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Saving for College, Right.

The astronomical cost of childcare is one of my many favorite rants.  As evident by the conversation over at Activistas apparently I may not be the only one.  At the recent Naked Baby Swap, another mama and I engaged again in the topic with a twist.  She confided in me that her childcare costs are $1800/month.  But I then wondered, how are you saving for college?  She said they weren't.  Right, to foot a childcare bill that amounts to a mortgage payment, who can really think about saving for college!

With our childcare bill at over $19,000 over the next year, I too wonder why we are saving for college.  But in the end we feel it's important.  We scrape together a measly $75 a month to go towards a 529 savings plan for each child.  We also try to match 100% of monetary gifts provided by family members.  Are we doing the right thing even though we are still paying off my husband's student loans (which in and of itself is a small fortune)?  Knowing that both my husband and I worked our way through college with very little help from our own parents; and somehow we made it begs a series of questions.  urbanParents:

How many of you are saving for your kids college education?  How much and through what mechanisms (529 plans, etc)?  How much of the decision to pay for college stems from how they were raised and if you got help from your own parents?  If not, why not?  And lastly, are you in agreement with your spouse / partner about whether saving for college is necessary?

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We haven't been saving for college because preschool was so expensive. Now we are faced with the decision of public vs. private school. Do you pay tuition now with hopes of laying a good foundation so that your child will go to college? Or do you save for the future and hope that your child attends college? What percentage of students go to college and graduate? Pay now or pay later?

My husband was doing construction for a living when we got pregnant. Rather than having his small paycheck go right to childcare we made the decision that he would get out of that dirty and dangerous job and stay at home with the baby, something he was very happy and excited to do. Though our budget is very small and our belts are rather tight right now, we have not once regretted the decision.

However, we have little to no money to put aside for college. Thank goodness my parents have been willing to donate money to that fund. While I normally hate accepting financial help from them in any form I am extremely grateful that they are willing to put money into a 529 for our little Bean.

I think the 529 is a good plan if you are willing to do a little management. There are guidelines available out there for how much to put into what kind of fund and how to change that allocation depending on what kind of time frame you are working with (e.g. how much time you have until your child goes to college). If your child is very small you can put the money in and forget about it. If your child is older you may want to manage the fund a little more aggressively.

And let's not forget the tax benefit! From their website: "Anyone who pays Oregon State taxes and contributes to a 529 plan managed by the state of Oregon can take a tax deduction of up to $2,000 per year for contributions made to the plan."

I sadly havent started my sons 529 yet but I am very close! I will probably go with the Oregon 529 plan. I think you can deduct up to $2000 of your yearly contribution off your oregon taxes. I am trying to get this in place by Feb but no later than April. When I checked an online calculater for college costs it was projected to be $300,000 in 2022. I cant even wrap my head around it.

I HOPE I can pay for my sons college. It feels overwhelming to think about his college, my retirement and to juggle the monthly bills.

One of my new years resolutions is to become more financially savy, start a budget, get the 529 in place and see if it is realistic to save money.

The advice of our financial adviser surprised me but also made a lot of sense. When looking at our total financial profile she helped set funding priorities. We set up Roth's for each of us, a 529 for the little one, and we both have employer funded plans as well. We are permitted to increase our contribution to any or all of these but we don't have the resources. In setting priorities, our adviser stated that our son could always get a scholarship or student loan, but we can't borrow to fund our retirement. Fund your Roth's to the yearly max of $5000 each (for 2008), then maximize any tax advantages from the employer retirement funds, then look at the 529. We do put gifts from family into the 529 and take whatever tax advantages that there may be. Also, the account is there for gifting purposes if the grandparents feel inclined.

Child care costs are driving our priorities us as well. We can put money into a deferred comp plan which helps but the maximum amount is $5000 per year. Anybody out there getting quality full time daycare for 416.66 per month? This should be a top priority for the next administration coming in 363 days.

One thought regarding 529 plans is this, as shared by our financial advisor. While they are great tools, consider that information about them must be declared when applying for grants, scholarships, or loans for your child. This could result in a decrease in the award you actually receive because you have saved all that money away. His suggestion was that we continue to build our personal wealth, manage the tax risk appropriately and continue to build equity, and eschew the 529 plans for the time being. (Exception: Apparently 529 plans opened by grandparents need not be shared as part of a personal wealth declaration so those may be a really great option.)

Both our kids have 529 accounts through the Oregon College Savings Plan, set up by Gramma (thank you!). Gramma also contributes to them every month--just $25, but she does this for all of her grandkids (thank you again!). Other relatives are beginning to get the idea that we'd rather have them contribute instead of getting another battery-powered, blinky-light, obnoxiously noisy, made-in-China toy. We try to make end-of-year large contributions, but if money is tight, we do fund our IRAs first. Probably we should set up automatic deposits to the 529s so they don't get overlooked.

I agree that my kids could always take on loans to fund their college, but one of the reasons my husband and I are on solid ground financially is that we came out of college with little debt, and we paid that off immediately. I think having my kids take some financial responsibility for college is a good plan (work in the summer, some work study, some loans, etc.), but I don't want them crushed by debt. And saving now while they're little can have a big impact. I think it's really irresponsible to not save money/decrease your assets in the hope that your child will get lots of financial aid. I'd leave that kind of financial aid for the families who are really impoverished rather than the ones who could save and choose not to. I heard NPR's Michelle Singletary (she does a financial adviser piece on Marketplace) get really riled up about this a few weeks back, so it's on my mind.

Ok, sorry for the ranting. What I really want to say is that how you spend/save your money should reflect your family's values and priorities as much as possible. If you value education, put some money away for it. If you value your independence, save for your retirement. If you value entertainment, sign up for cable.

I'm a single parent with no employer/union pension plan. I'm saving for retirement. I'd love to be able to pay for my daughter's college education. However, my priority has GOT to be planning for my retirement. I'd rather have her work her way through college, take a few extra years or even rely on student loans, than support me in my old age.

we've got an oregon 529 for our kids. every birthday/christmas the grandparents contribute. we try to as well, but it is a challenge with childcare costs. granpa didn't go to college and he is so thrilled to be a part of his grandkids college education.

Janice is right as far as I can see. Money should reflect values and priorities. Right now, there is no college fund, much as I would like it. We've made the decision to have one parent home. For us, it's not just a financial decision but a quality of life decision. We have a much more peaceful home/family life with one parent home. No amount of financial security can match that. We talk about how to increase income when the kids reach school age, while still trying to keep our value of a peaceful home the priority. Keeping that balance of "enough" versus "what I want" with regards to finances is tough, as most families know. Downside, no extra money for future things right now (aside from employer's contribution to retirement and an old IRA from when I was working, which we are lucky to have). Our investments are more intangible these days. As the days go by though, these future things are more looming and a little more concerning. I like the thought that building wealth in other ways is just as important. Maybe it's my rationalizing not having a college fund, but it makes little sense to me to be saving money when we're paying out interest in amounts higher than our return on savings, whatever the kind. So, we focus on getting rid of debt (my student loans, of all the irony!), building equity in the house, those types of things, and hope that when the time comes our financial picture will allow us to pay for some/most of college without having one big chunk set aside.

We have two 529s for our son, one for our daughter so far, but we too are carefully balancing how much we put in those and making sure we fully fund our own retirements first. Most of the money that goes in the kids' accounts is from grandparents (FIL is very generous in this way). One of our 529s is Oregon, but we also have one through Fidelity in Ohio, I think, and there's a nice perk on that: we have a credit card through Fidelity that puts 2% of what we spend into the 529. That's the only credit card we use, and it amounts to at least $30 per month, painlessly.

I expect we'll have to juggle our money around (buy a bigger house and get a bigger mortgage) when we get closer to putting kids in school, but my husband has convinced me that it's important to be ready to support our kids in college. His dad paid for his undergraduate schooling, and I had a full scholarship so mine did not. I expect our kids will do some work to support themselves and/or help with the expenses, but since we can, we feel it's important to do so. In our experience so far, we haven't had to choose between quality of family life and financial security, so we're lucky that way. We're also very lucky not to need full-time childcare year-round, and to have our kids in a program which is pretty affordable and high quality as far as I can see.

I agree with others that are funding retirement first. We are doing that and putting a little away for the kids college. In the end there are other ways to pay for college but only one way to pay for your retirement.

I paid my own way through college and yes it was hard. My GPA would have been better if I was not working 40 hours a week. In the end it does not hurt me professionally and the work experience may help me. I look at my parents who are horrible savers and they are getting older. I worry about their ability to support themselves. That is a stress I do not want to cause my kids - so in some ways putting my retirement savings first is also thinking of them.

I agree that retirement should be funded first - I am currently helping to support my mother, who did plan for her own retirement and who was out of the workforce in order to raise her kids. This is a financial strain, and it's tough for her dignity as well.

However ... my husband and I continue to suffer the fallout from using loans to fund both of our educations. If we didn't have those loans right now, we could afford to have one of us at home with our daughter, or any number of things or choices.

We don't have college savings at the moment, because of both of the above circumstances.

Oops, I meant that my mother did NOT plan for her own retirement. She relied on the idea that her husband would be there to make sure she was taken care of ... and that she might "eventually" return to the workforce when her kids were older. This is the cautionary tale that informs my decisions about working and saving ...

What if you save money in a 529 and your children decide not to go to college? Are there other alternatives for saving money for college that are not earmarked in a fund that is just for college?

My husband and I have decided to invest in private school for our two children through sixth grade and are therefore not putting money away for college. Tuition is a huge struggle for us financially, but they are thriving. Our thinking is that an investment in their education at this point will foster a love of learning, making them more likely to go to college and resourceful enough to figure out a way pay for it. Worse case scenario is that we help pay as they go. Luckily Oregon great in-state options.

Thanks for this post. We have not started saving for college as we've had no extra cash to do so, and what little we have had has gone into retirement so far. Soon we plan to be able to set something up, though and this will help, so thanks.

My parents had very little money saved for college for me and I relied on financial aid, loans and working a part-time job. I really, really do not want my kids to experience anything like those afternoons in the loan office on campus when I thought I might not be able to return to college next semester. There was this whole fiasco where I lived with my mom and step-dad, but my dad was paying for my education and it really messed up my ability to get financial aid. That said, my husband had his entire college paid for, but then went to medical school and now has an obscene amount of loans to pay back. I guess you will never know what career your kids will choose and what schooling that will require. I think that with both our experiences combined we're planning on doing whatever we can for our kids' education with the goal of being able to send them to college and maybe even help after that if we can (and if they deserve it ;-) )

Oh, also wanted to say that my hub and I have made a concsious choice to check the expansion of our lifestyle a bit and not let it grow right along with our income. Of course, that's the plan, anyway. It will be hard not to indulge a bit after all these lean years, no? But I think that gets to the whole priority thing discussed above. Well said. I think it's important to really look at your values and try to live in a way that's aligned with those values.

My husband and I have agreed that there is no need to save for college. We both paid our own college tuition in the past, and are paying his now and getting student loans. It's not easy, but nothing worth having is. If our children want to go to college, then they will be bright and ambitious enough to get scholarships, they will be willing to apply for student loans, and they will work to supplement the loans. If it is not worth it to them to do that, then college would be half-hearted waste of their time, anyway. And who's to say that college something that both my kids will want? There are many respectable, important jobs that do not require a degree. I think that we focus too much on college in our society.

We're not saving for our kids college. Actually, we're not really in the position to be saving for anything. But even so, both DH and I worked/borrowed our way through college.

My parents did help me as much as they could, but honestly, I didn't appreciate it, and I think had I been forced to pay for more of my own education, I probably wouldn't have spent those 2 (okay 3 1/2) semesters goofing around drinking Guinness and learning how to play poker (which has yet to pay off).

DH got no help from his parents, which is obvious from the $40K direct loan statement we are still trying to pay off.

I'd like to offer the kiddos as much financial support as I can when the time comes, but if they want my help, they're going to have to go to a community/state college, for at least the first year or two (to get a majority of the required classes taken care of) before I will consider subsidizing a private college education.

We are saving for our kids college in a 529 (scholarships are increasingly rare, especially for undergrad, loans end up costing the borrower almost twice the principal). I paid for my own college, I worked and yet I am still paying it off -- I don't want to limit my kids in the same way -- limit their life choices or their financial choices, if a few dollars a month can avert this.

As for retirement, my husband has a tidy sum building up in his public servant job but me -- the stay-at-home mom? I'm not even wracking up Social Security....

Does anybody know of a handy-dandy little formula about how much someone like me should be saving these days? Thanks!!

I'm surprised by how few are saving for their children's college educations (though I do agree that retirements are funded first). It doesn't take much to open a 529 for your child and the earlier you open the account the better. There was never a question whether we would be opening accounts for our children (each has 3). I was fortunate to have parents who saved for my college education but my husband wasn't and it definitely became a factor for him in deciding where to go. We don't want cost to be a consideration for our kids. If they can get into a good school, we want to be able to pay for it (or at least a majority of it!). And as we've come to learn, sometimes it does matter which schools you attended regardless of your GPA, test scores, activities, etc.

I did work a part-time job in college and I relied on loans and financial aid. No scholarships for me - not savvy enough or smart enought to get them I guess. My experience was that it didn't have much to do with how seriously I took college. I still partied my first two years away to the point of almost getting expelled. My brother, on the other hand, took two years off between high school and college and therefore, upon entering college was ready and willing and sailed through it all. I wonder how much it all has to do with who's paying for what and how much it has to do with knowing your child and helping them along their path in ways way beyond financial.

Nicki posed a question about about what to do if you fund a 529 and your child decides not to go to college and I thought I'd address it since we asked the same question when we opened our 529 a few years ago. Our financial advisor told us that 529s are one of the best tools available for savings, so much so that many people who dont even have children are opening them! I dont remember all of the details now, but he told us that if the fund is not used for educational purposes, the tax implications of "cashing out" are quite low, especially compared to other investment strategies. The fund is opened in your child's name, but should he/she decide not to go to college, there is a simple way to transfer funds to another child or yourself even so our advisor told us that technically, it's not even necessary to open multiple funds for each of your children although we're getting ready to open another one for our 2nd. The fund is also good for anything educational--not just college--so it's our understanding that if our kids decided to do some sort of technical training vs 4 year degree type of schooling the fund can be used for that too.

Another interesting point, we opened our 529 about 3 years ago while we were living in New England, but it's an Oregon plan. Our advisor told us that the Oregon 529 is (or at least was at the time) one of the best plans in the country.

We dont fund as aggressively as we'd like, but we do probably put $100/month on average into the fund. My parents paid for my college, and my husband was on partial scholarship and took out some small loans so we luckily have never had the burdon of huge loans to pay off. I do believe that an education is one of the best gifts we can give our children. We hope that we can help our boys go to state schools (and pay in-state tuition) for undergrad at least, so we figure that we'll save what we can right now and hopefully get more aggressive as they get older.

I don't think that working to pay for college, or relying on loans, will guarantee any child's appreciation of the education. In fact, I probably would have appreciated my education far more if I'd known that my family had put their hard-earned money toward this gift for me, rather than the (at that age) intangible idea of needing to pay back huge chunks of money, someday, to some anonymous government office. Eh, I just signed the loan checks every semester, and squirreled around with my co-workers at my part time job instead of using that time to study for a test. 15 years later, those huge loan payments are what keep me from being able to do a lot for my own family. If you save or if you don't save, instilling a real respect for the COST of the education is what's key - whether it's out of your pocket or your child's.

I'm laughing as I'm reading my above post again. I'm really not that rebellious - simply got bad grades at first and then got serious and turned it all around. And I wanted to also clarify that while I did work, get financial aids, loans, etc. my parents also helped as much as they possibly could. The only thing is that we ended up stressed out trying to make the money all last for four years. They just wanted me to go to the college I wanted to go to and they were going to make it happen how ever they could. I really appreciate that now. Note time of this post as kid keeps getting up at 3 a.m. and I can't get back to sleep!!

I read my post again, too, and realized that I got the 1) loans 2) scholarships and 3) I worked and yep, at the age of 40, still paying it off. I agree with the momma who said that she doesn't want to limit her children's choices of schools. Also, there have been multiple studies that have shown that kids who are promised a college education stand a much better chance of living up to their potential.

Now, back to my retirement planning....

There's been a lot of discussion about whether or not to save for college, and I agree that it is largely about your own values/resources as a family. We are very fortunate now to have the resources to contribute BOTH to my husband's 401(k) and to 529s for our two kids. We don't necessarily think that we should pay for all of their college costs, but given the projected costs in 15-20 years, we don't think they'll even begin to be able to afford it all on their own.

One way we have done this is to put his raises for the past four years into his 401(k). Since we're already used to living on the former level of income, we don't even notice it. For our kids' 529s, we've used tax refunds in addition to monthly direct deposits from our checking account. That kicker in December started our newborn daughter's 529! Again, since we don't count on tax refunds, we don't feel any pinch.

I realize, though, that we are extremely fortunate that (A) I can stay home with the kids so we don't have to pay childcare, and (B) my husband has a very good, stable job and has gotten good raises every year for a long time. My sister just had her first baby, and i know that she and her husband can't possibly afford to start saving for his college costs...

Something I just heard about the Oregon 529 -- starting in tax year 2008, taxpayers who are married filing joint can deduct up to $4,000 of contributions on state tax returns. Just a little more incentive!

I started contributing to a 529 in my third trimester via automatic monthly payments. After my son was born and we got his ss number, I transfered that amount to him as the beneficiary. If we have another child, I plan to do the same thing. My mother and grandmother contribute regularly as well. FYI, I believe the state deduction is increasing for 2008 and later tax years to $4000.

This was extremely important to me for personal reasons. I was always expected to go to college and some sort of grad school, but my father basically refused to help (including balking at filling out financial aid forms, a requirement since I was a dependent - he may have eventually, but I remember it caused great angst and caused me to only apply to one college) at the last minute despite telling me not to worry about paying for college and discouraging me from working during high school. I went to college the cheapest way possible (PCC, PSU) despite having gotten into the private college of my choice with a partial scholarship. I then went to a private grad school, with help from my grandparents, to whom I will always be very, very grateful. It was more than the money -- it was that they wanted to help and did so the best of their ability without being asked. I worked full time throughout. My husband and I have also been contributing to retirement plans for a lengthly time (i.e., including while I was going to college, etc.). One of the reasons I like contributing to the 529 is that I find it a lot easier to save for that purpose than for just about anything else -- I'm not tempted to use it for anything else and it just makes me feel good knowing I'm making an effort, even if it's only a little at a time. I recently increased my monthly contribution just a little -- if it ends up being painful, I'll reduce it back down. If my child doesn't end up using it, I'm sure we'll find something else to do with it(after the penalty), like give it to him to help buy a home, pay for a wedding or something similar. My spouse, who didn't attend college, isn't really as adamant about saving for college, but is fine with what we're doing because he knows it is important to me.

This thread is extremely interesting, and I love the different perspectives presented. We set up a 529 for both of our sons around the time they were born (not at a cost to our retirement though). Granted, we don't contribute as much as we'd like. When we set up the accounts, there was no doubt in our minds that naturally they would be going to college in the future. I do wonder sometimes if it's somehow not adequate with the scary statistics about how much a college education will cost in the future. Sometimes I take going to college for granted, forgetting that neither of my parents went to college (they are immigrants). I agree the comments regarding valuing education and working with our kids to help them appreciate the hard work that comes with saving for college. I forsee using a combination of the 529, some of kids money that hopefully they will save through the years, and potentially loans. We can also hope that they will be smart enough to successfully compete for scholarships.

I think that families that are in the position to offer there children a college education, have children that succeed for a myriad of reasons.

Families who are struggling to cover rent and food and other basic needs may not have the access to the quality schools and quality enrighment programs that make a person succeed in education. Especially families dealing with generational poverty, meaning neither you nor anyone in your family of origin has owned property or completed college, etc.

My daughter has understood very early that if she wants college of her choice, she needs a scholarship. If she wants to live at home and do state university, I'm all in.

For many families, the questions is not private college or state college, it's any college. My firend's son chose to forego college to work and help withthe family expenses.

I come from a family where no one is "put through" school, it is our responsibility to put ourselves through. Consequently, my siblings and I range from un-degreed to doctorate-level. Our cousins were "put-through" When we were younger, we resented the HELL out of them. Now not-so-much. . . .

My primary focus is to ensure my daughter get a quality education that allows her to be competitive at a national level when she is a senior. We may have to leave PPS to do this.

We have 529s for both kids and we also have Coverdell accounts, which are like Roths in that we contribute to them after-tax, therefore they *should* be usuable tax-free. They are more restrictive than 529s but diversity is nice.

This doesn't directly address the topic (briefly: we have small but increasing savings for college and more for retirement). But - & this has already been said, but bears emphasizing - I really don't think *how* your education is paid for determines how seriously you take your education. Seems to me that's up to the individual student and, among other factors, where s/he's at maturity-wise. Students whose folks have paid for college certainly can and do squander their opportunities at the same rate as students who are paying their own way (no names mentioned! not me!), so I'd say don't let that be your predominant reason for helping out or not.

um, who do i call to set up a 529? so ignorant, i know. i'm doing the 403b for retirement--do i do the 529 through the same person? my god, not like i can even put anything in it right now...who am i kidding?! but i at least want to get it started. thanks!

To add to the questions, can people confirm that with a 529 you are not tied to going to an Oregon school?
Thanks!

there are many different state sponsored 529 plans. If you live in Oregon and you open a 529 with the Oregon College Savings plan you can deduct up to (2000 single/4000 married?) per year. You can open a plan online. You do not have to go to an oregon school per se. I think any higher education will do (incluing vocational I believe). Family and friends can also gift monies to your childs 529 which is nice.

https://www.oregoncollegesavings.com/

Good news for those of you with Oregon 529s. In my last 529 statement, I read that the Oregon State tax deduction for 2008 is raised to $4,000. You might want to go to the website to confirm before you start contributing to your account based on the information though. I am very happy since we contribute more that $2,000 (the previous amount) to our two daughters' account.

I am a compulsive saver, even though our family can be very strapped at times with my husband working as a contract laborer. But, ever year around raise time, I adjust my deductions to the 529 and my retirement savings. That way I never actually feel the pain of the money coming out of my paycheck. :)

By the way, my husband and I are still paying off our enormous college loans and will be until our kids attend college. :)

To answer a few questions, for setting up the oregon 529, you can do it online at oregoncollegesavings.com. We just did this a year ago or so. And with a 529 you are not tied to any school, nor is the $$ tied to any certain family member. You can change the beneficiary at any time to another child or yourself or a cousin (if your kids don't go to college) etc. It's really flexible.

I'm still paying off *my* school loans, though I paid for undergrad with scholarships. I hope to make vast riches writing books (hahahaha!) so I won't have to save at all! whee!

in all seriousness, though, I agree with the "retirement first" point of view (I've got a 401(k) going despite my unpaid business school balance), and plan to support my kids in whatever way they need and I can financially manage. for my husband, simple support would have gotten him to finish college -- his evil stepdad refused to let mom co-sign for his school loans, so he dropped out after 5 semesters.

hey! maybe I'll use my "stimulus" tax refund to start 529s for the boys.

I worked 30-40 hours a week through college and came out with $15K in student loans (which turned into $30K once I paid all the interest). Plus another $60K for grad school (again, about $90K once you account for interest paid). I am 37 years old and just finished paying off all that student debt. The only way that I was able to do it was by selling our family home in California and moving to Oregon -- and automatically losing custody of my oldest son because California law disfavors "move-aways." (We didn't have much of a choice, because my husband lost his job and we would have ended up losing the house had we not sold it.)

And yes, I am saving for the kids college. I understand that a lot of people put themselves through college -- but I see kids coming out of school with 100K in loans and I would hate myself if my kids had that kind of ball and chain around their necks at the very start of their lives. So I work a full-time job during the day. My husband takes care of our other two kids during the day (so no day care costs) and works free-lance at night (8pm-2am). I also have a second job, which I do at night and on the weekends. We also live below our means -- we paid off all debt when we moved to Oregon, we downsized to one old car, cut out all eating out/take-out, cut our food budget in half, bought a very inexpensive house and plowed the rest of the money from our house sale into savings, you know the drill. So we put away $1400-3000/month for the kids' college funds. The $1400 is the minimum amount, if we pay that every month until the kids hit 18 we should be fully funded. We try to sock away extra so that I can get rid of the second job. Retirement is minimally funded -- my new job is as a state employee and my employer springs for both "my" contribution as well as a match. Finally, only the oldest child (the one who lives in California) has a 529 -- the two youngest kids have dual citizenship with a country that has free post-secondary education, so we are hoping that they will go to college there and we can redirect the "college" money towards retirement or maybe cutting back on our work hours.

Needless to say, this is a lifestyle that SUCKS. Our parents' generation did not come out of college with mortgage-sized student loan debts! It strikes me as manifestly unfair that our generation had to start our adult lives with these gigantic balls and chains around our ankles. But I refuse to accept (well, until I drop dead from exhaustion, anyway) that my own student loan troubles would justify failing to do everything I can to keep my kids from going through what I did.

My parents started saving for my brothers and I to go to the schools of our choices when we were babies, and even though we lived very frugally when we were kids (bought most of our clothes at the goodwill, seldom ate in a restaurant, and drove around in run-down old beaters), they managed to completely foot the bill for our educations, including college, some grad school, plus music/art lessons and private schools some of the time while we were growing up. I feel like it was a tremendous advantage not to strike out in my career saddled with decades of student loans and am extremely grateful, especially when most of my friends' families lived much more plush lifestyles but had no money to help them pay for school. (And we never felt deprived as children--what you don't know, you don't miss!) Hoping to follow their example, I started a 529 for my son during pregnancy (he is now almost 3 months old). The financial adviser calculated that in order to save the full price of a college education by the time he's 18, we'd have to put in $600 a month. For now, we've set up automatic payments of $500/month, hoping that the rest will work itself out somehow. As both of us are working part-time during his infancy and sharing the parenting and housework, our household budget is currently in the red and we're steadily draining down the slush fund I socked away before pregnancy. But that's what it's for, so I plan to continue the $500/month for as long as I can. We worry about money but hope that things will even out once the baby's a bit older and I can gradually increase my hours. One of the reasons we decided to attempt a fairly ambitious monthly payment early on is that we're very aware that making larger payments now will be much more valuable than doing it further along down the road.

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