The cost of going to college has soared in the last 25 years. For kids who who need financial help, loans are the first, and often last, resort to pay for an education. So if you have kids or grandkids or are the legal guardian of some college bound children, here are a few tips that may help ease the burden.There are several things to consider when planning to fund your kids' education.
1. How much of the cost do you want? Some parents want to pay the full cost of tuition, while others say they want their children to at least pay some portion. I've had clients tell me they refuse to pay any of the costs.
2. No one has a crystal ball. I've heard parents say things like "My kid will get a football scholarship" or "She's going to Harvard". Mind you, the child is barely walking. It's great to have hopes and dreams for your child, but be realistic.
3. 529 plans are great, but have drawbacks. For instance, when applying for financial aid or a scholarship, you have to disclose any and all college savings plans. If your 529 is loaded, it could keep you from getting that scholarship. Also, if your child doesn't go to school, you can transfer the funds to another child, but if used for something other than education expenses, expect a tax penalty on those monies. Finally, remember that those funds are typically invested in the stock market. If your child is ready to go off to school and the market drops, that when you'll remember the...
4. Two-bucket approach. Some folks will partially fund a 529 plan and then have a second "bucket" of money, usually an overfunded cash value life insurance policy (see the next entry). If the market drops, you can use the life insurance cash value to pay for a year or so of college until the market rebounds. If you die, the death benefit can be used for college funding as well. Also, you don't have to disclose life insurance when applying for financial aid.
6. Roth IRA. Did you know that you can withdraw money from your Roth IRA for education costs without a tax penalty? And if your kids don't go to school, you can use that money for your retirement.
In this economic environment we are experiencing currently budgets are tight. For those who are fortunate enough to have a little bit extra each month it can be tough to decide where to allocate it. Most of us who are "forward thinkers" are trying to plan for several things at once, like our kids' educations, retirement planning and more enjoyable things too, like that once in a lifetime vacation.
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog!