It’s a fact: college is expensive unless you are lucky to be accepted into a free college. All it takes is a quick look at the staggering student debt numbers in the United States to understand the scope of how pricey it can be. However, we also know the impact a college education can have on an individual’s success, both career-wise and on a more personal level.
We all want the best for our children and to open as many doors for achievement as possible for them. Because of this, providing the opportunity for a college education is such an important gift that all parents need to consider and plan for early on.
Starting with Helpful Tools
The first thing you’ll want to do is define your college savings goal based on how much you are able to contribute and how much you hope to have by the time your child leaves for college. This goal will help you structure a plan between opening the college savings account and the very first tuition payment. Online tools are available to help parents better understand how contributions today can grow over time and make a huge dent in college expenses down the road. Even smaller contributions or a low initial deposit have strong potential to yield substantial gains.
A college savings calculator can help you decide how much you’ll need to deposit monthly to reach a certain amount. For example, if your goal is to save $50,000 over the next 18 years, an online college savings calculator will break down how much you should be depositing each month, based on a specific initial deposit and interest amount. This will give you an idea of what numbers you’ll need to hit in order to reach your college savings goal. College Savings Trust, by Prime Trust, has a terrific online college savings calculator where you can simply plug in your numbers and it will break down your estimated growth trajectory in an easy-to-read graph. Tools like this should definitely be utilized when developing a sound savings plan.
Choosing a College Savings Account
Setting up a secure college savings account is the most important step in reaching your goal. The type of account you choose will define how much you are able to save, how much control you’ll have over the funds, how you are able to spend your savings, your child’s ability to receive financial aid, and so many other critical factors. Parents need to do research on the different types of college savings accounts on the market and decide which one fits their plan best. Because many college savings accounts are limited in terms of what costs the funds will cover, such as 529 plans, it’s also important to understand the different expenses associated with a college education.
A College Savings Trust is one of the only accounts that offers the flexibility to cover a wide range of college expenses without additional taxes or penalties. Many parents are also attracted to this specific college savings account because there is no limit on contributions towards the account and it has no effect on financial aid eligibility. A College Saving Trust can easily be opened online in just five minutes with an initial deposit as low as $25. These are all factors parents should consider when deciding which college savings account to open.
Once the college savings account is opened and an initial deposit is made, it’s time to put your plan into action. Using the college savings calculator, you should already know exactly how much you should be contributing. The easiest way to do this consistently and without having to remember each month is to schedule a regular deposit into the college savings account. Most college savings accounts allow you to do this from your personal checking or savings account, or even directly from your paycheck in some cases. The less you have to think about it, the easier it will be for you to stay consistent and stick to the plan.
Another avenue you should explore is inviting your friends and family to make gift contributions towards your child’s college savings account. It’s a great way to boost the total amount saved, as well as offer an opportunity for loved ones to give a lasting, valuable gift. College Savings Trust had this in mind when developing their online college savings tools. They allow a secure link to be sent via email to family or friends so they can make online deposits directly to the account in just a matter of minutes.
Adjusting Your Goals
Remember, just because you developed a college savings goal doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. You have the ability to modify your plan accordingly to make the most of your financial situation. There may be opportunities along the way to make larger additional deposits or increase scheduled contributions, ultimately growing the college savings account quicker than originally anticipated. You’ll want to re-evaluate your contributions to make sure you’re giving as much as you can to avoid paying for college expenses out of pocket when they’re due.
If you received a raise at work, inherited funds from a family member, or expect to sell a substantial asset for cash, it would be in your best interest to invest some or all of that into your child’s college savings account. Tuition costs and other college expenses are constantly rising and these additional contributions will help keep you one step ahead of those increasing numbers.
When setting a savings goal for your child’s college education, careful planning and choosing the right college savings account will deliver the tools, structure, and manageability to achieve that goal. College Savings Trust is an easy, flexible and secure way to save for your child’s college education, designed by experienced trust professionals and technology experts with convenience and innovation in mind.