You’ve probably read gloomy statistics about how most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. In our experience, people understand the importance of saving and truly want to set money aside, but with so many competing financial priorities they understandably get sidetracked.

One common mistake people make is to prioritize saving for their children’s college education ahead of their retirement needs. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, we advise clients to make retirement savings a top priority—no matter what. Even though your heart is the right place in trying to provide for your children’s education first, ultimately this path can do more harm than good to your future financial security—and theirs.

Certainly sending kids to college is a large and continually growing expense. While there is a wide range of prices, students who attend a private four-year college could expect to pay upwards of $33,000 per year in tuition and fees, the most recent College Board data shows. Out-of-state students who attend a public four-year college might expect to spend close to $25,000 in tuition and fees per year, while in-state students at the same institutions should expect to pay in the $9,600 range per year.

While we don’t want to downplay how financially overwhelming these figures can be for many families, there are options for paying for college educations: Your child opts for a public institution over private, in-state rather than out-of-state, or community college or trade school as opposed to a university. Many students choose to work part-time during school for spending money, and this income could be used towards tuition and associated costs. There are also vast resources of scholarships and financial aid programs available. It is more logical for your child to take out a student loan to pay for schooling rather than you borrowing money to fund your daily living in retirement.

When funding your retirement is not a priority, you risk becoming a financial burden to your children later in life. Consider this potential cycle that could be created: You fund your child’s college education rather than your retirement. They graduate debt free, but you do not have enough money to live on through your whole retirement. In their adult life, your children are then forced to subsidize your retirement rather than investing in their own. And the cycle continues. Remember, based on longevity projections, your retirement could last 30 years or more.

Saving money for college is certainly a worthwhile goal, but building a solid nest egg for retirement should come first. We recommend you start by contributing at least enough to your workplace retirement plan to get the maximum employer match. Preferably, you should contribute up to the maximum annual allowance. For self-employed individuals, there are several retirement plan options you can choose from, and ideally, you should contribute the maximum allowed each year.

At Anderson Retirement Solutions, we understand how hard it is to balance all of your competing financial demands, and we want to provide assistance in any way we can. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 888.473.6931 if you’d like to discuss these important issues.