About half of parents would rather withdraw money from their retirement account, work more years or take on a second job than have their kids take out student loans, according to a T. Rowe Price survey.

About 53% of parents would rather use retirement savings to pay college costs than have their kids take on student loans, according to the survey of 2,000 parents who had a retirement account and children age 15 or younger.

Fifty-one percent would be willing to get a second or part-time job and 49% of parents would delay retirement and work more years, according to the survey.

T. Rowe Price also found that 44% of parents said their own student loans have impacted their ability to save for retirement.

“Parents are making a mistake when they don’t prioritize their own retirement over college costs,” said Judith Ward, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. “There are many ways to pay for college, and there is a wide variation of price tags for college degrees. But outside of Social Security and a pension, the way to fund your retirement is through personal savings in a tax-advantaged retirement account.”

Seventy-nine percent of the parents surveyed said they were saving something for their kids’ college costs. However, T. Rowe Price says many of them were using the wrong accounts. Forty-five percent indicated that they were using a regular savings account to do so, and 30% said they were using their 401(k) to save. Just 31% said they were using a 529 account.

There also appeared to be some misconceptions regarding 529 accounts. According to T. Rowe Price, contributions to a 529 account can be withdrawn anytime for any reason. However, 25% of parents cited lack of access as a reason for not saving in this type of account. Additionally, 15% mistakenly thought that saving in a 529 account meant that they wouldn’t be able to get financial aid.

“We recommend saving at least 15% of your salary, which includes any match from your employer, for retirement,” said Ward. “Once retirement is on track, develop a plan to save for your kids’ college and aim to save enough to cover at least a down payment, about half the cost of a four-year education. We recommend using a 529 account, because they provide tax benefits and flexibility for college savings that aren’t available with any other kind of account.”
 

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