With three young energetic boys, the growing costs of college education weigh heavily on my mind. As a financial advisor with a reputation to keep up, ignoring these pending expenses is not an option. Each year, I share the age-based benchmarks we use to ensure that our 529 college savings are on track to meet our goals. Some years, we fall behind and I try to make a year-end contribution to get us caught back up again.
The costs of college are growing more daunting every year. For a child born today, expect the four year costs of tuition, room and board, and e-books (not the paper kind we grew up with) to run at $210,754 based on average in-state tuition rates and a 5% annual increase. Reaching this goal requires a monthly savings of $472 from the day a prospective college student is born on top of the returns you can expect from a savvy investment asset allocation. Private institutions charge approximately twice this amount.
Parents have many different philosophies when it comes to preparing for college. Many of those who are financially capable do not hesitate to foot the entire bill, yet I see great value in asking my children to share the costs of their own education. No matter how much you plan to contribute, including your children on the financial realities of college is one of the more important lessons learned from their college experience.
Deciding how much to save is more of an art than a science. Even though I am committed to covering 75% of total in-state costs, I lean towards saving 50% and making up the additional 25% during the children’s college years. Keep in mind, saving 50% for three children still requires a modest mortgage payment (about $700 per month) to stay on track. In my mind, this also leaves open the possibility that one may not choose the collegiate path.
In either case, our kids can cover their share with scholarships, summer jobs or subsidized loans (if Sallie Mae hasn’t gone belly up by that point). Through some combination of natural talents and a strong work ethic, I don’t expect they’ll have any problem making this investment.
If it turns out that a college considers our boys as talented as I do, we may not even need all the money that we’ve saved. In fact, any scholarships your children receive will allow you to take money out of these plans without any penalty at all.
You can use the following progress chart to see if you’re on track to meet your college savings goals:
Parents following our 75% plan should have saved $25,567 by age 5 and $63,644 by age 10. The 75% college savings plan suggests a monthly savings rate of $345 per child from the day they are born. The 50% plan requires $236 per month/child. As I mentioned earlier, you can estimate private school costs by doubling these numbers.
The value of my college experience becomes clearer each year, and I have a strong commitment to help offer this opportunity to my children. I expect that advanced learning and networking will become even more critical in their future. If you have young children and haven’t started saving for their future college costs, make it a priority to begin a 529 savings plan today. Preparing for our children’s college expenses, or at least 50% of them, is a sacrifice well worth making.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.