The check is in the mail

My son has made his college decision. The months of aptitude tests, application essays, and requests for references are over. All that is left is for him to show up. And for the tuition checks to be written. There's the rub.

I see television commercials that go something like this: parents and their young children are playing together on the beach and the father stops to tell the viewing audience that he is so glad they met with financial advisor XYZ before their first child was born and set up a college plan so that now they know everything is taken care of and all the money their children will need for college will be there when they need it. He then returns to dashing in and out of the waves with his children as the camera pans the shoreline.

Who knew that a single meeting and voice of intent could be so powerful? Of course, a healthy dose of planning is ideal. But I don't know a single family whose successful delivery of a son or daughter to college has been a straight shot from the prenatal financial advisor meeting to freshman orientation. Life has a way of disrupting our best laid plans.

In Living Prayer, Robert Benson writes, "Twenty-one days seems to be the maximum number of days that one's life can go smoothly. The average is more like four, but the limit is twenty-one, I think. It is hard to live more than twenty-one days without a car breaking down, a trip being canceled, a family member getting sick, a pet dying, a check bouncing, a tire going flat, a deadline being missed, or some other thing that scatters all of one's neatly arranged ducks."

The father and mother in the commercial can prudently invest a portion of their earnings every payday, but they can't insure against a stock market "adjustment," or a corporate reorganization (aka, job loss), or a disability, or a "call" to a less lucrative vocation, or a child who doesn't want to go to college, or a child whose scholarship earning potential makes the planning moot, or car repair bills that border on the ridiculous, or a divorce, or medical bills outside the scope of insurance, or any of the other kinks that life can deliver to a projected college fund balance.

Yet tuition checks get written. Enrollment forms get sent in. It's almost miraculous.