About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C., area who works with clients virtually across the country. Dream Financial Planning is a Fiduciary Financial Planning firm specifically designed to help individuals in their 30s and 40s take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a Free Consultation to learn how we use the DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling down, and football is finally back—there’s always a lot happening in fall. But wait, there’s more! September is also National College Savings Month, a time to celebrate the power of investing in education and securing a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
What is National College Savings Month?
National College Savings Month is an annual observance designed to raise awareness about the importance of saving for higher education. It’s a chance to shine a spotlight on the potential of college savings plans and their impact on shaping students’ lives.
In today’s world, with the growing cost of higher education, saving for college can seem a challenging task. But with a bit of planning and thoughtful decision-making, we can create a brighter future for our children.
In honor of National College Savings Month, let’s explore some tips for saving for college, as well as information about some of the most popular college savings plans.
Tips for Saving for College
According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of attending college (i.e., taking a four-year undergraduate degree program at a postsecondary institution) is $26,436 per student per year.1 With this figure in mind, it’s clear why saving for college is a major financial goal for many parents. Here are some tips to help save for college:
Early planning is key to successfully saving for college. By starting to save as soon as possible, you can take advantage of the power of compounding interest, allowing your funds to grow over time. Time is a valuable ally in building a substantial college fund.
Creating a carefully planned budget is essential. Knowing your income, expenses, and how much you can allocate to your college fund each month will help you stay on track and meet your goals. Even modest contributions can make a significant difference over time—remember, consistency is key.
Choose the Right Investment Option
Selecting the appropriate investment option is critical to optimizing your college savings strategy. Options such as a 529 plan, a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), or a custodial account have unique features and benefits. Research and compare these options to find the one that aligns best with your college savings goals.
How to Save for College
There are many different college savings plans and accounts available, and it is important to choose the one that best suits your financial goals and needs. Here are three of the most common college savings vehicles:
A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to help families save for future education expenses. Contributions to a 529 plan are made with after-tax dollars, and the earnings grow tax-free.2 When withdrawals are used for qualified education expenses, they are exempt from federal taxes.
Each state typically offers its own 529 plan, and you may have the flexibility to choose any state’s plan that suits your preferences. Some states may also provide additional tax incentives to residents.
Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA)
A Coverdell ESA is another tax-advantaged option for college savings. As in a 529 plan, earnings in a Coverdell ESA grow tax-free. Contributions are limited to $2,000 per year per beneficiary, and the funds can be used for qualified elementary, secondary, and higher education expenses.3
Eligibility for a Coverdell ESA is subject to an income test, so this type of savings vehicle may not be available to everyone. Nevertheless, it can be a valuable educational savings tool for those who qualify.
Opening a custodial account, such as a UTMA or UGMA account, is a straightforward way to save for a child’s education.4 With this type of account, an adult custodian manages the funds on behalf of the child until they reach the age of majority. There are no restrictions on how the funds can be used, which provides considerable flexibility.
It’s important to note that custodial accounts lack the tax advantages of 529 plans and Coverdell ESAs; however, they can still be a viable option for some investors.
National College Savings Month is an excellent opportunity to take proactive steps toward securing a solid educational foundation for your loved ones. While the journey may seem challenging, remember that every contribution counts.
Work With Us
Wealth Management - Combines ongoing financial planning and investment management. The financial planning fee is waived if we manage at least $500,000 in investments for you. Tax Preparation will be included.
Ongoing Financial Planning - Our most popular program now includes tax prep. This is a good fit if you have several goals and want the option to manage your investments. We'll cover everything from spending, insurance, taxes, investments, retirement planning, and estate planning, just to name a few. Our goal is to give you and your family an easy-to-understand comprehensive plan to provide you with confidence you're making the right financial decisions.
One-Time Financial Plan With Ongoing Support - An accelerated version of the service above with additional support for one year after your start date. This service requires prepayment for the year and is offered at a significant discount from the annual pricing for ongoing planning.
Estate Planning - If you're looking for a cost-effective solution to get your estate planning documents in place, we can help. We have partnered with a leading Estate Planning platform to deliver high-quality Estate Planning documents for a fraction of the cost of working with an attorney.
Revocable Living Trust-Based Estate Plan
- Individual - $1,600
- Couple - $2,100
Will-Based Estate Plan
- Individual - $900
- Couple - $1,400
Tax preparation is now part of the ongoing financial planning program. This will be in addition to the Tax Report we already generate for clients and our work with the IRS Withholding Calculator to help prevent our clients from getting a surprise tax bill.
Three-Hour Ask Me Anything - This is a good fit if you have 2-3 goals you want help with. These three one-hour meetings need to be completed within three months. The fee for this service is $2,000.
Financial Coaching - Our financial coaching program starts at $99/month. This is ideal for someone who is looking to simplify and automate their finances. We'll also serve as an accountability partner and help you overcome obstacles that may be stopping you from accomplishing your goals. You can learn more about our coaching program here. If you think this program might be a good fit for you, schedule a 15-Minute Demo.
Paying for College
This service is an ideal fit for parents of high school juniors and seniors with a standardized test score (ACT/SAT) and a list of colleges they're considering. This is included as part of ongoing financial planning or as a stand-alone package. This service includes:
- A college affordability assessment
- How Much Colleges Think You Can Afford (EFC)
- If You Qualify for Need-based Grants
- If You Qualify for Merit-based Scholarships
- Help you search for scholarships
- 1 Year Out of Pocket Cost (For Each College)
- 4 Year Out of Pocket Cost (For Each College)
Get More Personal Finance Tips
Weekly insights delivered directly to your inbox.
Disclaimer: Dream Financial Planning, LLC does not warrant that this information will be free from error. None of the information provided on this website is intended as investment, tax, accounting, or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as an endorsement of any company, security, fund, or other securities or non-securities offering. The information should not be relied upon for purposes of transacting securities or other investments. Your use of the information is at your sole risk. Under no circumstances shall Dream Financial Planning, LLC be liable for any direct, indirect, special, or consequential damages that result from the use of, or the inability to use, the materials in this site, even if Dream Financial Planning, LLC or a Dream Financial Planning, LLC authorized representative has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Please consult with your own advisor before making any changes to your Financial Plan, Investments, or Insurance coverage.