January 2, 2009

Saving for College

Studying for last law school exam
Creative Commons License photo credit: John Althouse Cohen

Paramount in the minds of all parents who want their children to receive a college education is how to save for this eventuality. While some open CD accounts from their child’s birth, others invest in stocks or bonds; and still others haven’t even begun to figure out how to manage the cost.

College tuition today is exorbitant – not to mention the cost of books and other necessities associated with educating our youth today. The good news is that most college students can apply for loans and seek Federal assistance, with the understanding the loans have to be paid back within a certain timeframe. In addition, college scholarships can make all the difference in alleviating the cost.

To keep college costs at a minimum, your child may have to attend a local college in your state. In this way, the cost to board would not be a consideration, and the savings derived would make education within your family budget.

However, if your child has his or her heart set on attending a specific college out of state, the cost will be considerable. One of the ways you can save for this eventuality is by setting up a college fund for your child from birth. Perhaps you can invest your tax refunds and put away as much as you can afford. If you balk at the risk of investing in the stock market, perhaps a high yield CD account is more palatable to you.

According to one source, www.howstuffworks.com, you can invest by utilizing an education IRA known as Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. It is explained in this way: “ESAs were improved significantly in 2002 because Congress increased the annual contribution limit from $500 to $2,000. Like 529 plans, ESA earnings are tax-free when used for education expenses, and they are considered the parents’ asset so they don’t adversely affect financial aid eligibility. They do have some advantages over 529 plans, including more control over your investments and the ability to use the money for private elementary or secondary school expenses.

Their disadvantages are the limitations on parents’ income. For single tax payers, the eligibility phases out for incomes between $95,000 and $110,000. For married taxpayers filing jointly, eligibility phases out between $190,000 and $220,000. Another disadvantage is that the funds have to be used for education by the time the beneficiary turns 30. Like the 529, there is a 10-percent penalty if the money is used for anything other than education expenses.”

Recommended Resource: The Mom’s Talk Guide to Family Budgeting

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Alexis Rodrigo