for himself — and instead of using that money for his own healthcare, it basically paid for a semester of bad dorm food. Meanwhile, his kids could have figured out a way to pay for that “food” — or skipped the meal plan entirely because no one used it anyway.

And let’s not poo-poo community colleges. STEM majors especially can work their way up the basics of the various Calculuses and Trigonometries at a community college, often with more professor-student facetime than a big university. 

In a perfect world, no one would be sick, college presidents would get their BMWs for free, and there would be no such thing as tuition. The fact of the matter is that life’s riches are not spread out evenly, and that will be the case after we retire, too. That’s why we have to pay ourselves first.