It is crucial for parents to part-fund their children's education needs and not compromise on their retirement goals.
It's a dilemma several middle-aged parents grapple with. Two goals - retirement and saving for children's higher education - but not enough funds to meet them.
Parents would be tempted to compromise on the former to meet the latter. But with medical costs rising exponentially, this can't be looked at as a viable solution.
This could also mean extending their work life or taking greater investment risks closer to retirement.
Here's a case study that shows how one can strike the right balance. Ajay and Varsha Sharma, aged 50 and 48 respectively, earn Rs 40 lakh annually, which is not enough to fund all of their major goals.
They have to repay their existing home loan of about Rs 40 lakh in the next five years. The couple needs Rs 4.5 crore for retirement and Rs 70 lakh in the next 10 years to fund the higher education of their two children.
The family savings work out to about Rs 15 lakh a year.
Their employment-linked retirement benefits and 1 BHK property investment is expected to fetch Rs 2.12 crore, or 45 per cent, of their retirement corpus.
This leaves them with a gap of Rs 2.48 crore, or about 55 per cent of the total corpus.
To fund the gap, the Sharma's can invest Rs 10 lakh per annum in a mix of diversified and mid-cap equity funds. Assuming annualised returns of 12 per cent, they should be able to garner Rs 2.48 crore over the next 12 years.
At the current EMI of Rs 54,000, their home loan outstanding at about Rs 40 lakh is projected to close at the end of 10 years. They aspire to accelerate the repayment and close the loan in four years.
For this, they will have to accumulate at least Rs 6.50 lakh annually via monthly contributions in recurring deposits. At the end of every year, the accumulated amount should be used to prepay the loan.
The amount of Rs 70 lakh for higher education can be mopped up by investing about Rs 4.5 lakh per annum over the next 10 years in equity-oriented balanced funds, assuming annualised returns of 10 per cent.
With the current family savings, they are looking at a deficit of about Rs 6 lakh per annum, at least for the first five years.
Part-funding children's education
The couple has decided to make a provision for up to 50 per cent of their children's higher education budget by extending the period for their accelerated home loan.
They can cut the savings rate for the repayment by 50 per cent to Rs 3.25 lakh a year, thereby extending the period for their home loan repayment to about six years. This way, their contribution for the education also comes down to about Rs 2 lakh and savings for all three goals fit within the family savings.
The additional family savings at the end of the home loan period could be used to boost retirement savings or for their children' marriages.
To accumulate the remaining 50 per cent of their education corpus, Sharma's children can fall back on scholarships. They can also meet the expenses through education loan or loan against fixed deposits:
Interest rates on these are 11-12.5 per cent, with tax benefits available under section 80E.
A good retirement corpus, in the form of investments, will enable one of the parents to stand as guarantor/co-applicant for the loan.
For loans above Rs 4 lakh, margin money, ranging between 15-20 per cent of the loan, may be required, which can be funded by the parents.
Loan against fixed deposits: Let's assume the Sharma's garner a corpus of about Rs 2.5 crore at the time of retirement, which they don't fully need immediately.
They could invest, say, Rs 25 lakh in a bank FD giving 8 per cent per annum and take an overdraft against the same for their children's education.
The rate of interest charged in case of overdraft will be 1-2 per cent higher than the FD interest rate.
Even assuming a 10 per cent rate of interest, this option works out to be cheaper than an education loan, but the interest paid will be sans tax benefits under section 80E.
The parents can make the children responsible for repaying the overdraft with their earnings.
This will enable them to get their fixed deposit back along with the accumulated interest, which can then be utilised for their retirement.
The Sharma's should avoid loans against property as the EMI would be calculated only for their balance working years, which could mean a bigger outgo per month, plus no tax benefits on the interest paid thereon.
Funding education completely
In case the Sharma's decide to fund 100 per cent of their children's education and continue with the six-year home-loan closure plan, they would need to set aside Rs 7.5 lakh per annum and work for two more years to fund their retirement corpus.
The Sharma's may have to invest more aggressively, allocating as much as 75 per cent of their savings in a mix of equity mid- and small-cap and sectoral funds, and the remaining 25 per cent in balanced funds to achieve an 18 per cent growth rate and retire within the next 12 years.
This strategy, however, may expose the Sharma's to a bigger risk of not achieving their target corpus within the available time frame if the equity market do not deliver good results.
Considering these risks, it is definitely better for them to part-fund their children's education needs and not compromise on their retirement goals.
Image: A girl surfing Internet in a classroom. Photograph: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters