College finance: Teach your (grand)children well

I'm likely a few years off from grandparenthood, but I can't stop fretting over the downturn's lasting impact on college financing. One primary financing vehicle (piggybank, if you will) -- home equity loans and lines of credit -- ain't what they were mere months ago, as falling home values and rising rates braid a tight, Gordian knot.

There's more to it than money. For me, it's about legacy, too: the mark we leave behind on those we love, those we know and even on the bigger world out there. You start to ponder legacy more when you leave work, and think about what's next.

Grandparents are increasingly helping out with college financing. If tighter credit or other factors makes that harder to do, there may well be a perceived "legacy effect" -- a feeling that if I'm less able to help, I've somehow failed those I'm leaving behind.