Proper financial planning and money management for the purpose of college education of your children is absolutely essential, in view of the fact that the cost of college education has almost doubled in the last ten years and it is likely to become more expensive in the future. As we have entered an era of knowledge economy the advantages of a college degree have increased manifold.
It is an undeniable fact that young people who earn a college degree are more likely to have a higher income, enter an occupation that is more satisfying and get more opportunities for growth, than someone who doesn’t have a college degree. College education equips young people with critical and analytical thinking skills that are important in almost all fields today, especially the highly technical fields.
The cost of college education includes tuition fees, room and board fees, cost of books and transportation costs. If you wish to provide college education for your children you must plan ahead from now and this is where personal money management comes in. The earlier you start the more flexibility and choices you will have. Later on you will have other expenses and financial goals like buying a house and planning for retirement. In fact it is best to start saving and investing for your child’s college degree from birth to ease the pressure later on.
Saving and investing for college education will require a special program to be pursued specifically for this purpose. Your financial planning and money management strategies for college degree will depend on how early or how late you start. If the goal is far into the future, say ten years or more you can use aggressive investment strategies that involve some risks. When you are planning for long term you can use a variety of investment options so that your money can grow significantly. In case it is near you can use only low risk investments
The advantage of long term planning is that through compounding your money can grow to a significant amount over time putting less pressure on your earnings. Just setting aside a small amount every month will be sufficient to cover future college degree expenses of your children and you will not be under pressure when you will need to buy a family home and plan for retirement expenses. Of course these can also be included in your early financial planning. This will allow your children to complete college with less or no debt and they will have more choice of colleges and courses to join.
For the purpose of proper planning and execution of your college degree financing plan you need to assess the number of years until your child goes to college, projected cost of college education at that time in view of the past rates of escalation, amount that can be easily set aside from the household income, rate of inflation, possibility of student employment during college, availability of student loan, etc. A clear picture will no doubt help you to clearly chalk out your money management strategies for savings and investment. You can then look for and evaluate investment alternatives that will help you achieve your goals by balancing safety and yield.
You should diversify your investments so that the growth of your funds can outpace the rate of inflation to a great degree. According to financial experts you should aim at a return of around 3 percent over the rate of inflation because promises of more returns can be risky. You must keep in mind that investments with much higher yields will put your capital at risk. Liquidity may be also an important consideration for you but you should remember the fact that more liquidity might mean slower growth of your investments.
Various investment options are available for you depending on the age of your child. If you start before your child is 12 you can consider investing in stocks and/or growth-stock mutual funds. For children up to 16 years a series of bonds that mature each college degree year can be considered as they carry lower risk. If the child is above 16 then you should move into low risk investments so that the capital is protected. Short term government securities, money market funds, savings bonds and certificates of deposit are a good choice at this time.
In addition to the money management strategies described above other options for funding college education of your children are also available. Some states allow you to prepay college tuition fees. You can purchase one, two, three or four years of college in advance for your child’s college degree but you have to be sure that your child will not need to study out of state as each state has its own procedures and policies. If the refund policy and other terms suit you then this avenue should be definitely explored.
Another possibility is to borrow from a 40(K) retirement account but the limitation is that the amount has to be repaid within five years. A home equity loan which may also be tax deductible, can also be considered for funding your child’s college education. Thus if you wish to save for a college degree for your child, the essential money management and investment strategies are to begin as early as possible, save regularly, evaluate the risk and return of various types of investment and diversify your investments. It is important to regularly keep reviewing and adjusting your investment portfolio for maximum return on investment.