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Getting Started

By Harold Simansky
Educational Investment Advisor

A college education may be the best investment a person can make, but it does come at a steep price.The average cost today for four years at a private university runs about $120,000 when you factor in tuition, room and board, and general expenses. Even a public school education can cost about $50,000. And the shocking fact is that these figures will seem like chicken feed for parents of a new baby. The tab to put your child through an average four-year private college is likely to be more than $250,000!

Don’t even entertain the hope that these numbers might magically drop in the years ahead. They won’t. Wondering, then, how any but the most well-to-do can expect to pay for their children’s education? Take heart! It really is within your means, and we are going to show you how to do it.

To begin, here’s the most important advice anyone can give you: Start saving as soon as possible. You’ll be sorry if you don’t. By starting on the day your baby is born, you can cover a $250,000 college bill by saving $600 each month. If you wait until she’s 10 years old, that sum ratchets up to $2,000 a month. And, amazing but true, if you wait until she’s 16 — you will have to save an astronomical $10,000 a month to catch up.

But wait — there is some good news. First of all: Financial aid is available. According to the Department of Education, 63 percent of all undergraduates enrolled in 2003–04 received some type of financial aid, and this number keeps going up. At the same time, it’s very important to be aware that the amount of assistance you receive is a product of how you save. Part of this series will focus on the best way to save for college to ensure you receive the financial aid you deserve.

Other good news: There are also many new and innovative programs to help families like yours. Education savings assistance is now offered by multiple sources, from federal and state governments to mutual fund companies to colleges themselves. In fact, as you’ll discover, there are a bewildering number of possible paths to take. From 529 Plans to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts to Custodial Accounts. Even IRAs. Parents who conduct even the slightest bit of research into the different plans can expect to be bombarded with literature touting their merits – and in the end, you still won’t know which one is best for you. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you virtually need a college degree to figure out how to pay for one.

Pure and simple, the point of this series is to help you make sense of the many choices out there and to point you toward the best way to save for your child’s college education. More than anything else, you will learn you don’t need to be a member of Bill Gates’ immediate family to pay for college. Yes, the costs are high, but there are multiple plans and products to make college an achievable goal for any family. In these articles you will learn what programs are available and how to choose the right one for your particular situation.

If your baby is still in diapers, it’s an ideal time to begin planning and saving for college. But even if your children are older, don’t believe for a minute that it’s too late to plan. Some simple planning can go a long way in helping you properly structure your investments to reduce your tax burden and maximize financial aid. In this series, we will discuss how to do that.

We will also show you how to involve others in saving for your student’s education. Right now there are some golden opportunities for grandparents to participate, and possibly gain a tax break or reduce their estate taxes in the bargain.

Let’s get started!




About the Author

Harold Simansky is the founder of Educational Investments, LLC, (www.educationalinvestments.com) a Registered Investment Advisory firm focused on helping families save for education. His book, College Costs How Much?! The Workbook to Help You Save for School, which explains the financial aid process, is available at www.CollegeCostsHowMuch.com. You can send him an e-mail at Harold@edinv.com.




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