COLUMN: Let's talk about the cost of your children's education

Friday, 3rd August, 2018 6:14pm

COLUMN: Let's talk about the cost of your children's education

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We all want to give our children the best possible start in life and a good education is a top priority. However, the cost of putting just one child through school can easily run into tens of thousands of euro. Let’s recap on what the Barnardos School Cost Survey 2015 has revealed the true cost of educating your children in Ireland is, from their first day in primary school right through to their college graduation day. Here's the breakdown of what you can expect to spend throughout your child's school years, and these are 2015 figures so no doubt you can adjust this higher now.

Conor Martin - Tara Financial

The average cost of sending a child to primary school each year is €490, with uniforms and books the most substantial expenses. Capitation grants paid to primary and post primary schools have been reduced in recent years and parents have seen this reflected in the increased voluntary contribu-tions they are asked to pay, now €90 on average in primary schools. The total cost of 8 years' primary school education comes in at an estimated €4,000.

The cost of education gets even higher as your child moves into secondary school. The average annual cost of education for a child entering first year is €1,135. School books and transport are among the most sizeable expenses. The move to secondary school also brings a greater number of 'other' expenses such as lunch money, sports gear, school trips and class essentials like ingredients, T-Squares, musical instruments etc. If we assume that the bulk of school books will be bought in first and fifth year in the build-up to junior cert and leaving cert cycles, the total cost of 6 years' secondary school education, extra expenses excluded is estimated to be €5,500.

Whilst the average cost of sending a child to primary & secondary school may seem excessive, the expense associated with third-level education is far higher. Although your children may well be able to help out with tuition fees by undertaking some part-time work by this latter stage, an estimated minimum cost of education for children in Ireland from primary school to college graduation is €34,000. This figure would appear to be quite conservative if your children attend university in Dublin where rents are now excessively high.

Parents in Ireland know all too well that the promise of "free" education seldom comes without financial outlay in one form or another. The problem is that many parents get to grips with the costs when it's too late and end up having to fund everything out of day-to-day expenditure. Remember, the mortgage and other utility bills you have today will still have to be paid when your child starts school in September. The only difference is you will be expected to manage those household costs on top of your child's education.

The cost of education is high and increases over the years so wouldn't it make sense to plan ahead and build up your savings year-on-year? For example, if you saved the Government’s monthly Children’s Allowance amount of €140 each month for 5 years from when your child was born into a medium risk investment plan, by the time they started school you could have built up a pot of c.€9,158 (Based on an annual gross return of 3.3%). If you continued, then by the time they start secondary school then you would have built up a fund of c.€25,032. And by the time they’ve come to 3rd level education after 18 years you could have saved up c.€42,012. Typically, we find these child benefit amounts go into a very low return Credit Union or An Post account which give hardly any investment growth whatsoever. Our advice would always be to not leave it until it is too late to start saving for their education and take a little risk along the way too.

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