Saving for Your Child’s College Educaton

August 9, 2010

By Joe Buhrmann

Have you ever taken a trip and found yourself in the wrong vehicle for the job? The wrong car can leave you cramped, uncomfortable and unable to hold all your gear. The right car can make the trip a lot more enjoyable.

At our house, we’ve been on a 17-year journey. My oldest daughter will be off to college in another year, and her younger sister is just two years behind her. It’s been a long trip, but I know when the bills start coming, we’ll have the right vehicle to help us fund their dreams.

Check Your Shock Absorbers

Be prepared for sticker shock, as college costs have continued to soar. According to the 2009 Trends in Higher Education report, published by The College Board, the average annual cost for tuition, fees, room and board is more than $15,000 a year for those attending a four-year, in-state public university and more than $36,000 a year for those attending a private college. Add that up and you’re approaching $100,000 or even $200,000 for a college education. Now, you might be wondering, what’s the best solution to help navigate this obstacle?

Possible Vehicles

There are several ways to accumulate funds for those looming college bills. Here are a few to test drive:

• 529 Savings Plans. This savings vehicle is a state-sponsored plan that can be opened for children or adults. Almost anyone can make contributions.

• Coverdell Education Savings Account. These accounts are funded with after-tax contributions for a child. A maximum of $2,000 can be contributed annually to each child.

• Roth IRA. You or your child can open a Roth IRA and withdraw contributions for education purposes. Earnings used for education expenses will be taxed if withdrawn before age 59 1/2.

• UGMA/UTMA. Under the Uniform Gifts/Transfers to Minor Act, cash, real estate, mutual funds, stocks, bonds and precious metals can be used to fund the education of a minor.

Did Anyone Get Directions?

While it’s certainly important to have the right vehicle for the job, it’s equally important that you have a road map for getting safely to your destination. Set specific goals, begin saving to meet those goals and check in periodically to ensure you’re making the desired progress.

GPS units have become indispensable. People who reach their goals rarely go it alone. A trusted advisor can help provide you with turn-by-turn navigation and a tangible plan to help make sure you arrive at your college destination.

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