A financial adviser or insurance professional whose core competency is college planning can help you design a timeline that incorporates a saving schedule, maintaining good grades, preparation of standardized entrance exams and procurement of financial aid. It’s like a roadmap that has milestones along the way to keep you on plan so you can hit your academic and financial goals. Parents should continue to contribute to their retirement. Simultaneous savings plans are not in conflict once you establish your budget and summon the discipline within yourselves to accomplish it.
One discipline to incorporate immediately is debt reduction, especially credit card debt. Start paying down your credit card debt and stop spending. This includes spending on your debit card. While spending only available cash, it’s still spending, and much of that spending is discretionary. One last thought in this area: have a garage sale. It will not only generate some cash, but it may be a reminder of unwise spending that can be your motivation to save more money in the future.
Once your plan is set up and operational, you need to look at reducing taxes to create more cash flow. In fact, many parents redirect their tax returns to the college funding vehicles as a lump sum contribution every year. And tax management can yield 10 to 15% increased cash flow, so it’s another strategy to employ along the way. Don’t forget to reduce discretionary spending along the way as well. It’s incredible to discover how much money you can save by eating at home rather than eating out, or by skipping that morning coffee stop. It all adds up.
You need to attend college workshops when your children are very young. These workshops have invaluable information that can get you started early on. One of the great regrets of college workshop attendees is that they didn’t attend sooner. The college timeline waits for no one. The clock started at the birth of your children. Remember, it’s your life. It’s your time. It’s your money.