College is an important steppingstone for your child that will help to prepare him or her for a successful and lucrative career.
As all parents are painfully aware, college isn’t cheap, and you can never save too soon or too aggressively for this part of life.
Use these tactics to make sure your kids have the money they need when it comes time to pursue higher education.
Begin the Savings as Early as Possible
This may seem like common sense, but if you catch on to this idea early enough, it could buy you a lot more time to save. You don’t need to have children to begin saving some money for the future education of your family.
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If you plan to have children in the future, begin a special fund with your spouse as soon as you get married, or start a savings account on your own as you enter adulthood and consider it the future generation’s fund.
Learn to Let Your College Funds Evolve
In the early years, stocks are the best choice for your fledgling college fund. Invest heavily in these while your future college grad is still young. As they grow, gradually switch the fund to bonds and cash investments.
This creates a safer portfolio. At all stages, make sure your total portfolio is diverse. If all this sounds like a little too much work, opt for a mutual fund where you’ll have a professional in charge of the minutia.
The financial landscape is continually changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date. Turn to quality sources like the books published by Fisher Investments Press or one of the various respected financial magazines for regular updates on the latest news. Educating yourself about the world of finance will help you make the best decisions possible about your investments.
Don’t Plan for Savings to Cover It
You don’t have to rely solely on savings for your child’s college. If you’re trying to fund your son or daughter’s college education with your savings account alone, you’ll feel like throwing in the towel and compromising for a second-choice college. A better way to fund your child’s schooling is to split the cost between several sources.
Plan to divide the cost between student loans, money from your salary, and your college savings fund. This is a more realistic plan that opens up more possibilities.
Get Your Child Involved in the Process
Encourage your child to help fund his own college savings. As soon as they start working, ask them to put part of their earnings into their college fund. If your child has their eye on a particularly expensive school, encourage them to put all of their earnings into the fund to help turn the dream into a reality.
You can also get your child involved by having them put aside money they receive from relatives for occasions like birthdays and holidays. Set up a savings account for them early so they can watch this fund grow.
You can also encourage contributions to the college fund by offering to match them yourself. If your child earns money from chores like mowing the lawn, give them the choice of making $10 cash or having $20 added to the college fund. If the kids set up a lemonade stand, encourage them to let their buyers know the money is going to a college fund. Then match what they earned yourself for a nice satisfying sum.
Find Creative Ways to Fund College Savings
While most people focus on stocks, bonds, and 529s when they’re talking about funding college, you also have to think about where you’ll get the money for these.
Get creative. Have Dad empty all of his silver change into a special jar at the end of the day and add the change to your college savings account once a year. Whenever you eat out or splurge on a gourmet morning coffee, match the amount that you spent with a contribution to the college fund.
Spend to Save with the Right Credit Cards
Some credit cards offer college-centered rewards programs. The Fidelity 529 College Rewards American Express card will give 2 percent back on your purchases to your Fidelity 529 account.
Programs like this allow you to make money in truly unexpected ways. You’ll accumulate a significant amount of savings simply by spending as you usually do. Make your everyday habits work for you with this kind of savings tactic.
With these smart strategies, your child can graduate high school with lots of options for their future education and career path.
This post was contributed by guest author Amanda Brown.
Image via Flickr by Andrea Travillian