Best Ways to Save for College

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Best Ways to Save for College

Over the last few decades, college expenses in the US have risen steeply. Parents can’t ignore college without major financial and job implications for their offspring, despite rising prices. USA Today estimates that college graduates out-earn over 50 per cent of high school graduates. Nobody expects their children saddled with a crushing amount of college loans to start their adult lives. But it is also important that adults keep their accounts clear of debt and have made plans for their future first.

It’s crucial you’ve already done the following before you can start planning for your children’s college fund. Payment of any loans ( like your credit card debt, your own student loan debt, etc.). Establish an emergency fund with an investment of 3 to 6 months to cover any unforeseen expenses. Through your employer-sponsored retirement plan, put 15% of your income into retirement accounts, like a 401(k) and/or a Roth IRA.

Including parents, students themselves can also plan to save for their college with or without the help of elders. There are various ways through which one can carry on with one’s student life while being an active participant in saving up for college. The best ways to save for college being an adult or a student will be covered in this article, helping you to frame out ideas and ways to manage your finances in the process for the future.

Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) Or Education Ira

In 2002, the Coverdell Education Savings Account was dubbed the Education IRA. These accounts operate very much like a 529 plan, allowing increases in tax-free savings and tax-free withdrawals as the funds are spent on eligible college expenses. However, in addition to college costs, by using a Coverdell ESA, some K-12 transactions are also deemed eligible. An ESA allows you, per child, to save $2,000 (after tax) per year.

Plus, it’s tax-free. You can only spend $36,000 if you started when your child was born and saved $2,000 a year over 18 years. Although the rate of growth would vary depending on the contributions in the portfolio, in an ESA you would potentially receive a significantly better rate of return than you will with a normal savings account, because when you borrow the funds to pay for college costs, you will not have to pay taxes. There are a variety of investment options if you choose this way. To apply, you must be within the income cap and the amount must be used by the recipient by age 30.

529 Plan

If you want to save money for a college education for your children, or if you don’t fulfil the ESA’s income limits, then a 529 Plan could be a safer choice. Look for a 529 Plan that helps you to pick the assets from the account in which you contribute. It is advisable not to use a 529 Plan that will freeze your options or adjust your savings immediately depending on your child’s age.

The correct 529 plan will also give you the opportunity to move the beneficiary to another member of the family. So you will always use the funds you invested for the next child in line if the firstborn chooses not to go the college path. Generally, any year you donate to the 529 plan, you will receive state tax incentives, so it’s a good move to keep making contributions until you’ve paid your last tuition bill.

In a few exceptions, the named beneficiary does not have any legal rights to the funds of a 529 account, so you can guarantee that the money can be used for its intended purpose. This varies from custodial accounts under UGMA/UTMA, where once the child reaches legal age, he or she takes possession of the assets. A 529 Plan is a very hands-on method of investing for college. With automatic investments that connect to your bank account or payroll deduction plans, most plans allow you to ‘set it and forget it’.

Custodial Accounts

Parents saving for college are taking a better look at custodial savings accounts, with only 2 per cent of parents using them to prepare for college. They operate much like bank savings accounts and, among other advantages, everyone in (or out) of the family will donate to college custodial accounts. A custodial account, established under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), is set up for the benefit of a minor by an adult.

At most financial institutions, a custodial account for a child may be opened at a bank, a credit union, a brokerage firm, or a mutual fund company, and on an online-only basis. State rules apply, but age limits for custodial accounts can vary from 18 to 21 (and up to 24 years of age for tax purposes), based on the state of residence of the account holder. Custodial accounts usually come in two forms: UTMA and UGMA. Except for one big difference, the two are almost alike; technically, each can only possess unique forms of financial properties.

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For shopping at participating retailers, Upromise honours parents and students. Large retailers deposit a percentage of what is paid on an education account allocated for a special child under this free initiative. The Upromise account requires you to give invites to friends and relatives who will even choose to log their credit and debit cards with the program in order to sweeten the bargain. Every time they shop, your child earns additional donations. With the support of the Upromise Mastercard, you can even improve your opportunity to save. Cashback received on sales goes into the Upromise account for your child. Plus, to get a bonus and put the money to work collecting compound interest, you can combine the Upromise account with a 529.

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Prepaid Tuition Plans

A prepaid college tuition package provides a perfect alternative to traditional fixed-rate accounts for parents who don’t want to take greater chances by betting on a volatile stock market. Essentially, prepaid college tuition programs expand at the rate at which tuition increases. College tuition rose 3.4 per cent from 2018-19 to 2019-20. As a result, to the 2% (or less) paid out by money market and CD accounts, this provides a more enticing option. To donate to these plans, some states also give parents a tax deduction or tax credit. However, the biggest drawback of a prepaid tuition plan is that you may be limited as to when the prepaid points can be redeemed. Besides, no states guarantee their policies, because even though the scheme is meant to be secure, you could miss a portion of the cash.

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Roth Ira

This should be your last option but it is a way to save for college. Contributions are made from after-tax dollars to a Roth IRA, revenue accumulates on a tax-deferred basis and qualified distributions are fully tax-free. However, taxable contributions are limited to $6,000 ($7,000 if 50+ years old) or earned income, whichever is lower, and are subject to income phase-outs. Contributions can be withdrawn for any purpose at any time.

If the proceeds are used on eligible higher education costs, the usual 10 per cent early withdrawal limit on earnings is waived. A wide variety of opportunities for investment are available if you choose this saving method. The valuation of the retirement accounts in the FAFSA is not counted as an asset though.

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Apply for Scholarship

Looking to save for college by yourself is also an empowering option. It is in fact a moment to be proud of if you are able to pay for your college by yourself. Scholarships help you do so! scholarships are basically gifts that are of course free money that you don’t have to think about paying back. You should strive to get rewarded for it whether your child or you succeed in athletics, academia, or extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to apply, even the little ones easily add up, for whatever scholarship they’re eligible for.

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About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.