Friday, November 23, 2012
My husband is the first -- and so far, the only -- member of his family to have a college degree. Growing up, no one in his neighborhood had one. He drove trucks and fixed combine harvesters for a few years before realizing the only way out of his working class roots would be for him to get a college degree. Getting that college degree has literally changed his life. Without it, he probably would have been been a bricklayer or a carpenter or a builder. Instead, he got a degree in computer science, joined IBM, and never looked back. He gained financial freedom -- he was able to buy a house, buy his parents a car, take them on trips. He makes good money doing something he loves to do. Plus, without a college education, he would have stayed in his hometown forever and never have met me!
I, on the other hand, had the good fortune to be born into a family that not only recognized the importance of a college degree, but also had the financial resources to pay for it. With our combined experiences, there's no question that our children will be pursuing higher education after they graduate high school. They just assume that after high school, they will go to college.
Of course, wanting to go to college and paying for it are two very different things. According to the latest College Board's Trends in College Pricing report:
* Average published tuition and fees for in‑state students at public four‑year colleges and universities
increased from $8,256 in 2011‑12 to $8,655 in 2012‑13.
* For out-of-state students at public four-year institutions, average tuition and fees increased from $12,567 in 2011-12 to $13,051 in 2012-13.
* Average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year institutions increased from $27,883 in 2011-12 to $29,056 in 2012-13.
Who knows what college costs will be like when my kids enter college? That's why Alfie and I have a Scholarshare college savings account for each of our kids. We opened them when they were born, and we've been putting a little bit away every month. Here's why we decided to go with Scholarshare:
* Scholarshare is a 529 college savings plan, so the funds in your account grow tax-deferred, and when funds are taken out for qualified educational expenses, they do not incur any federal tax.
* You retain control of your account. Currently I have 3 beneficiaries in my account -- each of my 3 kids -- so if 3Po becomes an international soccer star at age 17 (one of the few reasons we'd be comfortable with for deferring college!), I can transfer the funds in his account to The Pea or Jammy.
* You can have your contributions deducted directly from your paycheck or checking account. The minimum automatic deduction is just $25 per month. You don't have to remember to do anything, you'll hardly even miss $25 per month, and it all goes directly into your child's college account.
* There are a ton of investment portfolios to choose from, including age-based funds, fixed income funds, international funds or a mix. What's more, their plan fees are super low.
Over the years, we've had a good experience with Scholarshare. We basically set up our accounts, then forgot about it. Over the years Scholarshare has changed their fund manager several times -- from TIAA- CREF to Fidelity then back to TIAA-CREF -- but the transition was seamless as far as we were concerned. No need to re-register, no need to transfer funds to and fro. The only thing that changed was the the logo on our statements. It's a good feeling knowing that we're putting a little bit aside every month for our kids' education.
Last week Scholarshare invited me to dinner so they could share all the benefits of their 529 plan with me and other Bay Area bloggers. It was great to be able to speak with the Scholarshare people, find out what's new with Scholarshare, share my Scholarshare experiences with the other bloggers, and talk about the challenges of saving for college. I discovered that Scholarshare now has a college savings app that helps parents enter how much they want to contribute each month, then figure out how much money they will end up with when their child enters college. I downloaded the app during the dinner and was shocked to see how much more we need to save! I knew what we are currently putting away wouldn't be enough, but it will barely be enough to pay for beer consumption! I'm happy we've been proactive about saving for college with our Scholarshare account, but clearly we need to do more. After all, there's nothing better we can do to invest in our children's future than a college education, and there's no better way to do it than with Scholarshare.
Find out more about Scholarshare on their website or Facebook page.
Disclosure: I was invited to a Scholarshare Dinner and received a gift card for this post.. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.