Parental funds or borrowing "provide the time, money and proximity (i.e., living on or near campus) necessary to delve deeply into college peer cultures," Hamilton notes. Student loans and parental funding provide the gift of time, but it isn't usually poured into studies.

Instead, students tend to focus that extra time on their social life. The average college student getting money from loans or parents spends less time on studies in college than in high school. Even though they spend about 28 hours a week attending class and studying, the research finds they devote a full 41 hours a week to social and recreational endeavors.

Put more succinctly, students who have to work to pay their way through college spend slightly more time studying and significantly less time partying.

The net result in this is a big personal and societal lose-lose. Those of you who sacrificed your retirement to help your children through college have potentially harmed your children and yourselves. Your kids probably did worse in college, thus getting lower-paying jobs.

This loss of potential income has downsides for children and parents, who in old age will end up turning to their kids. Previous research shows that parents with under-funded retirement savings will cost their children five times as much as the kids would have spent by funding their own college education.

Understandably, a few of you are now choking on your last sip of coffee as you read the last paragraph. This is not at all the outcome you intended.

The evidence is clear. Parents who take care of fully funding their own retirement instead of sacrificing to pay for their kids' education are not being selfish. Instead, they give their children something far more valuable than the cost of tuition: the gift of success and achievement.

-- By Rick Kahler, CFP and president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D.

AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisors that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisors have no regulatory infractions.

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AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisors that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisors have no regulatory infractions.