(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK Dec 19 Just how much would you give up
for your children to go to their dream schools?
For Seattle's Al Sanders, the answer was his precious stash
of 5,000 comics starring everyone from the Avengers to Iron Man
to the Fantastic Four. He had been collecting them ever since
the eighth grade.
It was a tough decision for the lifelong comic fan, but the
four-figure proceeds helped with his daughter's first year at
Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
It may not be someone's first choice to say goodbye to
prized personal possessions, but sometimes it may be a parent's
Average tuition and fees at private four-year colleges are
now $32,405 a year, according to the College Board, the
standardized testing giant. Even charges for in-state students
at public colleges are not exactly cheap at $9,410 annually.
Most families have not put enough money into accounts like
529 savings plans, which allow dedicated college funds to grow
tax-free. In fact, 72 percent of Americans have not even heard
of them, according to a survey by financial services firm Edward
That leads students and parents to search for other ways to
fund Junior's education. That might mean securing scholarships
or grants, which cover an average of 34 percent of the tab,
according to student-loan lender Sallie Mae's "How
America Pays For College 2016" report. It might also mean
borrowing, which covers another 20 percent of the bill.
And it might mean tapping your existing assets, even
"We have seen clients sell everything from Persian rugs to
gun collections to classic cars, in an effort to fund their
children's or grandchildren's college," said James Gambaccini,
managing partner at Acorn Financial Services in Reston,
One client liquidated a gun collection worth about $120,000.
Deploying non-traditional assets can be a wiser choice than
some of the other things cash-strapped parents do, like raiding
their own retirement savings or racking up high-interest debt.
"Regardless of income or wealth, parents will often make big
sacrifices just to give their kids a shot at attending a dream
school," said Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of the book "College
Secrets: How to Save Money, Cut College Costs and Graduate Debt
Consider this option with care, though. Money itself is a
highly emotional subject, and when you throw cherished
collections into the mix, there are combustible possibilities at
Some pointers to help navigate through this minefield:
* Take emotions into account
A personal collection usually means quite a bit to one
marital partner and very little to the other, Gambaccini said.
So avoid thinking of it coldly as an "asset" to be cashed out
and recognize it as something built with love over decades.
If the collector is not ready to part with the goods, do not
force the issue, lest you create resentment that could linger
* Evaluate the enjoyment factor
Over the years, people's lives and interests change, so a
collection that used to be meaningful might not be so anymore.
When one of Gambaccini's clients realized his old '67
Mustang Shelby convertible was just collecting dust in a garage,
he sold it and put the $90,000 toward college costs.
* Consider the tax implications
You may not think of personal collectibles as taxable, but
from the perspective of Uncle Sam, they most certainly are. If
there is appreciation while in your possession, there could be a
capital gains tax of 28 percent when sold, Khalfani-Cox said.
To learn more, check with the IRS (here).
* Let it go
There is no upside to rueful reminiscence. So do not keep
checking what your collection would be worth if you had held
"Every now and then, a client will make a comment like
that," Gambaccini said. "Usually about a motorcycle or car."
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Lisa Von Ahn)