How to pay for your children’s college free of stress and debt
College tuition is rising steadily. The price of a four-year public university has risen 2.3 percent (1.6 percent for private college), and that is on top of inflation, according to the College Board‡. Those increases reflect the average of the last 20 years and include tuition, fees, room and board.
Sound intimidating? Good news, these numbers don’t have to be daunting for parents. Having a plan to properly fund these goals is half the battle, and definitely decreases anxiety. Here are some tips as you begin savings for your child’s higher education:
- Know the numbers – If only we had a crystal ball to predict exactly what tuition will cost when your child gets to college. We do, however, have tools that can forecast costs and assist in planning. Talk with your financial advisor—he or she will be able to help you estimate and plan for these expenses.
- Determine how much to fund – Once you have an expected figure, talk about how much you want to fund. There are differing viewpoints on what percentage parents and children should each contribute to education through scholarships, loans and tuition payments, so discuss this with your family and then set goals based on what everyone feels is appropriate.
- Establish investing timetable – The next step is to put your financial goal in writing and begin weighing options on how to achieve the desired savings. Designating monthly or annual contributions to your preferred education savings vehicles is a great way to start. However, you should feel comfortable adjusting these over time on an as-needed basis. Don’t become discouraged if projected savings do not align exactly with the end goal. The most important thing is to consistently save something to ensure the funds continue to grow.
- Evaluate options – There are a variety of college savings vehicles available, including 529 Plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Your financial advisor can make recommendations that are in line with your strategic plan.
- Communicate the strategy – When the time is right, start the conversation with your children about their educational paths. Talk about the financial support you plan to provide, and where you expect them to share responsibility. This will help your children begin establishing their own goals and promote accountability for educational expenses as well.
Saving for your children’s college expenses can seem like an overwhelming task, but it is much easier to manage with the right planning and support. Consider these tips and talk with your advisor—those college enrollment packages will arrive before you know it!
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