Automatic Contributions: The Smart Way to Start Saving
Of the many expenses associated with having a child, saving for their college education is a huge undertaking. Whether you’ve committed to paying their way entirely or helping out in some capacity, ideally, saving for college is something parents should have started as soon as their kid was born. Whether you’ve done that or not, here are some ways to save for your kid to go to college:
Set Up a 529 Plan
This can be done before your child is born. A 529 plan is a college savings plan set up by each state. You don’t have to invest in a plan in your state, but can pick one from any state.
Money in a 529 college savings plan can be used to pay for costs at any qualified college nationwide. Like a Roth IRA, 529 contributions are post-tax and aren’t deductible from federal income taxes. Most states, however, offer state income tax deductions or tax credits for 529 plan contributions, though you may have to invest in your home state’s 529 plan to claim the benefit.
Another bonus of 529 plans is that friends and family can easily contribute money to it. It’s a smart way to avoid birthday presents that will last less than a year.
Put Yourself First
Don’t start with the idea that you have to fund all of your child’s college education. Graduating without debt is a good goal, but don’t think that your child doesn’t have to take out a loan, or that you have to delay your retirement so you can fund a college education.
Put your retirement savings ahead of your children’s college. You can do both, but you don’t want to be retired and low on funds while your child graduates without debt.
Start Small and Automatic
Saving for college is an intimidating goal, and one that your children should help contribute to. If time is short and they’re graduating from high school soon, save what you can to cover their books or part of tuition when they get to college. At the very least, they won’t have to borrow as much as they would have without your help.
However much money you plan to put away, make it easy by setting up an automatic deposit from your paycheck or checking account. You probably won’t notice the money leaving your account and automation will make it easier to save more.