Saving For College {It’s Never Too Early To Start}

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about Saving & Investing see Saving and Investing Roundup. This is a guest post written by my dad, Bill, who does this for a living so he really knows what he is talking about!
 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tuition component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 8% per year, on average, from 1979 to 2001. This means that children born today will face college costs that are 3 to 4 times current prices by the time they matriculate.

Parents should expect to pay at least half to two-thirds of their children’s college costs through a combination of savings, current income, and loans. Gift aid from the government, the colleges and universities, and private scholarships accounts for only about a third of total college costs.

Accordingly, it is very important that parents start saving for their children’s education as soon as possible, even as early as the day the child is born. Time is one of your most valuable assets. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time your money will have to grow.

If you start saving early enough, even a modest weekly or monthly investment can grow to a significant college fund by the time the child matriculates. For example, saving $50 a month from birth would yield about $20,000 by the time the child turns 17, assuming a 7% return on investment. Saving $200 a month would yield almost $80,000.

It is less expensive to save for college than to borrow. Either way, you’re setting aside a portion of your income to pay for college. But when you save, the money earns interest, while when you borrow, you’re paying the interest. Paying for college before your child matriculates definitely costs much less than paying for college afterward. Saving $200 a month for ten years at 7% interest would yield $34,818.89. Borrowing the same amount at 6.8% interest with a ten year term would require payments of $400.70 a month. At 8.5% interest the payments increase to $431.70 a month. (If your return on investment is 4% instead of 7%, you’d accumulate $29,548.13. Borrowing this amount at 6.8% interest would entail monthly payments of $340.04; at 8.5% interest the monthly payments would be $366.35. If your return on investment is 10%, you’d accumulate $41,310.40, corresponding to monthly payments of $475.40 at 6.8% and $512.19 at 8.5%.) So if you elect to borrow instead of saving, you will be paying 1.7 to 2.6 times as much per month.

Even if college is just a year or two away, it is never too late to start saving. There are tax benefits to saving in a college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan, and every dollar you save is a dollar less you’ll need to borrow. For additional information visit my website.

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