For many of us, the arrival of September represents a few different things: the end of summer and beginning of autumn, the arrival of cooler weather, and weekends spent watching NFL and college football. But speaking of college… Did you know that September is also designated as College Savings Month?
During College Savings Month, financial and educational institutions across the country work to educate about the benefits of starting to save for college early, and tips to maximize those savings. Of course, saving for college is important all year, but taking the month of September to focus on your strategy can help make it feel more manageable in the long run.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of college savings plans, how they work, and tips for saving for college.
We all want the best for our kids and their futures. And one of the best ways to set them up for success is to ensure they have access to education.
But education, as we know, comes at a cost. According to CollegeData.com, the average cost of college attendance during the 2021-2022 school year was:
Now, multiply any of those dollar amounts by the typical four years it takes to graduate… and those costs quickly add up. And what if you have more than one child? It can be daunting to think about the true cost of college.
But just like with anything else, starting to save early -- and with the right type of account -- can help you maximize those savings for when the time comes for you to drop your baby off at their new dorm room.
When it comes to saving for your child’s college expenses, what kind of account should you use? How can you get the best return on your investment?
The truth is that there are many different types of accounts that people use. Some of the most commonly used accounts are 529 College Savings Accounts, Coverdell accounts, custodial accounts, traditional savings accounts, and even Roth IRAs.
While each type of account has its advantages and disadvantages, a 529 College Savings Account is often the best choice for most families. 529 College Savings Accounts are often called 529 accounts or 529 plans.
A 529 account is a type of investment account designed for college savings. As you invest in the account, the money has the potential to grow far beyond your initial contributions.
529 accounts vary state-by-state, but most plans share the same types of benefits that make them favorable for parents looking toward their child’s future. First of all, 529 plans are tax-advantaged. This means you contribute with after-tax funds, and when you make a qualified withdrawal, you won’t pay any taxes on the gains.
A qualified withdrawal, by the way, means any expense that is directly related to higher education, such as tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and more.
Another huge advantage of a 529 plan is that the beneficiary can be changed. So, let’s say you have more than one child. If you were to have a large age gap between your children and not use all the funds for your older child, or the older child decides not to pursue higher education, you can use the account for your younger child. However, in many cases it may make more sense to have a 529 account for each child.
And keep in mind that funds in a 529 account are not limited to just college education. If your child decides to attend a trade school -- also known as a technical school or vocational school -- a 529 plan will also cover eligible expenses.
While 529 plans offer these benefits and more, there are also potential disadvantages based on your individual needs and goals. SavingForCollege.com offers a full list of pros and cons for parents looking to save for their child’s future.
College is expensive, and thinking about saving that much money can be intimidating. Remember that by making smaller investments in the account over time, your funds will have the potential to grow by the time your child is old enough to attend college.
The best time to start saving for your child’s education is right now. If you haven’t started yet, start today. In fact, you can even open a 529 account for your child before they’re born! This means you’ll have even more time for your investment to grow.*
And as the parent, you aren’t the only one who can contribute to your child’s 529 account. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even friends can contribute -- so if you’re having a baby shower, consider making “college contribution” an item on your registry for friends and family members who are eager to give your baby a warm welcome to the world. These types of gifts have become more common in recent years.
Ultimately though, most of the savings work falls on the parents. But just like saving for your emergency fund, saving a little bit each month can go a long way. If you automate monthly contributions to the account, you’ll never have to think about it -- and you likely won’t even miss those funds since they’re immediately moving to the college savings account.
Whether you’re welcoming a little one and looking toward their future, or your “little one” is navigating life as a college student, Academy Bank is here with financial solutions for the whole family. We’re here for you.
*The value of a 529 account may vary depending on market conditions and investment performance. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.