As parents, we all think about it.
We all promise to get to it.
But why does it seem like every year something else comes up, and setting up that college fund ends up on the back burner again?
Let’s face it – none of us are getting any younger and that includes our kids. Soon, they’ll be graduating high school and heading off to college or university.
So before they get any older check out these four tips offered by Beth, one of the excellent Financial Counselors with Foresters Everyday Money, designed to help parents overcome procrastination and get that college account going:
1. Start with what you can afford – even if it’s not “enough”
Many parents are simply overwhelmed by the amount of money they figure they’ll have to set aside in order to pay for their child’s education. There are also other parents who have no idea how much is “enough.” Both of these scenarios can result in a “why bother” attitude that keeps even a modest college account from becoming a reality.
The truth is the most important step is getting the account started with just some amount, any amount of money on a monthly basis.
Who cares if you’ve calculated that you’ll have to save $250 a month to cover your child’s higher education expenses and you know you can only afford to save $50? Wouldn’t saving that $50 still get you closer to the goal?
Tip: $50 a month may grow to almost $20,000 after 15 years1 which is sure to help, isn’t it?
2. Go with what you know – For now anyway
There are a lot of different types of accounts you can use to save for college: a 529 or a Coverdell ESA to name just two.
However, if you’re not familiar with these options and don’t want to commit right now, you can always start with a plain old savings account to get things moving. No, it won’t be tax free or pay an admirable rate of return, but it gets you started and will be easy to set up.
Then, as you learn more about investment options, you can always consider moving the funds to an account more in line with your goals.
3. Use “found money” to boost savings when you can
Did you just get a tax refund? Why not throw $500 of it into your kid’s college fund in addition to your usual monthly contribution?
You can also do this with bonuses, old savings bonds that are gathering dust, or even yard sale profits (talk about teaching entrepreneurship while de-cluttering!)
What makes this strategy so effective is that most of these funds are what we call “found money” and generally aren’t dedicated to items in your everyday budget, so using it for important goals like college accounts shouldn’t impact your ability to pay your bills this month.
4. Use the power of scholarships and financial aid
Good news! You may not be the only one footing the bill for your child’s college expenses!
Federal and state grants may be an option for you. In addition, private colleges often have foundations that contribute scholarships and financial aid to help students pay their $33,480 average annual price tag2.
There are also community organization scholarships such as the Foresters Scholarship Program3.
Our advice: Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for certain scholarships – apply! That means completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and having your child seek out scholarship opportunities during the last two years of high school. Many students do find at least one type of financial aid to help with their college costs.
While it’s fresh in your mind, take advantage of these easy first steps and open an account today. Then put $50 in it. Your future self will thank you!
Read more from our Procrastination Solutions series:
1Bankrate.com investment calculator assuming 9% ROR, compounded monthly for 15 years
2Source: Collegedata.com, private college tuition & fees 2016-2017.
3 For more on the Foresters Scholarship Program, visit foresters.com
415049 US (04/17)