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Saving for College

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Speaking for emotionally repressed men across the country, there is nothing that evokes more pure feeling than having a child. The second he (or she) enters the world, anything is possible for that amazing, snot-nosed baby. You miraculously forget the fact that all your and your lunatic relatives’ shortcomings are sure to be passed down to this poor, unfortunate soul.

Like all new parents, one of the first things I thought about when my first child was born was, “How the hell am I going to pay for college?” With thoughts of Harvard and Yale dancing in my head, I set about establishing a college fund for my obviously brilliant offspring. After all, if my son were going to be the first Pope/President, he was going to need a first-class education.

At the time, there weren’t a lot of college funding options available, so I set up a simple custodial account for my son. But this type of account has a major downfall. As my broker so delicately put it, “When your kid becomes of legal age, the money is his. He can piss it away anyway he wants.” Well, I wasn’t worried about any of that because, after all, I was going to have the kind of relationship with my kid where he actually listened and obeyed.

Stupidity has a way of growing on you. I soon realized that the notion of my son being the first ever Pope/President was just as big a fantasy as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny — only it came without the great gifts and tasty Peeps.

The stark reality hit me when His Excellency was about three years old. While he had been struggling with his Latin and Euclidian Geometry play dates, I still thought he was on track for Vatican City. That all changed on a snowy Saturday afternoon at a Friendly’s restaurant in Syosset, New York. It was December 1994. Who knew the ramifications of a seemingly innocent lunch attended by two three-year old cousins and one na?ve parent?

While I was picking up the tab for Mr. President and his cousin, I happened to glance in the direction of the exit door to see my two rugrats hustling in that direction. They looked at me, giggled, and then bolted out the door hand-in-hand and heading for a very busy Jericho Turnpike. Panic took residence as a lump in my throat. I knew I had to hurry. The future of the United Sates and the Catholic Church depended on it. To this day, I can still vividly remember thinking, “Damn it . . . Why doesn’t this cashier just hurry up and give me my change!”

No parent should ever have to witness what I did on that cold afternoon. It all happened so fast. When I finally caught up to them, I was stunned. There was my son, the future leader of the free world, britches down in a full squat not 10 feet from one of Long Island’s busiest roads. As cars whisked by — honking their support — I just stood there. “Wake up, Bill,” I told myself. “You’d better dial back your expectations for your son and his high-fiber diet.”

As the years passed, I finally let go of the Pope/President fantasy. My broker’s words of caution — “He can piss it away anyway he wants” — now haunt me. As the possibility of college begins to dawn for the former future Pope/President, he’s beginning to ask questions about his college fund. I’m reluctant to show him his account for fear he’ll want to head straight to Vegas for the World Series of Poker.

I’ve still got a few more years to stall him. In the meantime, I’m going to hope for the best. Who knows, maybe the college account will actually be spent on college. One thing I’m sure it won’t be spent on — a lunch for three at Friendly’s.

Once a mildly amusing comedian and a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer, Bill Miller now works as an industry wholesaler; reach him at [email protected]