It’s Never Too Early to Begin Saving for College

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FamilyMint believes in the importance of forming the right financial behaviors in kids, and they strive to teach the importance of saving, setting, and achieving goals. Your children may be toddlers, preschoolers, or only in their elementary years, but it’s never too early to begin saving for their college. Parents should be proactive when it comes to saving, setting, and achieving goals regarding their children’s college education.

College is still a good investment in your child’s future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “people with four-year degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with high school diplomas.” Fortunately, there are many resources available to guide parents along the path of saving for college.

The cost of your child’s college tuition will depend greatly on what type of school they will attend and when they will begin college. According to BabyCenter.com, “private colleges and universities are two to four times more expensive than state schools.” While it’s conceivable that college costs will rise over the years, remember that your income will likely increase as well. Parents can get an estimate of college fees for their child by using BabyCenter.com’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator .

Keep in mind that financial aid is available for most students. According to BabyCenter.com, “about 83 percent of students in private schools and 68 percent in public schools receive some type of financial aid.” MoneyCNN.com provides information about federal student loans available to consumers including specifics about  Perkins Loans, Subsidized Direct Stafford Loans, and Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans. The first step in obtaining a federal student loan is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Parents may also want to consider opening a 529 college savings plan for their children. A 529 college savings plan is an investment account that allows you to set aside money for your child’s education and let it grow tax-free. According to HowStuffWorks.com, “a 529 college savings plan is a very simple way to save money for your kids' (or anyone else’s) college education.” Here are some of the benefits listed on their website:

  • You can start an account with as little as $25.
  • You pay no federal taxes on the account’s earnings, and there may be state tax benefits as well.
  • The child doesn’t have control of or access to the account -- you do.
  • If the child doesn’t want to go to college, you can roll the account over to another family member.
  • Anyone can contribute to the account.
  • There are no income limitations that might make you ineligible for an account.
  • Most states have no age limit for when the money has to be used.
  • You can use the money in a 529 plan at any accredited college or university in the country.

For more information see Saving for College: 529 plans.

Other popular ways to save for college include Prepaid Tuition Plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA), Custodial Accounts, and IRA and Roth IRA Accounts.

Another great online tool to help families save for college is TheGiftofEducation.com, a gift registry for educational funds. Parents can open a free account, create a profile for their child, and then invite family and friends to contribute.

Additional websites that can provide parents with information about saving for their child's education include:

Regardless of the path you take towards saving for your child’s college education, remember it’s never too early to begin the process. It just takes being proactive and diligently working towards the goal in small and manageable steps.