How to pass the fees test
Money Magazine Australia|October 2020
How to pass the fees test
Cost isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing a school, but it pays to plan well ahead to ease the financial burden
DARREN SNYDER

Research tells us that putting your child through primary and high school can cost anywhere between $47,000 (government school in regional and remote Australia) and $420,000 (private school in a major city). It’s often regarded as the second largest financial decision you’re likely to make outside buying the family home, especially if you have multiple kids.

However, the same research also tells us cost isn’t the highest priority when people select a school. From a 2020 survey of more than 1800 members, education bond provider Futurity Investment Group says parents and carers prefer to consider a school’s performance, reputation and location over cost.

Vince Scully, financial adviser and founder at Life Sherpa, says whether a school is financially workable in the long term isn’t the most important consideration for parents. He says we will often make large sacrifices in budgets to provide a great education for our children.

If you’re considering sending your child to one of the top 100 schools in the country from kindergarten onwards, Scully says you’ll have to start saving about $1500 every month from your child’s birth up to the time they finish Year 12.

This is at the upper end of school fees, though. If there’s a desire to send your child to a private school and you know you won’t be able to afford it from day one of school age, there are workarounds. For example, you can build your savings and investments while the child is at a government school from kindergarten to Year 6, and then consider moving across to a private school from Year 7.

When it comes to assessing government school costs, Scully says they’ll vary from suburb to suburb. A smart move is to see whether you can afford to buy or rent a home in or near the area of the school where you’d like your children to go. This gives one indication of what people are spending day to day and whether school fees will be achievable alongside your lifestyle.

Invest for the future

There are several ways to manage your money when saving or investing to pay school fees. Common solutions include using your mortgage offset; an investment or education bond; a shares portfolio; a term deposit; and school budgeting and payment platforms.

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October 2020