My 11-year-old son has started thinking about college. Right now, he claims that he’ll either stay here, and wear the white and blue of the Utah State Aggies, or that he’ll head down south to SUU, in the town he was born — and where his father and I met.
If he decided to go through with those plans, it would be great. We’ve got a 529 plan going for him, and neither of those schools is expensive. Plus, since we’re connected with both of them, he’s eligible for legacy discounts.
The reality, though, is that he’s 11 years old, and still thinks his parents are kind of awesome. I suspect things will change in the next couple of years as he considers what he really wants to do, and he may decide that going to one of his parents’ alma maters isn’t the way to go.
With all these factors up in the air, how do you figure out what to save for college?
Ask Yourself These Questions
According to the 2013 Fidelity College Savings Indicator Study, saving for college is at an all-time high, with 69 percent of families reporting that they’ve started saving.
Here are some questions that will help you decide how much you should be setting aside:
- Does your child expect to attend a private college or a public college?
- Have you looked at the estimated costs associated with different types of universities?
- Will your child stay in-state, with better tuition costs, or go out of state?
- What kinds of costs can be expected if you child lives away from home?
- How much do you intend to cover, and what is your child responsible for?
- If you haven’t already, do you plan to open a 529 Plan?
- Can you use automatic contributions to ensure that you continue set money aside?
For more guidance, check out the Fidelity college conversation checklist.
Talk to Your Child
You also need to involve your child in the process, according to Fidelity. Talk to your child about college, and what they intend to do. Be clear about what you can and can’t provide, in terms of funding. When I was a teenager, my parents told me that I’d be responsible for my tuition, and they’d help me with living expenses — so I knew I would need student loans or scholarships to help me.
My husband and I have already talked to my son about this; we told him we will help him (through the 529), but that he will also be responsible for some of his costs. He’s setting aside 20 percent of his income from his allowance and other ventures to help him meet long-term goals.
It’s important to talk to your child ahead of time about college, and be clear about what you’re able to do. It’s also a good idea to start saving as early as possible. College costs are only going to go up from here.
How did you figure out how much to save for your child’s education? Have you talked with him or her about it?