Helpful College Savings Tips and Tools
As the cost of college tuition continues to rise, it's more important than ever for parents to start saving for their child's education early. But with so many different college savings options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few helpful tips and resources to get you on the right track.
Get started early
It's never too early to start saving for college. The sooner you start, the better. Even if you can only save a small amount each month, it will add up over time. And if you can get your child involved in the process, they'll be more likely to appreciate the value of their education later on.
Set up a college savings account
There are a few different options available, but one of the best ways to save for college is by setting up a tax-advantaged 529 plan. 529 plans are managed by state governments and offer several benefits, including tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals when used for qualified educational expenses.
You don't have to save hundreds of dollars each month to make a difference. Even $25 or $50 per month can add up over time, especially if you start early. And as your child gets closer to college age, you can increase the amount you're saving each month.
Get your child involved
If your child is old enough, involve them in the process of saving for their education. Help them set up their own 529 plan and contribute to it regularly. This will not only teach them about financial responsibility, but it will also help them understand the value of their education and how important it is to plan ahead for their future.
Research your options
There are many different college savings options out there, so it's important to do your research and find one that best fits your needs and goals. As shown before, 529 plans offer tax breaks and other benefits that can make them a great choice for parents who are already saving for retirement.
What is a 529 Plan?
A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education expenses. 529 plans, also known as "qualified tuition plans," are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are managed by financial institutions.
Benefits of a 529 Plan
- Tax Benefits: Contributions to a 529 plan are often tax-deductible, and earnings grow tax-free. Withdrawals used for qualified education expenses are also tax-free.
- Flexibility: 529 plans can be used at any accredited institution of higher learning in the United States, as well as in some foreign schools. The funds in a 529 plan can be used for tuition, room and board, books, and other eligible expenses.
- Control: The account owner maintains control of the account even if the beneficiary decides not to go to college. The funds can be withdrawn and used for other purposes, but taxes and penalties will apply.
Other great resources and ways to save for college
- Oregon College Savings' BabyGrad Program (Oregon Members): Get a $25 contribution with the BabyGrad Program when you open an account before your child's first birthday. Even a small college savings account can make a big difference in their future, and students with one have a 2.5 times greater chance of attending college. Learn More
- Oregon College Savings' KinderGrad Program (Oregon Members): Like the BabyGrad Program, you can receive a $25 contribution with the KinderGrad Program when you open an account. Learn More
- Oregon College Savings' BottleDrop Program (Oregon Members): You can put your savings towards your children's future when you return your cans and bottles with BottleDrop. Your deposits can be transferred to your Oregon College Savings Plan or Oregon ABLE Savings Plan account, and you will be able to save for their future. Learn More
- WA529 / GET Program (Washington Members): Washington families with young children can save for future higher education expenses with the GET program, a 529 prepaid college tuition plan offered by Washington State.
- If tuition costs change in the future, the value of your account will keep up. In Washington's highest-priced public university, 100 units equal one year's resident, undergraduate tuition, and state-mandated fees. Lump Sum units are valued at 1/100th of the cost. You can purchase one to 800 units per student in whole or partial amounts.
- You can use your GET units to pay college costs almost anywhere in the country, or even at schools worldwide. Learn More
Automate your savings
Choosing a savings plan and setting up automatic contributions will help you stay on track and reach your goal even faster.
Why You Should Automate Your Savings
When it comes to saving for college, automation is key. By automating your savings, you'll be less likely to miss a month or fall behind on your contributions. Automating your savings will also help you reach your goal faster. If you're unsure how much you should contribute each month, start with a small amount and increase it as you can. With compound interest, even $50 per month can add up over time!
How to Automate Your Savings
There are a few different ways to automate your savings. One option is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account each month. Another option is to use a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan. With a 529 plan, you can set up automatic contributions from your bank account or make manual contributions online. Whichever method you choose, be sure to set up your contributions in advance, so you don't have to think about it every month.
Consider other sources of funding
In addition to savings, other funding sources are available to help pay for college tuition and expenses, such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Be sure to explore all of your options so you can make the best decision for your family.
There are many scholarships available to help students pay for college. Some scholarships are need-based, while others are merit-based. Be sure to research your options and apply for as many scholarships as possible. Start by taking a look at Oregon Student Aid's Scholarships website.
Grants are another source of funding available to help students pay for college. Grants typically do not have to be repaid, making them a great option for those who qualify. Again, be sure to research all of your options and apply for as many grants as possible. Start by taking a look at Oregon Student Aid's Grants website.
Loans are another funding source that can be used to pay for college. Loans will need to be repaid with interest, so be sure to carefully consider this option before taking out any loans. There are federal student loans and private student loans available. Research both options and decide which is best for you and your family.
Rivermark has a great Student Loan program that you can review for private loans.
For Federal Loan Programs, start by taking a look at Oregon Student Aid's FAFSA/ORSAA Loans website.
There are many different college savings options out there, so it's important to do your research and find one that best fits your needs and goals. These tips will help you get started on the right foot.
Don't forget to review your options periodically. As your child gets older, their educational needs may change. Be sure to adjust your plan accordingly to make sure it still meets your family's needs.
Saving for college doesn't have to be complicated or overwhelming. You can achieve your long-term savings goals by researching and understanding your options.
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