When you brought your bundle of joy back from the hospital, you said that you’d sacrifice anything to give her (or him) all the advantages in life that you could. And while not everyone will or should go to college, post high school training in one form or another is the key to gaining the skills for a good career.
Whether that is part of a union-based apprentice program, a certificate program in a trade or technology career, or the traditional four-year (plus) academic program in a university, training gives your child a heads-up against the competition.
Getting this training takes time and money…sometimes a lot of money. That is on top of everything else you are trying to do with your income. Here are some steps to get you there:
ONE: Determine how much help you are going to give. There is no right answer to this. You might pay for everything, including room and board through graduate school. You might pay for the first two years at a community college and expect them to live at home. Your answer could even be that they pay for their own college. That’s fine. But start deciding now so that you can prepare both your kid and your wallet.
TWO: Determine the costs. Call some colleges of choice and talk to a counselor to learn of all the costs. Don’t forget to account for inflation (it’s been 6-7% for the last couple of decades). Then figure how much you’ll need to save each month. For help you can go to SavingForCollege.com and use their Tools & Calculators section.
THREE: Fit the resulting monthly savings figure in your budget. If it doesn’t fit, do not just say “we’ll figure out something later.” Figure it out now. You can reduce spending elsewhere, reduce your college funding plans, or do a bit of both.
FOUR: Start saving. Whether you open up a 529 Plan account, Coverdell Education Savings Account, or something else is a discussion for another day. But start putting the money somewhere. If you don’t, your plans are just plans…kinda useless without action.
FIVE: Don’t fall in the trap of assuming your child will get a scholarship due to being smart or athletic. Don’t assume the government is going to come to your rescue. Don’t assume that rich uncle will come through for you.
Any of those might happen and it would be great. But all of those are out of your control and might not happen. So make your own plans, save your own money, and then if the college, government, or uncle helps pay, then you can either cover more expenses than you were planning or shift those resources to other goals that you have.
I’m counting on you. After all, your kids are the ones who will be running this world when I’m retired.
Gary Silverman, CFP® is the owner of Personal Money Planning, a financial planning and investment management firm located in Wichita Falls. You may e-mail him at Gary@PersonalMoneyPlanning.com