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College Savings; the ultimate holiday gift

standard November 29, 2012 3 responses

At dinner the other night, C peered at her fingers, counting up something that apparently needed intense concentration. Triumphantly she looked up and said “In 10 years I’ll be 17!”

Her point — that she’d be old enough to babysit then — was utterly lost on her father and me. All we heard was “10 years” and “17” and our hearts skipped beats. Of course at that moment she rolled her eyes at us proving effectively that she’s well on her way to teenagehood.

10 years, you say, that’s aeons away. Plenty of time!

But anyone who’s a parent knows, 10 years flies by in the blink of an eye.

And why is it such a big deal?

Well, I can’t speak for M, but for me, 17 was when I…

went off to college. (Oh get your head out of the gutter. Where did you think this was going?)

OK fine. Technically I graduated from high school when I was 17. A month later, weeks before college started I turned 18, but it’s close enough! And no, I’m not worried about C not doing well in college. That kid could go tomorrow and she’d probably teach her dormmates a thing or two about how to follow rules and how to try harder. It’s just that college in the US isn’t quite what it is in France.

Let me put it this way. Annual tuition at my school was… wait for it… $200.

No, that’s not a typo. I went to a state funded school, which over there means a sight more than it does over here.

I lived at home, I majored in English Lit so my textbooks were just… well… books… and even our cafeteria was state funded.

I put myself through school by babysitting and being a booth babe at tradeshows. I graduated with a Masters, no debt to speak of, and an interesting assortment of weirdly colored lipsticks. (Don’t ask. It’s a booth babe thing.)

So here we are, Stateside, with two daughters who are bright, but not quite geniouses. They’ll eventually go to college. And, even if we convince them that it’s Super Cool! to go to community college for a couple years before transfering to a 4 year college to finish their degrees, we’re still looking at exorbitant amounts of cash needing to be shelled out in, well, apparently 10 years.

Yes, clearly we could move to France in the nick of time, but I’d have to start speaking a little more French at home and really, since I’ve been meaning to do that for 7 years now and haven’t quite gotten around to it, odds are that isn’t happening soon.

And since I’ve just realized that my rather sizable Kindle book collection and stash of oddly assorted yarns won’t be worth much more in 2022 than they are now, we really need to make some headway when it comes to saving for college.

We’re in good company. Most parents don’t start saving for college as soon as their children are born even though studies show that starting to save early works. “California Parents who have been saving more than 10 years have set aside an average of $25,193. That compares to $14,733 for those saving 6-10 years and $4,663 for those saving five years or less.” (Source: ScholarShare California Statewide Survey, 2012)

The other night, at a dinner hosted by Scholarshare, California’s 529 college savings program, someone mentioned that they don’t believe that they’ll be able to save enough to entirely cover their children’s tuition, but they feel good about lowering their kids’ future debt by whatever amount they can.

It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. The most daunting part of saving for college for me has always been the feeling that it had to be all or nothing. And all is a lot. The realization that what we save, any amount, will be helpful, was a relief.

In California, recognizing that a staggering 83% of the population believes college to be “very important,” but 53% are concerned about their ability to pay for school, Scholarshare is doing their best to help families set up savings accounts.

ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plans makes it easier than ever for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to melt their financial stress away with a quick and simple gift that is sure to be used years after you give it – the gift of a college education. ScholarShare makes last minute holiday gift giving easy and painless.  Through the “Give a Gift” option on its website, www.Scholarshare.com, any gift giver can open an account for children of all ages for as little as $25. And if your favorite loved one is already on the path to college with ScholarShare, you can contribute to an existing account with the “Gift of Education Certificate,” allowing for a personal message to be included for the beneficiary.

 $25 can get your child a cool new Wii game, but it can also set her on the path to graduating debt free from college and starting a life off on great footing. Makes you think, right? And when you consider the tax break that you’ll be getting come tax time, it seems like a win/win kind of holiday gift to consider.

(Not in CA? Find your state’s 529 plan here.)

Please note: I am being compensated by Scholarshare to share this information with you. The money will most likely go straight into the 529 plans I will be opening for both girls this holiday season. The stories and opinions contained in this post are mine and mine alone.

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3 responses

  • Thank you for sharing your light bulb moment! I don’t want my kids to leave college with any debt. My oldest may have a little since we started late with him. The other 4 will have a lot more time before they go so we can save more for them.

  • The other day I was chatting with a friend about how our generation is not going to be able to send our kids to college the way many of us were able to go with little or no debt. It’s so sad. In the meantime we are going to help them as much as we can.

  • You don’t have to choose a 529 plan that is in the state you live in. Any 529 you choose will work for any school, I live in Miami and I opened the Utah State Education Plan, which was rated #1 by Morning Star. I then linked that 529 with a GradSave account which allows me to share my 529 with friends and family on Facebook and email. This way I have the whole family involved with my daughters college savings.

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